Happily, in this past year, we witnessed several examples of marriage between two themes—exciting technology advances and the recent economic downturn. In other words, necessity for survival in hard times provided the impetus for innovation.


Two years ago, in this column, I focused on new, exciting technology advances that were being made with the seismic method. Unfortunately, 1 year ago, I had to change the theme to the deepening economic downturn that had occurred in the industry. Happily, though, in this past year, we witnessed several examples of marriage between these two themes. In other words, necessity for survival in hard times provided the impetus for innovation.

For example, in one case of land seismic, the acquisition system was re­designed. This started with the stripping down of the nodal geophone, leaving only the very basic functionality that was needed. Ultimately, this led to a much lighter system, not only reducing power requirements but also the labor needed to deploy (and later retrieve) the ground equipment. In turn, this efficiency led to lower costs while still allowing advancement to the denser, spatial sampling enabled by higher channel counts.

In another case, success was achieved not through changes in technology but rather through changes in business strategy. Historically, when downturns occur, one of the first line items to be cut is the acquisition of new seismic programs. However, the strategy reported by one courageous company was to continue with its usual level of advanced seismic acquisition and processing, while saving costs by reducing the exploration drilling. This strategy of protecting the ability to identify future, high-quality prospects is what led to success.

Continued development of seismic applications occurred in many other disciplines, too, including unconventionals, microseismic, and imaging. This often took place through effective use of multidisciplinary teams and machine learning.

That discussion is supported by the three synopsized papers included in this Technology Focus section, as well as the three papers that are recommended for additional reading. Enjoy.

This Month's Technical Papers

Maintaining Seismic-Focused Exploration During Downturn Yields Benefits

Quantitative Seismic Interpretation Identifies Sweet Spots in Organic-Rich Mudrocks

Least-Squares Migration Technique Improves Imaging and Inversion Offshore China

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 197289 Acquisition of an Ultrahigh-Density 3D Seismic Survey Using New Nimble Nodes Onshore Abu Dhabi by Hani Nehaid, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, et al.

SPE 197822 Application of Machine Learning To Estimate Sonic Data for Seismic Well Ties, Bongkot Field, Thailand by Nisa Sukkee, PTTEP, et al.

SPE 195522 A Novel Approach to Discovery of Hidden Structures in Microseismic Data Using Machine-Learning Techniques by Maxim Yatsenko, Texas A&M University, et al.

Mark S. Egan, SPE, is a consulting geophysicist. He worked for Schlumberger and its heritage companies from 1975 until his retirement in 2016. Egan’s last position at Schlumberger was as global chief area geophysicist in the Land Unconventionals Group within the WesternGeco segment. His previous postings included chief geophysicist positions in North America, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and London. Egan holds a BS degree in physics and mathematics, an MS degree in acoustics, and a PhD degree in geophysics. He holds two patents and is a member of SPE, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers, and various local societies. Egan is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee and can be reached at