Total is counting on disruptive technologies to reduce the risks of extending exploration operations to areas rarely explored to date. Offering high performance and low environmental impacts, these technologies will enable us to generate surface and subsurface models of potentially high-value but hard-to-access areas, more quickly and more economically than ever before.
A head start on exploration in complex, high-potential areas
This R&D Program is mobilizing more than 50 scientists in France, in the United States and in collaborative teams that we have set up with our research partners. Their goal is to develop disruptive methodologies and technologies that will deliver ultrasound-quality 3D images of the sub- and near-surface.
Our drive for excellence is illustrated by our leadership or pioneering role in a research effort spanning the entire geophysics chain, from data acquisition to data processing and integration. This approach should lead to better imaging, identification and quantification of our exploration targets and reservoirs.
Our goals are simultaneously to:
- bolster and diversify our core expertise,
- design more efficient and effective geophysical scenarios and acquisition tools,
- integrate all of this multi-scale and multi-resolution data via multiphysics imaging, to output an integrated and quantitative 3D model of the surface and subsurface.
At stake here is our capacity to provide quality information quickly to our interpreters. They can then turn this data into a significant competitive edge by enabling us to better understand and extract value from currently under-explored complex mining provinces and hard-to-access acreage. Any headway we achieve on these challenging targets will have positive repercussions on both exploration and reservoir management in every strategic domain of the E&P portfolio.
Priority geographic areas
Our primary focus is on obtaining quantitative images of onshore and offshore zones that are structurally complex and in some cases difficult to reach due to topography or for environmental reasons:
- onshore areas such as foothills, a type of acreage that already features on our portfolio but is to date under-explored;
- transition areas between land and sea, with fragile ecosystems;
- deep offshore, particularly sub-salt prospects.
Three R&D Projects
The Earth Imaging R&D Program is divided into three R&D Projects dedicated to innovative techniques and configurations for acquiring, processing and imaging multiphysics data.
This Project aims to adapt existing airborne and spatial remote sensing technologies (i.e., hyperspectral, radar and LIDAR imaging) to oil and gas exploration, and develop new technologies as well. These innovations can contribute to a more efficient selection of areas of interest for exploration based on the detection of natural oil indicators (both onshore and offshore) and a more comprehensive knowledge of topography and near-surface geology.
Radar imaging is already in use as a remote sensing technique for offshore oil seeps, but we need further progress to improve its effectiveness and reliability for the detection of natural hydrocarbon indicators, particularly onshore. Indicators may be found on surface areas as small as a few square centimeters or decimeters; they may be direct (such as natural hydrocarbon seeps) or indirect (on vegetation or minerals at the Earth’s surface) and therefore require new techniques for acquiring, processing and interpreting the data.
When applied to the characterization of topography and near-surface geology, these remote sensing techniques will add value to our geophysical acquisitions by:
- enhancing maps of geological structures, even beneath dense plant cover
- allowing us to better tailor our acquisition systems to the type of soil
- optimizing seismic imaging through the detection and characterization of features of the surface geology that interfere with seismic acquisition and affect image quality
This Project aims to develop new acquisition methods that will drive a qualitative and quantitative leap forward in the imaging of foothills and land-sea transition zones.
Incremental R&D progress will not suffice, especially for foothills. This is why we are working on the development of Metis (Multiphysics Exploration Technology Integrated System), a disruptive innovation in the field of multiphysics acquisition that holds tremendous potential for exploration and development in hard-to-access onshore areas. Not only will Metis deliver high-quality 3D data in record time; it will also reduce the costs, operational risks and environmental footprint of our acquisition activities.
As for offshore areas, which also include transition zones, we are directing our efforts at curbing the environmental footprint of our acquisition operations while improving their productivity. A particular focus of our research is the development of the marine vibrator. This new-generation seismic source is an alternative to air guns and promises to deliver several advantages:
- no impact on the welfare or behavior of marine animals;
- feasibility of using several marine vibrators in simultaneous mode;
- feasibility of deployment in shallow waters.
Quantitative Seismic Imaging
The goal of this Project is to develop imaging tools and workflows that will enable us to take full advantage of progress achieved in acquisition to generate real-time quantitative images of the properties of our targets, even in complex zones. We are accomplishing that by developing methods, algorithms and tools that will:
- leverage all the information contained in the seismic traces by means of simultaneous inversion techniques for velocity and other parameters (density, anisotropy, attenuation);
- allow access to viscoelastic seismic wave propagation with acceptable computational times, by extracting value from elastic phenomena currently considered as noise;
- exceed the fundamental limits of seismic data by combining it with non-seismic data to generate multiphysics models;
- enable us to manage the uncertainty relating to estimated quantities.
Research & Development
The Driving Force Behind Total’s Competitiveness
Research & Development
Metis: an Integrated Aerial Acquisition System
The Andes' Foothills: an Authentic Technological Challenge