Geomodelling ... There's no Such Thing.

Geomodelling ... There's no Such Thing.

Juan Cottier Juan Cottier
Director & Lead Geologist at MMbbls Limited

I first used the best geomodelling software of the time; Stratamodel, in 1994. Since then I have been using some form of 3D geomodelling software (RMS, EarthVision, GoCad, Petrel, GeologyDesigner) to carry out my daily work. I even ran a team of 35 at Blueback Reservoir a company formed in 2005 specifically to provide global geomodelling services. And yet, I sincerely believe there is no such discipline as a “Geomodeller”.

To begin at the beginning: Geologists looked at rocks, they developed and described depositional concepts, they mapped structures and they found and developed hydrocarbons for profit. Then, in the mid-into-late-1990s geomodelling and Geomodellers were invented. The role was an exciting new wizardry that would march ahead of the humble Geologists. They would better describe reservoirs, hunt down missed reserves, place wells with beautiful accuracy; all the while communicating their messianic abilities with jaw-slackeningly, gorgeous 3D images.

The coming of a new discipline brought with it a new way of working and a new vocabulary; pillar-gridding, kriging, stochastic, distribution, objects, discrete and continuous properties, Gaussian, variogram, on and on and on. Perversely, despite promising better communication within Teams, the new “way” split teams into the Us and Thems, the Ins and the Outs, the Clued-up and the Clueless. Worse still, the new Geomodellers were whisked along in a career thalweg whilst others, who only yesterday were finding the oil and producing the fields, were left bobbing in their stagnating oxbow-lakes of apparent technical irrelevance. Even seasoned managers with impeccable technical records found themselves unable to critique projects: the methods, the language, the software and the QC were all different.

In their neatly pressed, logo-ed polo-shirts the Geomodellers mocked the socks and sandals of the traditional Geologist and scorned their coloured pencils … all the while the Geologist would quietly ask: “and how does your geomodel fit with our regional understanding?” … or … “have you sketched-out your conceptual depositional model?”

But, as Geomodellers, did we actually do anything new? We made maps, we described geology, we calculated STOIIP, and we found and developed hydrocarbons for profit.

Variograms were not new. Pillar-gridding was not new (Geologists previously had used grids purely to hang maps on and now grids were essential constructions in themselves and Sweet Jupiter were we bad back then at building grids … and many now still don’t understand grid construction). Workflows were as old as computers and had previously been called macros. Probabilistic modelling had been routine (I know Mobil in Aberdeen was doing probabilistic depth-conversion in the early 90s). Facies and object modelling was where the scrofulous, beastly coloured pencils had been used. Nothing was new.

A Conceptual Depositional Model ... replicating the hand-drawn sketches from the Sedimentologist's core-study report.

Oh, except for the jaw-slackeningly gorgeous 3D images. They were new and they turned out to be utterly awful once they had been printed-out on A4 or pasted into a presentation. Those 3D images: they were both the source and the cruel irony of this invented discipline; the Geomodeller.

The source is that there was a step-change in technology when 2D mapping software became 3D modelling software and the Marketeers will all tell you that step-changing technology cannot be used by sandal-wearing Geologists. Call me paranoid, call me sunburnt, but we know from history that those selling the latest new thing, will, to quote Skunk Anansie “want your soul and your money, your blood and your votes”.

The cruel irony is that if there was any discipline, any department, any group of people who absolutely DID NOT NEED 3D SOFTWARE, it was the old-school geologists. Give them a map and dip & strike cross-sections and they could see it, clear as day, in 3D, in their head, and yet these are the people who were told they needed 3D visualisation and the resulting discipline of Geomodeller.

As a colleague of mine once said; “all models are wrong and only some are useful … but you can guarantee that a geomodeller will want to build them all”.

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