The core of the conference

Andrew Couch of Statoil answering questions about his oil sands core, standing in front of a tiny fraction of the core collection at the ERCBToday at the CSPG CSEG CWLS convention was day 1 of the core conference. This (unique?) event is always well attended and much talked-about. The beautiful sunshine and industry-sponsored lunch today helped (thanks Weatherford!).

One reason for the good turn-out is the incredible core research facility here in Calgary. This is the core and cuttings storage warehouse and lab of the Energy Resources Conservation Board, Alberta's energy regulator. I haven't been to a huge number of core stores around the world, but this is easily the largest, cleanest, and most efficient one I have visited. The picture gives no real indication of the scale: there are over 1700 km of core here, and cuttings from about 80 000 km of drilling. If you're in Calgary and you've never been, find a way to visit. 

Ross Kukulski of the University of Calgary is one of Stephen Hubbard's current MSc students. Steve's students are consistently high performers, with excellent communication and drafting skills; you can usually spot their posters from a distance. Ross is no exception: his poster on the stratigraphic architecture of the Early Cretaceous Monach Formation of NW Alberta was a gem. Ross has integrated data from about 30 cores, 3300 (!) well logs, and outcrop around Grand Cache. While this is a fairly normal project for Alberta, I was impressed with the strong quantitative elements: his provenance assertions were backed up with Keegan Raines' zircon data, and channel width interpretation was underpinned by Bridge & Tye's empirical work (2000; AAPG Bulletin 84).

The point bar in Willapa Bay where Jesse did his coring. Image from Google Earth. Jesse Schoengut is a MSc student of Murray Gingras, part of the ichnology powerhouse at the University of Alberta. The work is an extension of Murray's long-lived project in Willapa Bay, Washington, USA. Not only had the team collected vibracore along a large point bar, but they had x-rayed these cores, collected seismic profiles across the tidal channel, and integrated everything into the regional dataset of more cores and profiles. The resulting three-dimensional earth model is helping solve problems in fields like the super-giant Athabasca bitumen field of northeast Alberta, where the McMurray Formation is widely interpreted to be a tidal estuary somewhat analogous to Willapa. 

Greg Hu of Tarcore presented his niche business of photographing bitumen core, and applying image processing techniques to complement and enhance traditional core descriptions and analysis. Greg explained that unrecovered core and incomplete sampling programs result in gaps and depth misalignment—a 9 m core barrel can have up to several metres of lost core which can make integrating core information with other subsurface information intractable. To help solve this problem, much of Tarcore's work is depth-correcting images. He uses electrical logs and FMI images to set local datums on centimetre-scale beds, mud clasts, and siderite nodules. Through color balancing, contrast stretching, and image analysis, shale volume (a key parameter in reservoir evaluation) can be computed from photographs. This approach is mostly independent of logs and offers much higher resolution.

It's awesome how petroleum geologists are sharing so openly at this core workshop, and it got us thinking: what would a similar arena look like for geophysics or petrophysics? Imagine wandering through a maze of 3D seismic volumes, where you can touch, feel, ask, and learn.

Don't miss our posts from day 1 of the convention, and from days 2 and 3.