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Finding Hidden Oil and Gas Reserves

Key Challenges:   Seismic imaging methods, vital in our continuing search for deep offshore oil and gas fields, have a long and established history in hydrocarbon reservoir exploration but the technology has encountered difficulty in discriminating different types of reservoir fluids, such as brines, oil, and gas. 

Why it Matters: Imaging methods that improve locating and extracting petroleum and gas from the earth by even a few percent can yield enormous payoffs.   Geophysical realizations of hydrocarbon reservoirs at unprecedented levels of detail will afford new detection abilities, new efficiencies and new exploration savings by revealing where hydrocarbon deposits reside.  Can also be used for improved understanding of potential sites for sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Accomplishments:  New EMGeo (ElectroMagnetic Geological Mapper) imaging software developed on Franklin was recognized with a 2009 R&D 100 Award for technical innovation. The inversion algorithm involves finite-difference forward modeling using a modified form of the vector Helmholtz equation for scattered or total electric fields. Preconditioned iterative Krylov solvers, explicit time stepping methods, and preconditioned gradient optimization methodologies are used. The software has already provided insight into the complex geology of the Campos Basin, a petroleum rich area located offshore of Brazil. 

The algorithms can run on tens of thousands of cores and have been designed to scale well beyond these numbers. Runs on NERSC’s Franklin system routinely use 4,000-8,000 cores to experiment with further innovations in EMGeo.

Investigators: Gregory Newman and Michael Commer (LBNL)

More Information: See Geophysical Journal International Volume 178, Issue 3, pages 1305–1316, September 2009, and Earth Sciences Division at LBNL