The EAGE Virtual Conference in Review

2020 has taught everyone that digital engagement can be flexible and effective if we embrace it, and even if the world can return to pre-coronavirus levels of physical freedom, many future conferences will become ‘hybrid’ events that simultaneously offer physical and virtual participation.

Frankly, such events should have been routinely offered long ago anyway. There are countless geoscientists and engineers who have been unable to attend technical forums because the travel and accommodation costs were prohibitive, or it was simply impossible to sacrifice a week of time at the expense of other activities.

In my Day Four Update from EAGE 2020, I questioned whether professional societies could offer consolidated online fee-based or pay-per-view models for accessing pre-recorded technical content, or whether the proliferation of events increasingly being offered could be replaced by a smaller number of more judiciously-designed physical events. The feedback since received from a few professional society members has been against such ideas: no society wants to penalize what are already tenuous revenue streams. I suggest they need to keep an open mind.

What Were the Notable Technical Developments?

Unsurprisingly, no one launched new products or technologies in such a closed environment. It is better to make announcements to a larger platform of potential customers. But we did see a continuing evolution of themes developed in recent years:

  • Higher recovery rates from established petroleum reserves require better seismic images, an ability to incorporate more data into decision processes, and closer integration of geoscience and engineering disciplines. Correspondingly, the industry is working hard to make Full Waveform Inversion (FWI) more robust in more environments, and the full seismic wavefield is being incorporated into all forms of seismic imaging and the inversion for elastic earth properties. Machine learning (ML) is finding its way into the augmentation of well-known processes and is mentioned less as a novelty looking for applications. And greater investments are being made in acquiring better data as the platform for better long-term asset management.
  • From my own arena of activity, there is clearly a growing interest in running FWI in a stable manner to ‘high’ frequencies, primarily as a form of fast-track interpretation solution. Much work needs to be done to validate the products delivered, and in the longer term, the industry has even greater ambitions. If one returns to the original FWI publications by the likes of Tarantola almost 40 years ago, the ultimate ambition of FWI was always to recover high-resolution reservoir properties (i.e. an accurate model of reservoir properties), for example, the bulk modulus and density, or the elastic Lamé parameters. So there’s a lot more to the seismic inversion story that is yet to be told.
  • Although the number of sessions dedicated to seismic inversion continues to dwindle, it is clear that a lot of room still exists in how both towed streamer and seafloor seismic surveys can be designed and acquired. We saw how the operational flexibility of high-capacity seismic vessels can simultaneously deliver high resolution shallow and deep seismic images in a cost-effective manner (GeoStreamer X); how there is tremendous flexibility in how ‘continuous wavefield’ source concepts (eSeismic) and very low-frequency pneumatic source concepts can simultaneously reduce the environmental impact and deliver geophysical advantages, and how Full Wavefield Migration may help reduce the cost of survey design.

For the many people seeking to enter the industry for the first time, and well as those seeking to find re-employment, this is a very uncertain time. The uncertainty is compounded by the sweeping transitions being driven by social ambitions to transition to renewable energy sources, and the evolving replacement of many traditional job functions by digitalization-led efficiency initiatives.

The various ‘Community Hub’ events at EAGE 2020 inspired me to scan the internet to see what else was being suggested by industry figureheads and well-known professors. The recurring theme is that, in my opinion, long-term job security is a thing of the past. It is important to develop a skill set that can be adapted to a diverse range of problems—with less supervision and by harnessing more tools on an ad hoc basis. Self-development is more important than ever.

Which returns me to virtual events such as EAGE 2020. It is convenient to view pre-recorded presentations over a time window of weeks or months, but the extra scrutiny afforded is a strong deterrent to anyone concerned about Intellectual Property (IP). Indeed, one company notably withdrew several presentations just before the SEG event because of such concerns. And it is therefore increasingly unlikely that ‘fresh’ ideas are accessible to those registering for online conference events.

More PGS Live Events to Come

In the meantime, if you wish to view the PGS collection of webinar events, please visit our Webinar Library and find all PGS abstracts in our Technical Library. PGS is also hosting technology-specific ‘PGS Live’ events with increasing frequency. The last event was titled ‘GeoStreamer X | What, Where, Why: Ask the Experts’. Keep following PGS for regular updates and new developments.