A Successful Turnout
According to unofficial EAGE sources, registered attendance on the first day of EAGE 2023 was almost 6 200, well above last’s year's numbers, and all industry commentators have reported greatly improved confidence returning to our industry. It will be interesting next year to measure this optimism in terms of new project awards across the spectrum of conventional, unconventional, and renewable energy enterprises.
Navigating a Path to the Future
This year I’m trying to follow things remotely, which hasn’t been easy. The EAGE mobile App requires a registrant password to be functional (i.e., not functional), and the online program was so awful and clunky this year that it has been replaced by a downloadable PDF file. That is apparently the only searchable medium. The technical publication repository at earthdoc.org has no obvious means to navigate the EAGE 2023 technical program, so keywords from each abstract title or author list are required to return a list of hyperlink suggestions, one of which is hopefully the abstract you are searching for. I see that Per Eivind Dhelie from AkerBP has woven ChatGPT into the title of one of his talks (“Increasing your exploration success using AI, ML and ChatGPT”), so maybe some form of AI might make next year’s program more navigable… Let’s hope things are easier for those on the ground in Vienna.
Given the conference theme of “Securing a Sustainable Future Together”, it is no surprise that many technical sessions are devoted to CCS / CCUS, hydrogen, geothermal, and carbon efficient reservoir management. An advantage of the EAGE and SPE alliance is that a truly holistic spectrum of topics is on offer. I will write a dedicated “Industry Insights” summary in the coming weeks on CCS topics at EAGE 2023.
Apple launched its new AR headset, Apple Vision Pro, at its WWDC event this week. They packed every ounce of superlatives and marketing pyrotechnics they could possibly muster into their presentation, but prices will start at US$3500 for oversized ski goggles with no discernable functionality beyond competitor offerings. Underwhelmed critics are already eating into the Apple stock price. The message is that technology development takes a long time and vast dollars. That theme has certainly also been relevant to many of the recurring geoscience technologies being discussed again this year in Vienna.
Sources, No Sources, Self-Driving Receivers
From the perspective of ‘traditional’ seismic technologies, notable (marine) seismic acquisition content includes different perspectives on the source side:
- Regards non-impulsive sources, marine vibrators have had a long and troubled history of (unsuccessful) commercialization, but TotalEnergies presented a pilot study today using their latest prototype. Only isolated records, but marine vibrators clearly need a wealthy benefactor to sponsor them all the way to the finish line.
- Low frequency source concepts have enjoyed a high profile in recent years, and some industry consolidation has seen the TPS (Tuned Pulse Source) go to Sercel, Gemini go to TGS, and Shearwater have Harmony. All three source concepts use compressed air mechanisms. On face value, the ‘lowest’ frequency source (and the largest at 28 000 cubic inches) is the TPS, which was viewed for some time as being a low-frequency complement to ‘conventional’ air gun sources. However, Shell presented a GOM imaging study with the TPS that suggests reasonable standalone seismic images are achievable over the frequency range common to sub-salt / pre-salt imaging.
- Using no (active) sources at all! This is again being addressed by our own Stian Hegna, who won the Guido Bonarelli Award for the Best Oral Presentation at EAGE 2022 (“The acoustic wavefield generated by a vessel sailing on top of a streamer spread”). His talk this year is a variation titled “The acoustic wavefield generated by a vessel sailing over ocean bottom cables”
On the receiver side, seafloor seismic, mostly in the form of ocean bottom nodes (OBNs), again has a high profile. Although Saudi Aramco seems to be running out of interest in their SpiceRack autonomous node concept, many were expecting BOSS (Blue Ocean Seismic Services) to take the limelight at EAGE 2023 with their latest test results. BOSS is rumored to have 10 AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) nodes, and one of their sponsors has asked for the production of many more. The obvious elephant in the room is what the unit cost will be, what the timeframe to production would be, and how many AUVs can practicably be operated as a receiver ‘patch’ to offer a competitive seismic product.
A partnership between PXGEO and Saab to use their Saab “Sabretooth” AUVs as part of the PXGEO MantaRay solution was announced this week that partly answers some of these questions. A US$57m order for 10 AUVs, each capable of deploying at least 20 nodes between battery recharging gives some insight into the scale of costs. It will be interesting to follow exactly how this type of system works and what survey efficiency is possible.
At least two other vendors have developed portable node concepts the size of a small car battery, but unsubstantiated rumors suggest that unit weight may be too low to maintain position in the presence of strong currents. Like the launch of the latest, most sophisticated, and certainly the most expensive AR headset by Apple, the OBN market is still faced with the fundamental challenges of usability and unit cost. But similarly, whilst the market interest remains strong, this will certainly be an interesting space to follow in the coming years. Some major companies clearly have the appetite to spend vast sums too. Saudi Aramco recently awarded two onshore and three shallow water projects to BGP worth about $2b. Fortune favors the brave, but it requires increasing bravery to make large technology investments in this global climate.
I will return on Friday to wrap up this series with post-show comments, including a focus on how applications of AI are rapidly maturing.