Uncertainty in geoscience interpretation, statistical quantification of the factors that affect interpretational ability and their application to the oil and gas industry

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2013
Thesis identifier
  • T13472
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Understanding the subsurface through geological modelling is extremely important to modern civilisation, e.g. the extraction of resources and the geological storage of wastes. Geological data are commonly sparse, with the result that geological models are under-constrained and multiple structural interpretations are often valid. Geoscientists are also affected by cognitive biases, so individual interpretations may not be equally likely. A better understanding of how geoscientists should be trained, and what interpretational approaches are most effective, is therefore required. An international sample of more than 700 geoscientists, with varying technical backgrounds, and experience levels, was collected. Six reference experts were then recruited to interpret the same seismic image, allowing a scoring system to be formed to evaluate respondents' interpretations. Statistical analysis of the sample showed that respondents' experience was more influential than their education and work environment in terms of producing a valid interpretation. However, interpretational techniques relating to 'thinking about geological time' were even more influential than respondents' experience. The fact that certain techniques were statistically significant in addition to respondents' experience shows that training is important regardless of experience level. In addition to the large sample, a separate workshop experiment, utilising a control group, was conducted with 49 industry geoscientists. Analysis of the data from the workshop identified a causal link between 'considering the geological evolution' and 'producing a valid interpretation'. Finally, based on the results, and the analysis of relevant literature, an interpretation workflow was derived for the oil and gas industry. The workflow mitigates cognitive biases, improves team work, validates multiple interpretations and captures interpreters' evolving assumptions. Thus, this research advances the understanding of how risk arising from uncertainty in geoscience interpretation can be mitigated, and how geoscience teaching and practice can be improved.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Shipton, Zoe
  • Bond, Clare
  • Lunn, Rebecca
  • Scott, Marian
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2013
Former identifier
  • 991192