Experts from a variety of fields have predicted a revolution in computational power within the next five years. It is now apparent that we will soon have desktop Cray Y-MP equivalents and parallel machines readily available as network compute servers with teraflop performance. In addition, we will have the capability to hold all the unstacked seismic data ever recorded by a company in readily available tape storage that can be robotically loaded to disk and accessed in under a minute. This will be raw, unprocessed field data with all geometry attached, and it will be possible to test new processing algorithms and exploration concepts on older data and synthetics within a few minutes. Systems are available today that hold over five terabytes (five million megabytes) for less than $1 million, and the capacity of such systems should increase dramatically while their price decreases. Given that a large 3-D survey may cost millions of dollars to record, these systems will be viewed by management as cost-effective as soon as we can obtain a real exploration benefit from having all these data available in near real time.
However, this discussion will focus not just on new computer technology, but instead on how it can, and likely will, change exploration in the 1990s. How will seismic processing evolve? How will this affect our jobs, and how can we prepare to survive this revolution in exploration technology?
In many oil companies we have seen the formation of exploration teams that include interpreters, geologists and reservoir engineers, plus support from various technical specialists. In addition, the goal of exploration is changing from creating maps of key horizons to building sophisticated three-dimensional models of the subsurface. Increasingly advanced analysis techniques, ranging from neural networks to seismic sequence attribute analysis, are playing greater roles in direct hydrocarbon detection and reservoir prediction. Prestack modeling has also become more sophisticated, and we have effectively increased the amount of exploration and reservoir information we extract from seismic data used in conjunction with well logs and geologic models.
Techniques for 3-D acquisition have become more efficient, and the cost-effectiveness of 3-D has been clearly demonstrated. What further advances lie ahead?
Given recent cutbacks in research and development budgets, it is easy to be pessimistic regarding the future role of the seismic method. However, in spite of these developments, we continue to see exciting technology emerge in our industry. This talk will highlight some of these developments, and will suggest other areas for potentially revolutionary advances.