Debunking the Misconception That Seismic Can’t be Green

Environmental stewardship is on the front burner in everyone’s lives these days. All levels of government, industry and people are being asked to change their habits, spending patterns and lifestyles as a result.

As it relates to our industry, the challenge comes down to countering the untrue perception that we are ‘the’ dirty producer of hydrocarbons. While debunking this myth, it’s key to also recognize that we can (and are) always be striving for breakthrough ways of producing the resources that the world needs in an environmentally responsible manner.

According to the Alberta government, as of 2013, 46% of emissions come from the oil and gas industry.

What can we do about that?

The reality is that we can do a lot. Mostly in little steps. Let’s review one aspect of the industry that qualifies for the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Seismic is one of the most efficient methods of imaging the subsurface. The environmental footprint per unit of knowledge acquired is extremely low. Having said that, acquiring seismic is expensive, time consuming, involves a fairly hefty industrial process, and does leave a footprint on the land. That’s one reason it’s a nightmare to get the permits you need.

The good news is that there is a robust market in place where seismic is regularly licensed to companies for their re-use.

Trading, swapping and licensing seismic is a commonplace activity in our industry today. New processing techniques unlock value and insight from even relatively old seismic. Reputable brokerage companies (make sure you are dealing with one) offer full cycle service to customers and abide by processes and ethics endorsed by APEGA. At Sigma, we teach those standards and ethics.

The benefits of licensing existing seismic have traditionally been articulated in terms of cost and time savings. But what about the environmental benefits? No cutlines, or carbon footprint. Take that, manifesto leapers!

So as you dodge the bricks thrown at you by protesters, neighbours, your teenage children and, most importantly, from the advocates who are paid by our competitors, remind yourself of this one small example of how we do things that are good for the environment. I know there are others out there – who else wants to give an example?