Abstract

Four years ago, several visionaries from SEG and AAPG collaborated to create Interpretation, a journal that serves the unique community of integrated interpretation. As the late R. Randy Ray wrote at the time, “It marks a historic recognition that geology and geophysics are intertwined at the core.” Indeed, this core community drives the exploration engine that powers the oil and gas industry through the multidisciplinary study of the petroleum system. The time has come for this same community to apply its considerable intellectual and operational acumen to optimizing another system that is rarely recognized as such: near-field exploration. Unlike “pure” conventional exploration, near-field exploration tends to be much more organizationally complex. Exploration functions need to deal with producing assets. Offices set in different cultures and separated by many time zones need to work together flawlessly. Engineering-centric dynamic geocellular models need to mesh with map-based static descriptions of the earth. Most importantly, a culture of value assurance needs to be balanced with a spirit of exploration that demands a culture of creativity and risk taking. These compartmentalized and layered oil and gas organizations share one important characteristic with the heterogeneous earth: each component can be considered to have its own unique impedance. As all interpreters know, elastic impedance contrasts associated with geological heterogeneity give rise to reflected seismic signals, the acquisition, processing, and interpretation of which are our bread and butter. Yet while organizational boundaries also impede the free flow of energy (in the form of knowledge/information, processes, workflows, etc.), there is little awareness that signals reflected from organizational impedance contrasts can be studied and ultimately inverted to understand and optimize various organizational components. Taken together, the heterogeneous environment known as near-field exploration can be modeled as a complex arrangement of different types of impedances, with (usually unmonitored) signals emanating from the many impedance contrasts. The monitoring, processing, and interpretation of these organizational signals are shown to fit well into the Shewhart cycle of plan-do-check-act, something that our engineering colleagues use regularly in their lean manufacturing processes. This paper introduces what for many will be a new paradigm for the organizational development of companies focused on near-infrastructure exploration. And yet for most interpreters reading this, it will seem “old hat.” Our community has been unmasking the geology associated with boundary reflections for almost a century. The time has come to improve the organizations within which we toil by applying our skills to the study of organizational impedance contrasts.

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