Reservoir Characterization Project (RCP), Department of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines

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Reservoir Characterization Project (RCP), Department of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines
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SEG Distinguished Achievement Award 2014 [1]

The Reservoir Characterization Project (RCP) at Colorado School of Mines has nearly 30 years’ experience in conducting reservoir-characterization studies, emphasizing an integrated approach to seismic reservoir characterization to advance multicomponent, time-lapse seismic and related technologies for conventional and unconventional reservoirs as well as for EOR projects. RCP has helped to solve complex reservoir challenges in several significant fields in North America. In addition, RCP conducted the first 3D-9C and 4D-9C surveys in Canada and the United States. In the course of this work, nearly 150 students have earned advanced degrees in geophysics and related disciplines. RCP has achieved many accomplishments in going from seismic to simulation.

Citation for SEG Distinguished Achievement Award 2014

Contributed by Sue Jackson and John O'Brien

As an industry-funded research consortium at Colorado School of Mines, the Reservoir Characterization Project (RCP) has pioneered substantial advances in reservoir characterization through application of multicomponent and time-lapse (4D) seismic technologies. RCP has been an outstanding and consistent voice in the industry, advocating the application of shear-wave seismology. The consortium has acquired and processed multicomponent surveys to industry standards over several reservoirs and has demonstrated the benefits of three-component and nine-component imaging for field characterization in real-life situations. This has spurred development of shear-wave acquisition and processing capabilities by service providers, has created real data sets for student research, and has furnished case studies to advance the science and practice of shear-wave imaging and interpretation.

RCP was founded in 1984 under the leadership and vision of Thomas Davis, professor of geophysics at Colorado School of Mines and director of RCP. At that time, there was little recognition of the value of integrated studies in reservoir characterization. With the success of the first project at Silo field and succeeding projects, industry sponsors came to recognize the value of the approach and of the program. Since then, RCP has been a strong and consistent advocate of the application of reservoir characterization and of multicomponent seismology for exploration and development geophysics.

RCP is based on an innovative collaborative model between academia and industry participants. Research proposals are solicited from industry for each two-year research phase and are voted on by consortium sponsors. This ensures an alignment between research and the current interests of industry, as reflected by sponsors’ votes. Research results are reported directly to sponsors, enhancing the impact of the work on sponsors’ practices and operations.

One of the consortium’s greatest achievements has been in providing a training ground for students interested in entering the oil and gas industry, offering access to high-quality seismic, well-log, and core data for research work and preparing students for careers in exploration geophysics. The program has produced a cadre of talented geoscientists who are now making key technical and commercial contributions in the industry.

Dedication to multidisciplinary integrated research is a key hallmark of RCP. Investigations use a data framework that includes seismic data, geologic information, geomechanical information, and downhole, production, and petrophysical data. These are integrated through analysis, modeling, and simulation studies to gain valuable insights and to achieve improvements in reservoir-performance prediction as well as optimization of development plans for the field.

Research themes represent a variety of geologic settings. These are often difficult, unconventional reservoir challenges not easily solved with more conventional methods. Application of RCP’s reservoir characterization has provided valuable insights into fracture identification and orientation, fluid flow, lithology characterization, and enhanced oil recovery.

In its 30-year history, RCP has grown from an untested new approach to an established consortium with a global reputation. It has a track record of producing some of the most sought-after graduates in the industry. RCP’s pioneering efforts in integration across geoscience and reservoir-engineering disciplines are now a widely accepted model for effective reservoir management. As a long-term advocate of reservoir characterization and a champion for multicomponent time-lapse seismology, the Reservoir Characterization Project has advanced the science of geophysics and has influenced its practice in the oil and gas industry.


  1. SEG Honors and Awards Ceremony in Official Program and Exhibitors Directory, SEG Denver 26-31 October 2014 p.36-49.