President’s Column – March 2005

Title: Like All Tools, New Seismic Technology Requires Skill
Author: Elmo Brown
Publication: The Outcrop, March 2005, p. 3

March 11th marks the date for the 11th edition of the annual RMAG/DGS 3-D Seismic Symposium. This event has been a perennial success, bringing in 400 to 500 attendees every year. The bulk of the success can be directly attributed to the hard work of the symposium committee and its chairmen, Randy Ray and Bill Pearson. But, why does the event bring in so many folks year after year? The answer is simple: the technology is evolving by leaps and bounds and those in the industry need to keep up so as not to be left behind in the competitive dust. This is true for both geophysicists and geologists.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that both disciplines are needed to accurately interpret the data. Geologists spend their entire careers trying to decipher the stratigraphic and structural mishmash of the earth’s interior while geophysicists tend to focus on understanding the seismic attributes of rocks and on how to acquire decent data from the rocks and their boundaries. Time and again, I have run across interpretations that have ignored either the nature or the physical properties of rocks. Was this on purpose? No, it was from a lack of geologic or geophysical knowledge by the interpreter.

Charles Elmo Brown recognizes the advantages of technology by listening to the classics in 1957. For those born after 1975 who do not know what the device is, it is called a phonograph (also known as a record player). It is probable that the future RMAG president received the technology tool so he wouldn’t play around with his parent’s Buick-sized HiFi. Now he relishes the chance to play around with some poor geophysicist’s workstation. By the way, the “classics” included “One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater,” the personal favorite, “Charlie Brown,” and the geophysics hit, “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On.”

For example, I was presented with a prospect in the Wyoming Thrustbelt several years back. Though the interpretation was a spot-on depiction of what was visually seen in the seismic, the interpretation was only geologically possible if large blocks of rock dropped in from outer space! And no, it was not an astrobleme. Unfortunately, the company I represented had already spent a ton of money on the project but several million dollars more were saved by not drilling the geologically invalid feature (it seems so strange to boast about NOT drilling an exploratory well). It turns out the supposed structure was just a diffraction from a small, near-surface thrust. And speaking of not understanding the geophysical properties of rocks, I wonder how many wells have been drilled on velocity pull-ups under blocks of dense rock.

Of course, the key to success in the petroleum industry is to maximize your investment by drilling the best prospects. Finding the best prospects requires a full knowledge of the local geology and the creation of valid geologic models. It also requires knowledge of how sound travels through the earth. Fit the knowledge of geology with the skills of acquisition and manipulation of seismic data and you greatly enhance your chances for success.

So why do so many attend the 3-D Seismic Symposium? It is to acquire the knowledge needed to reduce risk and maximize success. Thank you Randy, Bill, and the others for providing this opportunity to improve our skills.