As highlighted at recent SPE conferences and workshops, the use of 4D seismic technology has become mainstream. Currently, 4D monitoring programs are used in more than 140 fields (Lumley, 2008). Indeed, many major companies now require 4D feasibility studies for all new reservoir development plans. However, the high cost of 4D monitoring has generally limited its use to large fields that require heavy expenditures to produce. There has been relatively little "trickle down" in the use of 4D seismic among smaller producers, service companies, and/or consultants. Is this poised to change?

Challenges to 4D market expansion include technical feasibility as well as various economic drivers. Expected seismic response changes may be too small to reliably detect and interpret. And, relatively few entities have the luxury of maintaining a dedicated, integrated geoscience and engineering team with 4D expertise. However, most experts agree that economics serve as the greatest barrier to 4D expansion. In addition, the recent decline in oil and natural gas prices has provided further disincentive for 4D application by operators. On the bright side, I will show that studying the world's distribution of oil and gas fields leads one to the conclusion that if 4D costs were to drop by a factor of three, the number of fields for which 4D becomes economically feasible would rise by a factor of at least ten.

I predict that 4D costs could drop to these levels in three to five years because of the confluence of factors that include: technology continuing to reduce acquisition and permanent instrumentation costs, continuing growth of computing capacity, and integrated software packages for effective 4D interpretation. Also, regulations and tax incentives are adding greenhouse gas geological storage to the 4D monitoring market, and new inventions and processes are expected to play a role as well.

The possibility of increased expansion of 4D seismic technology from mainstream to Main Street is highly significant in the oilfield services industry because it would open annual revenue opportunities for smaller players that could be collectively measured in billions of dollars.

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