Recently, the CSEG Continuing Education Committee organized a tour of five visualization centres in the downtown core. The Recorder reports on their unique features and focus.

PanCanadian TerraDeck

When visitors to PanCanadian’s TerraDeck arrive for a tour, they are treated to an impressive, computer-generated presentation that starts in orbit around the Earth, zooms into the Swiss Alps, circles the Matterhorn mountain, then soars out again to outer space.

The TerraDeck itself is almost as impressive as the presentation. At a cost of $1.2 million, the theatre (located near the base of the Calgary Tower in Palliser Square), features an 8 X 24-foot curved screen, three front projectors, Landmark Graphics application, and an SGI Onyx2 computer with four CPUs and four GB of RAM.

But don’t let the incredible display and comfortable chairs delude you into thinking that the facility is an entertainment venue - its value is firmly rooted in economic necessity. “We believe we will be able to better position and reduce the number of wells - we’ll get the best bang for our buck,” says Richard Walker, a spokesman for PanCanadian.

But don’t let the incredible display and comfortable chairs delude you into thinking that the facility is an entertainment venue - its value is firmly rooted in economic necessity. “We believe we will be able to better position and reduce the number of wells - we’ll get the best bang for our buck,” says Richard Walker, a spokesman for PanCanadian.

The oil company’s decision to invest heavily into 3D visualization was a direct offshoot of their first-hand experience with the technology. Several years ago, explorationists were confronted with an offshore play that was risky, but potentially lucrative. Taking their data set, they went to Landmark’s 3D centre in Houston. When they looked at the information on the advanced-analysis system, they realized that they could stay inside the reservoir for a total of 800 m of pay. “That incremental 300 metres meant $1 million of cash flow over the life of the well,” notes Walker. “When we realized the value of the system, we wanted it ourselves.”

Since becoming operational in December, 1999, the TerraDeck has been heavily used. “We have a half-dozen teams working on projects,” says Walker. “In the first four months, it was 82% full.”

One of the major functions of the TerraDeck is to increase the exploration success rate. “We had some ultra-high-risk projects, $50 million wells, so we had some relatively intense sessions,” says Walker.

The TerraDeck also decreases drilling hazards. PanCanadian’s Llano prospect in the Gulf of Mexico has complex geology and a hostile environment. “We sat in here and looked at the play and saw potential drilling problems,” recalls Walker. “There is a salt formation that we want to avoid. If you get stuck in salt, even for a few days, it costs millions of dollars.”

But the TerraDeck more than pays for itself in day-to-day operations. Calling up a 3D presentation of the Halfway formation in the Wembley field, the operator takes the 3D-glasseswearing participants on an entertaining tour through the reservoir, spinning it around on all three axes of view in a manner that would do justice to a ride at Disneyland. “You can see the whole data set simultaneously,” explains Walker. “It allows you to establish the characteristics of the reservoir. It allows for quicker wellbore planning and shorter cycle times.”

PanCanadian employs three TerraDeck pilots who are proficient at the applications of the centre. “This allows the users to disengage from the buttons, and use their brains for the best interpretation.”

Although the facility is clearly first-class, PanCanadian is always looking for ways to improve the effectiveness of the system. “We are constantly monitoring the technology - looking at new LCD projectors, ergonomics and adjustments to the lights.”


BP HIVE Over the last few years, BP and Amoco have both been eager adopters of 3D visualization technology. After their merger, the combined company has five Highly Immersive Visualization Environments (HIVES) in operation. One is located in Calgary, three in Houston, one in London and one in Aberdeen (further work-rooms are planned for Anchorage, Cairo and Norway).

The Calgary HIVE is a large, theatre-style room that can hold 20 participants. Located in the 19th floor of the Amoco Tower on 4th Avenue SW, it features an 8 X 24 foot curved screen and three front projectors. The Landmark Graphics application is powered by an SGI Onyx2 computer with four CPUs and two GB of RAM. It uses special glasses for a 3D effect.

Since it first opened in April, 2000, the Hive has had a 50% utilization rate. “We like to work as teams,” says Dave Timko, spokesman for BP. “It breaks down barriers between groups.”

As an example, Timko cites the value that the system has to the various disciplines. “The geophysicist can see the 3D image, but the driller doesn’t. With this sophisticated visualization, it clearly shows the target. This is the first time they’ve had an idea of what we are trying to do.”

While the objective is to reduce cycle times and generate new plays by high-grading exploration opportunities, the system also allows more efficient use of budgets. “We saved a $30 million well in the Gulf of Mexico.”

In order to maximize the value of the HIVE, BP has developed three different system roles. The pilot, who reduces technical barriers, the facilitator, who ensures an outcome, and the user, who can concentrate on the data.

While exploration is the number one use, BP has other applications for the centre. “It can also be used for emergency operations room for something like a well blowout,” says Timko.

As fancy as the HIVE centre is, Timko advises those contemplating a $1 million investment not to be caught up in adding fancy bells and whistles. “It’s not about the technology — it’s what you do with it.”

Gulf Visualization Centre

In 1996, John van der Laan, a geologist with Gulf, was working on creating a master file for Fenn Big Valley in Alberta, a field with over 500 wells, five producing zones and several seismic surveys.

Under the traditional way of operating, the file would go from engineer to geologist to geophysicist, slowly combining the data into a display. “There was a huge amount of manual work,” he recalls. “It became overwhelming. We needed to find a solution.”

The following year, when faced with the similar task of building a model of the Goose River field, they decided to act. “Our objective was to do a simultaneous display of digitized information and interpretations of various professions so that asset teams, like reservoir, production and operations engineers, could use it.”

Using a 2000 square kilometre 3D survey in offshore Nigeria as an example, Veritas displays the level of sophisticated analysis and interpretation available. A combined structural and lithological interpretation not only shows dipping beds and fault patterns typical of an offshore deltaic complex, but, as they scroll the interpretation, a sandstone channel bed snakes across the survey in a undulating, visually impressive fashion. “You need people who understand the science and know how to use this,” says Knupp. “It will only work if you do everything else correctly.”

GEDCO Training Centre

When GEDCO built their non-proprietary centre, they wanted to maintain all the positive features of an immersive environment, without investing an immense amount of money.

The large, brightly-lit room, which has work-desk capacity for 18, is dominated by a flat, 8 X 20-foot screening surface. Front projection is accomplished with a portable LCD. The system runs on a SUN Ultra 10 and six NT PCs. Available software includes Schlumberger’s GeoFrame and Paradigm’s SeisX. Clients can operate the system using Windows 95, 98 or NT 2000. The PCs are configured for both Linux and UNIX.

Yet, the entire installation cost only $35,000. “We’ve shown that, for a few tens of thousands of dollars, we can put something together that’s extremely suitable for a small working team,” says spokesman Andreas Cordsen. “It has utility and flexibility, and yet it is low cost to rent, around $1,400 per day.”

Open since June, the centre was designed primarily as a training facility. It allows students to work with 3D seismic-design, seismic-interpretation and visualization. “The value is that anyone who wants to come here and rent the facility doesn’t have to worry about software and hardware installation,” says Cordsen. “We mirror the hard drive on each PC, so that they can return to the same status as last time.”

GEDCO also wants to expand the facility’s potential as a visualization centre. “We have an 8 X 20-foot (projection) wall, and that’s a huge difference from an 20-inch monitor,” says Cordsen. “We had a dozen people from Mexico come here with an aeromagnetic survey, and we showed them their data on the screen. They found it very helpful.”

Currently, GEDCO’s utilization rate is around 10%. “Our plan is to market the facility and grow to 50% usage in one year’s time.” The company doesn’t foresee a problem in building a corps of dedicated clientele. “We had a geophysicist from Talisman tell us that they should have something like this on every floor.”



About the Author(s)

Gordon Cope has spent many years working in the O&G industry, first as a geologist, then as a business reporter covering the sector for the Calgary Herald. He currently manages his own communications company.



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