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The definition of a potential field has never been—and may never be—set in stone. The economics shift frequently in line with the changing whims of the world’s hydrocarbons markets.

On the other hand, the subsurface definition—the petrophysics, seismic data, geology and well data—tends to have cleaner and more defined lines. Yet E&P companies have increasingly been able to look between those lines to understand where further, adjacent production opportunities might lie.

The catalyst? Millions of historic and life-cycle data acquired, and the evolution of subsurface software to analyze and draw insights from it. 

In the past, operators would have needed to drill multiple wells to understand the viability of a field. Now, thanks to the thousands of historical wells and their respective data that now exists, both produced and dry, the same types of insights into the geology and structures below can often be inferred prior to drilling wells. These insights are made even more possible by digital transformation and with it, the evolution of well integration, visualization, machine learning and interpretation software, such as Lloyd’s Register’s Interactive Correlation (IC) and Interactive Petrophysics (IP) subsurface software packages. 

These subsurface software applications bring disparate data sources together into one place, enabling operators to correlate, map and interpret the data for insights into subsurface characteristics across an entire geographical area, going beyond the individual data from a single well. Rather than spend months or years drilling for data, the software enables operators to narrow down the list of potential opportunities more accurately and swiftly than ever before.

With greater depth of detail, financiers will have more confidence to invest in exploration efforts, and operators can expect to see a reduction in the number of dry or marginal wells drilled in the future as well as an increase in the hydrocarbon recovery of existing fields.

Visualizing the results of flexible data queries spatially on a map, alongside interpreted seismic surfaces, grids and other data analysis, increases the efficiency of identifying prospective target areas no matter what the requirements for potential are.

Lloyd's Register IC subsurface map
Visualizing data query results spatially alongside data analysis and interpreted seismic surfaces and faults aids in identifying new or missed potential. (Source: Lloyd's Register)

Once a potential area of interest is identified, it is then straightforward to begin correlating and interpreting the well data, while taking into consideration the sedimentology and depositional setting from the well interpretations to complete the geological understanding of the area.

Potential in-place hydrocarbon volumes can be determined by combining the petrophysical properties of hydrocarbon saturation, porosity and permeability, derived from wells that have penetrated analogue reservoirs, along with reservoir height and area. 

In developing its subsurface software packages, Lloyd’s Register focuses on delivering high-quality, fast interpretations in an intuitive, visually striking and interactive way, without being overcomplicated. The software offers an easy way to combine datasets into workflows and provide opportunities for teams across functions to collaborate. Tapping into the innate human interest in data displayed visually, subsurface interpretations can be interrogated in 2D or 3D, helping users understand stratigraphy and correlations more easily.

The software developments are underpinned by a forensic style approach to analyzing subsurface characteristics; users deduce the most accurate interpretation possible based on the evidence available to provide leads for further enquiry.  

Lloyds Register’s IC and IP subsurface software packages have been successfully utilized by many of the leading oil and gas operators, consultancies and service companies globally in many varied and complex geological settings to help identify missed pay opportunities in existing fields and identify potential fields.  

Developed over the past 25 years, the IC and IP software products have grown with advancing technology, data and workflows, regularly bringing many industry firsts ranging from:

  • A complete Monte Carlo uncertainty of the entire workflow back in the '90s;
  • The more recent non-statistical machine learning algorithm called Domain Transform Analysis; and 
  • Bringing a new approach in 2021 to textural analysis from borehole images to the market.

The software continues to develop with many new features planned. 

Fit for an ever-changing world

The recent updates don’t solely apply to exploration and appraisal of potential hydrocarbon fields. Operators are increasingly faced with making decisions to address the challenges of a maturing industry and the energy transition.

New opportunities, such as geothermal energy potential, mineral extraction and carbon capture utilization and storage, mean operators are analyzing data in new ways to keep pace in an ever-changing world. To make those initial decisions without the need for additional data or software investment enables operators to keep ahead without increasing operational costs. 

Myriad untapped opportunities remain hidden in the existing data that operators have collated over the life cycles of their various E&P activities. Without bringing all the data together, these opportunities may remain hidden for good. However, with the evolution of well integration, visualization and interpretation software, there has never been a better time for operators to leverage their data to make new discoveries and unlock new opportunities for the energy transition.


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