Why petrophysics is hard

Earlier this week we published our fourth cheatsheet, this time for well log analysis or petrophysics. (Have you seen our other cheatsheets?) Why did we think this was a subject tricky enough to need a cheatsheet in the back of your notebook? I think there are at least three things which make the interpretation of log data difficult:

Most of the tools do not directly measure properties we are interested in. For example, the radioactivity of the rocks is not important to us, but it does make a reliable clay and organic matter proxy, because these substances tend to have more uranium and other radioactive elements in them. Almost all of the logs are just proxies for the data we really need. 

We only see the rocks through the filter of the method. Even if we could perfectly derive apparent reservoir properties from the logs, there are lots of reasons why they might be less than accurate. For example, the drilling fluid (usually some sort of brine- or oil-based suspension of mud) tends to invade the rocks, especially the more permeable formations, the very ones we are interested in. The drilling fluid can also interfere with some tools, depending on its composition: barite absorbs gamma-rays, for example. 

The field is infested with jargon and historical baggage. Since Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger invented the technique almost 100 years ago, thousands of new tools and new methods have been invented. Every tool and log has its own name, method (usually proprietary these days) and idiosyncracies, making for a bewildering, intimidating even, menagerie. Worse still, lots of modern tools collect multi-dimensional data: for example, sonic spectra on multiple axes, magnetic resonance T2 distributions, dynamically-scaled image logs. 

We drew from several sources to build our cheatsheet. We drew partly from our own experience, but also relied on input from some petrophysical specialists: Neil Watson of Atlantic Petrophysics, Andrea Creemer of Corridor Resources, and Ross Crain of Spectrum 2000. We also consulted the following references, synthesizing liberally where they disagreed (quite often, given the range of vintages of these works).

Despite referring to some of the best sources in the industry, we hereby assert that all errors are attributable to us, not our sources. If you find errors, please let us know. Get in touch on Twitter, use the contact form, or leave a comment.

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