Folded rock layers modelled by the Fast Marching method.
We need petroleum
The traditional oil and gas resources are diminishing, but the demand for energy is increasing with the world population. Fortunately, during the last decade, several new petroleum sources have been found in previous unexploited places. Often these oil reservoirs are in remote places and are hard to extract. To benefit from these sources, expensive exploration tools and technology are needed. One example is the deepwater resources outside of the Norwegian coast, where the cost of drilling one well is on the order of 100 million US dollar.
Maps of the inner earth
It is not possible to know for sure whether there is any oil or not before drilling a well. To help decide where to drill, one creates maps of the inner earth. These maps are based on models that describe layers of rock types, and geological formations. Several properties that are important for the existence of oil depend on distances and other relations between geological structures. Such distances and relations are found using numerical methods, primarily Fast Marching and Level Set Methods. By using advanced models to create maps, the number of holes where no oil is found is decreased by several orders of magnitude. But, if we can further refine the models there is a lot of money to save. Kalkulo AS is currently helping Statoil in the development of such an earth model known as the Compound Modelling project.
One issue with geological modelling lies in the uncertainty of the data. We do not know much about the inner earth, and must therefore make many assumptions regarding structures and types of rock. To gain a better understanding one create many maps of the same volume of earth, preferably in an interactive way. This puts a high demand on speed and quality of the numerical methods used to create the maps. Parts of the ongoing research are aimed on improving accuracy and decrease computational time for such numerical methods.