Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 2001-14
2000 Digital Petroleum Atlas Annual Report


The Need for a Digital Petroleum Atlas

The United States obtains 85 percent of its energy from fossil fuels, nearly 40 percent from oil alone (of which half was imported), and 24 percent from natural gas (President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, 1997). U.S. fossil fuel dependence, like that of the rest of the world, will decline only slowly in the future. It has been estimated that fossil fuels will provide two-thirds of all world energy needs in 2030 and half or more in 2100 (EIA, 1997). Petroleum demand is projected to grow from 19.5 million barrels per day in 1999 to 25.8 million in 2020—an average rate of 1.3 percent per year—led by growth in the transportation sector, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption (US Department of Energy, 2000a). U.S. crude oil production is projected to decline at an average annual rate of 0.7 percent from 1999 to 2020, to 5.1 million barrels per day. U.S. oil imports, according to the "reference" forecast of the Department of Energy, would grow from 9 million barrels per day in 1995 to 14 million barrels per day in 2015 and continue to increase for some time thereafter (US Department of Energy, 2000). The Digital Petroleum Atlas program addresses many of the issues of insuring secure U.S. oil and gas supply as outlined by the report of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (1997).

The US and the Northern Mid-continent have large remaining oil and particularly gas resources in numerous reservoirs. A higher percentage of original oil and gas in place can be produced if old and new data and knowledge are made available to operators. Basic data and innovative developments in technology need to be directly accessible to assist operators in day-to-day decisions. While technology and information are extremely important to independents, they do not have research departments and must rely on collaborative research and development efforts (US Department of Energy, 2000b). The Kansas Geological Survey is working with the U. S. Department of Energy and oil and gas producers to create a Digital Petroleum Atlas (DPA) to meet information and technology needs. The DPA is unique in that it provides independent petroleum operators on-line digital and hard copy information, digital data bases, new scientific study of typical fields of the region and purposeful technology transfer.

The DPA increases and improves online access from data through to "final publication." Until recently petroleum atlases circulated like all scholarly information, through personal exchanges, subscriptions, and libraries. Today, digital scientific information is becoming the norm. The result - a dramatic increase in the international and disciplinary scope of information exchange in the petroleum industry. Digital communication has made traditional collaborative activity more informal, intimate, instantaneous, and continuous. At present the DPA provides worldwide access to limited but constantly increasing data and interpreted information. For example, data from each of over 300,000 oil and gas wells in Kansas are being accessed online for projects in locations from Chanute, Kansas, to Houston, Texas, to Berlin, Germany. Programs developed through the DPA provide oil and gas operators and the public tools to make exploration and development decisions using seismic data, interpreted well logs, and mapped petroleum information. The DPA provides online access to digital versions of researchers’ published bulletins, maps, and reports. Through the DPA, we are working to provide online tools that will permit our colleagues and customers to better query, interpret, map, and display the latest information and research results in earth science databases that could be scattered anywhere in the world. These "published" products are living, created on demand, customized to best address a specific earth science question, and access data that is continuously updated and improved. The DPA has significantly altered the relationship between research results, data access, the transfer of technology, and our relationship with our clients.

Integrated analysis in the petroleum sector requires large quantities of high-quality current information. A model of a petroleum reservoir or play cannot be more accurate than the description used to create the model. For each grid block within a model, critical attributes such as velocity, porosity, thickness, fluid saturation, and permeability must be accurately specified. If these attributes are incorrect, a reservoir simulation or seismic volume will not accurately model processes. Models (simulations and visualizations) based on simplified information that does not account for complex features and interactions do not provide accurate answers to geologic questions. No single approach can provide complete knowledge concerning a process such as movement of fluids through an oil or gas reservoir. However, integrating technology and large quantities of information from several disciplines has the best chance to successfully understand and exploit petroleum resources. Steadily decreasing cost of computing and communication, enhanced capabilities for collection of digital scientific data, greatly increased network bandwidth, the advent of digital wireless communication, increased access to long-distance communication, growing capabilities of natural language processing, and improved standards in data structures and network communication have had a positive impact on the exchange of digital data and information, and increased collaborative work among domestic operators. The Digital Petroleum Atlas is an attempt to bring these advances in information technology to the independent oil and gas operator. The atlas provides independent US operators easy access to large quantities of high quality information to evaluate technologies that are best suited for additional oil and gas recovery. Information is available when and where operators need it (literally on the operator's desk).

Short of conducting a full-scale reservoir analysis of each producing field, the DPA will provide a tool to enhance Kansas oil and gas production. The demonstration of the digital petroleum atlas will also enable similar projects to be instituted in other petroleum producing areas, so that a geographically broad on-line digital database will be available to domestic operators. The ultimate goal is a national digital petroleum atlas.

An efficient and effective method of communicating key information to operators is by example. For each reservoir type in a producing region, a thoroughly studied and documented analog can illustrate geologic and engineering procedures that are likely to be most successful in increasing ultimate recovery. An analog example provides operators with sufficient information and procedures to study producing fields, and increase production and ultimate recovery by modifying and applying proven methods. One way to accomplish the goal of disseminating information by analog is to provide a digital on-line geological and engineering based, state-of-the-art petroleum atlas that contains not only historical data and descriptions, but technologically advanced syntheses and analyses of "why reservoirs produce" and "how ultimate production may be increased." This is a national need. A digital petroleum atlas is an efficient and effective vehicle to provide access to legacy databases and innovative knowledge that can be used by the operator.

The traditional role of technical publication is to formalize and record scientific and technical results in time, and to transfer technology to potential users (Kerkhof, 1994). The published petroleum atlas is a time-honored approach to illustrating by analog the latest petroleum exploration and development knowledge and application (e.g., Powers, 1929; Galloway, et al., 1983; Bebout, et al., 1993,). Similar proprietary compilations are common at major petroleum companies. The underlying goals of these petroleum atlases have been to:

The traditional published atlas is a time consuming and expensive process that results in a static paper product. Typically, products and data are limited by space and cost considerations to summary information at the field or reservoir level. For each play, field, or reservoir only a relatively small number of author-selected maps, cross-sections, charts and other summary data are included. Typically, the paper atlas does not provide access to well and lease data or to intermediate research products (such as digital geographic and geologic components of maps, interpreted and uninterpreted subsurface data, well test analyses, thin section images, and other traditionally unpublished material). Without access to the data and intermediate products, modifying and updating a published field study to fit a user-defined application or new scientific idea is a difficult and time consuming process.

Today, traditional channels of scientific and technical communication represented by the petroleum atlas are being challenged by the shear volume of publication, the increased unit costs, the relatively decreased resources of academic and industrial library systems, and the rapidity of technical change (Okerson,1992). In addition, the growth of networks, storage servers, printers, and software that make up the Internet are rapidly changing the world from one in which research organizations, publishers and libraries control the printing, distribution, and archiving to a world in which individuals can rapidly and cheaply "publish", provide access and modify scientific results on-line. These changes offer significant challenges and opportunities both to public and private sector participants and to the traditions of technical publication (Denning and Rous, 1995).

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