Friday, August 10, 2018

Geophysical Interpretation: From Bits and Bytes to the Big Picture

Well logs measure reservoir properties at interval of a few inches, providing a high density of information mostly in the vertical direction. But the volume of reservoir sampled by logs represents only one part in billions. Seismic data, on the other hand, cover the overwhelming majority of reservoir volume but at lower vertical resolution. A processed three-dimensional (3D) seismic survey may contain a billion data points sampling a couple of trillion m3 and some surveys are 10 times bigger. The geophysical interpreter must handle this massive amount of information quickly and produce a clear 3D picture of the reservoir that can guide reservoir management decisions.

In the overall seismic scheme, interpretation builds upon the preceding work of acquisition and processing. Fast new ways to simultaneously visualize and interpret in three dimensions are changing how interpreters interact with geophysical data. Seismic interpretation packages band together a collection of tools designed to simplify seismic interpretation and smooth the road from input to output. GeoQuest's seismic interpretation tools -Charisma, IESX systems - offer a variety of levels of user-friendliness and sophistication. These packages complete the process in roughly four steps-data loading, interpretation, time-to-depth conversion, and map output. This article takes a look at how they help the geophysical interpreter harness a seismic workstation filled with a billion data points -and make it fun.

 Getting Data in the Right Place

By the time 3D data arrive at the interpretation workstation, they have already undergone numerous quality control checks, and are ready to be loaded. The objective in data loading is to ensure that as much of the available data as possible is loaded onto the computer, and that these data points are correctly positioned. Data loading continues to be simplified by software advances.

Fitting all the data onto the computer has been difficult because disk space has been expensive. To work around the problem, most data loading routines convert seismic traces from SEG-Y format to a compressed workstation format. This compression can be perilous, because it reduces dynamic range of the trace data. SEG-Y data are usually represented in 32-bit floating point format, which allows a range of +/- 10 ^37 . Data in 16 bit format have a range of +/- 32,768. Converting data from 32-bit to 8-bit reduces computer storage requirements by a factor of four, but also reduces dynamic range. Reducing dynamic range may negate much of the care and money that went into acquisition and processing of the seismic data. Although the dynamic range of compressed data is usually more that the human eye can perceive, computer-driven interpretation can be made to take advantage of 32-bit data. Some specialist recommend that data never be compressed, and since disk space is becoming less expensive, that will eventually become a more widespread option.

When compression is necessary, workstations can help the interpreter do it intelligently through scaling. Scaling ensures that data amplitudes are properly sized so that the most important information is preserved when trace values are converted from SEG-Y format to compressed format. In the Charisma system, scaling must be user-controlled and different scale factors can be tested; this allows flexibility, but usually requires practice.

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