The New Frontiers of Seismic AcquisitionBy Pedro Alcalá | Tue, 12/21/2021 - 15:17
Q: How would you describe the recovery arc for exploration campaigns and the market for exploration services in 2021?
A: What we have seen in Mexico’s seismic acquisition equipment market is an improvement. For example, while we were not involved in it, the Ixachi project performed a large 3D seismic survey. The upcoming Huelitli project in Tabasco will perform a similar survey and we hope to be involved, at least indirectly. We know Tabasco very well and are familiar with the many working challenges in that area, so we are an ideal partner for that project. Beyond that, more seismic projects will be tendered in 2022 and contracted in 2023. Many of these projects are some of the largest seismic developments in Mexico. Ixachi has a size and density that is four or five times greater than anything we have seen before here.
We are quite excited about these projects because they tie into a worldwide trend of NOCs investing into exploration campaigns, while IOCs and more independent oil companies are divesting from these kinds of campaigns, and from oil and gas assets, to make their portfolios greener. The truth is that the world will need oil and gas for some time. We are headed toward a scenario dominated by high prices and shortages because exploration activities in the last few years have been insufficient. We are optimistic regarding the ongoing recovery of seismic oil and gas activities. This applies particularly to Mexico because PEMEX is quite interested in renewing its exploration and production investments, and seismic plays a necessary role in all of that.
Q: How have your product lines evolved to meet market demands?
A: We are the global leaders in seismic technologies. Our WiNG Nodal Acquisition System continues to have the most advanced sensor, featuring MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) accelerometers with broadband capacities. Whereas the existing traditional moving coil geophone products have been limited to imaging ranges of 5 to 200 hertz, our MEMS sensors can acquire data from 0 to 400 hertz. This results in clearer data with less interference. We have proven through field testing that we can cover the range and acquire data below 1 hertz. This both sharpens the seismic wavelet and reduces side-lobes, which results in a much higher definition image of the subsurface. The ability to capture the lower end of the frequency spectrum also facilitates a seismic data processing regime that has been popular during the last few years called full waveform inversion (FWI). These latest MEMS sensors also feature our QuietSeis technology, which reduces instrument noise, even at the lower frequencies. We expect to be using these WiNG systems for land surveys more extensively in Mexico.
We recently introduced in Abu Dhabi our GPR300 ocean-bottom node system, which has the same MEMS sensor as our WiNG system but in a configuration composed of three components, which lends itself beautifully to ocean-bottom seismic acquisition and shallow water applications. We just sold 18,000 of these units to a client for the Abu Dhabi project. There have been ocean-bottom seismic surveys in Mexico before and PEMEX is familiar with previous generations of these MEMS sensors. We hope this node becomes the main product used for offshore seismic exploration and as part of Mexico’s strategy.
Q: Which technology would you consider cutting edge?
A: The technological developments in these nodes makes true broadband acquisition a possibility for the first time. Nevertheless, if you have a broadband receiver, then you also need to produce a broadband source. To further address this, we recently presented a new technology at the recent Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Annual Meeting in Denver. We call it “TPS,” which stands for “Tuned Pulse Source.” The offshore vessels that shoot seismic are all equipped with standard pneumatic sources. A typical unit of this type may have around a 350 cubic inch air volume, while this new product has around 26,000 cubic inches and releases the air in a very different measured way. This creates a number of benefits. One is that it produces much more energy at lower frequencies, which greatly aids FWI processing. TPS can also be used in conjunction with arrays of traditional sources. We are very excited about this technology and its many applications, as well as introducing it to Mexico’s private operators and PEMEX, we have seen a great deal of interest from oil companies elsewhere. TPS also has the advantage of not producing very high frequencies, which we know can be of environmental concern. Environmentalists are opposed to the use of pneumatic sources due to the potential disruption to marine wildlife. This is thought to relate to the high frequencies produced and which are purported to be more disruptive to marine mammals. TPS does not produce signals in that frequency range.
Sercel Inc. is a major provider of seismic acquisition equipment. The company, which is renowned for its industry-leading technology, employs 1,500 personnel across its 13 office locations around the world.