Improved satellite transmission speeds challenge conventional wisdom on processing marine seismic data
Western Geophysical is trialling satellite data transfer technology originating from NASA space operations. If successful, it could alter the current model for data transmission and processing for marine seismic survey data. Andrew McBarnet reports. Along with just about everyone in the E&P industry, Apollo astronaut Bill Anders will be an interested observer when Western Patriot, one of Western Geophysical's latest 3D seismic acquisition vessels, tries out the first SeismicStar terminal developed by SpaceData International (SDI). SeismicStar is billed as the world's fastest commercial satellite data transmission system, and a successful test on board the Western Patriot could foreshadow a change in the way all seismic contractors and their oil industry customers expect marine seismic data to be managed and processed in the future. Anders was one of the first shareholders in SDI, a privately held company created to commercialise the NASA space programís telecommunication assets. According to president Jay Gnowles, the company immediately recognized the possible applications of the technology in the marine seismic market and have spent the best part of two years developing a suitable system. But he admits that changing the status quo will not be easy given the current investments in onboard processing. 'The game will be to convince oil company customers in particular that the SeismicStar technology can be justified,' Gnowles says. The attraction of the SeismicStar is that it claims to have overcome the limitations of existing high speed satellite data transfer systems and can transmit uncompressed files of seismic acquisition data at previously unrealized speeds. For example, SDI believes that under a 10-streamer configuration with dual air gun sources and 240 channels per cable, Western Patriot might generate some 165 Gbytes of raw seismic data daily. With SeismicStar this could be immediately transferred from anywhere in the world in 81 minutes at a rate of 311 Mbps to Westernís processing centre in Houston without any compromise to the quality of the data. SDI adds that systems are in design which will halve this transmission time.