Seismic and Exploration

Count of technologies (Operators plans, total 884)

Accounting for 10% of the reported technologies, the activity level in geophysics and geology related technology reported by a range of different sized operators confirms the continued strategic importance of Seismic and Exploration to the UK oil and gas basin lifecycle and delivery of MER UK.

Operators technology focus (2020)

Bar Chart

Seismic and exploration (91)

Pie Chart


Operator focus and technology needs were analysed under three sub-categories as follows:-

Technology Sub-Categories
1.1 Geophysical acquisition
1.2 Processing and Imaging
1.3 Subsurface Modelling

Geophysical acquisition technology is being channelled to improve illumination of complex or challenging subsurface targets and reducing cost of acquisition.

Processing and imaging technologies make up the bulk of operators focus in this category as operators are seek to take full advantage of technology advances enabling acquisition of rich, wide spectrum, multi component marine and ocean bottom data sets. Significant focus on reprocessing of legacy seismic data sets using advanced processing workflows to improve imaging quality is also reported.

Building on the advances in acquisition, processing and imaging, digital technologies make a strong contribution to subsurface modelling which accounts for a third of reported technologies. Integration of multiple data sets and artificial intelligence are contributing to improved workflow efficiency and managing model uncertainty.  Using machine learning and advanced  visualisation, operators hope to unlock further insights to complex subsurface geology and reduce exploration cycle-time.

Transfer of advances in seismic and exploration technologies from the Oil and Gas sector have potential to make a significant contribution to the successful development of CO2 storage on the UKCS.


Further Information



Technology maturity (Operators plans)

In line with the general trend emerging from the survey, operators have become increasingly reliant on the use of existing technology solutions in Seismic and Exploration activities.

Vendor supplied technologies cover all reported acquisition solutions (e.g. ocean bottom seismic, broadband, repeatable 4D data) and provision of advanced processing techniques for re-processing legacy data, broadband seismic processing and imaging.

Subsurface modelling accounts for the bulk of technology at the early commercialisation stage, however, overall shrinkage in reported interest in technologies under development implies that either new technology concepts are not emerging fast enough to replace maturing technology and/or the demand does not exist.



Technology delivery (Operators plans)

The majority of technologies (58%) in the Exploration area are developed and supplied by specialist vendors which is consistent with the dependence by operators on existing technology solutions.

Joint industry projects (JIPs) play an important role (11%) with focus on academic research providing a foundation for the development of geological deposition system interpretation and modelling applications for Subsurface Modelling.

Operator participation in Net Zero Technology Centre programmes accounts for 10% of Seismic and Exploration technology solutions, predominantly focussed on the advancing the use of digital technology to Subsurface Modelling challenges using data science and visualisation capability.

Technology Sub-Categories

Geophysical acquisition

Focus is on continuously improving acquisition approaches (sampling density, frequency spectrum) resulting in enhanced imaging such as deeper imaging or fracture visualisation.  Alongside this, advances in newer technologies such as DAS VSP continues along with ongoing efforts in cost reductions of acquiring time lapse 3D seismic surveys.


Number of technologies by operator

Geophysical Acquisition

Technology maturity​

14 - Existing Technology
1   - Undefined

Application Exemplars​

Existing Technologies:
  • Ocean Bottom Nodes (OBNs) – The use of OBNs continues to grow in the North Sea with a number of operators such as Chrysaor, Total and Equinor utilising the technology. OBNs can provide significant uplift in data quality resulting in improved imaging of previously difficult to resolve features i.e. complex subsalt structures. OBNs have the added benefit of being able to be deployed in challenging survey area, such as around fixed infrastructure. As developers continue to work on improvements allowing for longer battery life and data transfer without node recovery, it is envisioned that OBNs will become more widely utilised and survey costs reduce further. 
  • Steerable Streamers – used to acquire high quality time-lapse seismic data by controlling the lateral and vertical movement of the streamers to offset the impact of sea conditions on cable tow path and reduce data noise from near surface artefacts. Apache utilised this technology to acquire 4D survey data over the Forties field to image oil and water movements within the reservoir and aid in locating infill drilling targets.
Emerging Technologies:
  • Distributed Acoustic Sensing Vertical Seismic Profiling (DAS VSP) - Utilising borehole Distributed Fibre Optic (DFO), DAS VSP has the potential to unlock the ability to acquire cheap and frequent “mini-4D” surveys in the future reducing the number of full monitor surveys required. BP are trialling this technology at Clair Ridge.

Processing and Imaging

Processing and imaging accounts for the majority of seismic and exploration technologies reported.  Focus on reprocessing existing seismic utilising techniques such as FWI, AVO and seismic dispersion aims to enhance imaging from legacy data.  The supply chain dominates the provision of software and workflow solutions in his area with a small number of Supermajors still reporting in-house capability.  Development of new algorithms is aiding in the reduction of noise and anomalous migration energy .  While there is heavy reliance on existing technology a number of operators  are utilising tools and techniques developed from industry-academia collaborations such as the ‘Full Wave Gamechanger’.


Number of technologies by operator

Processing and Imaging

Technology maturity​

34 - Existing Technology
  5 - Early Commercialisation
  2 - Late Development / Pilot
  1 - Early Development
  1 - Undefined

Application Exemplars​

Existing Technologies:
  • Blueback ODiSI – Cegal. ODiSI is a unique one dimensional seismic inversion method (originally developed by BP) which can be used to delineate the presence and lateral extent of a range of lithology types. Ithaca used this technology on PSTM data to generate mean rock property values and Enquest also successfully used the tool to adopt seismic lateral complexity in the reservoir models on Magnus and Kraken and it is now being transferred to other fields.
  • LWD high resolution acoustic imaging – Chrysaor successfully deployed LWD high-resolution acoustic imaging on Hawkins and Seymour Horst in 2019 which improved the quality of the data logging.
Emerging Technologies:
  • Geoteric Fault Mapping AI – Ithaca have used artificial intelligence to map faults within a seismic volume, generating faults sticks which can be further interrogated. Fault mapping AI results in faster turnaround seismic interpretation and structural model building and may help quantify risks associated with fault sealing potential.

Subsurface modeling

There is a greater proportion of new and emerging technologies represented in Subsurface Modelling than in the other two sub-categories.  These include digital technologies such as machine learning and virtual reality.   A good level of operator collaboration through JIPs and with academia is evident from support for analogue studies and research in subjects such as deepwater clastic depositional settings, formation pore pressure, turbidite systems and fluvial/aeolian succession.  Findings from all of these are integral to related subsurface model builds.


Number of technologies by operator

Subsurface Modelling

Technology maturity

11 - Existing Technology,
8 - Early Commercialisation,
4 - Late Development / Pilot,
2 - Early Development,
8 - Undefined

Application Exemplars​

Existing Technologies:
  • Poseidon 4D LTRO - A modelling software that uses machine learning to run history matching and locate the remaining oil using a 2D map based solution.  Shell employed this technology on the Nelson field (2019/2020), utilising it to help identify targets for an infill drilling.
  • Sim2Seis – A “close the loop” forward modelling technique used to generate synthetic seismic response from a static or dynamic reservoir model.  This technique is used to optimise target infill drilling locations, as was done by Enquest on Magnus. It can be applied to test the consistency of static or dynamic models with actual seismic data and also to study the impact of saturation change on seismic response.
Emerging Technologies:
  • Machine learning-based missed pay identification – This project is co-ordinated by the OTGC and utilises NNS well data donated from 9 Operators. Using machine learning algorithms, well data will be interrogated to identify missed pay zones (see case study)


Functional Categories


The technologies referred to in this report are for illustrative purposes only and other technologies may be available. The OGA does not directly or indirectly endorse, recommend or guarantee any entity, product or technology referred to in this report.