Next Generation Hydrocarbon Exploration

Integrating technologies for basin analysis improves geological and geophysical models, enabling the next generation of hydrocarbon exploration.
This article appeared in Vol. 15, No. 5 - 2018


Enabling the Next Generation of Hydrocarbon Exploration

Seismic Interpretation Workflows

Typically, seismic data processing employs a limited consideration for the geologic interpretation of structure, lithology and fabric. It is also a common belief that sequence stratigraphic interpretation is the only reliable method of determining sediment lithology, depositional environment and stratal geometry on regional seismic data. And, in most instances, basin analysis uses only information from the applied geological model. 

Modern Seismic Data

This workflow is common in the methods of basin analysis; however, modern seismic data contain more information than just reflectivity and geometry for interpreting structure and identifying sediment sequences. In many cases, the velocity model used to process the seismic data contains information that provides a robust constraint on the sediment type and is useful for building regional geological models. In the case of subsalt imaging, an insightful geological model employing an understanding of salt kinematics can create a velocity model with a seismic image superior to one obtained by tomography alone. In these cases, iterating on the subsalt geological model and the seismic image improves both the image and the mode itself.

ION iSpanTM Toolkit

Figure 1: The iSPAN toolkit connects technologies to reduce both exploration risk and the time it takes to develop regional play concepts. (a): The velocity model and inversion products are connected to the seismic interpretation; (b) shows how the compaction law used in the basin simulator relates to the velocity of different types of sediments. The compaction law and the rock physics models are bounded and well constrained by data. Inversion products further define the sediment properties and, in many cases, this leads to a quantifiable estimate of reservoir properties. The toolkit uses these advanced interpretation technologies early in the exploration cycle to develop quantifiable interpretations and inconsistencies that occur when technologies are applied as standalone products. With this in mind, ION has recently introduced the iSPANTM toolkit as a methodology for integrating technologies, resulting in data-constrained geological and geophysical models, better basin scale images and more accurate geologic models (Figure 1). Interpretation of the data using the workflow is faster than traditional basin analysis workflows, first creating a geophysical model, then structural and stratigraphic geological models, and finally a petroleum systems model. 

The toolkit allows geologists, geophysicists and petrophysicists to work together to create consistent geological and geophysical models encompassing the entire petroleum system from source, reservoir, trap and seal.

A New Workflow Integrating Petrophysical and Seismic Data

Rock Physics

The physically based petrophysical model for the basin relies on well data and is the anchor of the iSPAN methodology because it relates the velocity of p-wave and s-wave data to the porosity of the sediments. The primary state variable in a basin simulator is porosity, which is related to the mean stress through the compaction law. Integrating the petrophysical rock physics model with the basin model constrains the sediment type from porosity and velocity.

The importance of physical models is critical, as they are bounded and the porosity-stress relation is based on a constitutive law between changes in stress and changes in porosity (strain). Similarly, for the basin model, the rock physics model satisfies Voigt-Reuss bounds, ensuring bounded values for the velocity to porosity relations shown. The use of physical laws instead of correlations means that the model result can quickly be compared to data to find parameters not included in models. For example, the waves typically travel much faster in carbonates than clastics, so a rock physics model without clastics is immediately identified because of the mismatch between model and data.


Figure 2: Anisotropic migration ensures seismic ties wells across three basins using the newly developed anisotropy derived from velocity model building methods. Anisotropy is an important iSPAN feature. The seismic data will always tie to the well data with the appropriate choice of Thomsen parameters (Figure 2). The traditional approach for building an anisotropic model is to use checkshot or sonic log data and isotropic seismic NMO velocity to calculate anisotropic parameters and propagate the anisotropy along seismic horizons. This traditional approach works reasonably well for relatively uniform geology but is a challenge for basin-scale anisotropic velocity models and seismic data that potentially cover multiple (sub) basins, resulting in changes in anisotropy across the lines or basin. Similarly, special consideration is required to ensure velocity models tie at all line intersections, so this workflow employs a data analytic approach to integrate well, seismic amplitude, high order RMO residuals and geologic interpretation. The newly derived anisotropic parameters ensure high quality seismic well ties that honour the geology over the entire basin range. Anisotropic migration also provides better seismic gathers for more reliable rock property inversion from seismic data.

Figure 3: LibyaSPAN regional seismic line with inset location map. This line includes the southern portion of the Sirte Basin and shows major structural elements and sediment packages. The line is approximately 400 km in length. The western flanks of the basin have been tested with wells but the well data lacks modern logs. A carefully calibrated rock physics model for the sediments, plus a seismic data set that ties to the well control, is the basis for the seismic inversion. Inverting the seismic data for lithology provides a level of detail that cannot be obtained with the rock physics models alone. 

The rock physics workflow for inverting the seismic data to assign lithology includes rock physics diagnostics (RPD), a rock physics template (RPT) and statistical rock physics (SRP). On a wireline log scale the RPD discriminates between reservoir and non-reservoir zones, while lithofacies in the seismic data are identified with the RPT. Uncertainty in the lithofacies estimates is reduced through the use of SRP.

iSPANTM Application to Basinwide Interpretation 

Figure 4: The same Libya seismic line showing probabilistic facies predictions from pre-stack seismic inversion using statistical rock physics workflow. The seismic interpretation overlays this facies model. This inversion identifies dolomitised carbonates in a reef (upper right) and in deeper parts of the section including the Palaeozoic sediment. Figure 3 is a seismic line from the LibyaSPANTM 2D regional seismic grid in the Sirte Basin. The grid was designed to provide a regional framework for understanding how the offshore Sirte Basin is related to the onshore Sirte Basin oil and gas fields. Figure 4 is the same line of inverted seismic data, which enables us to identify dolomitised carbonates in the section, including a reef and deeper Palaeozoic strata. Separate inversions identify the variability of the overburden and show different prograding geometries stepping into the basin.

Combining these observations into an integrated basin simulator leads to a petroleum system view of the play on a regional scale (Figure 5). Without the iSPAN rock physics model and the inversion products, sediment type is identified only with sequence stratigraphy, leading to larger uncertainty in the elements of the petroleum system.

Integrated Geophysical, Geological and Petrophysical Modelling 

Figure 5: The same Libya seismic data: the upper panel shows the porosity of the dolomitised carbonates and the lower panel shows present-day source rock maturity for an oil prone source rock. These results indicate that all of the petroleum system elements are present, including the timing risk element, since a recently matured source rock is proximal to the traps. Regional 2D seismic data provide the framework for identifying new ideas and developing, extending and refining regional exploration plays. The iSPAN toolkit creates a better regional understanding of sediment type and identifies reservoirs and seals to extend the regional exploration evaluation within an integrated petroleum system model. In the example presented here, carbonate reefs are easily recognised and integrated technologies identify the presence of reservoirs beneath draping seals proximal to matured source intervals. Regional play concepts can be quickly and more accurately identified, thus shortening the cycle time between play concepts to a prospect.

This kind of analysis can be extended across any 2D dataset in order to provide a cohesive and comprehensive view of each petroleum system within a basin or basins, integrated with the regional framework of geophysical attributes such as velocity and porosity and the geological attributes that underpin structural and stratigraphic models. This type of basin analysis is faster than traditional workflows and provides insight by using integrated geophysical, geological and petrophysical models.


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