Conoco Awarded U.S. Patent for Revolutionary Exploration Technique

Conoco has been awarded the first in a series of pending U.S. patents for a revolutionary technique that is expected to dramatically improve exploration results in challenging areas like the sub-salt province of the Gulf of Mexico.

Geophysical experts in Conoco's Seismic Imaging Technology Center (SITC) in Ponca City, Okla., developed the patent, "Method for Gravity and Magnetic Data Inversion Using Vector and Tensor Data," over several years. Conoco says the technique has been applied with impressive results to challenging areas in the Gulf of Mexico and the U.K.'s Atlantic Margin.

"We first developed the technique for the purpose of seeing below the large salt bodies that exist in the Gulf of Mexico," said Dr. Alan R. Huffman, Conoco's Seismic Imaging Technology Center manager. "These salt bodies can often make it difficult to see below the salt, even with high-quality 3D seismic data."

The method was later applied to similar challenges caused by lava flows in the Atlantic deepwater provinces in the U.K., and to several other international exploration plays where seismic data alone was not sufficient to explore for oil and natural gas.

"This method allowed our explorers to accurately delineate the base of a salt body in the Gulf Coast region that seismic data alone could not resolve. This resulted in better placement of a sub-salt exploratory well, and led to a discovery in the Green Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico," Huffman added.

Conoco's first application of the new method involved use of conventional gravity and magnetic data, before utilizing more advanced, full tensor gravity gradiometry (FTG) methods.

"There is no doubt that application of this technology has made a huge difference in our exploration program in the prolific deepwater Gulf of Mexico," said Randy Thompson, Gulf of Mexico exploration manager in Lafayette, La. "We believe that Conoco's leading-edge inversion technique gives us a distinctive advantage in evaluating prospective acreage in the Gulf of Mexico and allows us to high-grade the best exploration prospects for our portfolio.

"When integrated with the advanced seismic imaging technology that SITC provides to support Conoco's business, the results allow us to differentiate ourselves from the competition in our exploration program," said Thompson.

FTG methods were developed by the U.S. Navy and later licensed to Bell Geospace Corporation for use in the petroleum industry.

The Conoco patent provides broad protection for the company's proprietary technology, including the use of all types of gravity and magnetic data and application to a broad range of exploration problems.

The method permits gravity, magnetic and FTG data to be integrated with Conoco's other leading-edge technologies in depth imaging, pore pressure prediction, and seismic analysis to solve complex problems in the most difficult exploration areas where seismic data alone cannot determine what is in the subsurface.

"Conoco has been a leader in geophysical technology for over 50 years," said Jim Knudsen, vice president of exploration production technology. "The addition of this revolutionary new method to our geophysical technology legacy demonstrates that Conoco continues to be a technical leader and innovator in the petroleum industry."