Say “the lower 48” in a room full of seasoned geophysicists and n-1 different conversations begin about the olden days; the question then is, “Who's listening?” Prior to 1998, which marked the start of the current fourfold increase in the price of oil, interest in geophysics within the lower 48 United States (i.e., the United States minus Alaska and Hawaii) focused on getting as much from known reserves as possible while investing as little as absolutely essential. With production falling steadily since its peak in 1970 (today down around 50%), a larger and larger percentage of U.S. petroleum demands are being met by imports. Considering it takes more than a quarter of the world's daily oil production to satisfy U.S. energy demands and more than two-thirds of that amount is imported, it is not surprising that until recently interest in enhancing or extending production from the many aging oil fields in the 48 contiguous states has been low, with much of the production controlled by independents. Even more unheard of was exploration in search of new small reservoirs, which previously had been overlooked or considered too small to be economic.

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