Hacking in Houston


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Houston 2017... The eighth geoscience hackathon landed last weekend!

We spent last weekend in hot, humid Houston, hacking away with a crowd of geoscience and technology enthusiasts. Thirty-eight hackers joined us on the top-floor coworking space, Station Houston, for fun and games and code. And tacos.

Here's a rundown of the teams and what they worked on.

Seismic Imagers

Jingbo Liu (CGG), Zohreh Souri (University of Houston).

Tech — DCGAN in Tensorflow, Amazon AWS EC2 compute.

The team looked for patterns that make seismic data different from other images, using a deep convolutional generative adversarial network (DCGAN). Using a seismic volume and a set of 2D lines, they made 121,000 sub-images (tiles) for their training set.

The Young And The RasLAS

William Sanger (Schlumberger), Chance Sanger (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), Diego Castañeda (Agile), Suman Gautam (Schlumberger), Lanre Aboaba (University of Arkansas).

State of the art text detection by Google Cloud Vision API

State of the art text detection by Google Cloud Vision API

Tech — Google Cloud Vision API, Python flask web app, Scatteract (sort of). Repo on GitHub.

Digitizing well logs is a common industry task, and current methods require a lot of manual intervention. The team's automated pipeline: convert PDF files to images, perform OCR with Google Cloud Vision API to extract headers and log track labels, pick curves using a CNN in TensorFlow. The team implemented the workflow in a Python flask front-end. Check out their slides.

Hutton Rocks

Kamal Hami-Eddine (Paradigm), Didi Ooi (University of Bristol), James Lowell (GeoTeric), Vikram Sen (Anadarko), Dawn Jobe (Aramco).


Tech — Amazon Echo Dot, Amazon AWS (RDS, Lambda).

The team built Hutton, a cloud-based cognitive assistant for gaining more efficient, better insights from geologic data. Project includes integrated cloud-hosted database, interactive web application for uploading new data, and a cognitive assistant for voice queries. Hutton builds upon existing Amazon Alexa skills. Check out their GitHub repo, and slides.

Big data > Big Lore 

Licheng Zhang (CGG), Zhenzhen Zhong (CGG), Justin Gosses (Valador/NASA), Jonathan Parker (Marathon)

The team used machine learning to predict formation tops on wireline logs, which would allow for rapid generation of structure maps for exploration play evaluation, save man hours and assist in difficuly formation-top correlations. The team used the AER Athabasca open dataset of 2193 wells (yay, open data!).

Tech — Jupyter Notebooks, SciPy, scikit-learn. Repo on GitHub.

Free near surface


Tien-Huei Wang, Jing Wu, Clement Zhang (Schlumberger).

Multiples are a kind of undesired seismic signal and take expensive modeling to remove. The project used machine learning to identify multiples in seismic images. They attempted to use GAN frameworks, but found it difficult to formulate their problem, turning instead to the simpler problem of binary classification. Check out their slides.

Tech — CNN... I don't know the framework.

The Cowboyz

Mingliang Liu, Mohit Ayani, Xiaozheng Lang, Wei Wang (University of Wyoming), Vidal Gonzalez (Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela).

A tight group of researchers joined us from the University of Wyoming at Laramie, and snagged one of the most enthusiastic hackers at the event, a student from Venezuela called Vidal. The team attempted acceleration of geostatistical seismic inversion using TensorFlow, a central theme in Mingliang's research.

Tech — TensorFlow.


Altay Sensal (Geokinetics), Yan Zaretskiy (Aramco), Ben Lasscock (Geokinetics), Colin Sturm (Apache), Brendon Hall (Enthought).


Electrical submersible pumps (ESPs) are critical components for oil production. When they fail, they can cause significant down time. Augur.ai provides tools to analyze pump sensor data to predict when pumps when pump are behaving irregularly. Check out their presentation!

Tech — Amazon AWS EC2 and EFS, Plotly Dash, SigOpt, scikit-learn. Repo on GitHub.


The Disaster Masters

Joe Kington (Planet), Brendan Sullivan (Chevron), Matthew Bauer (CSM), Michael Harty (Oxy), Johnathan Fry (Chevron)

Hydrologic models predict floodplain flooding, but not local street flooding. Can we predict street flooding from LiDAR elevation data, conditioned with citizen-reported street and house flooding from U-Flood? Maybe! Check out their slides.

Tech — Python geospatial and machine learning stacks: rasterio, shapely, scipy.ndimage, scikit-learn. Repo on GitHub.

The structure does WHAT?!

Chris Ennen (White Oak), Nanne Hemstra (dGB Earth Sciences), Nate Suurmeyer (Shell), Jacob Foshee (Durwella).

Inspired by the concept of an iPhone 'face ageing' app, Nate recruited a team to poke at applying the concept to maps of the subsurface. Think of a simple map of a structural field early in its life, compared to how it looks after years of interpretation and drilling. Maybe we can preview the 'aged' appearance to help plan where best to drill next to reduce uncertainty!

Tech — OpendTect, Azure ML Studio, C#, self-boosting forest cluster. Repo on GitHub.

Thank you!

Massive thanks to our sponsors — including Pioneer Natural Resources — for their part in bringing the event to life! 


More thank-yous

Apart from the participants themselves, Evan and I benefitted from a team of technical support, mentors, and judges — huge thanks to all these folks:

  • The indefatigable David Holmes from Dell EMC. The man is a legend.
  • Andrea Cortis from Pioneer Natural Resources.
  • Francois Courteille and Issam Said of NVIDIA.
  • Carlos Castro, Sunny Sunkara, Dennis Cherian, Mike Lapidakis, Jit Biswas, and Rohan Mathews of Amazon AWS.
  • Maneesh Bhide and Steven Tartakovsky of SigOpt.
  • Dave Nichols and Aria Abubakar of Schlumberger.
  • Eric Jones from Enthought.
  • Emmanuel Gringarten from Paradigm.
  • Frances Buhay and Brendon Hall for help with catering and logistics.
  • The team at Station for accommodating us.
  • Frank's Pizza, Tacos-a-Go-Go, Cali Sandwich (banh mi), Abby's Cafe (bagels), and Freebird (burritos) for feeding us.

Finally, megathanks to Gram Ganssle, my Undersampled Radio co-host. Stalwart hack supporter and uber-fixer, Gram came over all the way from New Orleans to help teams make sense of deep learning architectures and generally smooth things over. We recorded an episode of UR at the hackathon, talking to Dawn Jobe, Joe Kington, and Colin Sturm about their respective projects. Check it out!

[Update, 29 Sep & 3 Nov] Some statistics from the event:

  • 39 participants, including 7 women (way too few, but better than 4 out of 63 in Paris)
  • 9 students (and 0 professors!).
  • 12 people from petroleum companies.
  • 18 people from service and technology companies, including 5 from Schlumberger!
  • 13 no-shows, not including folk who cancelled ahead of time; a bit frustrating because we had a long wait list.
  • Furthest travelled: James Lowell from Newcastle, UK — 7560 km!
  • 98 tacos, 67 burritos, 96 slices of pizza, 55 kolaches, and an untold number of banh mi.

Looking ahead to SEG


The SEG Annual Meeting is coming up. Next week sees the festival of geophysics return to the global energy capital, shaken and damp but undefeated after its recent battle with Hurricane Harvey. Even though Agile will not be at the meeting this year, I wanted to point out some highlights of the week.

The Annual Meeting

The meeting will be big, as usual: 108 talk sessions, and 50 poster and e-presentation sessions. I have no idea how many presentations we're talking about but suffice to say that there's a lot. Naturally, there's a machine learning session, with the following talks:

The Geophysics Hackathon

Even though we're not at the conference, we are in Houston this weekend — for the latest edition of the Geophysics Hackathon! The focus was set to be firmly on 'machine learning', but after the hurricane, we added the theme of 'disaster recovery and mitigation'. People are completely free to choose whatever project they'd like to work on; we'll be ready to help and advise on both topics. We also have some cool gear to play with: a Dell C4130 with 4 x NVIDIA P100s, NVIDIA Jetson TX1s, Amazon Echo Dots, and a Raspberry Shake. Many, many thanks to Dell EMC and Pioneer Natural Resources and all our other sponsors:


If you're one of the 70 or so people coming to this event, I'm looking forward to seeing you there... if you're not, then I'm looking forward to telling you all about it next week.

Petrel User Group


Jacob Foshee and Durwella are hosting a Petrel User Group meetup at The Dogwood, which is in midtown (not far from downtown). If you're a user of Petrel — power user or beginner, it doesn't matter — and you're interested in making the most of technology, it'd be good to see you there. Apart from anything else, you'll get to meet Jacob, who is one of those people with technology superpowers that you never know when you might need.

Rock Physics Reception

Tuesday If you've never been to the famous Rock Physics Reception, then you're missing out. It's your best shot at bumping into the luminaries of rock physics — Colin Sayers, Stefan Gelinsky, Per Avseth, Marco Perez, Bill Goodway, Tad Smith — you know the sort of thing. If the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning is Lamé's second parameter, RSVP right now. Hurry: there are only a handful of spots left.

There's more! Don't miss:

  • The Women's Network Breakfast on Wednesday.
  • The Wiki Committee meeting on Wednesday, 8:00 am, Hilton Room 344B.
  • If you're an SEG member, you can go to any committee meeting you like! Find one that matches your interests.

If you know of any other events, please drop them in the comments!


Newsflash: the Geophysics Hackathon is back!

Mark your calendar: 22–24 September (right before SEG), at a downtown Houston location to be confirmed.

We're filling the room with 50 geoscientists of all stripes. Interpreters, programmers, students, professionals... everyone is welcome. The plan: to imagine, design, and prototype some new tools in geophysics — all around the theme of machine learning. It's going to be awesome. 

The schedule: we'll get started at 6 pm on Friday 22 September, and go till 10 pm. Then we pick it up again on Saturday morning, and go till 6 pm, and the same again on Sunday. Teams will present a demo to everyone on Sunday after 3 pm. There will be a few prizes, a few drinks, lots of food, and a lot of new geophysical tools and widgets. 

If you want to know more about what a hackathon is, read my summary from the last one: Le grand hack! Or check out the project round-up posts, part 1 and part 2.

If you're not sure you belong, I promise that you do. One of the prize-winning teams in Paris had no coding experience! And every team needs help with brainstorming, design, testing, and presentation. Absolutely anyone can contribute, and absolutely everyone will learn something.

If you have some like-minded friends, bring them along! We need teams of 5 people, so if there are already 5 of you, you can start coding as soon as you walk in the door!

If you can't be there yourself, please share this post with someone you know.

When you're ready, click here to buy a ticket.

Thank you as always to our sponsors so far: Dell EMC and Amazon AWS. If you'd like to sponsor the Houston event, please check this page out, or just get in touch.