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Geophysics and the Shale Revolution: The Anisotropy Connection

January 17, 2020 @ 10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Leon Thomsen

University of Houston
Delta Geophysics

What to Expect

This is a critical time in the history of the profession of exploration geophysics. Today the world is awash with copious supplies of oil, and so the price of oil is low, and hence many geophysical jobs have disappeared. For most of the past 40 years, the world feared the imminent exhaustion of its endowment of oil, but, in the last decade vast new deposits of oil have indeed been found, locked up in shales all over the world. The current strategy for producing this resource relies on cost-effective drilling and intensive fracking, with very little actual exploration, hence the disappearance of geophysical jobs. Effective exploration for the sweet spots of shale oil production requires not advanced seismic imaging, but rather advanced seismic rock physics. And since the shales are anisotropic (fractured or not), it must be anisotropic seismic rock physics. In this talk, I describe some of the important ways that the conventional algorithms of exploration geophysics must be generalized to meet this challenge.

Speaker Bio

Leon Thomsen holds degrees in geophysics from Caltech (BS, 1964) and Columbia (PhD, 1969). His academic career began with postdoctoral appointments at CNRS in Paris, and at Caltech in Pasadena, followed by a tenured faculty appointment at the State University of New York at Binghamton (1972-80).

Thomsen’s industrial career began in 1980, at Amoco’s famous Tulsa Research Center. In 1995, he moved to Amoco’s Worldwide Exploration Group in Houston, to help implement the ideas (e.g. AVO) that he had earlier helped to invent. After the 1999 merger, he served in BP’s Exploration and Production Technology Group in Houston as Principal Geophysicist and Senior Advisor. Following retirement from BP in 2008, he remains professionally and scientifically active as Chief Scientist of Delta Geophysics as Research Professor at the University of Houston, and as Visiting Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Thomsen has led technical development in applied geophysics through innovation in vector seismics (polar anisotropy, azimuthal anisotropy, azimuthal AVO, converted waves, and Life-of- Field-Seismics); in pore-pressure prediction; and most recently in ISEM and anisotropic rock physics, through numerous SEG publications and presentations, and many patents. Thomsen was an early recipient (1960-64) of an SEG Scholarship. He received SEG’s Fessenden Award in 1994. He served as SEG Distinguished Lecturer in 1997 and as SEG/EAGE Distinguished Instructor in 2002. He is an Honorary Member of GSH and of EAGE. He is a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and holder of their Kapitsa Medal. He served SEG as Vice President, as President-Elect, as President (2006-07) and as Chair (2018-19) of the SEAM Board of Directors.


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