Trends in petroleum exploration have dictated that seismic data migrate from a tool used primarily for structural interpretation to being the cornerstone in the integration of geophysical, geological, and reservoir engineering data. Improvements in seismic imaging, the availability of high-performance Workstation hardware capable of handling large volumes of data, coupled with developments in emerging 3D seismic technologies and parallel processing, facilitate reservoir mapping and construction of geologic models at reservoir engineering scale. This capability for generating more sophisticated interpretations comes at an opportune time as industry is shifting more of its geoscience efforts to exploitation in structurally and stratigraphically complex environments. Seismic interpreters must broaden their technical skill base and interact with specialists from diverse technical areas in order to produce a fully integrated interpretation down to the reservoir scale. However, these integrated products should not be mechanically generated and must be verified to ensure the interpretations incorporate fundamentally correct geologic principles. Eficient integration is currently difficult on a routine basis due to hardware and software limitations. Capitalizing on the rapid advances in computer technologies which improve the process of effective integration is the challenge for the future.
Seismic data has evolved over the past ten years from being used predominantly in exploration and production as a structural mapping tool to being the key element in the integration of geoscience data at scales ranging from regional, basin-wide studies to reservoir-focused, field-development projects. Rapid increases in seismic technology are contributing significantly to reducing risk as the petroleum industry shifts its focus to new exploration ventures in highcost areas. Increasing up-front development expenditures place an emphasis on the importance of understanding development costs and ultimate profitability of prospects and discoveries early in the exploration process+onsiderations once relegated to production organizations post-discovery. For instance, delineation and production drilling in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico or offshore West Africa can account for more than half of the development expenditures. For that reason accurate sizing of facilities relative to the resource and optimal placement of a minimal number of wells become critical in order to reach and sustain profitability in these and other high-cost environments. Subtle structural and stratigraphic elements within a prospect or field area must be identified and understood to develop the most cost-efficient development plan. I