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Crossing the Valley of Death Between Innovation and Application: Experiences in Subsalt Imaging


Judson, Michelle1, James Farnsworth2, Cindy Yeilding1 (1) BP, Houston, TX (2) BP, Sunbury upon Thames, United Kingdom


The ability to reduce risk and uncertainty across the full life cycle of a project is directly correlated to the ability to create an accurate subsurface image. In the extra salt domain, current state of the art seismic is good enough to reduce risk and uncertainty in both the exploration and appraisal phase of a project. In the subsalt domain the quality of the seis­mic image we can generate with today’s technology is marginally sufficient to define struc­tural elements critical to exploration and is insufficient to define reservoir elements critical in appraisal and development. This technical challenge combined with strong business driv­ers in the Gulf of Mexico and Angola creates a compelling call to action.

BP has responded to this challenge by designating Subsalt Imaging a “Technology Leadership Area”. We are committing substantial resources to this problem and taking a whole systems approach to gain a competitive advantage. The significant gap between tech­nology development and product commercialization has been referred to as the “Valley of Death.” (Markham,1999). Successful commercialization of technology is a complex process, and the creation of the Technology Leadership Area has acted as an accelerator to test new ideas and deliver new products to the business.

In 2005 we are taking bold steps to tackle the “illumination problem” and will be con­ducting aggressive acquisition experiments. Examples include Wide Azimuth Towed Streamer and Ocean Bottom Seismic Node Surveys in the Deep Water Gulf of Mexico. In addition to improving illumination beneath salt, these tests will be a catalyst for innovation in the areas of velocity model building, steep dip migration, and multiple suppression. All in pursuit of building a better model of the complex overburden necessary for imaging the reservoir and removing uncertainty in Appraisal and Production.