Industry Article: Collaboration in Exploration

New datasets acquired for the U.K. Continental Shelf

Publication: EAGE Show Daily
Publication Date: 06/01/2016

Surface geology map of the U.K. shows the large area of offshore acreage.

Surface geology map of the U.K. shows the large area of offshore acreage covered by the Rockall Trough and MNSH Basin surveys.

The future, and exploration of the U.K. Continental Shelf is no oil and gas industry faces difficult times and an uncertain exception. Exploration activity in the region has been low for a number of years with few wells drilled. In 2015, a U.K. government-funded seismic program was initiated with an aim to attract new investment. Timing of the program was noteworthy in advance of the upcoming UK 29th bid round.

Two areas were identified. The Rockall Trough is recognized as an underexplored area, largely ignored for more than 20 years, but with a proven working petroleum system. The Mid-North Sea High (MNSH) area has significant potential for exploring deeper plays; however, a new generation of seismic data is required to help manage risk. The new seismic program was designed to enable explorationists to build a better understanding of basins in both areas.

New data to stimulate exploration activity

To address these challenges, WesternGeco acquired approximately 20,000 km of modern 2-D broadband seismic data. The main products consisted of prestack time-migrated lines with a small number of lines selected for depth migration to demonstrate the future potential for resolving structural anomalies.

There also was a strong emphasis on the inclusion of added-value products such as interpretation horizons, well logs, gravity and magnetic data. Amplitude inversion was performed over a subset of lines to assist with structural interpretation and improve understanding of the geology and potential prospects. This was supplemented with petroleum system modeling over selected areas.

An additional 15,000 km of legacy seismic data were added in the package, including a selection of lines reprocessed to show the uplift to be gained by applying recent processing techniques to older data. Selection of the legacy data was based on a collaborative approach to ensure the new program complemented legacy data in areas that could not be acquired today.

Tight timeline

With only three months between the tender and award of the project, the acquisition program was completed on schedule despite a tight timeline and the associated challenges of covering such a large and diverse area. The survey was awarded and acquisition completed within three months. Three recording vessels were used, which added to the complexity of satisfying environmental impact assessment and permitting requirements before acquisition could commence.

Processing of both new and legacy data sets were completed by a multidisciplinary team of petrotechnical experts within an ambitious four-month time frame, with auxiliary interpretation products following soon after. Robust and fit-for-purpose regional processing workflows streamlined throughput while also addressing the diverse geophysical challenges of the area. A unique aspect of this program was a collaboration of over 30 representatives from U.K. oil and gas companies in shaping workflows and QC reviews at key stages.

Collaboration with industry and academia

Data packages are publicly available through the U.K.’s official oil and gas data portal, managed by Schlumberger. Multiple packages, covering different areas, data types, and options ready for the Petrel E&P software platform, are freely available to academia and industry. Since March 31, 2016, when the data became publicly available, take-up was rapid, with more than 500 downloads in the first 24 hours and more than 17,000 within two weeks.

The data are also available for viewing on Petrel through the Schlumberger BluCube E&P application infrastructure solution. The BluCube solution is optimized for Schlumberger software allowing data sets to be reviewed efficiently. This cloud-based portal opens the way for a new, more collaborative approach to integration of seismic data in the exploration workflow. Regional or even global areas of new or legacy data libraries can be screened quickly to target areas of exploration potential, prior to committing to data licensing decisions.

The BluCube solution also simplifies management process removing delays as SEG-Y tapes are generated, shipped, received and archived. A cloud solution provides instant access and eliminates the logistics of data management, thus lowering total cost of ownership.

Further support for U.K. offshore exploration

Following the success of the Rockall Trough and MNSH data acquisition program, a new government-funded initiative is planned for the 2016-2017 seismic season, and there also is opportunity to breathe new life into the existing legacy data sets with reprocessing.

In addition, WesternGeco will acquire the multiclient Westray 3-D survey later this year. This program covers approximately 2,500 sq km over the Faroe-Shetland Basin, which is another high-potential area encompassed by the bid round. IsoMetrix marine isometric seismic technology will be used to deliver high-resolution, high-quality 3-D broadband data to help evaluate multiple play types in this geologically complex area.

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