Donated software used to forecast oil, gas locations

October 21, 2004, vol. 31, no. 4
By Carol Thorbes

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Simon Fraser University is the first in Canada to receive a software program that allows geologists to create complex computer models of what is beneath oil and gas reservoirs in the ground.

Schlumberger Information Solutions (SIS) has donated Petrel, a $2.1 million software package, to SFU's earth sciences department.

Geologists use Petrel to analyse and correlate the properties of subsurface material, including core rock samples collected from test oil and gas drilling sites.

The software integrates and rescales these properties, geophysical measurements from well logs and observation-based data from mud logs. The data is then digitally imaged as two or three-dimensional subsurface reservoir models that forecast optimal oil and gas drilling locations.

Petrel enables geologists to perform these tasks on one computer decreasing the time and money spent trying to maximize production in existing petroleum reservoirs and to find new ones.

Brian Coffey, a recently appointed assistant professor and geologist in earth sciences at SFU, began using Petrel at his previous job in the petroleum industry. “Other companies have products that perform comparable operations, but in my opinion, this is the most robust, user-friendly product available.”

Coffey helped orchestrate SIS's software donation, which he calls a win-win arrangement for SFU and the company. “My students get hands-on experience using the latest technology and they can work with multiple, sophisticated data sets,” explains Coffey. “SFU faculty, including myself, can use Petrel in diverse research applications, such as predicting optimal subsurface permeability for water well construction.”

Coffey and his students are building models in Petrel using rock property information collected from outcrops in the Abbotsford area. The models predict the dimensions and variability of ancient river channels and floodplains.

Through its software donation, SIS has the opportunity to recruit new employees familiar with Petrel, and new licencees. In addition, SFU has agreed to produce at least one published research paper involving Petrel per year, pending approval by a technical SIS reviewer.

Schlumberger Information Solutions has donated software to 155 universities on six continents since 1998. “Petrel was given to SFU first in Canada because of its modern approach to teaching earth sciences,” says Sarah Wilson, Canadian operations manager for SIS. “Petrel's capabilities will help SFU students enhance their focus on applying theory and concept to real life scenarios in the field and in the virtual environment.”

Schlumberger Information Solutions is the world's leading oilfield services company supplying the oil and gas industry, worldwide, with a variety of products and services, including technology.

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