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SEG Distinguished Achievement Award 2008

A Distinguished Achievement Award is being presented to the SMAART JV (original members BP, BHP (now BHP Billiton, Chevron, Mobil and Texaco) for their industry-leading efforts in improving sub-salt imaging. The SMAART JV played a significant role in leading the industry to new technology and solutions in such important areas as multiple attenuation and survey design for sub-salt plays. In particular, the contributions were a significant addition to the industry’s understanding and eventual adoption of wide-azimuth, towed-streamer marine surveys.

Citation for the SEG Distinguished Achievement Award 2008

Contributed by Toby Perry

The SMAART Joint Venture (a joint industry project whose acronym stood for Sub-salt Multiple Attenuation And Reduction Team) is being honored for its contributions to the industry’s ability to image economically important targets in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. By combining forces among competitors and partners, focusing on the most important technical issues, and pushing solutions through the research deployment-routine use pipeline, SMAART helped reduce the risks associated with many current oil fi eld developments around the world. SEG is pleased to recognize the companies who formed SMAART and the many individuals involved within those organizations (originally BHP, BP, Chevron, Mobil, and Texaco and, after several mergers, BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil).

Discussions began in mid-1997 and the JV formally began in March 1998 with a charter to fi nd solutions that could be applied “on our data” as quickly as possible. The structure of the JV pushed the envelope for joint research by competitors, creating a technical committee with contributors from each company that functioned as an autonomous team to create and execute their own work plan, with oversight by a steering committee of research managers. SMAART developed both a comprehensive list of methods to be tried and a set of benchmark data sets and tests. Many of these data sets have been made public and appeared as part of research work all over the world and continue to do so a decade later. The feedback generated by testing a wide range of ideas has been a signifi cant driver of technical developments. SMAART also provided ideas, data, and funds to a number of universities, encouraging faculty and students to work on problems of interest to industry. Establishing physical modeling with and without free-surface multiples at Delft University is one example.

While the project was initially aimed at multiple suppression methods, it became clear that other factors were also very important. The SMAART group explored the physics of noise generation, and tested the sensitivity of image quality to imaging algorithms and velocity estimation methods. Another major initiative looked at illumination of sub-salt targets, including both physical and numerical modeling of seismic propagation in Earth models with realistic salt geometries. This led to discussions and testing of new acquisition styles, and encouraged both operators and service providers to experiment with methods for wide azimuth shooting. By the end of the SMAART project in 2002, progress on all of these fronts had begun to dramatically improve the quality of images that were being used for well placement and development. That progress continues today, thanks in part to the methods and encouragement provided by SMAART.

A large number of individuals contributed to SMAART over its five-year history, including many from universities and service companies. There is insufficient space to mention them all. Over 30 man years and significant expenditures went into the project. In alphabetical order, here is a list of contributors from the sponsoring companies. BHP, BHP (now BHP Billiton): LaRay Geist, Chad Harding, Josef Paffenholz, Dean Stoughton BP, BP Amoco (now BP): Brian Barley, Bill McLain, Scott Michell, Tony Nekut, Nigel Purnell, Randy Read, Simon Shaw, Ian Threadgold, Mark Truxillo Chevron, Texaco (now Chevron): Bill Abriel, Debbie Bones, Kevin Bishop, Steve Doherty, Ray Ergas, Scott Glassman, Kent Hall, Joe Higginbotham, Joe Keliher, Paul Krail, Monica Miley, Robert Polzer, Guy Purnell, Joe Stefani, Dwight Sukup, Bob Tatham, Joerg Zaske Mobil, Exxon (now ExxonMobil): Jeff Curtis, Mohamed Hadidi, Mike Jenkerson, Peggy Mitchell, Bob Peterson, Mo Sabih.