Saudi Aramco Sharpens Subsurface View with New Algorithm

Saudi Aramco researchers have taken an important step forward in improving the interpretation of geoseismic data with a new, patented algorithm that minimizes distortion during processing.

Geoseismic data collection enables explorationists to delve deep into the subsurface in the search for oil and gas. With many advances in the technology over the last decade, reading the large data streams generated has presented challenges. The new algorithm allows for far more accurate gradients to be used than were available before.

The invention, which was granted U.S. Patent No. 7,653,258, is a software solution that is formulated as an algorithm and is encoded in the form of a computer subroutine accessible to the company's Exploration staff. It is embedded in a number of mathematically sophisticated algorithms, and is therefore used extensively in heavy and complex calculations to help the company's mission to find oil and gas.

"A few digital formulations describing the gradient operator exist in the scientific community and in the industry," said geological specialist Yuchun E. Wang, one of the inventors, "but, they all introduce distortion in varying degrees and adversely affect the bottom-line quality."

"Our invention produces the least amount of inaccuracy when applying it to seismic data," noted co-inventor Mohammed N. Faraj of Geophysical Technical Services. "It is almost purely isotropic, meaning that it sees the same thing irrespective of the angle it's looking from."

The patented algorithm also is likely to be useful in other fields of research, as well, such as meteorology in which large amounts of atmospheric data are collected daily and evaluated.

"As they say, necessity is the mother of invention; this was the driver behind this invention," said senior geophysical consultant Yi Luo, the third patent holder. "It took quite a bit of internal discussion and note comparison till we arrived at this milestone."

Somewhere down the line, the patented algorithm may be important as a helping hand for many applications. For now, Saudi Aramco reaps the benefits for the work at hand.

"In our research, we always put the company's needs as first priority," Luo said, "This invention will help us determine structural dip more accurately, thus helping us understand the geology and find more hydrocarbons."