The Seismic Data Administrator

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A bridge spanning data management, IT, and geosciences or Earth sciences (geologists, geophysicists, petro-physicists).

Education and science concept illustrations. Geophysics, seismology, geology, meteorology . Science of Earth and planet structure. Knowledge of athmospherical phenomena. Flat vector design banner.Seismic data helps to track and understand the earth’s surface. It can affect many types of businesses. In the oil industry, seismic data management has always been a challenge. Yet many may not know that this can be applied for a lot of other industries. Vital day-to-day information has to be shared and found easily by the users, because if not, lives could be at stake. Complex, expensive and security are words that are involved when talking about seismic data.

Volume and data size has been growing for many years now, in a large part due to advances in technology. Nowadays, cloud and new storage option are offered to the industry to resolve these kinds of challenges. Before, processes were handled by geologists or geophysicists. Some companies, however, realised that seismic data was too complex and needs to be handled by coordinators specialised also in data management.

This resulted in an ‘ideal profile’, someone who knows the complexity of seismic data, geomatics, and is comfortable with the IT tools necessary to handle the volume of information often called Big Data. Coordination between Geoscience technicians, IT and Archive departments is essential. Why? Because in different worlds, employees with very specific jobs do not necessarily understand the job of the others.


What does a seismic data administrator do?

Seismic waves are mechanical perturbations that travel in the Earth at a certain speed. These are recorded by geophones in a format file that was defined by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) in 1973. The format can be SEG-D (acquisition format), SEG-P (positional) and SEG-Y.

The SEG-Y format is most often used by the end-users, as it contains the seismic data, the positioning and all other information that can help in establishing a 2D line or a 3D seismic data volume. The geology section produced by the 2D or the 3D volume will be interpreted by the geologist or geophysicist. This allows them to understand the configuration or the shape of the earth around the area being studied and, for example, the eventual possibility of finding an oil reservoir.


Data Treatment

seismicdata1A seismic data administrator will receive these often large SEG-Y files through various media-like tapes, hard drives, directly through a tailor-made ftp, or even via a free software programme like FileZilla. Seismic data requires special handling when downloading, as these files are fragile. The speed of the copy or the stability of the server can corrupt them.

Some of these files are massive. Therefore, a verification of the survey grid and coordinates of each corner of the volume needs to be done before loading the data into specialised software. For example, the most popular software used in the oil industry, for example, are Petrel, Kingdom or Geographix. Finally, large surveys often cover multiple project areas and/or countries, and legal implication also need to be taken into account.


Data Loading

seismicdata2As every country has its own projections and coordinates, some knowledge of geomatics is essential. Positioning the survey in the right place is better if the company wants to drill in the right place!

Depending on the software, the grid of the survey will need to be defined before loading it. Some other information like ‘byte positioning’ may also be needed. Wells, block boundaries, assets, and other information will be loaded as well. This will allow better positioning of the data.

Finally, a verification of the quality of the seismic data and its positioning will be done at the end of the process with geophysicists responsible for the project. Once it has been loaded and transformed to be interpreted, it can be used for subsurface mapping, using tools like Petrosys or the more well-known ArcGIS from ESRI. The seismic data administrator, at this point, plays a vital role in getting all the data into the mapping software.


Data Archiving

Once all the information stored in the various media has been given to the technical end-users, it must be archived. Seismic data costs a lot of money to acquire, and therefore it should not be lost. Various storage devices or archives can be used, such as cloud or external data centres, to reduce cost and achieve more efficiency in security. Some companies even archive the data twice in two different places – just in case. A procedure must be put in place to organise all the datasets moving from one place to another without being lost.

The seismic data administrator therefore must coordinate between processing centres, geoscientists in their various departments, and the IT and the Archive department.


What does it take?

To become a seismic data administrator, most of the time, a background of study in geology or geophysics is required. Other competencies like strong computer skills, knowledge of geomatics, seismic files structure, geological surveys 3D and 2D, GIS tools and of course, data management, are vital.

People skills are needed, as are a focused, analytical mind, curiosity, determination, logical reasoning skills, and problem solving: all soft skills that will help in managing everyday work.

Knowledge of the business involved is certainly also a big asset, and can help in understanding all the various aspects that need to be taken into account.

Finally, supporting technical end-users by combining the various coordination, administrative and IT skills will allow them to concentrate more on how to interpret the earth and do what they set out to accomplish.

In essence, anyone with strong computer skills and a lot of interest in earth sciences can become a seismic data administrator. Furthermore, if an enthusiastic employee has an encouraging boss who allows for creativity and learning new things every day, the job can be even more enriching.

Image credits: painterr via iStock,, Avizo via Wikimedia Commons CC3.0 License.


Danielle Jean Danielle Jean

Data Management, administration and technical assistance. My resume is varied but some things have always been constant. My love for challenge, learning, coordinating... and that my colleagues recognise me as a solution provider. Every project is different but my ability to take a step back and analyse the situation means I get things done.

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