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Integrated Reservoir Characterization

The ultimate goal of any exploration and production (E&P) effort is to increase
hydrocarbon reserves while ensuring their efficient and economical recovery. Gaining
detailed knowledge of reservoir geometry, rock properties, and productive capacity is
the first step toward reservoir optimization.

Integrated reservoir characterization combines all geological, geophysical, and

engineering data pertinent to understanding fluid flow and reservoir behavior, and
uses the data to produce a 3D-earth model that can be used in all phases of field
development. In this way, it differs from traditional reservoir characterization
projects, which tend to focus on geologic and engineering analysis of proposed
enhanced recovery projects, as well as drilling, production engineering, and reservoir

Integrated reservoir characterization encompasses a wide range of technical

information (Figure 1 : Reservoir model created by combining information from
geological, geophysical, and engineering studies, modified from Beamer et al., 1998).

Figure 1
Geologic data comes from well logs, rock samples, outcrops, maps, cross sections,
stratigraphic studies, structural studies, geochemical studies, and petrophysical

Geophysical information may include gravity data, magnetic data, and seismic data,
as well as other types of data. Seismic data, in particular, encompasses a wide
spectrum of information from 2-D, 3-D, or 4-D surveys, plus vertical seismic profile
(VSP) studies, cross-well information, and seismic attribute analysis.

Engineering data includes petrophysical, well test, production/injection, pressure, and

fluid analysis information, as well as any relevant stress field and fracture data.

These data can be integrated to overcome the limitations inherent in any single data
domain. For example, 3-D seismic data can sample a large areal extent of a particular
reservoir, but it provides only limited vertical resolution. Core data on the other hand,
provides extremely fine vertical resolution, but samples only a minute portion of total
reservoir volume. However, correlating specific 3-D seismic attributes to important
core properties (porosity, for example) combines the advantages and minimizes the
disadvantages of both data types.

Integrated reservoir characterization is generally an interdisciplinary, interactive

team effort. A team is usually divided into three main disciplines: Geology,
Geophysics, and Engineering. Successful interaction among these disciplines
generally involves two approaches:

In the first approach, team members from each discipline integrate all pertinent data
and construct preliminary models. The team members then compare models with the
others, and refine, then integrate with models produced by the other disciplines.

The second approach integrates all data from an early stage and continually updates
and refines the result as more analyses are performed and more information is

These two approaches are each appropriate under different circumstances. Where
very little initial information exists, it may be easier to construct an integrated model
early, and then progressively update it as new data are acquired. For a field in which
large amounts of data are available, developing discipline-specific models as a first
stage effort may be the only practical way to ensure that all relevant information is

Integrated reservoir characterization results in a three-dimensional description of a

complex, heterogeneous volume of rock in the subsurface. No matter how concise
and numerically constrained the final model may be, it will always be an
approximation of the reservior. There are never enough data to fully represent the
details of reservoir structure and internal architecture; the precise lateral and vertical
distribution of rock and fluid properties; or the exact configuration of fluid pathways,
barriers, and contacts.

Integrated reservoir characterization produces an integrated earth model (sometimes

called a shared earth model) that is designed to describe the static and dynamic
factors that affect fluid flow (Beamer et al., 1998). Such a model is properly viewed
as a work in progress, open to improvement at any stage of its development. A
critical test of any model is to drill new wells or launch new (e.g. enhanced) recovery
programs. This in turn yields new data that reveal weaknesses in the existing
reservoir description. The new data can be then incorporated to refine the model.

At an early stage, the shared earth model should be accurate enough to support a
preliminary field development and management plan, reduce the number of
appraisal wells needed, optimize their locations, and determine specific data
requirements. The refined model incorporating these data should then be sufficient to
guide the actual drilling or recompletion program during the main phase of
development. Data from the development phase of activity will in turn be used to
further refine the model, so that during subsequent stages of production decline, the
unswept portions of the reservoir can be identified and the accuracy of reservoir
simulation can be enhanced.

Advances in software technology have greatly aided the process of building and
updating shared earth models. Such advances make it possible to integrate geologic,
geophysical, and engineering data in three dimensions at individual workstations
(Figure 2 : Complex,

Figure 2
interdisciplinary modeling of reservoir intervals was able to show the three-
dimensional distribution of sands having temperatures above a certain specified
limit, reflecting the influence of continued steamflooding; Ginger et al., 1995). This
development has helped to decrease the size of reservoir characterization teams
while greatly improving their efficiency. Commercial 3-D modeling software packages
commonly employ well log and seismic information as base data, which various
mapping algorithms and geostatistical procedures render into representations of
reservoir geometry, stratigraphy, structure, and rock property distribution.

Geostatistics has come to play an increasingly important role in estimating reservoir

property values at unsampled locations (Figure 3 : Geostatistical porosity cross
section through a carbonate mound reservoir, based on a 15-layer model; data
courtesy Tom Chidsey, Jr.).

Figure 3

More sophisticated capabilities for seismic data processing and "quick look" reservoir
simulation enable models to be built, tested, and refined on an ongoing, almost daily
basis. Research into these and other capabilities will inevitably open new
improvements for onscreen, digital reservoir characterization.

Improved 3-D software modeling, with the capability to rapidly synthesize vast
amounts of diverse data, plays an important role in the future of integrated reservoir
characterization (Uland et al., 1997; Beardsell et al., 1998). At the same time,
however, digital modeling - no matter how sophisticated - cannot reproduce the
subsurface exactly. Advances in computer technology have not eliminated the central
role of the interpreter. Many uncertainties exist in every case of data visualization,
because of frequent instances involving limited seismic markers, core data, well log
coverage, or well test information. In the end, integrated reservoir characterization
means creating the most accurate, useful earth model with the data available at any
particular stage of field development.