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Geology 6 min read

Petrophysics brings value to legacy and marginal plays

Published on March 24, 2023

An Interview with Dusty Baldree, Petrophysicist

SeisWare’s Geology Product Owner, Amber Padilla, sat down with Petrophysicist Dusty Baldree to chat about the value of petrophysics, industry challenges, and SeisWare’s vision for integrated Geology, Geophysics, and Petrophysics software.

Amber and Dusty talk Petrophysics

Amber: How did you become interested in Petrophysics?

Dusty: My background, relevantly, started by getting a degree in geology out of Texas and then working on the wellsites in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico scene. From there I ended up working as a wireline engineer, which exposed me to a lot of petrophysics. However, I had already become interested in petrophysics even while I was in university. There were no official petrophysics courses or anything at that time, but I had volunteered at an AAPG conference, and I got a free book out of it. The book I picked out was on petrophysics. I still have that book!

AP: What other roles have you had?

DB: While working wireline, I got exposed to a lot more to the wireline tool theory and logging theories. I moved on from there to sell [geology software] for a while; and it was that opportunity that exposed me to how digital logs were getting used (or how they should be getting used). That turned into a job at Encana (now Ovintiv) as a Geologist. I had the opportunity to switch over to Petrophysics and made the move!

AP: What do you love about Petrophysics?

DB: What I love is the problem-solving aspect of the petrophysics and writing my own codes to come up with unique solutions or custom solutions. Am I a math wizard? by no means! But I’m thorough and comprehensive.

Really the ultimate prize is to get those maps from the petrophysics so that you can see what’s going on in the subsurface. Petrophysics is a critical component from an accuracy and a precision perspective, but it is the derived maps that are the big “ah, that’s what’s happening!”.

It’s all about that plethora of data that you have from the logs that you can use to interpret the lithology and the porosity and the other properties of the rock, then arrive at specific maps on zones or formations – or whatever you’re trying to understand.

AP: Is there a project that sticks out to you, where Petrophysics solved a problem?

DB: I’m biased here, but any project that I’ve worked on, the petrophysics was a necessity to really get a handle on or quantify what was going on in the subsurface. Geology itself is more of a qualification of what’s going on and an interpretation of what’s going on. Petrophysics is that quantification of those qualities. The petrophysics is very important part of any of the subsurface studies that I’ve been involved in.

AP: Why is petrophysics so valuable now more than ever?

DB: Petrophyisics and that quantification of the subsurface has always been important in any project that I’ve been a part of, but it seems that it has been the most critical to anything unconventional in nature, or where reservoir quality is seemingly degrading.

The thing that I’ve been noticing, especially in the last 5 years, the industry has been very challenged to spend money to do science. But the reservoirs that we’re going after are becoming more and more marginal. Petrophysics has really allowed those more marginal reservoir-quality rocks to be unlocked and exploited. Plays and play concepts are becoming much more challenging. The elephants are mostly gone so we’re looking for little weasels instead now, so it’s about quickly data sleuthing and marrying the geology with what’s going on with the log response.

It’s really where we are at in the industry with the marginal reservoir quality and the latent life reservoirs, too. You’ve really got to get the volumetrics nailed down to figure out what’s going on and identify opportunities or lack thereof. Petrophysics is a big part of that volumetrics solution.

AP: Why is petrophysics so challenging?

DB: You’ve got temperature & pressure change and you’ve got hydrocarbon type change. The properties of the water are changing. You’ve got different stratigraphic levels. You’ve got faults that are changing, possible pressure regimes. All on top of the basin history of burial and uplift. There are all these unseen pieces to the puzzle that go into a petrophysical interpretation. You have to make sure you’re honouring the reality of the subsurface, through its history and where it is at that pinpoint in time.

It is exciting but it can be very stressful. We’ve got a basin that’s over 500 million years old, but let’s figure it out in two days! Efficiency in handling large volumes of data and staying true to the geology is paramount!

AP: How has petrophysics changed over time?

DB: Technology has been changing or improving for improved accuracy. I think people always think that new technology is going to make it easier to get a more accurate understanding of what’s going on in the subsurface. And that’s not always the case. The reservoirs are becoming increasingly complex, and in most cases, the depositional environments and stratigraphy are more complex than initially assumed.

We’re able to get to a much more accurate understanding of the subsurface but there are still measurement limitations when it comes to thin beds and these types of problems. The solutions that are brought up to solve these issues have their own issues embedded in them.

Uncertainty is still a piece of the puzzle. The rocks are always the gospel and logs are the common factor that you can leverage. You have to try and make sense between the two worlds. It’s still about making sure that your petrophysical solutions honour what’s going on in the subsurface and all of its moving parts!

AP: How does petrophysics fit into geology and geophysics?

DB: To me, it’s kind of like the 3 Stooges – Geology, Geophysics, and Petrophysics. I don’t know which Stooge petrophysics is (hahaha). The way I’ve always seen petrophysicists is that they’re like translators. You’ve got the geologist that’s being qualitative or semi-quantitative; there’s the geophysicist who is in a whole different world of time and depth and has a totally different level of measurement resolution; and then there’s the petrophysicist, who is trying to translate what is being seen on the geology and geophysics side so that it makes sense to go into that engineering realm of volumetrics, production, and production results from the wellbore.

AP: How does petrophysics work with data analytics?

DB: The solutions provided from a petrophysical interpretation are really the quantification of the subsurface reality. That’s a minimum starting point into the world of data analytics – in the form of trying to relate it to what could be going on from a production perspective (IP, EUR, gas-to-oil ratios, water cuts, etc.).

Data analytics in the oil and gas industry has more recently become about understanding what’s happening with fracking – stage counts, spacing, proppant size, tonnage, rates, etc. There’s a plethora of variables from the subsurface [and] a plethora of variables that come into play with production results – whether they are from the fracking side or from the nature of the formation itself.

Even if you do the petrophysics you may still be surprised by what’s going on with your production, but at least you have a starting point [to inform your interpretation]. Without doing the petrophysics you are not going to be able to make more intelligent decisions about what to do going forward, based on unexpected results.

AP: Did SeisWare make things easier for you? What do you think about SeisWare’s direction with its petrophysics capabilities?

DB: I’ve been so biased in my work history towards using (other products). I can see where you’re going and the power behind what your tool has/is going to have. Your organization’s desire to have a high level of technical excellence is commendable.

I’m excited about where you are going with things, and I think a lot of your customers are probably getting pretty excited too. I really do have a lot of confidence in the way you guys are going to embed efficient petrophysical workflows for multi-well & multi-zone solutions.

AP: What has it been like working with our product development team?

DB: Those little support experiences with SeisWare’s product owners, support team and developers – it is commendable that you recognize that there is still an opportunity for quality multi-discipline-enabled software!

Other software can be very disjointed. SeisWare has a lot of positive history and a lot of positive user experiences behind it – especially on the geophysical side. I have to imagine that those experiences on the geophysical side will easily translate over to positive geological and petrophysical experiences too!

AP: Development takes time.  I do not want to lose sight of our end goal, which is to make people like you have a product in their hands that is built for them; that solves the issues that they’re having.

DB: I have confidence that you guys really are going to be a powerhouse when it comes to the geology solution side of things. Just the fact that Geology and Geophysics are going to be so intimately integrated in your tool – that’s a weapon to be reckoned with!

 

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