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Software to aid research on Earth's crust

Schlumberger Ltd., the leading provider of oil field services and technology to the international petroleum industry, has donated specialized software valued at $5 million to MIT.

The software, which is used in oil and gas exploration and production (E&P), will be installed in the new MIT Seismic Visualization Laboratory. Through the laboratory, MIT plans to expand its research activities in petroleum reservoir imaging and monitoring, borehole seismology and acoustics, environmental geophysics, geologic mapping and remote sensing.

The software will enable researchers and students to use three-dimensional seismic data, which offer the best high-resolution views of the internal structure of the Earth. "With this new technology, MIT will be in a position to analyze these large seismic volumes and other geophysical and geological data collected by the oil and gas companies that are not possible to view in detail without the appropriate software," said John Grotzinger, professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and director of the Earth Resources Laboratory at MIT

The Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL) studies and develops earth and fluid migration models of the planet's upper crust. The ERL's Seismic Visualization Laboratory will characterize and predict the structure and makeup of petroleum and groundwater reservoirs. By characterizing reservoirs, assessing uncertainties in reservoir models and simulating reservoir-forming processes, the ERL helps companies reduce production risks associated with reservoir exploration.

The gift, made through the Schlumberger worldwide university software program, was of software developed and marketed by GeoQuest, a Schlum-berger service segment, to selected colleges and universities. In addition to site licenses for the GeoQuest software, MIT will receive technical support to install the software and on-site training in its use. The Seismic Visualization Laboratory will be housed in the Green Building.

"Schlumberger has had a long association with MIT and we are pleased to reaffirm our commitment of support to MIT by providing this leading-edge software technology for teaching and research use," said Euan Baird, chairman and CEO of Schlumberger.

Professor Grotzinger expects the gift to allow MIT to enhance and expand its research initiatives with the petroleum industry. The new laboratory also will allow researchers in different fields to work together on reservoir science. The seismic laboratory will focus on studying the structure of the Earth based on data from seismic waves. Seismic data is used extensively in marine geological and geophysical studies, as well.

"This gift will facilitate new research and educational initiatives by helping our faculty and research staff in the Schools of Science and Engineering to work together to build common, three-dimensional earth models incorporating diverse data types. It also will support our joint program with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution by promoting interaction between colleagues at both institutions," said Chancellor Lawrence Bacow.

"The GeoQuest software provides us with the tools to integrate quantitative geological information into seismic data volumes in order to understand and predict the distribution of complex heterogeneities that control reservoir production," Professor Grotzinger said. "This donation gives us an opportunity to make important advances in this research direction."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 3, 1999.

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