Rock Solid Images

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Rock Solid Images
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SEG Distinguished Achievement Award 2019

During its roughly 20-year existence, Rock Solid Images (RSI) has distinguished itself as an exceptionally creative innovator in a number of exploration and development geophysical technologies. RSI has established a well-earned reputation for excellence — particularly in rock physics, and in integrating seismic with electromagnetic methods, and not without risk, as there was no previous model for doing this. RSI was founded in 1998 by Richard Cooper, M. Turhan (Tury) Taner, Joel Walls, Todd Mitchell and Gareth Taylor, through a merger of three companies, Seismic Research Corporation, PetroSoft and Discovery Bay. Building upon strong ties to the rock physics group at Stanford University, the company soon became a leader in rock physics modeling and software, a position it has maintained to the present. Having established a strong position in seismic attribute analysis and having made key contributions to such diverse fields as seismic data conditioning, time and depth domain inversion, and the measurement of seismic absorption, among others, RSI moved into the field of multi-physics analysis. In 2007, Offshore Hydrocarbon Mapping plc (OHM), a company founded in 2002 as a spin out from the University of Southampton to commercialize CSEM technology acquired RSI, and Lucy MacGregor, CTO and co-founder of OHM, became CTO of the merged company. The data acquisition arm of OHM was later sold to a consortium of investors, with RSI retaining the interpretation and analysis technology to focus on the integration of electromagnetic (EM) data with seismic. RSI is unique in this respect. RSI’s product is highly respected in the industry, and its leaders and founders, are trusted to deliver science, not an opinion. RSI stands out as a distinct company, delivering a unique product that sits at the heart of exploration and production: quantitative rock properties.

Biography Citation for the Distinguished Achievement Award

by Sven Treitel, Steve Constable, Len Srnka, Arthur Cheng, and David Kessler

During the past 20-plus years, Rock Solid Images (RSI) has been recognized as one of the leading innovators among the smaller geophysical service companies. It was among the first to offer rock-physics-driven quantitative interpretation, and it first developed multiclient well-based atlases of seismic attribute responses. Over the course of two decades, RSI managed an impressive number of industry-funded consortia in addition to a U.S. Department of Energy–funded study of gas hydrates. Among the former were consortia dealing with seismic attributes, seismic absorption, lithology and fluid prediction, and many others. Following a 2007 merger with Offshore Hydrocarbon Mapping plc (OHM), RSI became one of the earliest providers of offshore reservoir evaluation services based on the simultaneous analysis of both reflection seismic and controlled source electromagnetic (CSEM) recordings. RSI thus helped pave the way for integrated electromagnetic, seismic, and petrophysical interpretation in the industry.

RSI was founded in November 1998 through the merger of three companies: Seismic Research Corp., Petrosoft Inc., and The Discovery Bay Company. The idea to form RSI came from initial discussions between Richard Cooper and Discovery Bay CEO Todd Mitchell. Todd had retained Richard as a consultant to examine growth strategies for Discovery Bay. The founders thus included, in addition to Richard and Todd, Gareth Taylor from Discovery Bay, the late Tury Taner from Seismic Research Corp., along with a group from Stanford University, namely Amos Nur, Gary Mavko, Jack Dvorkin, and Joel Walls. The original idea behind RSI was to use the Stanford rock-physics technology and commercialize it via Petrosoft to help calibrate prestack attributes (Discovery Bay) and poststack attributes (Seismic Research Corp.).

Prior to founding RSI, Richard Cooper had been president of Cogniseis, which had been hosting an office for Tury Taner’s Seismic Research Corp, which is how Richard and Tury first met. Tury saw the value of adding his company to the mix of Petrosoft and Discovery Bay. A new name had to be found, and Rock Solid Images was born. By this time, Tury already had been running the successful Seismic Attribute Consortium and had developed a product called LITHANN, which turned out to be one of the earliest successful uses of artificial neural networks for seismic attribute analysis. Today, this software would be considered an application of machine learning. Tury and his coworkers continued to develop improvements for this promising technology until failing health caught up with him.

OHM formed in 2002 as a spinoff from the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton to commercialize the CSEM technology developed there. By 2005, OHM and RSI began to collaborate on some early rock-physics-based integration of electric and elastic measurements. The two companies merged formally in 2007, at which time Lucy MacGregor, who had been OHM’s chief technology officer, joined RSI as CTO of the combined company. The rock-physics-driven integration of seismic and CSEM recordings continued until 2011, when OHM was sold to a group of investors, while Lucy remained as the RSI CTO. Marine acquisition went away with the OHM sale, but aggressive efforts to integrate seismic and CSEM measurements continued apace and produced impressive results. The fruits of this active research can be appreciated by examining results obtained by the three most recent RSI consortia. The first examined regional trends and underlying controls of resistivity and resistivity anisotropy; the second delivered algorithms for integrated interpretation and petrophysical joint inversion of seismic, CSEM, and well-log data; and the third used machine learning to train models that streamline the manual petrophysical interpretation of well-log data.

Nothing lasts forever. RSI did its best to weather the current oil industry downturn. In the end, the company was taken over by a group of investors, who have now put it up for sale. Most of the technical staff have left, but RSI’s more than 20-year legacy as a boutique geophysical company has been a great technical success. RSI’s management attracted some of the best minds in the industry to develop novel petrophysical insights and to build bridges between the seismic and electromagnetic worlds. Much has been achieved by RSI during the past 20 years, and much remains to be done. Therefore, it is particularly fitting that the Society of Exploration Geophysicists is this year honoring Rock Solid Images with its Distinguished Achievement Award.