$3.7 million gift helps students "see" beneath their feet

Image generated by UNSW medallist Boon Tan with Kingdom software using data from Timboon Sandstone within the Morum Sub-Basin of South Australia
Wednesday, 29 June, 2011
Bob Beale

Geologists may not be able to directly see beneath the ground, but thanks to a very generous donation UNSW earth science students will have assured access to the next best thing – special software that helps them visualise what the world looks like beneath their feet.

Seismic Micro-Technology Incorporated of Texas, USA has provided a three-year grant valued at $US3.7 million to the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) with the provision of its Kingdom software.

The software is used by honours and postgraduates undertaking research on petroleum industry datasets. In many cases their analysis could not be made without it, says Dr Paul Lennox, a BEES Senior Lecturer.

"This software enables students to take 2D and 3D seismic reflection data showing the rock layers and any structuring, faults and folds, and well data  and through interpretation of the stratigraphy and structure produce a three-dimensional picture of the geology," says Dr Lennox.

"This is invaluable in trying to suggest possible structures where hydrocarbons may reside. These suggestions are called 'plays' in the industry."

Oil exploration companies based in Sydney - such as Oil Search, Roc Oil, Australian Worldwide Exploration (AWE), Mosaic and Orion Petroleum – have provided seismic reflection datasets for students across basins within the Australian coastline and inland to enable students to build 3D models of the geology.

"This gift is vital if our geoscience students with an interest in working in hydrocarbon exploration wish to complete honours or postgraduate research on petroleum projects," says Dr Lennox. "Mastering this software will improve their technical skills and make them more employable. The companies use the same software and the school couldn't afford to pay commercial rates for its use.

"When we asked, Seismic Micro-Technology kindly provided this software for nothing and we're delighted to acknowledge their generosity."

Glenn Morgan completed his 2005 PhD project on the "Sequence Stratigraphy and structure of the Tertiary Limestones in the Gulf of Papua, PNG" using this software. He was the first doctoral student supported in Australia by Oil Search. Without the Kingdom suite software he would have been unable to complete his project.

At least nine honours students in the past six years have completed projects using the software. The accompanying image is from UNSW medallist Boon Tan's interpretation of two possible plays (Beta and Charlie) related to the Timboon Sandstone within the Morum Sub-Basin of South Australia. Boon Tan presented this image as part of a talk to AWE at the end of his project. AWE supported this Honours project through data provision, co-supervision and assistance with the production of the numerous colour figures in his thesis. Boon Tan was generously supported by Petronas, Malayasia.

Dr Paul Lennox – 02 9385 8096