Industry Insights | Decarbonization the Catalyst for a New Geoscience Era

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In this issue of Industry Insight, Andrew Long comments on themes at last month's EAGE annual conference 

The 2021 EAGE conference provided a particularly interesting industry forum as the world moves into a lower carbon future. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) featured strongly in the program, and the proportional CCS content of future conferences is expected to grow substantially.

Short-term applications of surface seismic methods and geological paradigms to CCS are of interest. Much R&D will be required into both geophysical and geochemical aspects to support the likely scale of CCS necessary to achieve global net-zero goals. Synergies between towed streamer and ocean bottom node (OBN) acquisition had a high profile. There was a particular emphasis upon wide-tow multi-source developments, low-frequency seismic considerations, and various continuous wavefield source concepts.

For seismic imaging, full waveform inversion (FWI) has progressed beyond a velocity model building tool to now yield seismic interpretation deliverables of various sophistication. The most complete realization combines model building and full wavefield least-squares migration into an abbreviated workflow for rapid project turnaround. Overall, it is evident that greater seismic acquisition and imaging effort, combined with better integration of geoscience and engineering methods, are necessary to solve long-standing conventional hydrocarbon discovery and recovery challenges. This will also be required to meet the unique subsurface resolution and characterization requirements for the transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

There is a clear urgency to accelerate access to better data—augmented of course by machine learning and other automation platforms—and to throw everything at previously unassailable problems on quite grand scales.

An elephant in the room is whether the challenge of decarbonizing the planet with sustainable, affordable and accessible energy sources can motivate a new generation and boost recruitment to the geosciences and engineering – and on what timescale. Several forum discussions attempted to address these challenges.


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