The rapidly expanding application of visualization technology has the potential to fundamentally change the way companies conduct business in the oil and gas industry. This technology is already having a significant impact on efficiency, accuracy, completeness and integration in exploration and development. The last three years have seen the growing acceptance of large collaborative and semiimmersive visualization systems in the upstream portion of the oil and gas industry. As this technology matures, and as it is applied broadly to both the upstream and downstream business, it will produce tremendous value through the reduction of cycle times and risk.

Large display systems, including large flat screens, curved screen Visionaria and fully immersive CAVEs, hold the potential to revolutionize the way business is conducted. Experience using these large systems suggests that the cost of the visualization system is recovered after only a few months of operation. Once useful applications are available, the utilization of the system rapidly expands to fill all of the available time. Without head tracking (tracking the viewer's position and updating the display appropriately), these large systems facilitate the integration of data, and the integration and collaboration between members of interdisciplinary teams.

Systems that incorporate head tracking hold the potential to produce significantly greater value by allowing display and interaction to occur in a truly three-dimensional fashion. An example of this type of system and application is an immersive drilling planner. It integrates all of the geophysical and geological information in the 3-D tracked visual display, and incorporates the algorithms and input data necessary to generate engineered drillable well paths.


Visualization technology has been used for years in oil and gas exploration and development. Visualization is simply the graphical presentation of data in an intuitive fashion to reveal information. A bar chart, line graph, seismic section or reservoir map are all visualizations of data. Over the last five to ten years, the technology of visualization has advanced more and more rapidly, with improving resolution, interactivity and display size.

Visualization on smaller desktop display systems has tended to focus on discipline or "domain" specific applications (e.g. 3-D visualization applications used for 3-D seismic interpretation). These applications have demonstrated value through improving the accuracy, completeness and, to some extent, the efficiency of interpretation and reservoir modeling. However, These domain specific applications provide only limited integration between disciplines and little opportunity for collaboration between domain experts in front of the small screen. These limitations arise from the combination of the domain specific nature of the software itself (seismic interpretation software, log analysis software, geologic modeling software, etc.), and the limitations of the desktop display as a viewing medium.

A desktop display is typically limited to 1280×1024 pixels (picture elements) on a 21-inch monitor. Although resolutions can be higher on more expensive systems, and displays can be a few inches larger, desktop displays are fundamentally limited in the amount of data that can be displayed, and in the number of people who can view the data simultaneously.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.