Paradigm recently posted a $100,000 Challenge seeking ways of storing and analyzing data in 3D fault networks. This Challenge is unique in its award amount and in the amount of data that Paradigm has shared with Solvers. We asked Duane Dopkin, senior vice president of technology at Paradigm, to talk to us a bit about the Challenge and what they are hoping to achieve with the solution.
Hi Duane - thanks for agreeing to talk to us today. As background for our Solvers, can you tell us a bit about the current state of oil and gas exploration?
Hi - sure. In order to sustain growth and fulfill hydrocarbon demand, oil and gas companies must aggressively replace depleted hydrocarbon reserves and offset production decline in mature fields. Replacement of hydrocarbon reserves has meant shifts in exploration to frontier areas (e.g. deep waters like the Gulf of Mexico, Arctic, etc.) or investigation of unconventional sources of hydrocarbons (e.g. heavy oil, tight gas, shale oil, coal bed methane). Both of these shifts have required oil companies to become much more technically savvy.
Your Challenge is seeking a method of analyzing data related to faults in the earth’s crust. Can you tell us how this information will be used?
Subsurface faults and fractures can serve as flow conduits for hydrocarbons or conversely as permeability traps that compartmentalize reservoir hydrocarbons. Although many fractures and small scale faults cannot be detected in subsurface seismic images, larger faults and regional faults help geoscientists understand the deformation history of geologic basins which, in turn, can reveal information about hydrocarbon accumulation and hydrocarbon migration pathways. Faults and fractures can also compartmentalize areas of high pressure which can create drilling problems and safety hazards. Consequently, a full understanding of a fault network at basin and reservoir scales is a prerequisite for exploration in new areas as well as a prerequisite for well planning and drilling in development fields and mature fields. Obtaining a holistic understanding of fault networks depends not only on a geoscientists ability to locate, interpret, and model faults from subsurface signals and images (well logs, image logs, seismic data), but also to perform complex spatial and topological queries on the fault network data to better understand the history of subsurface deformation and its current deformed state.
What impact do you think the solution to this Challenge will have on the environment/more efficient use of natural resources?
Fractured reservoirs contain a large proportion of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves. Through a better understanding of a geologic basin and reservoirs fault network, geoscientists can not only drill less, but they can also drill safer. Indeed today, horizontal drilling techniques are employed in fractured reservoirs to optimize their drainage. By “geosteering” perpendicular to groups of natural fractures, engineers are able to drill fewer but more economic wells.
Paradigm posted a similar Challenge on the InnoCentive marketplace in 2008 – how does this Challenge differ from the earlier Challenge?
In 2008 we did post a Challenge similar to this one. The Challenge involved defining an optimum fault network data structure. Based on the responses to the initial Challenge and the importance of the problem to both Paradigm and its oil and gas customers, we decided to refine the Challenge and raise the stakes. We enriched and injected the initial Challenge with digital data examples, more real data images, and clarification on the current state of the art and suggestions for where Solvers should look for improvement. This Challenge upgrade was backed up with a substantially higher award (maximum of $100,000) to entice Solvers from many fields and to encourage them to participate in this scientific Challenge.
This is your third InnoCentive Challenge. What have you learned thus far about sourcing your Challenges on the InnoCentive Marketplace?
Paradigm has posted three Challenges to the InnoCentive Marketplace. With each posting we have experienced a gratifying spectrum of responses reflecting the diverse perspectives coming from outside the comfort zone of our own industry and scientific disciplines. Working with InnoCentive to impose more discipline and clarity in the formulation of our Challenges, has helped us help our Solvers to focus their responses.
Why do you think open innovation is a good fit for problems in the oil and gas industry?
The oil and gas industry searches for subsurface hydrocarbons using many scientific disciplines, mathematical methods, computer science advances, and engineering practices. Many of the seeds of advancement in this industry have originated outside of the oil and gas industry. In spite of the tremendous pool of talent inside the industry, we believe it is a healthy exercise to seek solutions to new problems from outside, as time-to-solution pressures are becoming more acute in this unpredictable oil and gas economy.
Thanks Duane - good luck with your Challenge.