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Case History 10

Value of Geophysics in the Production

of Bay Marchand Field
William L. Abriel, Chevron Energy Technology Company; William Haworth, Chevron North
America Exploration and Production Company

Introduction This is the story of how geophysics has helped Chevron produce more oil and gas from

Bay Marchand than from any other field in the Gulf of Mexico. From 1938 until today,
geophysics has had a measurable impact during discovery, delineation, development,
production, and revitalization of the geologically complex field. During this time, as geo
physical technology has become available it has been applied with largely successful
High-impact geophysical techniques applied to date and described in this paper include
gravity, refraction seismic, 2-D reflection seismic, 3-D production seismic, high-resolution
3-D seismic, and time-lapse seismic (4-D). Additional applications of high-end geophysical
techniques include inversion, AVO, shear-wave seismic, prestack time imaging, and depth
imaging. The interest in and ability to use so many of the geophysical tools of the industry
are due to both the geologic complexity of the field and the fortunate conditions of being
in a generally good seismic-data area.
The role of these geophysical techniques is documented, and their impact is measured
throughout the life of the field. Not only were the initial discovery and development
supported by geophysics, but after production maturity and decline, geophysics had a
primary role in the revitalization of the field and substantially extended the production
life, which continues today.
A much shorter case history of Bay Marchand field was included in earlier editions of
this book and also published as Abriel et al. (1991). This case history is a considerable
expansion, starting earlier and finishing later in the fields history.

Geologic Setting

Bay Marchand field is a complexly faulted salt dome (Frey and Grimes, 1970) along the
northern edge of the Gulf of Mexico shelf (Figure 14-10-1). The field is characterized by a
number of structural and stratigraphic traps (Figure 14-10-2). As the dome was emplaced
and altered during geologic history, major and minor faults both provided pathways for
hydrocarbon migration and also provided traps for accumulation. Proximity to the salt
and its history of movement also have had a substantial impact on the sedimentation of
marine regressive sand reservoirs and associated sealing shales.
The field has produced from more than 50 sands, ranging in age from Pleistocene
to middle Miocene, and from depths of 1000 ft to over 15,000 ft (3004600 m) subsea.
The complexity of faulting, along with stratigraphic variation and the large number of
productive sands, resulted in more than 500 individual combination traps with varying
fluids, pressures, and production characteristics. This situation has resulted in the drilling
of more than 1200 production wells from 1950 to today each targeted to a specific
development or enhanced-recovery concept.
As with geophysical technology, reservoir management and drilling engineering
technologies have addressed the geologically complex field, and have consistently
been improved and applied to maximize production value. Production advances from
waterflooding to horizontal drilling were applied as they developed in the industry. The
application of geophysics to the field has directly supported these production-engineering
activities by addressing answers to the issues of geologic complexity.


In the initial exploration phase of the United States Gulf Coast, gravity data were an
important tool in oil exploration, as they provided a primary method of locating large salt

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domes expected to act as collecting areas for oil and gas. Bay Marchand salt dome was
initially recognized by this method in the late 1920s, as were many other large domes
along the south Louisiana coast (Figure 14-10-3). At that time drilling onshore was the
only option, and Gulf Oil Company attempted this on the northern salt flank in 1930.
Unfortunately, they were not successful in discovering hydrocarbons.
But not being discouraged by this, other companies drilled an additional nine dry holes
onshore over the next ten years in search of oil. And one additional well had even been
attempted with new technology offshore drilling. Gulf was there first at the very top
of the salt dome and in 1941 found an uneconomic accumulation with 25 feet of gas in the
PP-1 well (Figure 14-10-4). Chevron (then Calco) conducted a reflection seismic survey
and acquired more than 25,000 leased acres in 1947 and 1948. Utilizing the new reflection
seismic and an existing refraction survey, they proposed three wells in September 1948.
The first well (A-1) encountered salt near the crest of the dome and was a dry hole.
The B-1 and C-1 follow-up wells were designed to test opposite flanks of the dome and
were drilled simultaneously. Both were successful. The B-1 well, the 13th exploratory well
in the area, was credited as the discovery well and was completed as an oil producer from
a depth of 2,8732,892 ft in March 1949 (Figure 14-10-4). After 19 years of exploration, the
giant Bay Marchand field came into existence.
Immediately after the fields discovery, exploitation proceeded with the installation
of three development platforms that had a total of 12 directional wells (Figure 14-10-5).
The first platform installed was made of wood and remained in production for decades.
The other platforms employed a new facilities concept iron legs and an iron deck. All
of this was accomplished by 1951, when production was initiated and further delineation
was planned.
To support this additional delineation program, a more extensive refraction program
was acquired to map the position of the salt-sediment interface, as proximity to salt was
considered to be the key to oil accumulation. The A-1 well, which had penetrated salt,
was used for a refraction survey in 1950. The well site was used as a position for dynamite
shotpoints, and receivers were deployed extensively over the ocean bottom and above the
dome (Figure 14-10-6). Seismic traveltimes from the shots were carefully measured, and
the seismic waves that traveled through salt and along the salt-sediment interface were
plotted in depth. The interpretation of the refraction data produced a detailed salt contour
map in 1951 (Figure 14-10-7). This map is the first complete representation of the dome
and rather closely resembles what we know today. Of special note is the identification of
a salt overhang on the east flank a concept that was lost in the 1960s only to reemerge
again in the late 1980s.


During the aggressive development of the field in the 1950s, early delineation focused
on the reserves located near the crest of the dome. Over time, delineation proceeded
down the flank of salt and resulted in finding additional reserves in both the north and
east flanks (Figure 14-10-8). Production geology was the foundation of this development
effort, with correlation of well logs as the critical subsurface data. What existed between
wells was estimated on the basis of geologic models and imagination.
Delineation and development proceeded even farther down the flanks in the
1960s, extending production to the east and south (Figure 14-10-9). At that time,
more expensive drilling of deeper reservoirs was supported by limited 2-D seismic
reflection data. Those seismic data were good at predicting large faults and general
dip rates but lacked the appropriate resolution to handle stratigraphic information.
By the late 1960s the field reached its greatest development activity, having more
than 800 wells, and was at its historical peak (Figure 14-10-10). The majority of
development effort was done with geologic imagination and widespread drilling
in just about every corner imaginable. There didnt seem to be much space left for
finding new significant reserves.


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Field Maturity

Peak production for the field (80,000 BOPD & 84 MMCFG/D) occurred in 1967. By the
1970s, production went into decline (Figure 14-10-10). That decline occurred despite the
initiation of waterflooding and pressure maintenance in a number of the larger reservoirs
on the east flank of the field. It was at that time that 2-D seismic reflection data began to
significantly influence the geologic thinking about the field. With the advent of digital
processing, seismic sections improved enough that they were used more commonly for
structural analysis. In addition, the ability to preserve amplitude information was beneficial
in the recognition of some stratigraphic attributes of the subsurface (Figure 14-10-11). With
proper amplitude analysis, the direct detection of some hydrocarbons (especially gas) was
also possible.
Two-D seismic data became a good tool for providing new subsurface information.
With the geologic complexity of the field, valuable information was needed between the
already close well interval, and seismic data provided the tool to show the inter-well
geology. An extensive grid of 2-D seismic data was acquired (1) to support structural
and stratigraphic models for the enhanced recovery, (2) to help locate production and
injection wells, and (3) perhaps to find hidden reserves (Figure 14-10-12). Drilling during
this period was less frequent than in prior decades and was targeted at potential new
accumulations or specific wells needed to fine-tune production (Figure 14-10-13).

For Sale The

Largest Oil Field
in the Gulf
of Mexico

By 1984, production was in significant decline to the extent that Chevron reluctantly
began the process of putting the field up for sale. Two-D seismic data had been acquired
over most of the field, and apparently there werent many places left to develop. After
all, what more could be learned about such an extensively drilled asset? It was clear that
the field was rapidly becoming uneconomic despite the use of enhanced oil recovery
techniques and the best geology and geophysics available. It was time to get out.
But wait. A new technology was emerging that showed significant promise in
subsurface geology 3-D seismic data. Exploration in the Gulf of Mexico was undergoing
an exciting new era in the early 1980s as structure and stratigraphy were being revealed
in 3-D cubes with reflections accurately placed in their correct position. Old maps were
being revised, and new plays were coming to light. Some geologic rules of thumb were
being abandoned as the 3-D observations were coming in. What were the odds that this
could impact an asset like Bay Marchand? Would new geology be revealed? Geophysicists
certainly thought so, and the field management approved a project to acquire the first full
field-scale 3-D seismic data specifically designed to support production.
If the 3-D survey was to be cost effective, it would have to have very significant impact.
The price of acquisition and processing was the equivalent of ten new production wells,
or approximately the entire years drilling program. The seismic acquisition might not
interfere with present production practices, but it would significantly delay much-needed
production additions. A planned drilling program of 12 wells was put on hold pending
the outcome of the survey, and the cash marked for those wells was moved to the seismic
budget for acquisition of 3-D, which commenced in 1986.

The 1986 3-D

Seismic Project

The decision to acquire 3-D seismic data was based on anticipated success from three
primary objectives:
I ncrease reserves by delineating new reservoirs in structural and stratigraphic traps.
Increase production by identifying additional production-well locations in existing
Enhance reservoir management through the unification of geology, geophysics, and
reservoir engineering, thus obtaining better models for reservoir simulation and
optimizing the location of water-injection wells for enhanced oil recovery.
In order to obtain a data set with exceptional quality, acquisition design objectives
were set to cover the entire survey area with 60-fold data on a 55-ft-square bin. This was

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accomplished with Westerns Digiseis telemetry receivers and a recording ship equipped
with a marine air-gun source. The geometry pattern was set with rows of hydrophone
receivers placed at the seafloor every 220 ft (67 m) (Figure 14-10-14). Two rows were
placed 880 ft apart. Air-gun sources were fired in a grid 110 ft inline and 220 ft crossline,
resulting in subsurface bins of nearly identical offset and azimuth.
Although this design was attractive from a geophysical standpoint, it required
significant effort to obtain because the field contained 114 production platforms, two
major consortium pipelines, plus countless subsea production flow lines, power cables,
and support systems (Figure 14-10-15). Westerns outstanding acquisition team provided
perfect coverage of the field by placing receivers under platforms or swapping shots
and receivers. Every bin in the survey had exactly the same fold offset and azimuth
distribution to cover the 60-sq-mi (155 sq km) survey.
Three-D seismic data for the Bay Marchand field had a major impact. With the ability Impact of 3-D
to image the reservoirs between wells, the original objectives of the survey were met, and Seismic Data
production increased significantly.
Most of the salt dome was covered in the acquisition. An example seismic line over
the top illustrated the very sharp and even angular nature of the salt-sediment interface
(Figure 14-10-16). For the first time, both large- and small-scale faults could be accurately
located and subtle details of stratigraphy inferred from amplitude changes on reflections.
And because the data are represented in a cube, time and horizon slices could be
analyzed. Surprising structural relations were revealed, such as the complex faulting
of the salt dome and the horizontal sharp corners of the salt where faults intersected
(Figure 14-10-17).
Recognition of the potential of this new information made it clear that the prior
proposed drilling program was not well positioned, and that program was recycled so
that new drilling opportunities could go forward. Over the next two years, twenty-three
new production wells were located and drilled on the basis of the concepts revealed by
the 3-D seismic data. All twenty-three wells were a success, and the new reserves were
put into the production stream.
Some new reserves revealed by the 3-D seismic data were related to the identification
of new fault blocks. Even in a densely drilled field with more than 800 wells, there was
room to find untapped oil and gas. An example of this was the drilling of infill well #40.
The producing interval was penetrated by numerous wells (Figure 14-10-18), and yet
there was room for one more. A time slice showing the salt-sediment interface revealed
an unknown embayment holding potential reserves (Figure 14-10-19). A new well was
planned to drill into the embayment where high-amplitude reflectors suggested the
presence of oil and gas that were not being produced (Figure 14-10-20). The well found
both oil and gas in this structural embayment (Figure 14-10-21).
New structural information began to come to light in many places over the field. An
example on the east flank is a case in point. A map of the producing reservoir (Figure 1410-22) had been constructed from 40 well correlations and 2-D seismic data shot on a grid
of 2000 ft. The fault intersections, log correlations, fluids, and pressure were all employed
to map out areas of gas, oil, water, reservoir shale-outs, and new potential. However,
when the 3-D seismic data were employed using the same well and engineering
information, a new map of the reservoir showed a significantly different picture (Figure
14-10-23). Fault locations and sense of motion were changed. This opened opportunities
to find undrilled reserves, and three new successful wells were immediately drilled on
this new interpretation.
Additional reserves were uncovered by the recognition of stratigraphy from seismic
data. For the first time, seismic amplitude measurements were found to be trustworthy
enough to directly map reservoirs. Seismic sections such as Figure 14-10-24 revealed
both subtle and dramatic changes in amplitude. But when the seismic horizons were
picked and then represented in map view, the geology became apparent from the horizon
slice (Figure 14-10-25). With this powerful tool, it was possible to search for bypassed
stratigraphic traps.
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An example of using seismic amplitude for understanding the impact of stratigraphy

on field production is provided by a sandstone reservoir on the west flank. Several wells
had penetrated the reservoir, which was producing oil. Some stratigraphic complications
were recognized, such as a local shale-out and several permeability barriers, on the basis
of production history and pressure measurements (Figure 14-10-26). The horizon slice
from the seismic data (Figure 14-10-27) clearly revealed the location of quality reservoir
sands that were not being produced, and subsequent drilling brought these areas under
production. Later, the smaller amplitudes to the south were successfully drilled as well,
and those reservoirs were developed.
As illustrated in the previous examples, the 3-D seismic data directly detected new
fault blocks and bypassed reserves. In addition, the seismic data also played a role in
reservoir management through reservoir characterization. The key parameters that
seismic data provided were reservoir and aquifer structure, gross interval thickness,
porosity, net pay, and the location of original fluid contacts. An example of this is shown
in the characterization study of the FX reservoir as a potential waterflood candidate.
Although the reservoir was never waterflooded, the characterization study is an excellent
example of the impact that seismic data can have on reservoir modeling.
The FX reservoir had two oil-producing wells, numbers 24 and 25 (Figure 14-10-28).
In addition, the reservoir was penetrated by a downdip well in the aquifer and an updip
well that was shaled out (Figure 14-10-29). Production and pressure decline suggested
that the oil system would be closed. A reservoir characterization was performed using
seismic data support and compared with a characterization using only the well data.
The characterization using the seismic data showed the potential for an additional 26%
cumulative production over that of the model using only well data.
Three-D seismic data amplitudes of the 8200 sand show strong reservoir heterogeneity
(Figure 14-10-30). The high-amplitude reflections of the top (red) and base (blue)
of the unit extend well below the oil-water contact and thus are not a function of
oil saturation but instead of reservoir porosity. The horizon slice of the reservoir
reflectors (compensated for tuning) (Figure 14-10-31) shows that wells G-3, 24, and 25
lie approximately within the yellow reflection response. The porosity-thickness of the
three wells is also similar. Using only the well data, the reservoir would appear to be of
constant thickness and homogeneous in porosity, with local updip shale-out at well 27.
However, when we view the seismic response on the horizon slice, we can see some very
high-amplitude areas between the wells, which indicates thick and porous reservoir not
seen in the well control. A net-sand map generated from the horizon amplitudes and time
thickness shows the inter-well thicks and thins (Figure 14-10-32).
The net-sand map is a fundamental element of the volumetric calculations of the
reservoir. The total oil volume can now be calculated and the amount produced
subtracted to calculate the remaining oil potential. If the pressure history is then taken
into account, it can be estimated that only about one-third of the total oil recovery is
possible without pressure support. Thus, two reservoir simulations were run to estimate
and predict the effect of injecting water into well G-3. One simulation was done from a
characterization using only well parameters, and a separate and more heterogeneous
one using parameters from seismic attributes (Figure 14-10-33). The resulting predictions
of oil production at well 25 (Figure 14-10-34) show more than 28% greater oil recovery
anticipated from the reservoir, if the seismic characterization is correct.
From the examples shown above, it can be seen that the 3-D seismic data were
successful in meeting the primary objectives of finding new reserves, optimizing new
producer and injector locations, and supporting reservoir characterization and reservoir
management. An additional benefit of the 3-D seismic data was the ability to support
the new drilling concept of horizontal wells, which were able to increase production
rates per well. As a result of the new geologic information provided from the 3-D
seismic data, an aggressive program was initiated to increase production. The successful
production increase has significantly added to the value of the Bay Marchand field and
has revitalized production (Figure 14-10-35).
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The 1986 3-D survey covered a great deal of the Bay Marchand field, but additional
areas needed more complete coverage. With the impact of 3-D seismic data well proven,
additional 3-D seismic data acquisition continued in order to extend the coverage to
the entire field. A west-flank survey was acquired to identify bypassed oil and provide
resolution of thin-bed stratigraphy. A north-flank extension was acquired in 1998. This
survey included data acquired in the onshore area merged with the offshore data. Again,
those data provided indication of new fault blocks and bypassed reserves. As time
progressed, service companies had acquired several speculative 3-D surveys that covered
different portions of the field (Figure 14-10-36), and a decision was made to attempt to
merge these into one consistent data set.
Merging was not a simple task, given the number of differences in the surveys. Sources
were different, receivers used were both marine-streamer and ocean-bottom hydrophone
receivers, and different recording systems were used as well. Stacks of the seismic data
did not match (Figure 14-10-37), and significant cross-equalization in processing was
required. Unmigrated gathers were used as input, requiring time, phase, and amplitude
matching. The result of merging surveys (Figure 14-10-38) provided a much better
regional picture of the geology. Fine-scale faulting was revealed, and further prospecting
was enabled at the field edges. An additional benefit of survey merging was preparation
of the data for 3-D prestack time and depth migration. And because there is overlap in
space and time, the data could be used for time-lapse seismic analysis.

Further 3-D

The 1986 3-D seismic survey prompted a review of most reservoirs that showed seismic
response. Amplitude data from horizon slices were prime attributes for analysis, and
many new stratigraphic views of the reservoirs were revealed, resulting in the location of
bypassed fault blocks and stratigraphic traps. But at times, the seismic data did not fit the
known stratigraphic model and suggested the detection of oil movement (Figure 14-1039).
Oil bright-spot analysis was not common in 1986, and the suggestion that producing
water fronts could be seen with seismic data was received with great skepticism. And
yet, the data were of excellent quality and no other good explanation fitted all the
observations. Gradually the concept was accepted, and engineering models began to
take into account the seismic response. This led to identification of bypassed oil and
recognition of significant geologic heterogeneity.
Mapping oil movement with seismic acquired at time intervals (4-D) was considered
to be possible for some reservoirs in Bay Marchand, and a project was initiated. Key
elements in the work included (1) petrophysical studies to determine strength of seismic
signal from water movement, (2) reservoir characterization sufficient to support a 4-D
seismic response, (3) forward seismic modeling for acquisition and processing parameters,
and (4) selection of an acquisition technique to provide time-lapse data.
Petrophysical modeling showed favorable characteristics for 4-D seismic reservoir
monitoring. Data from wells logged before and after production are appropriate data
from which to make predictions and show that at times, the seismic response from
oil production in Bay Marchand can be very dramatic. Because some reservoir sands
are much lower in density than the encasing shales, they generate good reflection
characteristics even when they are water wet (Figure 14-10-40). With the introduction
of oil containing dissolved gas, velocity decreases significantly, creating an even higher
impedance contrast (reflection coefficient), and an oil bright spot is formed. Then when
that oil is depleted because of oil production and the voids are replaced with water, as is
the case in strong water-drive reservoirs, the reservoir velocity decreases significantly and
produces a large dimming of the amplitude in the water-swept areas.
In order to support reservoir monitoring from seismic data, a reservoir characterization
was initiated in 1995. Its purpose was to compute the oil flow from reservoir simulation,
forward model the seismic response to generate synthetic 4-D data, and then
compare those data with 4-D seismic data actually acquired. To build the reservoir

Time-lapse Seismic

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characterizations, a team of geologists, geophysicists, and reservoir engineers from the

Gulf of Mexico Business Unit and the Chevron Energy Technology Company (ETC) was
assembled to build appropriately complex geologic models using well data, seismic data,
and geostatistics. This team leveraged the detailed knowledge of the field possessed by
the Gulf of Mexico personnel with the understanding of the new technology by ETC
representatives. The procedures developed by the team have carried over into Chevrons
reservoir-characterization work flows today. Within the reservoir characterizations, earth
properties for seismic modeling were assigned and forward geophysical modeling was
Forward modeling showed that a suitable seismic signature should be seen in 1996,
ten years after acquisition of the first 3-D seismic survey. Acquisition of a monitoring 3-D
survey began, with the intent to bury hydrophones in a semipermanent installation for
repeat surveys over several years. The mechanics of this proved to be more difficult than
anticipated, due to the highly mobile and unstable nature of the ocean bottom. Like many
similar projects of that time, permanent sensor installation was not a success. Two years
later, in 1998, a marine streamer 3-D was acquired by Geco over part of the field, and then
4-D seismic observations could be made.
The initial Bay Marchand 3-D seismic survey was not designed to be a base for later
4-D observations, and that created difficulties in making interpretations of time-lapse
seismic effects. In some areas the data required time shifts, amplitude balancing, and
phase corrections. But in many areas, a direct comparison of horizon slices from the
different surveys provided insight into current reservoir conditions, water movement,
and remaining hydrocarbon potential. Two examples are shown of water movement
in the reservoirs during oil production. Both show heterogeneous sweep and bypassed
oil potential. New drilling and completions then added to both the reserves and the
production, as is shown in the following two examples.
The first example considers a fault block under oil production. The horizon slice of the
reservoir from the 1986 3-D survey showed high amplitude remaining where wells A,
B, and C are producing oil (Figure 14-10-41, top panel). An additional observation well
(D) was full of oil in 1986. However, repeat cased-hole logging showed that by 1999, the
reservoir was swept significantly, and the water level in the well had risen. By 1999, the
three producing wells also were making significant water and not enough oil (Behrens
et al., 2001). A second 3-D seismic survey, in 1998, showed the seismic response to be
consistent with water encroachment in the wells (Figure 14-10-41, bottom panel). The
high-amplitude area revealing unproduced oil indicated that producers were drawing
up the water front in this relatively low-gravity oil. However, the new survey also
showed a high-amplitude area directly between wells, suggesting uneven reservoir
sweep and bypassed reserves. Follow-up drilling by Chevron proved that to be a correct
interpretation and led to completion of an additional horizontal development well, which
added good production rates to the field.
A similar but more complex result was observed in clastics at the deeper 7600-ft level.
The repeat survey showed the oil sweep to be very uneven because of low-gravity oil
plus the vertical and horizontal variability of reservoir facies (Figure 14-10-42). From 1986
through 1998, wells G, H, and I produced significant volumes of oil. Wells G and H were
making significant water cuts by 1998, and well I had watered out completely. Again, the
second seismic survey revealed bypassed oil reserves. Infill wells were drilled by Chevron
and Energy Partners Ltd. in all three high-amplitude zones of the 1998 survey, proving
bypassed reserves. Two were then put on stream, adding to production.

Advances in seismic technology have opened the door to new opportunities in the
Geophysics understanding of geologic complexity for Bay Marchand. As an example, the legacy
1986 3-D data and the later 3-D seismic surveys were subjected to advanced inversion
technology. The objective of such technology is to remove the wavelet from the seismic to
reduce interference effects. With increased resolution from wavelet removal, the seismic
data revealed previously unrecognized boundaries caused by horizontal stratigraphic

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changes, especially in the predominantly deltaic environment of the majority of the fields
reservoirs (Figure 14-10-43). This resulted in recognition of additional reserves in the field
as stratigraphic traps and pinchouts, and in revelation of additional shallow reserves at
the top of the field, known as attic plays.
Following the success of higher resolution from inversion, more attention was directed
to specialty acquisition for stratigraphic information. In 2004 and 2005, Bay Marchand
was the site of the first commercial-production use of the VectorSeis Ocean Bottom Cable
(OBC) acquisition using MEMS technology. MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) is
the integration of mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics on a common
silicon substrate through microfabrication technology (Figure 14-10-44). A positive
indication was obtained from a value-of-information study (VOI) for ultra-sensitive
recording at very high frequency, and from the recording of traditional acoustic waves
plus additional recording of shear waves. New seismic data were acquired by GXT (ION)
targeted solely at shallow reserves which had been obscured by imaging problems at the
top of the salt dome.
The top of the Bay Marchand field is the site of historical and present-day expulsion of
hydrocarbon fluids. The chimney of mobile hydrocarbon fluids invades lower-pressure
geologic formations, and near the surface this includes silty and shaly lithologies as well
as sands, resulting in a mlange of unstratified reflectors as seen by compressional (P)waves (Figure 14-10-45a). Worldwide cases of shear (S)-wave recordings show that they
can result in successfully imaging the subsurface where P-waves have failed, because Swaves respond more to the rock matrix than to the fluids or gas.
A limited acquisition trial was conducted to image through the chimney at the top
of the salt dome and also to obtain higher frequency on the adjacent flanks. Spatial
acquisition sampling was approximately three times denser (12.5 x 6.3-m bins) than in the
legacy survey. The result was excellent P-wave data (Figure 14-10-45b). Far better fault
definition and a consistent structural interpretation were now possible over portions of
the area, and a valid top-salt reflection was revealed. Valid amplitude information showed
the character of stratigraphic changes horizontally, and it was possible to detect the
presence of gas migrating up specific faults. Unfortunately, the S-wave imaging has not
been successful, due to difficulties in near-surface sampling density and the uncertainty in
Vp/Vs ratios.
There are geophysical technologies that have not yet been applied to the field. Examples
of these include seabed electromagnetic surveying, cross-borehole seismic and/or
electromagnetics, and multi-azimuth seismic, among others. Bay Marchand geoscientists
and reservoir engineers continually stay abreast of the potential for technology application
and have the interest and support of the greater Chevron technology network. As good
geophysical proposals are considered, they are subjected to review from value-ofinformation (VOI) analysis. This is appropriate, as geophysics is an expense and provides
subsurface information it does not produce oil!
New geophysical initiatives moving forward today include technologies that have
succeeded elsewhere and appear to have application in Bay Marchand. Measuring
amplitude variation at different angles of reflection (amplitude variation with offset, or
AVO) provides another measure of earth properties that can reveal additional changes in
stratigraphy and/or fluids. In 2006, a combined 3-D prestack data set was processed for
advanced AVO analysis and is just now being evaluated. Initial results are promising, as
yet further delineation and development prospects are emerging.
Finally, Bay Marchand holds at least one more deep secret. The field has been
delineated, developed, and produced from sands on the top of the dome and on the flanks
of the salt body, but there is also untested potential below the salt (Figure 14-10-46). As
is the case with many salt bodies in the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay Marchand dome may
hold reserves in traps that can only be visualized after depth migration, because imaging
becomes confused below complex salt bodies. As of this writing, a merged 3-D prestack
depth migration has been performed and the results are being evaluated (Figure 14-10-47).

What Else Can One

Possibly Do Here
With Geophysics?

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Part of the reason why seismic data clearly add high value in the Bay Marchand field
is a combination of geologic complexity, a large number of producing reservoirs, and the
usually favorable rock physics. With hundreds of reservoirs and more than 1200 wells
drilled, the chances of seeing good conditions for seismic response are high. It should not
be expected that all reservoirs in the field or similar reservoirs worldwide will respond
quite so well. Many of the reservoirs in Bay Marchand are difficult to image or do not
have favorable acoustic characteristics. What is true, however, is that the majority of
significant seismic technologies of the past 80 years have been successfully applied to the
field. In every case the geophysical investment has been found to be worthwhile, and the
impact on production and value creation have been directly measurable.
Bay Marchand is the field that has produced the most oil in the Gulf of Mexico for
Chevron. It is also the field that has produced a great number of geophysical-technology
advances. Geophysics supported the field discovery, delineation, and production. Perhaps
more importantly, geophysics was directly involved in the revitalization of an extensively
drilled and seemingly exhausted resource. Production decline was reversed and then
sustained with seismic-technology advances in support of geologic interpretation and
high-quality reservoir management. Bay Marchand stands out as an example of wise
application of advanced technology to manage the hard-won subsurface assets of the
petroleum industry. Every field deserves to be well operated, and seismic data can clearly
play a role in that effort.


The authors wish to thank the management of Chevron North America Exploration and
Production, and of Chevron Energy Technology Company, for permission to publish this
work, and the management of WesternGeco and GX Technology for permission to show
the seismic data. The authors also wish to thank the current and former members of the
Bay Marchand Asset Team for their contributions to the development of this extraordinary
field. Special thanks go to Abby Hymel, Torin Edwards, and Philip Richardson for their
assistance in reviewing the paper and providing examples.

References Abriel, W. L., P. S. Neale, J. S. Tissue, and R. M. Wright, 1991, Modern technology in an

old area Bay Marchand revisited: The Leading Edge, v. 10, no. 6, p. 2135.
Behrens, R., P. Condon, W. Haworth, M. Bergeron, Z. Wang, and C. Ecker, 2001, 4-D
seismic monitoring of water influx at Bay Marchand: The practical use of 4-D seismic
in an imperfect world: SPE paper 71329.
Frey, M. G., and W. H. Grimes, 1970, Bay Marchand-Timbalier Bay-Caillou Island salt
complex, Louisiana, in M. T. Halbouty, ed., Geology of giant petroleum fields: AAPG
Memoir 14, p. 277291.

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Fig. 14-10-1. The Bay
Marchand field is located
a few kilometers south of
the Louisiana coast in the
Gulf of Mexico.

Fig. 14-10-2. A cross

section of the Bay
Marchand field. The field
comprises many different
accumulations of oil and
gas in different types
of traps. Most traps are
combinations of structure
and stratigraphy.

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Fig. 14-10-3. The field lies in a structural trend characterized
by deep- seated salt piercement domes (a). Early in the
exploration phase, this structural trend was recognized from
gravity data (b).

Fig. 14-10-4. The

discovery in 1949
was preceded by
twelve unsuccessful
exploratory wells.

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Fig. 14-10-5. Immediately after
the discovery, three platforms
were installed over the center of
the salt dome. Directional wells
were drilled from the platforms
to develop and produce the
discovered oil and gas.


Fig. 14-10-6. Immediately after discovery, the

depth and extent of the salt dome were confirmed
by refraction seismic data. An exploration well
was used as a source location at the center, and
receivers were placed on the ocean floor in a
spoke and wheel pattern (a). The time recordings
of the refracted waves from the salt surface were
used to map the location of the dome (b).

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Fig. 14-10-7. Structure of top salt
from the detailed refraction survey
of 1950. The accuracy of this map
has been confirmed after more than
fifty years of drilling and hundreds
of well penetrations. A salt overhang
on the east flank was correctly
recognized and was confirmed in
later years with reflection seismic







SCALE 1=2000
AUGUST, 1950
APRIL 6, 1951

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Fig. 14-10-8. During the
1950s, many platforms
were installed northwest
and southeast of the
center of the dome. A
large number of structural
and stratigraphic
accumulations were

Fig. 14-10-9. During

the 1960s, further
development proceeded
down the flank of the

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Fig. 14-10-10. The daily production of the
field reached more than 80,000 barrels of
oil per day in the 1960s. During the next
decade, in the 1970s, daily production
went into significant decline.

Fig. 14-10-11. Reflection seismic data and digital processing in

the 1970s offered a substantial technological breakthrough. Using
this type of data, it was possible to accurately interpolate structure
between wells on the seismic profiles. In addition, reflection patterns
and amplitudes were used to predict stratigraphic trends.

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Fig. 14-10-12. In the
1970s, 2-D seismic
reflection data were
acquired on an
approximately 500-m
spacing, to support
development and
production of the field.

Fig. 14-10-13. 2-D seismic

reflection data were used
to support specific infill
development wells and
waterflood projects.

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Fig. 14-10-14. In 1986, a
3-D seismic survey was
conducted to cover the
field for development
and production support.
Individual receivers were
placed on the ocean floor
at 220-foot intervals in two
lines spaced 880 feet apart
(a). Airgun sources were
fired at 110-foot intervals
along line. When it was
not possible to position
the source boat at the
planned surface location,
due to production facilities,
placement of sources and
receivers was switched (b).
The acquisition of the data
provided perfect coverage
for every subsurface point
in the field.



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Fig. 14-10-15. Acquisition
of the 3-D data was
complicated by numerous
surface obstacles, which
included over 100 platforms,
two major transport pipeline
systems, collection and
distribution pipelines, and
high-voltage power systems.
Operation of the oil field
was not interrupted and no
damage was sustained.

Fig. 14-10-16. East-west

seismic cross section from
the 3-D data. Faults interact
with the salt dome to produce
sharp interfaces. Oil and
gas are located in numerous
structural traps against faults.
Numerous stratigraphic traps
are also located on the flanks
of the dome.

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Fig. 14-10-17. A time slice
of the 3-D seismic data
shows the angular nature
of the faults interacting
with the salt-producing
sharp corners.

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Fig. 14-10-18. Structure map of the
top salt just below the major producing
interval. Twenty-three wells establish the
structural trend.

Fig. 14-10-19. Time slice

of the 3-D survey at 1.5
seconds over area of
Figure 14-10-18. Note the
embayment in the center
of the figure. This was
not recognized from the
structural analysis using
well data.

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Fig. 14-10-20. Seismic
arbitrary line A-A as
indicated on Figure
14-10-19. Structural
analysis from well
correlation of J-13 and
L-1 was not sufficient
to identify the potential
of reservoirs between
them. Well 40 was
proposed as an infill

Fig. 14-10-21. The

structural cross
section of A-A shows
the results of the
drilling of infill well 40
and the discovery of
new reserves.

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Fig. 14-10-22. Oil and gas
map of the 8200 sand.
The structural and fluid
interpretation is controlled
by a 2-D seismic grid,
40 well penetrations,
production samples, and
pressure measurements.

Fig. 14-10-23. Reinterpretation of the same area

using the same well
information but also
using 3-D seismic data.
Note the change in the
faults and location of fluid

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Fig. 14-10-24. Seismic
cross section from the 3-D
data, showing the location
of the top and bottom
of the CP-7 sandstone

Fig. 14-10-25. Horizon

slice of the CP-7 sand.
High amplitudes are
associated with high
reservoir quality. The
interpretation of the
horizon slice is that the
thickest sand is located
in a channel meandering
between two faults.

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Fig. 14-10-26. Structure and fluid map
of the 4475 sand. Prior to the new
interpretation from the 3-D survey, the fault
block was considered depleted.

Fig. 14-10-27. Horizon

slice of the producing
4475 sand. Highamplitude (red) seismic
response was interpreted
to be bypassed oil. New
infill wells were drilled
and successfully put into

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Fig. 14-10-28. Fluid and
structure map of the
producing FX reservoir.
Water injection was
proposed for well G-3,
to move more oil into the
producing wells 24 and

Fig. 14-10-29. A geologic

cross section showing
the well logs of the FX

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Fig. 14-10-30. The

arbitrary seismic line
associated with the cross
section in Figure 14-1029. The high-amplitude
reflections in the center
of the line are the FX

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Fig. 14-10-31. Horizon slice
of the FX reservoir. Note that
all 3 wells in the reservoir
are in the moderate (yellow)
amplitude. Notice that the
amplitude of the horizon slice
between the wells is highly

Fig. 14-10-32. Net-sand map

of the FX reservoir. This is
generated from well control
plus the time thickness and
amplitude of the seismic

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Fig. 14-10-33. Flow-line

reservoir simulation of
water injected into well
G-3 and oil produced
in wells 24 and 25. The
thicker portion of the
reservoir between wells
G-3 and 25 shows a larger
flow of water to move the
oil, as indicated by the
higher density of the flow

Fig. 14-10-34. Forecast production

comparing reservoir models of constant
thickness, derived from well data, and the
variable-thickness model, derived from
both well and seismic data. In this case, the
variable reservoir model has a 28% higher
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Fig. 14-10-35. Production
of oil from the Bay
Marchand field for a 50year interval from startup.
The production decline in
the 1970s was reversed
by field rejuvenation from
infill wells, horizontal wells,
and improved waterflood.
This was accomplished
with the subsurface
knowledge provided from
3-D seismic data.

Fig. 14-10-36. Map of the

outlines of several 3-D
surveys that now cover the
Bay Marchand field.

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Fig. 14-10-37. Unmigrated seismic cross section composed of two of the 3-D surveys. Different acquisition and processing
parameters cause the data to be poorly matched where they intersect.

Fig. 14-10-38. Seismic cross section from Figure 14-10-37, reprocessed. The two surveys were processed together to match
signal to noise, time position, amplitude, and phase.
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Fig. 14-10-39. Horizon slice of a produced oil reservoir.

This reservoir compartment was on production for many
years prior to acquisition of the 3-D survey. Amplitude
did not correlate to the total reservoir thickness at
the wells. Low amplitudes in the reservoir center did
represent depletion of the oil in the reservoir. A flow
pathway can be observed between water injectors 1
and 2 to the producing wells P1 and P2.

Fig. 14-10-40. Acoustic

response of different fluids
in reservoir sandstones
at approximately 8000-ft
depth. High-saturation
oil sands respond with
strong negative acoustic
impedance. Production
increases the water
saturation and significantly
reduces the reflection

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Fig. 14-10-41. Horizon slices from an oil-producing horizon in 1986 survey (top) and 1998 survey
(bottom). The reduced amplitude area in the lower panel near well D is consistent with the repeat
case-hole production logs showing water influx. Bypassed oil between wells A and B was drilled by
wells E and F. Well F was completed at high production rates.


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Fig. 14-10-42. Horizon slices similar to those of Figure 14-10-41 but for a deeper
reservoir, showing detection of lowered seismic amplitude due to oil production and
water inflow. Bypassed oil was drilled in wells J, K, and L and then put into production.


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Fig. 14-10-43. Comparison of seismic data and inverted data. Low impedances
(yellow) in the inverted data are sandstones embedded in shales. The inverted
data are easier to interpret, because individual sands can be recognized.

Inverted Data
Sands in yellow
channel system
pinch out to left

Seismic Data
Sands are represented by
overlying trough (yellow)
plus underlying peak (black)


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Fig. 14-10-44. Survey parameters and photos of hardware

used in a high-resolution acquisition program for detection
of shallow reserves. Compressional (P)- and shear (S)waves were recorded at very high and very low frequencies
using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

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Fig. 14-10-45. Comparison of P-wave seismic cross sections

from the 1986 3-D seismic survey (a) and the 2004 MEMS
high-resolution 3-D survey (b). Improvements are seen in
location of the salt interface, shallow faulting, definition of
unconformities, and direct detection of hydrocarbons.

3D seismic

acquisition and imaging



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Fig. 14-10-47. 3-D prestack depth migrated cross

section showing clear base salt. Subsalt reflectors may
come from reservoirs that hold additional reserves.

Fig. 14-10-46. 3-D time-migrated seismic cross section of

the entire Bay Marchand salt dome. The data are thought
to show high potential for subsalt oil and gas reservoirs.