Almost Bigger (Too Big?) Than Texas
As the online preview by the IMAGE23 organizers describes, the conference program is exploding at the seams with events and activities: 168 oral technical sessions, 110 poster technical sessions, 30 topics, 20 additional ‘special sessions’ consisting of 15 geology and geophysics topics not covered by regular technical sessions, various pavilions dedicated to special themes on the exhibition floor, 250 exhibitors, strategic and near-surface technical panel sessions, short courses, workshops, special gatherings, technical showcases, and so on. The options available are quite staggering, which once again begs the fundamental question of “Is the annual SEG / AAPG / Society of Sedimentary Geology (aka IMAGE) conference trying to be too many things for too many people?” I return to this question shortly.
Abstract submission this year changed to a two-step submission process: A 700-word abstract, followed upon acceptance, by an option to then submit a traditional expanded abstract. 2100 submissions were received, and it is claimed that the 51% acceptance rate “…makes the selection very competitive, and the quality will be very high.” Time will tell. Every reviewer I have spoken to expressed dissatisfaction with the challenge of trying to establish significance from a few paragraphs of abbreviated text.
“The top three topics for the technical program this year are seismic processing (100 presentations), geologic and geophysical interpretation (92 presentations), and machine learning and data analytics (84 presentations).” The full technical program is available here. The most obvious contrast to the June annual conference held by the EAGE this year is the far smaller comparative contribution from Energy Transition / CCS / Reservoir Engineering presentations and a large contribution from Unconventional Petroleum presentations. The Continental US dominance of the IMAGE technical program is still overwhelmingly focused on traditional Oil and Gas exploitation.
In fairness, however, the panel sessions aim to address the evolving nature of the global energy industry: Strategic panels include revitalizing the energy workforce, collaborating with diverse teams, modernizing business workflows, using higher-education resources, and building positive messaging and community trust. Near-surface technical panels will feature discussions on critical minerals, highway and bridge infrastructure, marine construction, dam and levee siting and monitoring, marine vehicles, and orphaned and abandoned well identification and characterization. At face value, these discussions seem rather superficial, but creating awareness and consensus will be key steps to our industry retooling for the future.
The big challenge for anyone attending IMAGE23, as intimated earlier, is how on earth anyone might realistically attend even some of the talks and events relevant to their interests, while navigating a vast venue with as many as 34 parallel technical sessions (!) at any moment in time, talking to friends and acquaintances, and myriad other personal tasks. Aside from the PDF abstracts, everything else at IMAGE conferences is “Blink and you miss it”.
Two PGS presentations address high-resolution (HR) and ultra-high-resolution (UHR) towed streamer solutions for energy transition pursuits. “Novel high and ultra-high resolution towed streamer 3D acquisition solutions for new energy applications” (ACQ 3: CCS and Marine Vibrators, Room 372B) builds upon the principles of distributed multi-sources with dense multisensor streamer spreads to describe survey design principles that can be applied to carbon capture and storage (CCS) site characterization and offshore wind farm 3D site surveying. “Earth, wind, and fire: Transitioning p-cable technology from oil and gas to offshore wind” (SS 18: Innovative Crossover Technologies Between the Oil and Gas and Near-Surface Sectors) focuses specifically upon the many possible applications for UHR P-Cable seismic acquisition.
The other five PGS presentations can be broadly divided into subsurface model building and the monitoring of both reservoir depletion and carbon storage.
“Simultaneous inversion of velocity and angle-dependent reflectivity” (FWI 8: Theory and Methods 1, Room 370A) presents a novel approach for simultaneous inversion of velocity and pre-stack reflectivity angle gathers. A novel parameterization of the wave equation, together with sensitivity kernels for velocity and impedance obtained through inverse scattering theory, are key elements for the solution. The simultaneous inversion workflow, first introduced by PGS in 2021, has been extended to the pre-stack angle gather domain which is crucial for improving our understanding of subsurface properties.
Two PGS presentations provide a completely alternative perspective to FWI using Fourier Neural Operators (FNOs). “High resolution angle gather tomography with Fourier neural operators” (SP 5: Advanced Velocity Model Building Techniques 1 , Room 371B) introduces a deep learning workflow that uses FNOs to estimate corrections to velocity models from migrated images. Iterative high-resolution refinements can be made to an incorrect velocity model without being sensitive to cycle skipping or being dependent upon accurate modeling of amplitudes in the manner of FWI. Furthermore, “Automating velocity model building using Fourier neural operators” (MLDA 2: Physics-Informed Neural Networks and Fourier Neural Operators, Room 351B) demonstrates how FNOs can be used to automate velocity model building from field data with minimal preprocessing. Both presentations use multisensor GeoStreamer data from offshore Canada.
“Iterative imaging technology for correcting 4D acquisition variable conditions, application to a West Africa case study” (TL 1: Advances and Case Studies, Room 370A) applies specialized 4D processing solutions to a multi-vintage dataset from West Africa to derive higher resolution of fluid movement and greater geomechanical understanding. An iterative process using pre-migrated data and image domain pre-stack data was able to detect subtle changes in water velocity, small mispositioning biases, and residual bubble effects, that would normally be collectively indistinguishable. Some 4D time-shifts that would normally be misinterpreted as geomechanical effects were also adjusted with the relative corrections. Moving into the low carbon domain, “Challenges for monitoring CO2 sequestration using 4D seismic” (CO2 P4: Monitoring 2) reviews the specific imaging challenges linked to CO2 storage monitoring using 4D seismic data from the Sleipner project in the North Sea and compares them to the challenges of monitoring gas reservoir depletion from offshore Western Australia. A workflow was developed for combining kinematic (dynamic time warping) and amplitude seismic changes to increase the desired 4D signal resolution and detectability in all scenarios, although CO2 plume migration was more challenging to monitor and quantify.
I will return on Wednesday, August 30, with initial impressions of the event.