Reservoir engineers must analyze and work with complicated 3D subsurface datasets. Extended reality (XR) hardware has undergone a renaissance in recent years and high-quality hardware is now widely available and affordable. What remains unsolved is how these technologies may be applied to improve reservoir engineering workflows, in order to help plan scenarios that reduce emissions and improve project efficiencies. We detail and discuss the first-year outcomes of an industry-academia collaboration which explores the application of XR technologies to a reservoir engineering workflow.
A thorough review of the benefits of XR technology compared with conventional display and input devices was performed. The results of this were used to inform the design and development of a proof-of-concept visualization and analysis application for reservoir engineering workflows that utilizes the strengths of XR technology. Using this tool, representations of numerical reservoir models can be visualized and analyzed along with other data within virtual working spaces. User-driven interactions were designed for this application and implemented to be as intuitive and effective as possible. Networking capabilities were implemented so that multiple devices and multiple users may access any given virtual workspace, supporting both remote collaboration and cross-reality functionality. The features and design of the application were all developed with the intention of directly supporting the visualization and analysis of reservoir data.
The benefits provided by utilizing XR technology include increased working space, improved spatial perception, and more intuitive user interaction. Features such as multi-model visualization, integration of 2D information visualization, data analysis features, and several different filtering techniques were developed to further enhance reservoir engineering workflows. Additional features in development that are highly anticipated by our industrial partner include methods to better facilitate clear communication when working with data in groups, the integration of presentation and group-work modes, and enhancing workflows with AI-assisted tasks. Careful consideration went into designing interactions that were natural and intuitive, yet flexible and efficient when working within 3D virtual environments.
The innovation demonstrated in this project contributes to advancing the Canadian energy industry to a new era of exciting new visual and interactive technologies, while ensuring that these technologies can be utilized to provide true value to real-world problems. The lessons learned and design insights gained from this project may be applied far beyond reservoir engineering to enhance workflows in any domain where analysis of complex scientific datasets is required.