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E&P Plus

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the March issue of E&P Plus.
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Formed in 2019, STRYDE is a seismic technology startup spun out of bp. STRYDE’s node receiver technology is the smallest on the market and delivers high-quality subsurface images at a low cost, according to the company. The technology is designed to reduce environmental footprint and HSE risk as well as provide faster surveys and significant operational efficiencies. The first field trial was completed in 2013, and in 2019 the nimble node receiver project was commercialized.

“STRYDE was set up in August 2019 with a primary goal in mind—enabling clients in any industry to access high-definition seismic images, whether those clients are in oil and gas, geothermal, CCUS [carbon capture, utilization and storage], mining or even archaeology,” STRYDE CEO Mike Popham said. “Until STRYDE was available, very few industries and companies could afford to acquire the quality of seismic they needed.”

In an exclusive interview with E&P Plus, Popham went into detail about this new technology and others in R&D, shared his insight on emerging trends and spoke about the company’s 2021 plans.

Mike Popham“Across the sector, there is still so much that needs to be done to make seismic even more cost-effective and time-efficient for the end client throughout the process.”— Mike Popham, STRYDE

E&P Plus: What has STRYDE accomplished since separating from bp in 2019?

Popham: Eighteen months on, we have clients in 12 countries, spanning six industries (geothermal, oil and gas exploration, archaeology, mineral exploration, microseismic and seismic risk) and four continents, proving that we were onto something. With this rapid take-up, we’ve also doubled our team to more than 47 employees across seven countries.

E&P Plus: How was the company able to navigate through 2020?

Popham: Like any other company in this market, it’s been a difficult year to get through. Normally, we win work by bringing our technology to clients’ sites and showing them what our technology can do compared to what they are used to. With the pandemic, those in-person trials have been harder to arrange. COVID-19 has also affected a lot of the conferences and events where we would showcase our technology, with many cancelled or shifting to digital-only platforms. So far, we’ve managed to participate in six online conferences over 2020.

However, even working remotely, we have still been able to significantly grow our client base, with more than 135,000 nodes supplied.

In a year when oil prices have been on the downturn and upstream companies need to think carefully about their operating costs, we’ve seen this kind of major interest in our technology due to the simple fact that these nodes are lighter, cheaper and faster than anything else on the market.

E&P Plus: What are the company’s goals for 2021?

Popham: This year, we expect to have close to 1 million STRYDE nodes on the market, which unlocks huge potential across the industry. For a long time, many operators have recognized that certain land seismic acquisitions really require this level of inventory, but it simply hasn’t been available. Furthermore, until now, the cost profile and HSSE risks would have made using such an inventory prohibitive.

(Source: STRYDE)

We will also significantly grow our client base in key regions and industries where we can make the biggest impact. For example, one key goal for us in 2021 is to bring our commercial systems into Russia. Our technology was tailored to drastically improve the environmental impact, pace, cost and safety challenges in some of their extreme sites, so this will bring things full circle to bring our now fully developed technology back to these environments.

Our technology is ultimately agnostic to its use-case. So as companies across the oil and gas industry start to diversify and explore new sectors, such as CCUS and geothermal energy, we will do whatever we can to support this diversification with high-definition seismic.

E&P Plus: Can you provide any recent case study details on your nodes?

Popham: We’re proud of a trial of our technology in UAE [United Arab Emirates], which was conducted during the R&D phase in early 2019. This set a new world record for land seismic trace density. Combining our nodal technology, with simultaneous source technology, we delivered 184 million traces per kilometer.

As we see time and time again when people use our systems, we achieved a significant image uplift while moving rapidly over the ground with very few people. To put that in numbers, a line crew of 36 people working on average 6 hours per day were laying out 10,000 nodes and retrieving another 10,000 nodes per day.

Right now, one of our early clients is conducting a large-scale 3D trial with STRYDE in the Middle East. We will share more details on this, and similar acquisitions we have ongoing in two other continents soon [in early 2021].

A 2019 trial of STRYDE technology in the United Arab Emirates set a new world record for land seismic trace density—184 million traces per kilometer. (Source: STRYDE)

E&P Plus: What is the biggest challenge your clients are facing? What emerging trends do you see taking place?

Popham: The past year has been inundated with challenges, from COVID-19 to weak oil prices. We’re also continuing to see trends emerging, which personally I think are very positive. For example, more and more companies are considering their environmental impact. While there is a pessimistic perception that there is nothing oil and gas can do as the industry inherently results in emissions, there is still so much that can be done to reduce overall environmental impact across the whole sector.

(Source: STRYDE)

In particular, we’ve found that many companies involved in exploration and reservoir development are openly challenging or reconsidering practices that used to be commonplace, such as line-clearing of forestry to make way for bulky seismic equipment. With STRYDE providing nodes that weigh just 150 g each, coupled with emerging advances for similarly nimble sources, companies are now able to not only reduce the number of vehicles and personnel needed to lay out seismic technology—and thereby safer, more cost-effective operations during pandemic times—they’re also able to drastically reduce and even eliminate any negative impact on the surrounding area’s forestry.

A number of companies are proactively making these moves toward leaner, more environmentally friendly operations proactively. But as climate change continues to gain more and more focus from governments across the globe, we will start to see even more operators opting for smaller, lighter nodes to stay compliant with incoming government regulations.

E&P Plus: Does the company have any new technologies in the R&D phase?

Popham: We have a huge amount planned for the year ahead. In addition to our research into the potential uses of passive seismic, we are well advanced in our creation of an additional node variant, which will supplement our current node to further extend what our users can achieve.

We also constantly strive to make our system even faster, lighter and smaller because this benefits any and every market we operate in. We have already managed to scale down an acquisition system to the point that you can comfortably fit our NIMBLE system and several thousand nodes into a small office with plenty of space to spare or even in the back of a pickup truck, which makes frontier exploration far easier than it was 12 months ago. Despite this, we believe we can go even further.

More broadly, our R&D is focused on meeting what operators and acquisition contractors in the market tell us that they need. Whilst that’s an obvious statement, it’s not something that many companies in our market do. The STRYDE technology itself is a good example of this; for many years, the seismic technology sector heard the same requests for lighter, faster, significantly cheaper nodes from operators so that together we could lay out more channels and ultimately get a superior image whilst in parallel, reducing risk exposure and environmental impact. We will continue to stick with this approach, listening to the demands of the industry and designing what operators want in collaboration with them, rather than producing small, incremental steps of what they want.

E&P Plus: Where do you see the future of seismic acquisition and imaging? What other improvements can be made or are needed?

Popham: Firstly, I believe that there is huge untapped potential to use seismic imaging for new applications across a range of industries. I already know that STRYDE alone will bring seismic to at least three further industrial sectors in 2021. And where I’m saying this in early January, I expect the end figure will be far higher. This expansion of how seismic is used is good news for everyone in our industry.

Over the past year, I have also been fortunate to test some really encouraging advances in the seismic technology sector from other companies. When good innovations are combined, you can transform the industry further than any one technology can on its own.

The challenging side is finding the right commercial models, partnerships and end customers to integrate these innovations and unlock the overall true potential we all have available to us already.

I also think it’s important to explore what we can do today but isn’t yet being widely utilized. For example, passive seismic, where an active source isn’t utilized, has huge potential for a range of applications. There isn’t a technology barrier to acquiring it as most nodes record continuously, collecting large quantities of passive seismic data. What’s interesting is that when it comes to processing, most of these passive data are discarded, and people aren’t often able to come back to see what they’ve thrown away. We’ve been able to explore how these data can be used and now have access to a large dataset across a huge range of environments. We are researching the potential level of valuable information that can be gathered by passive seismic and are seeing some very encouraging results.

Across the sector, however, there is still so much that needs to be done to make seismic even more cost-effective and time-efficient for the end client throughout the process. At the moment, the timeline from starting a large acquisition and actually accessing useful products is far, far too long.

STRYDE allows a client to significantly cut down the acquisition phase, but even then, there’s so much potential to improve speed and efficiency elsewhere in the life cycle of a seismic project. We’re open to collaborating with companies, big and small, who can help accelerate the whole seismic project timeline.