The predominant technical challenge of the upstream oil and gas industry has always been the fundamental uncertainty of the subsurface from which it produces hydrocarbon fluids. The subsurface can be detected remotely by, for example, seismic waves, or it can be penetrated and studied in the extremely limited vicinity of wells. Inevitably, a great deal of uncertainty remains. Computational sciences have been a key avenue to reduce and manage this uncertainty. In this review, we discuss at a relatively non-technical level the current state of three applications of computational sciences in the industry. The first of these is seismic imaging, which is currently being revolutionized by the emergence of full wavefield inversion, enabled by algorithmic advances and petascale computing. The second is reservoir simulation, also being advanced through the use of modern highly parallel computing architectures. Finally, we comment on the role of data analytics in the upstream industry.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Energy and the subsurface’.
One contribution of 12 to a theme issue ‘Energy and the subsurface’.
- Accepted April 5, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.