Finding oil and gas
Oil and gas are held in porous rocks like water in a sponge, often in pockets spread over a large area. We use advanced technologies to look beneath land and seas for increasingly hard-to-find energy resources that can help meet the world’s growing demand.
Finding oil and gas reservoirs is a long and complex process. It can take years of research, survey work and exploration drilling before a single drop of oil or cubic meter of natural gas is produced.
We use a range of survey methods to find the best places to drill exploratory wells. These tools help us to look quickly, safely and cost-effectively for the geological formations that are most likely to contain energy resources.
Making the invisible visible
As the era of easy-to-find oil and gas comes to an end, we are developing new technologies that can detect reservoirs that were previously invisible. These reservoirs can be at depths of more than 3,000 metres, or hidden under thick layers of salt deep below the seabed, or trapped in geological faults where the rock is folded into complex structures.
High-quality images of reservoirs are essential for teams making decisions about where to explore for, or produce, oil and gas. The main challenge for the industry is how to obtain the best images in the shortest time, more cost-effectively.
To find oil and gas resources we use a range of geophysical imaging technologies. Seismic reflection imaging remains the most widely-used geophysical technique in hydrocarbon exploration.
First, we capture echoes using advanced sensors as the waves pass through, or bounce off, the rock and sediment deep underground. We place many sensors over a wide area to record waves from different angles to provide the best picture from beneath the surface in the site we are surveying.
Second, we process the vast amounts of seismic data we have gathered with high-performance computers using advanced algorithms to produce an accurate geological map of the site we are investigating.
And third, we use our GEOSIGNSTM visualisation software to turn the data into images that can be analysed and interpreted by our scientists quickly and efficiently. This ability to visualise and interpret billions of signals lies behind our biggest successes in oil and gas exploration.
We also use these technologies to continuously monitor our oil and gas fields during production. Seismic sensors provide a constant flow of data on the pressure, temperature and fluids in the fields, so that we can adjust production to meet changing conditions and ensure field integrity. They help us to extract more energy from the reservoirs and to identify pockets of oil or gas that we may have overlooked.
Searching for resources
Geoscientists at Shell’s iScope Virtual Reality Centre in the Netherlands interpret a subsurface model of a prospective exploration site.
Using new technology we discovered two hidden fields deep below a salt formation in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009 that were invisible five years earlier. Together, these two discoveries have added more than 150 million barrels of oil equivalent resources.
Our GEOSIGNS visualisation and interpretation technology transforms vast amounts of seismic and non-seismic data into meaningful images that our scientists can analyse and interpret.
The view from above. We use satellites and aircraft to detect natural seepage of oil and gas from the Earth’s surface.
More in this section
We are developing ways to unlock new energy resources safely and efficiently, often in more challenging environments.