“Surfer lets me go inside and make detailed alterations and refinements to the colors and contour lines…to adjust the presentation and make it perfect,” he explained. “You can’t do that as easily or comprehensively with the other software packages.”
One of his favorite narratives is comparing an ancient geologic structure with a more modern one to give his audiences a perspective they can relate to more easily. A common example is a 300-milion-year-old reef buried far below the surface, which he brings to life in 3D with Surfer. Then Staples creates another layer comprised of an air photo showing a similar modern-day reef build-up which creates a directly analogous comparison between the ancient and modern.
“With 3D seismic, a pinnacle reef can show up and be imaged quite obviously. It can stand up like an office tower on our interpretations and can be quite stunning…we show them what a modern reef looks like now, and then what it looked like millions of years ago,” he said. “When you can connect the distant past with an opportunity today and can show them how things work the same way now as it did millions of years ago, people get excited.”
Aside from the visual aspects of Surfer mapping, Staples points to other favorite functions in the software. The computational capabilities are very strong, he says, which come into play when he calculates area and volumes of potential hydrocarbon reservoirs. He often uses the Residuals gridding tool for planar map surfaces. This function allows him to adjust for complexities relating to present day regionally tilted surfaces with an improved determination of how those irregular surfaces likely were formed over geological time.
Staples also marvels at how easily Surfer ingests enormous data files with any type of location coordinates. In a few instances, he has loaded Excel files containing hundreds of thousands of well location data points and other spatial attributes into Surfer to create statewide geologic maps. The data loads quickly and displays accurately on the map.
Finally, Staples has already caught wind of a new feature coming soon in Surfer – 3D Drill Holes. Since most oil and gas wells are now drilled horizontally, he believes this will be an incredibly powerful tool to precisely visualize where the wells are located spatially in in any modeled rock volume.