Computers and Technology
The information accumulated by the exploration industry is rapidly increasing. The problem of storage and handling of this voluminous data is rapidly growing as more information is gathered and processed for interpretation. During 1977, for example, the industry recorded an estimated 1014 to 1015 bits of seismic data in digital form. Packed at 1600 bpi in the most efficient form, these data occupy nearly three million magnetic tapes, each 2400 ft long.
The seismic data recorded on these tapes are only the starting point in a series of highly sophisticated processes that culminate in graphic displays such as maps, cross-sections, and charts. These graphic displays are visually interpreted to map the subsurface geologic conditions existing in the geographic area represented by the data.
In this chapter, we discuss a graphics approach to exploration data base management. Also, we present some aspects of exploration activity in the perspective of an electronic data processing (EDP) exercise.
Acquiring and processing seismic information is only one facet of exploration activity; however, this should serve as an example of the procedures through which all other data advance in the process of becoming a meaningful resource to the exploration industry. The procedures outlined below and shown in Figure 1 concern a marine seismic operation.
Figures & Tables
Concepts and Techniques in Oil and Gas Exploration
Exploration for oil and gas has witnessed dramatic changes in its nearly 120 year history. Initially, prospects were located by surface shows or seeps; random drilling was predominant. In the early twentieth century, the anticlinal theory became a dominant element in locating traps. Direct mapping of structures by using magnetic, gravity, and seismic data began in the mid 1920s.
In the last 10 years a true revolution has occurred in the use of seismic data in exploration. To a minor degree, the first use of seismic data to locate reefs and carbonate buildups took place in about 1950, but the main era of more quantitative stratigraphic trap detection began in the late 1960s when direct hydrocarbon detection by the so-called “bright spot” concept was first used in the Gulf Coast Cenozoic offshore. In a very short time since then, an increasingly sophisticated seismic mapping approach has swept through the exploration industry. It is now possible to map seismically subsurface stratigraphy, model stratigraphic analogs, and make comparisons of the recorded data with known analogs in order to “read the subsurface.”
We are now on the verge of an era of synergism in revolution where exploration techniques are being integrated with reservoir delineation and production engineering methods. Synergism, according to Webster, is “the joint action of agents…, which when taken together increase each other's effectiveness.” Recognizing this need as a key to success, several companies have begun to integrate the know-how from geology, petrophysics, and reservoir engineering in developing plays such as the Ozona-Sonora gas play in West Texas.
Predicting accurately all the variables in the subsurface requires the solution of an extremely complex equation. This is because there are so many parameters which cannot be scientifically measured adequately ahead of (or, for that matter, after) the drilling bit. Thus, our exploration efforts are designed to reduce the risk of being wrong in our solution of the “subsurface equation.”
Risk reduction in exploration can be greatly facilitated by bringing all the necessary technical expertise to bear on the problem. The exploration hexagon in Figure 1 illustrates the interrelation among six broad technologies that can be used to minimize the risk of drilling a dry hole. Frequently, there are insufficient data available to make use of all disciplines and often only one or two create a play.
A play is an exploration activity involving a geographically designated and geologically definable volume of rock in which one or more targets for hydrocarbons can be described (see Figure 2).