SEG’s president praises cooperative research, global talent development

By Alex Endress on 9/27/2017

HOUSTON -- In the collaborative environment of today’s E&P industry, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) is shaping itself to foster cooperation on new research, such as how Big Data can improve exploration, said SEG President William L. Abriel, during a speech on Sept. 26 at the 2017 SEG Annual Meeting in Houston.

Abriel addressed concerns that companies are hindering innovation and digital transformation by keeping technologies proprietary, and confining data within corporate silos, instead of working together to share information. Such collaboration has been happening through SEG for many years, he said. “We share best practices. We advance the technology—it’s right in our mission.”

One example of such collaboration is the SEG Advanced Modeling Corporation (SEAM), which was founded in 2007, Abriel said. SEAM is “a partnership between industry and SEG, designed to advance geophysical science and technology through the construction of subsurface models and generation of synthetic data sets,” according to SEG. So far, the project has targeted challenges that include subsalt imaging, pre-drill pressure prediction and understanding of production pore pressure. “It’s a cooperative model. It is not a consortium.” In each of SEAM’s current projects, 10 to 30 companies have joined together to identify “well-posed” problems and to formulate clear models for the problems’ solutions using available data, Abriel said.

Now, the topic of how to implement Big Data analysis technologies into the upstream oil and gas industry’s work processes is an ideal candidate for a collaborative project through SEG, he noted. The challenges around making use of data include not only creating models that allow organizations to understand seismic imaging algorithms, but also using well and seismic data to fully understand subsurface attributes. “Everyone’s investing (and) significant amounts of effort are going into the next generation. Computers are obviously going to help us put Big Data into practice,” Abriel said. “The obvious thing to think about is, instead of having everybody do that in their silos, take a percentage of that, put it together and have it co-authored. We just have to find the right research topic and the agreement that there is a rational business model for that (topic).”

Abriel also urged SEG members to continue investing in the organization to help develop global talent. He told a story about a professor he had met recently from Sultan Qaboos University in Oman. The professor was originally from Libya, but he credited SEG’s offering of educational resources as a factor that was instrumental in his professional development, allowing him to gain scholarships to international universities and grow beyond the societal limitations he was living with in Libya. “We talk about young professionals, how to reach them, being global, and I know it’s only one story and there are many people,” he said, “but the story doesn’t get much better than that.”

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