BHP Billiton’s Dave Rainey on Shale Geology & Geophysics

WorldOilCoverI ran across the following excerpt from BHP Billiton‘s President of Petroleum Exploration and Chief Geoscientist, Dave Rainey, in the March 2014 edition of World Oil.  I found it fascinating, as the regional, multi-physics approach to shale development he is advocating is highly aligned with NEOS’s multi-measurement interpretation (MMI) approach.

I’ve been told that one of Dave’s key mandates in his recently expanded role is to transfer ‘best of breed’ technologies and methodologies from BHPB’s Mining divisions to the Petroleum group, and vice versa.  It seems like the vision is already being put into practice.  Not only is Dave promoting  a multi-measurement interpretation (MMI) approach to shale exploration and development (akin to our neoBASIN offering and our advocacy to “See Beyond the Shale“) he’s also talking about the merits of an MMI approach to geo-hazard detection (akin to our Eco-Assurance offering).

In the spirit of full disclosure, BHPB aren’t a client (yet!).  But it’s certainly nice to see NEOS’ vision aligning so well with one of the world’s largest natural resource companies.

Excerpted from World Oil (March 2014) – Advances Made in Shale-Specific Geology and Geophysics


“The first challenge to overcome is actually the recognition that this is a geoscience issue. I think there has been a perception in our industry that this is an engineering issue—that there is no geological risk.  I think we’re all finding that that’s not the case.”

According to David Rainey, president of Petroleum Exploration and Chief Geoscientist, BHP Billiton, “The first challenge to overcome is actually the recognition that this is a geoscience issue. I think there has been a perception in our industry that this is an engineering issue—that there is no geological risk.  I think we’re all finding that that’s not the case.”

“Doing the geoscience basics is the first step. That means understanding the regional geology of the basin you’re operating in. It means understanding the regional variation of the shale that you’re exploring or developing or producing.  One point to note is that not all shales are shales. For example, neither of the two biggest liquids plays in the U.S. right now—the Eagle Ford and the Bakken—are shales. Shale is actually a very loose geoscience term. It’s not a term that we particularly like as geoscientists. It’s a field geology term. Both the Eagle Ford and the Bakken are actually carbonates.”

Rainey continued, “So it’s about describing the pore system in rocks that have very small pores. The physics of that is actually much more complex than it is in the conventional world. It’s about understanding the storage in the reservoir, and that’s about describing porosity, and petroleum saturation, and the impact of pressure on fluid volume.

It’s then about understanding the producibility of the petroleum fluid, and that’s about the thermal history of the reservoir and the source (if they are different), and how that controls viscosity and gas-oil ratio, and it’ s about over-pressure and how all of these things convolve to control the producibility of the fluid.

And then it’s about understanding the fracability of the reservoir—how susceptible is the reservoir to being enhanced by the application of fracturing technology? And that’ s about mineralogy and overburden pressure and the natural stress regime in which the reservoir sits.

“Finally, we need to consider how these different factors reinforce each other in a positive way to form the sweet spot in the play; alternatively, they may cancel or reinforce negatively to form the marginal area of the play. So, it’s not about finding or recovering hydrocarbons, but whether the geology concentrates them in economic quantities.

“There are other challenges,” Rainey said. “We’ve got some issues in the Permian—just some drilling issues in the shallow horizons, because it’s buried limestone, so it’s a cost. There are big cavities down there, just like caves. You go through underground caves, and those are things that are difficult to drill through. There are a number of seismic applications—shallow, high-resolution seismic is one—to try and predict where those might be. We’ve just kicked off a team to see what other geophysical methods can be brought to bear on the problem.

For example, there is a technology called airborne gravity gradiometry. It measures the gradient of the gravity field, as opposed to the total gravity field, and it’s more sensitive to shallow perturbations in the gravity field than conventional methods.  The technology was originally developed for defense applications, and was then adapted for resource exploration by BHP Billiton. It’s been used on the minerals side, because, relative to the petroleum industry, our activities tend to be closer to the surface. We’re not drilling to 10,000 or 20,000 ft in the minerals business.  The things we are interested in are all relatively close to the surface.”

To read the full article entitled, “Advances Made in Shale-Specific Geology and Geophysics,” click here.

Explore the Multi-Physics Frontier (#2 in a Series)

Multi-physics Frontier


From what we could tell at last week’s AAPG annual conference in Houston, a multi-physics approach to subsurface interpretation is on the ascent.  We had a number of highly encouraging discussions with geoscientists who are increasingly acknowledging the benefits of simultaneously interpreting all possible geophysical measurements, regardless of where the area of opportunity resides within the E&P lifecycle.

Trying to map the thickness of a target shale horizon over a large area in a frontier unconventional play?  No problem.  Simply access or acquire airborne Gravity and Magnetic data, constrain these datasets with sparse 2-D seismic or well control (when available) and surface geology.  After some inversion and modeling, you’ll have a series of 2-D, basement-to-surface cross-sections at your disposal which can ultimately be converted into a 3-D structural and stratigraphic cube from which all sorts of interesting data can be extracted:

All of the above can be used to infer thermal regimes and how gas-prone or liquids-rich (and economic) the target shale horizon might be.  Throw in a little airborne-acquired, passive-source Electromagnetic (EM) data and you can begin to capture insights into lateral variations in TOC, rock properties and Vitrinite reflectance (and thermal maturity).  Additional geophysical measurements – including those captured with Radiometric or Hyperspectral sensors – can further constrain the models and the interpretation(s) that result.

Developing an asset area with extensive seismic and well control?  No problem.  Additional geophysical measurements can make your legacy investments even more valuable.  By adding new measurements to the subsurface model, you’ll have the ability to derive insights into physical properties that acoustic and near-well information simply can’t provide.  Sure, you might have access to every seismic attribute imaginable, providing key insights into important reservoir properties like fracture density, fracture orientation and brittleness.  But how will you incorporate the role basement faulting, topography or composition might have on variations in EUR or well productivity? And how will you sort through all the various G&G measurements, attributes, and derivatives you might have at your disposal? In many instances, advanced multivariate geostatistical and data mining techniques (Predictive Analytics) can play a role in support of the experienced human interpreter.

By embracing a multi-physics approach to subsurface interpretation, geoscientists are uncovering new insights into regional prospectivity and well productivity in both conventional and unconventional plays, irrespective of whether they are operating in data-poor frontier settings or data-rich exploitation environments.

To learn more, click here to download the NEOS Multi-Measurement Interpretation white paper.

Updated: NEOS Corporate Video

NEOS is unlike any other oilfield services company.  In the words of NEOS President and CEO, Jim Hollis,

We are changing the way the industry looks for oil and gas.”

“We are changing the way the industry looks for oil and gas.”

To learn more about the value that our multi-measurement interpretation methodology is delivering to clients around the world, as well as what makes NEOS unique, view our latest corporate video.

If, like any good thriller, this brief introduction leaves you wanting more, browse our case study web page for more of the details.

Happy viewing!

Jack Is Back!

Oh let us all rejoice!  Everyone’s favorite protector of the homeland – Jack Bauer – will be back in 24 days…on the new season of 24 on Fox.

In a sign that we’re all getting old and slowing down, this season of 24 only has 12 episodes.  While geoscientists work 9/80′s, I guess Jack Bauer only works 12/24′s.

And Don Draper returns on Sunday to play out the final season of Mad Men.  A great month of TV as two of my favorite lead actors work their magic once again (and perhaps for the last time on these two hit series).

NEOS Launches neoBASIN Program in the Austin Chalk

NEOS has launched a new neoBASIN program, this one occurs in a roughly 1,100 square mile area of the Austin Chalk. This neoBASIN survey will provide high-value, basement-to-surface insights, allowing the lead underwriter to better evaluate possible play extensions and identify the most prospective locations for future exploitation and development.

Anticipated project deliverables include:

  • —  Assessments of basin-scale geologic trends
  • —  Maps of basin architecture and regional structure
  • —  Maps of key lineaments, faults and fault-driven fracture networks
  • —  2-D and 3-D structural and stratigraphic models
  • —  Maps of basement topography and composition
  • —  Resistivity voxels to 10,000 feet subsurface
  • —  Maps of relative prospectivity and play potential
  • —  Maps of certain rock properties and fluid distributions derived using predictive analytics.

To read the press release in full click here. Those with commercial interests can contact Lance Moreland at +1 720.376.6065.

For more on NEOS and other applications of our MMI method, visit

NEOS Has Come Full Circle At the AAPG

NEOS Lapel PinIt seems like only yesterday that NEOS exhibited at our first AAPG in Houston, Texas.  It’s now time for AAPG 2014 and we’ve come full circle, right back home in Houston. But there is no time for reflection, we’ve been moving along at full speed over the last three years and we’re still moving forward.

Since the 2011 AAPG NEOS has expanded our experience base both technically and geographically. Over the past years we have helped E&P operators around the world, in locations like the Neuquén Basin, Argentina and within the Marcellus Shale, Appalachia gain new and greater insight into the subsurface.  Additionally our suite of Global Programs continues to expand with recent project wins like this one in onshore Lebanon.

Make your way to the AAPG next week, no doubt the busiest AAPG, and be sure to visit us at booth #2227 to learn more about our Multi-Measurement Interpretation (MMI) methodology as well as how NEOS can deliver insights from the basement to the surface in both conventional and unconventional plays.

A Multi-Method Approach for Exploring the Neuquén Basin

GEO_ExPro_v11i2(2)In GeoExPro‘s Issue 2, 2014, out this month, a NEOS case study on one of the most dynamic and underexplored hydrocarbon systems, the Neuquén Basin.

…several operators in the region began to look ‘outside of the box’ for a fast and efficient exploration method in which the target shale intervals could be mapped and the most prospective ‘sweet spot’ locations could be identified.

See the GeoExPro website for the full issue.

Friday Fun: A Nun with a Voice!

Watch the judges, on Italy’s version of The Voice, get quite the surprise of the evening with this unlikely contestant. A nice tune to kick your Friday off right.

See Beyond the Shale (#1 in a Series)

SeeBeyondShaleMany of our clients are coming to the realization that acoustic (seismic) data – valuable as it might be – is insufficient in many cases to adequately delineate the sweet spots in an unconventional shale play.  Sure, acoustic data can provide key insights into physical properties like fracture density, fracture orientation and brittleness.  But geophysicists realize that sweet spots are driven by a host of other factors including lateral TOC distribution and thermal maturity variations that acoustic information might not be able to adequately address.

That’s where a multi-measurement interpretation (MMI) methodology can come into play.  By integrating more geophysical measurements into the interpretation, MMI can begin to shine new light on the sweet spots in a shale.

For instance, many explorationists believe that variations below the shale can play a key role in the drivers of EUR and production.  Variations in the basement – including topographic changes, lithological changes, and faulting – can impact the thermal regime that the shale has been exposed to over the course of geologic time.

For instance, if the basement is closer to the shale or comprised of a crystalline lithology that is better able to conduct heat, the typical ‘thermal maturity vs. depth’ relationship might begin to break down and one might end up with more gas in the production stream than expected.  Similarly, hydrothermal fluids migrating up deep basement faults can alter the thermal regime on a localized basis in the proximity of these faults.  And crystalline intrusives can affect not only thermal regimes, but also bring about structural changes in the basement and the stratigraphic units overlying it that might introduce localized fault and fracture zones.

The airborne multi-physics datasets NEOS collects and interprets – including gravity, magnetic, and EM resistivity – can all add insight into variations in basement topography, composition and faulting as well as the resulting impacts these features might have on structure, thermal regimes, EUR, or the relative liquids content of the production stream.  By adding more measurements to the interpretation, and combining these non-seismic datasets with seismic attributes such as fracture density in the shale interval, explorationists are better able to discern the drivers of sweet spots in unconventional plays.

Basement composition variation determined through an inversion of gravity and magnetic data (upper left).  Planes of weakness in the basement determined through Euler Deconvolution (lower right).  Approximate 2,500 sqkm area in Appalachia.

Basement composition variation determined through an inversion of gravity and magnetic data (upper left). Planes of weakness in the basement determined through Euler Deconvolution (lower right). Approximate 2,500 sqkm area in Appalachia.

A Multi-Physics Approach to Sweet Spot Detection

oilvoice_Feb14_CoverIn this month’s issue of OilVoice Magazine, a NEOS case study on finding Sweet Spots in Tioga County in the Appalachian Basin.

…a supermajor wanted to know what geologic factors drove some wells within the Marcellus to be more productive than others. The answer wasn’t readily apparent on seismic, so a methodology called Multi-Measurement Interpretation (MMI) was introduced…

For a digital version of the article – Unlocking New Insights in the Marcellus

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