SEG Presentation: Predictive Analytics in Exploration

DSC01702The next presentation from our SEG Presentation Series is the narrated presentation: Predictive Analytics in Exploration.

Sit back and relax, while you listen and discover how geostatisitical predictive analytic methods are successfully leveraged for superior understanding of subsurface conditions and reservoir performance as well as to support deeply integrated, highly-informed project decision-making.

Click here or on the image above to view the presentation.

D-J neoBASIN Program Takes Flight

The Denver-Julesburg (D-J) Basin is centered on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains and extends from south of Denver northward into southeast Wyoming, western Nebraska and western Kansas. The basin consists of a large asymmetric syncline of sedimentary rock layers that trend north to south along the east side of the Front Range.

The basin started forming as early as 300 million years ago, during the Colorado Orogeny that created the Ancestral Rockies. Many of the sediments (including the Niobrara) were deposited in and along the Western Interior Seaway that ran north from the present-day Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean during the Cretaceous.

Oil and gas have been produced from the D-J Basin since 1901. A decades-old USGS study estimated that nearly two billion BOE have been produced from more than 20,000 wells, notably from the Wattenberg Field.

Over the last several years, the Niobrara has become the focus of renewed industry interest, especially following the success of EOG’s Jake well in Weld County, Colorado. ‘Jake’ flowed an average of 1,750 bbls of oil per day during its first eight days of production in late 2009. Leasing and drilling activity boomed thereafter as operators targeted the tight, liquids-prone Niobrara with horizontal wells and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, the two core technologies that had unlocked other unconventional plays including the Barnett, Marcellus, Bakken, and Eagle Ford.

Unfortunately, the excitement that accompanied the early days of the Niobrara boom were soon tempered by the realization that the Niobrara was an especially heterogeneous play and that explorationists had thus far failed to ‘crack the code’ on Niobrara productivity (click here to read a 9/2012 World Oil article).

Industry experts, including Professor Steven Sonnenberg of the Colorado School of Mines, have written extensively on the drivers of Niobrara productivity, with basement topography, thermal regimes, regional faulting, lithology, and localized fracture systems all having been postulated as key determinants of well productivity.

Another Niobrara expert, a senior scientist from one of the world’s largest pressure pumping companies, offered up a possible ‘sweet spot’ hypothesis at an RMAG gathering in March 2012.  After studying the results of fracing in the Niobrara, and watching his E&P clients try to make sense of seismic datasets of every size and type, he concluded that “potential fields methods offered the most promise for unlocking the structural complexity of the Niobrara, in particular for mapping the deep basement faults that acted as conduits for hydrothermal fluids which impact both the thermal maturity of the shale and the location of the sweet spots throughout the play.”

And that’s exactly what NEOS has been hired to do. The company recently announced that it will be undertaking a multi-client neoBASIN study over the D-J Basin, results from which are expected to be available in the first half of 2014 (click here to read the press release).

NEOS’s Denver-Julesburg geoscience program has been designed to provide a regional view into the subsurface from the basement up through the target reservoir intervals, including the liquids-rich Niobrara shale.  By applying an advanced geostatistical technique known as predictive analytics, NEOS will be working on behalf of the project’s underwriters to identify the geological and geophysical measurements and attributes that correspond to the best producing wells in the survey area and to determine where similar areas occur in less developed parts of the play.

Lance Moreland, Director of Rockies Programs for NEOS, commented,

We’ll be acquiring new airborne geophysical datasets – magnetic, electromagnetic, radiometric, and gravity – using fixed-wing aircraft and integrating these with existing seismic and well information. We’ll analyze all of the acquired datasets individually, but also interpret them simultaneously to determine the measurements, attributes, and derivatives that correspond with the best wells in the basin. Our predictive analytics methodology will then ‘pattern search’ for these same measurements in less developed parts of the region and identify areas that appear to be more prospective for the next wave of development drilling.


[important]To learn more about the D-J neoBASIN program, send an email to Lance using the form below: 


Data Licensing Opportunity: Colorado’s Sand Wash Basin

Sand Wash Polygon_Moffat-Routt_AUG2013On the western side of the Rockies in northwest Colorado lies the nearly 6,000 mi2 Sand Wash Basin, whose coal-bed methane (CBM) resources have been estimated at more than 100 trillion cubic feet (TCF).

Additional potential from unconventional gas and liquids, locked within the geologically complex Niobrara shale, take the resource estimates of the Sand Wash Basin still higher.  Over the last several years, the Niobrara has become the focus of renewed industry interest, especially following the success of EOG’s Jake well in Weld County, CO. ‘Jake’ flowed at an average of 1,750 bopd during its first eight days of production in late 2009.

NEOS just announced that it has completed Phase I of airborne geophysical data acquisition in the Sand Wash Basin, involving hyperspectral data. Phase II of acquisition – involving gravity, magnetic, electromagnetic, and radiometric measurements – is scheduled to begin within the next several weeks.  Anticipated deliverables from the Sand Wash neoBASIN™ project, encompassing Routt and Moffat counties in northwest Colorado, include:

  • Maps of naturally occurring, surface-based oil seeps and indirect hydrocarbon indicators;
  • Maps of surface-based ecosystems (e.g., waterways, farms, ranch lands, hot springs);
  • Maps of basement topography and key structural and stratigraphic horizons;
  • Basement-to-surface maps highlighting local faults and associated fracture networks;
  • 2-D cross-sections and regional 3-D structural models of the subsurface;
  • Maps of the key reservoir interval of interest, including an isopach, burial depth, and depth-to-basement map of the Niobrara;
  • Regional resistivity voxels down to ~10,000 feet subsurface;
  • Regional ‘sweet spot maps’ depicting the most (and least) prospective areas for leasing, drilling, and/or further G&G study and investment.

This particular neoBASIN survey is being executed under a multi-client commercial model. The window for late underwriters has been extended until November 15, 2013. Data should be available for license to non-underwriters in the first quarter of 2014.

Chris Friedemann, CMO and VP of Business Development at NEOS, commented,

We believe this survey will provide one of the only regional views into the subsurface in this part of the Sand Wash Basin. Several operators have recently announced their intent to reduce their acreage holdings and ownership positions in Moffat and Routt counties. Other E&P operators who may be interested in assessing the Sand Wash Basin for entry or expansion would be well served to license data from this neoBASIN survey as it will provide them with insights into regional geology and the drivers of enhanced well productivity in an underexplored part of the liquids-rich Niobrara shale play.”


[important]To learn more about the Sand Wash neoBASIN program, send an email to the NEOS business development team using the form below:


First Project in the Rockies. Oo-rah!


NEOS is about to launch our first project in the Rocky Mountain region. Underwriting support for a neoBASIN regional survey has been received from a long-standing customer.

According to Chris Friedemann, Chief Marketing Officer and VP of Business Development…

Several exploration targets exist within the survey area, including the Niobrara shale. We will be mapping the thickness, burial depth, and areal extent of all of the zones of interest and identifying the basement features and localized fault systems that are often associated with enhanced well productivity in the Niobrara. In this part of Colorado, the need to conduct oil & gas activities with the utmost consideration of the environment is paramount. Our airborne geophysical operations support this objective, as will the hyperspectral data that we plan to acquire. The hyperspectral images will allow us to map surface-based ecosystems and enable licensees of the neoBASIN data library to plan and execute future development activities in an environmentally prudent manner.

Several members of the NEOS management team fondly remember the location of this survey, as it served as one of the testing grounds for a cableless seismic acquisition system that they had helped to introduce to the market at a previous geophysical company. In this particular area, airborne geophysical acquisition has a number of advantages.

First, we’ll be acquiring data over an environmentally sensitive area characterized by challenging topography which can pose an HSE risk to ground-deployed seismic crews like the one shown below. The neoBASIN survey won’t require us to put dozens of people on the ground, supported by heli-transport operations that drop off heavy equipment in pre-determined areas so that the ground-based crews can retrieve them, haul them along exposed and rock-laden cliffs to the designated receiver points, and drill the holes required for seismic sensor emplacement.


Moreover, low-touch airborne operations don’t cause disturbance to surface-based flora, fauna, and ranch lands. Regulatory restrictions to support protected species greatly limit the acquisition windows in which ground-based geophysical operations can be conducted.

Because we’re “flying above the fray,” we don’t have to worry about these access challenges or the risk of environmental disturbance. In addition, we can cover a much broader expanse of territory at a fraction of the cost of conventional geophysical operations.

After we’re done in about 6 months, our client will have both surface and sub-surface insights over a nearly 1,000 square mile expanse of the Niobrara shale play. And what do these insights include? Among other things:

  • Maps of naturally occurring, surface-based oil seeps and indirect hydrocarbon indicators
  • Maps of surface-based ecosystems (e.g., waterways, farms, ranch lands)
  • Maps of basement topography and key structural and stratigraphic horizons
  • Basement-to-surface maps highlighting local faults and associated fracture networks
  • 2-D cross-sections and regional 3-D structural models of the subsurface
  • Maps of the Niobrara, including an isopach, burial depth, and depth-to-basement map
  • Regional resistivity voxels down to ~10,000 feet subsurface
  • Regional ‘sweet spot maps’ depicting the most (and least) prospective areas for leasing, drilling, and/or further G&G study and investment.

In this part of Colorado, the Niobrara is liquids prone. Well productivity is enhanced by natural fracture systems which themselves are often induced by faulting. The faults themselves can be deep seated and impacted in location and magnitude by variations in the basement architecture. Our gravity and magnetic detection methods are well suited to mapping these basement features and the locations of fault (and associated fracture) networks.

In addition, we’ll be able to develop a regional potential fields model (calibrated by any seismic and well control in the area) which will allow us to generate 2-D cross-sections and a regional 3-D subsurface model from which isopachs, etc. can be extracted for horizons of interest.

Airborne EM methods will let us get a view into resistivity variations both horizontally and vertically throughout the geologic column. And hyperspectral will let us search for DHIs and indirect hydrocarbon indicators on the surface, especially along surface-cutting lineaments, faults, and fold axes, and also map the pre-development state of surface-based ecosystems, something all residents in the area (including this brown bear) care deeply about!


It’s setting up to be a terrific project, and both we and our lead underwriter can’t wait to get started. Stay tuned to the Sweet Spots blog as we share more from this exciting neoBASIN project.