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Inova - mini-vibes, low fequency and UAVs

Friday, March 20, 2015

Interesting recent developments in land seismic recording technology include 'mini-vibes', low frequency seismic, and UAVs for wireless seismic quality control, says Andy Bull, VP Product Development, Emerging Technologies at INOVA Geophysical. But we may be reaching the limit of the number of seismic channels we are able to record without significant advances in computing technology.

INOVA has developed a range of small Vibroseis trucks, known as 'mini-vibes', which can create seismic energy in areas where standard Vibroseis trucks can't go.

The usual way to create seismic energy on land is by using large Vibroseis trucks which provide 60-80,000 lbs of force.

Inova produces the UNIVIB and UNIVIB 2 Vibrator trucks, which provide up to 26,000 (UNIVIB) or 34,000 (UNIVIB 2) pounds of peak force, but have the advantage of being much easier to use in urban areas, or areas with more difficult terrain, said Andy Bull, VP Product Development, Emerging Technologies at INOVA Geophysical.

He was speaking at the Finding Petroleum conference in London on November 26, 'New E&P Technologies'.

'These little (mini vibe) machines are capable of really nice manoeuvring, low environmental impact and tremendous broadband energy,' he said.

'These machines can output super signals over a bandwidth of 1-400 Hz and at significant depth,' he said.

In one example, data acquired in the South Georgia Rift Basin (USA), using 2 UNIVIBtrucks, with data at 6 to 76 Hz.

'They have been able to bring out a structure at 10,000 feet,' he said.

The market for mini-vibes is partly driven by the increased efforts oil companies have to make about to limit the environmental impact of exploration, he said.

This includes thinking about how much line cutting (path clearing) they need to do, how much dynamite they are going to
use, and what to do about wildlife.

The environmental impact is further reduced if you use cable-less technology and small vibroseis trucks, he said.

Because they have a shorter length and width, less line cutting is required, he said.

They can also move up slopes of difficult terrain.

INOVA Geophysical is a manufacturer of land seismic technology, formed from assets from ION Geophysical and BGP in March
2010. It produces a range of seismic recording equipment and seismic source equipment.

Low frequency seismic
INOVA is seeing an increasing customer interest in working with low frequency seismic.

'We have been involved in several projects in various locations where we starting with frequencies as low as 1.5 Hz, and we think we can go down further,' he said.

MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems) sensors are 'ideal for [recording] this low frequency data,' he said. The sensor systems are designed to be small (107g), low power (85mW) and tightly integrated with acquisition systems.

'We're still learning a lot about the benefits of these low frequencies.'

Mr Bull showed an example of data surveyed by Petroleum Development Oman (OMAN), where during the survey, the company deData acquired in the South Georgia Rift Basin (USA) using 2 UNIVIB trucks was able to bring out a structure cided to extend the bandwidth down to 1.5 at 10,000 feet Mini vibroseis machines - "capable of really nice manoeuvring, low environmental impact and tremendous broadband energy"Hz, and you can see how the data improves.

You can see just the data generated from 1.5 - 6 Hz seismic and it is very clear.

The company has also done some downhole testing with sensors recording at up to 7,500 feet, recording data as low as 0.5 Hz.

Downhole data was also recorded at high frequencies, resulting in coherent 200 Hz energy visible at over 5,000 ft depth.

Seismic technology market
At the time of his talk in November 2014, Inova was already seeing oil and gas companies make reductions in their exploration programs due to cost constraints due to the low oil price, he said.

But the Middle East is 'still a healthy area.

'There's a lot of investment still going on, a lot of surveys planned,' he said.

Annual spending on seismic technology has been fairly flat for the past 10-15 years, with a small uplift in the mid-2000s with a move to larger surveys.

'This creates difficulty for companies like ourselves,' he said. 'We're helping the market acquire much more data, of better quality, but the volume of spend is not increasing.

Many companies are starting to look seriously at broadband seismic acquisition, as they look for oil at greater depths, in more complex geology, and with better resolution images, he said. Or they want to do 'full waveform inversion,' using the two-way wave equation to produce high resolution velocity models.

Cabled and wireless
In terms of land seismic acquisition systems, 80 to 85 per cent of new seismic system sales are still cabled, rather than cable-less.

'The costs [of cabled systems] are reducing,' he said. 'The cable system is still substantially less per channel than cable-less system.'

Cabled systems like INOVA's G3i HD need to be able to run surveys at all kind of scales, be integrated with other types of sensor (for example with waterborne sensors for 'transition zone' surveys), or used with cable-less, and productivity is very important.

Keeping productivity high 'is a huge focus for us,' he said.

Meanwhile there is growing interest in cableless technology for environmental and safety reasons, he said. It requires smaller crews.

The power consumption is reducing all the time, so now devices are capable of 20-30 days operation in the field from one battery charge.

With a cable-less system like INOVA's Hawk, you can do powerful quality control and noise monitoring simply, via wi-fi, he said.

UAVs
Companies are now showing interest in developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which can fly around the spread of wireless devices, download data over wi-fi and do basic quality control on it, he said.

Purchasing a fixed wing UAV, which can carry a 5 lb payload and fly for 2 hours, costs about $150,000, he said.

But they might be able to quality control 9- 10 lines in a 2 hour period, compared to 1-2 lines using conventional methods.

'By integrating UAV's with cable-less systems, powerful status QC and noise monitoring can be achieved simply and even more efficiently without the need for complex radio infrastructure,' he said.

But there are still regulatory obstacles to using UAVs in many countries though,he said.

Big data
There is a lot of talk about increasing the number of channels (individually recorded data streams) in a seismic survey, but people have perhaps not taken into consideration how they will communicate and store all the data, he said.

With 250,000 channels, your data rate is 4 to 5 gigabits per second.

'That's a tremendous amount of data coming up the cable. The system has got to handle this.'

Typical tape drives can record 160 to 250 megabytes a second, and a solid state disk can store 500 to 600 megabytes a second.

Disks in a 'RAID' array could store 3 to 4 gigabytes per second.

But your data recording speed can be reduced by many factors including the processor, input-output, memory, cache, quality control. 'You see that throughput onto your recording device really comes down,' he said.

'We're right on the edge of what's capable and what's supportable in the field,' he said.

'It's a very big challenge - taking this acquisition up to 500,000 and beyond that.'

In terms of data storage, 500,000 channels could generate up to 86 terabytes of data over 24 hours. Over 6 months,
that's 12 petabytes of data storage (one petabyte = 1000 terabytes).

A petabyte costs about $250,000 today. 'It's a massive cost', he said. 'We're going to be really challenged to solve this.'

'Maybe we'll see a bit of plateau of what people need in terms of channel count until they understand how to handle this volume of data.'



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