Carl Regone

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Carl Regone
Image regone.jpg
BSc Physics and Mathematics
MSc Physics
BSc university Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
MSc university Case Western Reserve University

Carl Regone received BS and MS degrees in Mathematics and Physics from Virginia Tech and Case Western Reserve University and, after working briefly in the defense industry on guided missile technology, he joined the oil industry as a geophysicist. He worked for four years in processing and interpretation, first for Amoco in New Orleans and then with the USGS in Washington, D.C. He then rejoined Amoco at their research center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he spent 20 years working on seismic acquisition and imaging problems, primarily focusing on land seismology. For many years he had the luxury of working with Amoco's research seismic crew and he consulted on seismic data quality problems worldwide for Amoco. An 18-month assignment in London during that period brought exposure to interesting acquisition and imaging problems in Europe and West Africa. During all that time, Carl made use of Amoco's finite-difference modeling capability to augment real field experiments. With the Amoco merger with BP in 1999, Carl moved to Houston and began to concentrate on deep-water subsalt imaging problems. Modeling work during that period resulted in the development of the wide-azimuth towed-streamer methods for which Carl (along with John Etgen) was awarded the 2008 SEG Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award.

Carl has published and presented widely and has served as an Associate Editor of Geophysics. He retired from BP in 2008 and now works nearly full time as a contractor with them. Recently, Carl has been focusing again on land problems and was the primary builder of the unconventional shale model for the SEG SEAM Phase II consortium.

Fall 2013 SEG Distinguished Lecturer

Acquisition modeling: Expect the unexpected

A seismic acquisition method that is successful in one area sometimes fails in another, and attempts to fix the problems in processing do not always work. The success in recent years with alternative acquisition schemes has shown the need for ongoing experimentation in acquisition design. However, in 3D seismology, the cost of performing controlled experiments with real data is prohibitive. Also, the time required to do so is excessive; and uncontrollable factors such as weather, currents, and exclusion zones that vary with time can have a large influence on the results. Therefore, instead of comparing multiple methods in the same area, the industry usually tries one thing in one area and another somewhere else. This is certainly a form of experimentation; however, because there are usually so many variables that are different from one area to another it is very difficult to determine the precise consequences of parameter changes. As a result, progress toward better methods is often very slow with this approach.

Seismic modeling provides an alternative means of performing controlled experiments. It allows acquisition and processing methods to be tested against known answers. When we use high-order, finite-difference methods and complex geologic structures for the modeling process, we can obtain very realistic synthetic seismic data. The great pace in the development of wide-azimuth towed streamer and OBS marine survey designs over the last half dozen years has largely been a result of seismic modeling efforts. Modeling methods and computing capability continue to evolve and where we could once do only acoustic modeling we can now do elastic, anisotropic modeling. This has made it possible to study realistic land problems. For example, the unconventional shale model recently developed by the SEG SEAM Phase II consortium contains numerically generated complex stratigraphy and will produce 3D, viscoelastic, anisotropic, shot records containing all the effects of a complex near surface.

Perhaps the most interesting aspects of complex modeling studies are the unexpected results. The most crucial requirement for successful modeling is to make sure the correct physics is contained in the model. Failure to do so can be confusing and frustrating. This lecture will cover the use of seismic modeling to study current problems of interest to the industry and will show a number of these unexpected results. Things such as the effectiveness of cross-spread filtering for coherent noise suppression, the importance of adequate wavefield sampling at the receiver, the effects of offset and azimuth coverage on image quality, the effects of rugose salt surfaces and salt inclusions on subsalt imaging, point receivers versus arrays, and the effect of SNR on sampling requirements can all be studied using modeling. The results are often surprising.

SEG Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award

Contributed by Michelle Judson

In 2008, the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal is awarded to Carl Regone and John Etgen for their work in demonstrating the value of wide-azimuth towed-streamer acquisition for deepwater subsalt imaging, and for their role in bringing it to commercial reality. Through tireless efforts involving wave-equation modeling and evaluation of different approaches to acquisition, they convinced BP of the value of such acquisition, leading BP to embark upon a commercial program of wide-azimuth acquisition. The success of these efforts has led the industry into a new era of acquisition and imaging based upon the wide-azimuth technique. This technology is spreading outside the Gulf of Mexico and creating value for the industry around the world.

Biography Citation for the SEG Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award

John and Carl’s recent extraordinary contributions to deepwater subsalt imaging are well known. They each bring their unique technical skills and talents to solving imaging problems. This latest success is just a part of their long joint tradition of combining the theoretical and the practical to discover commercially viable solutions. John and Carl’s partnership formed 15 years ago, the day a young research scientist (John) joined Amoco’s research center straight from university and started work on Carl’s R&D team. That partnership started the evolution of a powerful seismic modeling capability, which was one key enabler of their achievements.

John’s skill at creating new algorithms is legendary. He has a deep appreciation of the elegance of mathematical theories, but he couples this with a ready willingness to accept “inelegant” numerical approximations if they prove to be a more practical way of getting results. He pays close attention to current technical developments (he is an associate editor of GEOPHYSICS) and has a deep understanding of what the industry is doing, and which technologies are working out and which aren’t. He communicates constantly, happily building on ideas of others (immediately trying out any promising new ones he finds) and is also very willing to share his ideas to help others. He is always ready to immediately integrate a better way of accomplishing something into his programming “edifice.”

Carl has been attacking the seismic signal-to-noise problem throughout his career. He learned about arrays by designing missile targeting systems and brought this understanding into the seismic industry. A unique element of Carl’s inquiry was the desire to understand what acquisition was required to accurately measure and sufficiently understand noise. This led him to design experiments early on in his career to accurately record the entire wavefield, enabling evaluation of the critical elements of the recording geometry. He then imported that field experience into the lab… which for him is seismic modeling! This use of modeling and a deep understanding of field surveys enabled him to learn fundamental elements of seismic acquisition that could enhance subsalt illumination. Carl has a rare talent that blends innovation, technology development, and pragmatic solutions.

For a long time, industry had known that different acquisition azimuths illuminate different parts of the subsurface. The required breakthrough to take advantage of this knowledge was finding a cost-effective, practical solution to adding more azimuths. The magic that John and Carl have created is the ability to use forward modeling and imaging to solve problems in a technically sound and affordable way. Their combined skills enabled them to create strikingly ambitious models which they systematically used to simulate various acquisition and processing strategies. Having found a potential solution, their gift of effective communication allows them to cleanly explain to others the potential value of a technology for addressing business needs.

A key success factor in BP committing to spend the significant funds required to execute concurrent field trials of both wide-azimuth towed streamers and OBS nodes technologies was cutting the costs. Proving that less expensive acquisition configurations could provide adequate illumination was critical to the projects moving forward. Cost is always a bounding factor in research and development. A key tool in their repertoire is the trick of how to make a computer model that is just good enough. This is as much art as it is science. Carl and John are experts at knowing just how accurate a model needs to be to capture the essence of a problem without requiring any more computational expense and time than are necessary.

They also have a knack for knowing the right questions to ask, and just as important, they don’t assume they know the answers beforehand. This willingness to try things out and to adjust your theories based on what you observe is the very essence of the scientific method and a key ingredient of their success. They were able to ask the right questions, avoid dogmatic attachment to their preferred solutions, and conduct a landmark study that pushed the limits of computer modeling to try out various acquisition strategies.

Carl and John easily work with each other, enabling them to multiply their contributions. They also give unselfishly of themselves, their time, and their ideas to colleagues and the wider geophysical community. By so doing they are a catalyst for others, their ideas a basis for others to build on. They beautifully mix scientific rigor with real-world pragmatism, and have FUN while doing it.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

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