American Oil and Gas Reporter - April 2018 - 35

SHAPING TOMORROW'S TECHNOLOGY
Resource Plays Reshape Geophysics
By Nancy J. House
LITTLETON, CO.-Throughout its
history, the evolution of petroleum geophysics arguably has been defined more
by progressions in technology than market
forces. That was because the basic purpose
of geophysics remained unchanged for
decades: reducing exploration risk and
improving drilling success rates. The
driving force was incremental technological improvements to achieve those
core objectives. The unconventional revolution has changed that completely, expanding geophysics far beyond the boundaries of exploration into a new frontier
with new types of technical challenges.
To be sure, technology continues to
advance geophysical capabilities in powerful ways. However, the demands of U.S.
resource plays are dictating what new capabilities are being developed and how
they are being applied, which in turn, is
reshaping the science of geophysics as
well as the geoscientist's job description.
In short, market forces have shifted the
focus of geophysics more to reservoir development, the traditional domain of engineering. In tight oil and shale gas plays,
geophysicists are being called on to solve
very different types of problems than in
the world of conventional reservoir exploration. They are responding admirably,
leveraging sophisticated techniques to improve the economic development of tight
oil and shale gas reservoirs. The requirements in these plays most certainly will
continue to impact the tools and skill sets
geophysicists use to get the job done.
Rock properties rule in the realm of
unconventionals. Operations are focused
on delineating the most "fracable" rock
within target zones and optimizing well
bore placement. That requires understanding subsurface drilling hazards and
the orientation of natural fractures, as
well as accurately estimating stress profiles, characterizing rock properties and
fluids, etc. Seismic data are integral to
answering all of these questions.
At the same time, the scale and pace
of activities in resource plays requires
much more dynamic and high-speed decision making. In a very real sense, time
is money when dozens of wells are in the
planning and development stage. With

drilling times averaging only six or seven
days per horizontal well in many plays,
the geoscientist has to be able to analyze
and interpret an incredible amount of information in a short time to help improve
performance from one well to the next
on a pad site. Technology is helping geophysicists keep up with increasing data
volumes as they look at geophysical responses in a new way to answer critical
reservoir development questions.
Time Value Of Geophysics
We are approaching the ideal of what
geophysics can do: determining the kind
of fluids in the rock, finding the rock
that will best fracture under pressure, determining fraction direction and finding
the sweet spots in terms of total organic
content. The challenge comes in com-

municating how we achieve that ideal
and the trade-offs involved, recognizing
the time value of geophysics.
I was working as a staff geophysicist
at Encana Oil & Gas during the early
days of the unconventional revolution.
The teams responsible for developing
shale gas and tight oil formations became
frustrated because of the time it took to
process and analyze geophysical data.
Every month, we had a meeting where all
team members were expected to summarize
their progress against key performance
indicators. The geophysicists had to learn
to put progress in terms that were meaningful to the overall development team.
I also learned that sometimes I had to
give an answer before I was completely
comfortable with it. I often had to accept
that an 80 percent solution was good

By extending amplitude variation with offset (AVO) to the prestack domain, geophysicists
simultaneously can invert for compressional-wave velocity, shear-wave velocity and
density. These three fundamental properties dictate elastic and inelastic rock responses,
and tie directly to how well a rock will respond to hydraulic fracturing. This image shows
geobodies extracted from a semblance attribute displayed with wellbores and microseismic
event epicenters.

APRIL 2018 35



American Oil and Gas Reporter - April 2018

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