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3D Data Visualizations: The Advantages of Volume Graphics and Big Data to Support Geologic Interpretation

Carl Byers and Andrew Woo
NGRAIN, Vancouver, BC, Canada


The ability to integrate diverse data types from multiple live and simulated sources, manipulate them dynamically and deploy them in integrated, visual formats and in mobile settings provides significant advantages. We will review some of the benefits of NGRAIN volume graphics and the use of big data in the context of 3D visualization case studies where their inherent features, such as representation efficiencies, dynamic modifications, cross-sectioning and others, can improve interpretation processes and workflows.

Volume graphics has been a fundamental element of seismic and geological data interpretation and analysis for decades. It has represented one of the most effective methods of understanding underground resource bodies and their relationship to the other geologic structures around them. Linked to simulation models for reservoir analysis, seismic assessment and other application, 3D volume graphics has the demonstrated ability to deliver unprecedented levels of understanding. Furthermore, 3D has evolved to be an effective method to investigate, plan, and visualize extraction and development strategies, although the large datasets has restricted the ability for user to interact effectively with the datasets in real-time on anything other than high end or specialized computing environments.

However, despite all of its benefits, 3D volume graphics remains a niche application whose use is dominated by specialized 3D experts and simulation users. The specialized expertise required to import data, design and manipulate the 3D models, and to finesse the performance out of high end specialized computing platforms has restricted the wide-spread adoption and 'democratization' of 3D.

NGRAIN delivers a revolutionary solution to this problem, enabling interactive 3D volume graphics to be used and deployed by non-experts on low-end computing platforms and tablets. Used across the aerospace, defence, energy, and medical sectors, NGRAIN enables the rapid import and correlation of 3D volume data from a variety of sources, including block data, LIDAR, CAD, laser scans, and GIS, to name a few. Gigabytes of source data can be compressed to Megabytes without losing information and the resulting data files can be explored interactively on laptops and tablet computers using NGRAIN's optimized interactive rendering algorithms.

In addition to simply visualizing and interacting with the dataset, NGRAIN tools enable subject matter users to add knowledge to the models, with animations, annotations, cross-sections, and other features, and deploy the resulting interactive 3D volumetric model as an interactive augmented reality or virtual reality application, as a fully interactive animation, or simply as a video animation.

Together, these capabilities enable analysts and planners to more effectively assess their data and communicate their recommendations to other stakeholders including executives, investors, regulatory authorities, and civil society organizations. NGRAIN enables the data to be expressed using the full power of interactive 3D in an environment accessible to non-experts to enhance communication and enable organizations to make better decisions, faster.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90206 © AAPG Hedberg Conference, Interpretation Visualization in the Petroleum Industry, Houston, Texas, June 1-4, 2014