Scanning of Geology Data
| | Martin Greguric

Avantix Awarded Multiple Contracts with Northern Territory Government

The categories won through an open tender process are Scanning Seismic Sections, Scanning Well Logs, and the digital conversion of PDF and Paper Logs to LAS format.

Sounds like a bit of a mouthful?

Thankfully, Dr. Unni Karumathil from the Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade has dusted off his geological glossary to help make sense of it all.

 4.543 billion years in the making

 Plus or minus about 50 million years, the earth has been holding us up for a while now. As Dr Unni – who is leading the petroleum data management team in the Top End attests – “It has been a long time coming as this data has been around for such a long time”. He refers, of course, to the backlog of physical research materials in storage – most of which is paper.

Now, the sum of all geological findings in the Top End is in the process of being made available – publicly and for the very first time – through a single portal, thanks to a ground-breaking collaboration with the Northern Territory government.

The accessibility of such data is pay dirt for exploration companies in the area, who work with the government and local communities to prospect for oil and gas, opening the way for valuable mining initiatives and creating jobs.

Invaluable Data

 “We are digitising all our hard copy data from petroleum exploration, which is done mostly through seismic surveys that help us identify oil and gas deposits or accumulations”, say Karumathil.

For a government department with a vast amount of irreplaceable legacy data dating back as far as the 1960’s, this initiative is innovative both for the Northern Territory Geological Survey (NTGS) – which forms part of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT) – and for Dr Unni himself.

There is also a proportion of the geological log collection that is equally ‘trapped’ in PDF files.  These files need data capture alongside the paper, to produce usable information for import into the software.

“This project is ground-breaking for me, too. I’m proud that I’ve been able to finally facilitate digitisation. It is certainly a personal goal for me”, says the Petroleum Data Manager.

 Data capture service is just the beginning

Data collection and storage technology have changed dramatically over the last 60 years.

Some prospecting companies only used paper formats while older data was either in inaccessible formats, on old media requiring specialised hardware and knowledge to run, or at risk of deterioration through aging. Needless to say, some common ground was required.

As Dr Unni explains, “Prospective zones are identified through a method called logging – with various instruments lowered into wells as deep as 2000 metres, 3000 metres, and maybe even 5000 metres. The readings are plotted on paper as a graph or curve, called log curves. It is this exploration data that we are working with Avantix to transcribe from obsolete storage media to modern usable media.” 

 Down to earth data capture

Seismic and well log data in paper and sepia formats are kept in NTGS’ Darwin City office and in a temperature controlled archive storage room at NTGS Core Library in Darwin.

With approximately 15,000 kilometres of seismic data and around 2.5 million feet of geological log curves amounting to over 30,000 metres of paper and sepia sections, Australia’s leading Information Processing provider, Avantix was up for the challenge.

Says Dr Unni, “The digitisation of seismic data is called vectorisation. We selected Avantix for digitisation of well data as they came highly recommended in this field. Avantix have consultants and people with experience and expertise in geological data, so we feel confident in their ability to deliver a quality result.”

Meaningful conclusions

But what about holes in the data? “There are areas where the data is lacking or missing,”, Dr Unni admits. “We are now able to provide that digital data and incorporate it into platforms for exploration companies to make better decisions”.

Indeed, legacy or historical data, converted into new digital formats allows companies to compare their own results to existing data, leading to meaningful conclusions about where to explore for in particular areas.

Dr Karumathil asserts, “We are the custodians of our data. We supply data to our companies, individuals, researchers, universities, free of charge. It is free because we want more exploration to happen.”

 Future proofing data capture

 For the NTGS much like many other forward-thinking institutions, the plan is to eventually move away from paper data to create a more leaner office space – “Maybe by 2030”, alludes Dr Unni.

 The only thing standing in the way is archaic media like paper records. And the hot and humid weather of Darwin. “If we get rid of all that old media, we’ll be saving money as well. Once we have this digital data, we’ll be confident we can back it up properly and preserve this valuable information”, informs Dr Karumathil.

Dr Karumathil’s office also receives rock core samples which are passed through a scanner that measures the reflectance of the mineralogy. Digitising this data will allow the core samples to be returned to the earth eventually – which means the process recycling is not just confined to old paper data.

Digitisation services Australia wide

 To date, Avantix are progressed in the digitisation process, which means NTGS are well on their way to making the data more accessible for exploration. “That is the activity we are looking for”, exclaims Dr Unni. “To get the digital data and get it on portals so the public can access it for free on the internet. Previously, we only had access to paper or PDF image files for our data”.

Avantix CEO Duncan Lord adds, “Of ultimate importance is the goal of meeting customer needs regardless of the systems they use. As leaders in scanning, data capture and integration solutions, we promise fast, accurate and cost effective paper to data digitisation services.”

When the dust settles, it’s all about customer satisfaction. “Avantix have been very good. They have been responsive and responsible people. They do the job to our satisfaction and their work is excellent. Everything is going ahead as planned and we are looking forward to more work in the future”, concludes Dr Unni.

Avantix supports the Northern Territory Government in its exploration initiatives.