Digging In


Studio X Team


October 25, 2023

How Studio X empowers geoscientists with products that support their core competencies at every level.

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Welcome to our  Q&A session with a member of our Studio X team. Today we have Nate, Studio X’s incredible geoscientist! (5–10 min read)

Can give us a little introduction and a brief background?

I am Nate Suurmeyer, an exploration geoscientist at Shell, specifically in the digitalization team. For around 13 years, I’ve worked on a variety of projects from heavy oil to deepwater new ventures to the Gulf of Mexico and a little bit of unconventional on the side. So I’ve had a lot of different experiences in the exploration space. But over the last couple years, I have been really interested in data science and how it can be used to transform geoscience. So I’ve gotten more into coding and that’s what led me to new tools and techniques which then led me to Studio X.

Could you shed a little bit of light on what it’s like to be a geoscientist? What are the biggest hurdles that you found in your career and how do you think Studio X can change them?

Working for the oil and gas industry as a geologist is phenomenal. You have just so much to work with so much cool data and you get to see things that very few people have seen. But it’s a double edged sword. Because with that volume also comes complexity with how you access it, how you control it, and how you interpret it. The tools that you have, they’re very specific or they’re too clunky or they’re too old. And so you just can’t get the answer for the problem that you’re trying to solve. It just takes so long to interact with the data that you end up just trying to find shortcuts. Sometimes that means putting biases on the data that will end up putting a weight on the interpretation of that data later on.
What I’m really excited about with Studio X is that we’re starting to experiment with ways whether it’s through better applications on Xeek, or through different ways of breaking down bias, like XCover because we have more people working on more problems or things like SixLab, where we’re seeing things that are really out there in terms of what could be the future of what we could do with geoscience data.

From your perspective, why is Studio X important right now?

We’re going to need hydrocarbons in our lives for several decades to come just based on the status of how we use our energy. So we do need to be out there trying to find more hydrocarbons and do it more efficiently. If we can do that with fewer wells and fewer resources, the better. Right now, we are still very much stuck in a way of thinking that is a holdover from the early 90s. We haven’t really evolved that much at least in geosciences.
We need to be thinking about how we can optimize, how we can cut up things, how we can be more efficient or how we can give more options, more diversity of thoughts; Ultimately, we need to bring new tools and different people into the system and use completely new workflows.

I would love to hear a little bit more about your perspective on data science and its effect on oil and gas. How does it provide value?

Geosciences before the 80s were all done on paper and then computers started coming out. Actually, all geoscientists were hackers back then. Everyone was writing their own pieces of code, their own sort of analyses to process their data and everything.
As the 90s came in, and up until recently, we’ve migrated as an industry into using big monolithic platforms that do all the whiz bang stuff for us. But the problem is that when we use these big tools, we are limiting the way we can think about problems, because it is a set workflow. Your data must be in this format, you can only do this and that to it. When in reality, there might be a lot more options out there, a lot more creativity for how you can think about processing your data.
What I really like about data science is that it’s giving geoscientists tools to work with so that they can better tinker with their data, they can tinker with their workflows.
With the last couple of the Xeek challenges, we’ve seen data scientists jump in and win the prizes. That’s really important because having this outside look at our data and our problems is showing us potentially better ways or faster ways to go about tackling situations. Xeek really allows that as it is more of a data science platform and it’s also outward facing. We can get some of the best outside talent in there to give us insights.

What aspect of Studio X excites you the most? What gets you up in the morning to work on Studio X and work with the team?

I’m a huge fan of Xeek, because this is personally where my interest lies right now. I also see a lot of value in where XCover is going. I’ve been around enough. I understand our processes, how we feel about particular basins. It’s fun to see different people’s backgrounds and how that blends into how people do their interpretation, how they view the world. The geoscience world that is.
Also the XCover workstation is amazing that I can have all the software, everything I need to do my job in one place. I can just click a button. It opens up this virtual machine and everything’s there. Everything’s loaded. Everything’s perfect like there’s no hassle that I have to go through. I can just enjoy. So I think the engineering side of Studio X is really phenomenal since it’s enabling a lot more work because people aren’t worried about their set up as much.

Can you give us an idea of how Studio X can impact a geoscientist’s typical day-to-day? What does that experience look like?

For XCover Explorers-in-Residence, they have their projects assigned to them that they’re focused on. So they might start the day with communicating back with their respective teams about recent findings, about what they’ve developed, getting feedback and everything. The Explorers-in-Residence are not these hermits working in a cave somewhere out there with data. They’re still very much connected into the larger community which is important because that’s how we get more ideas and feedback.
Now there might be solutions in the XCover workstations that they’re not familiar with because they’ve actually come out from the Xeek challenge competition. That’s something we are starting to look into now where we take a successful challenge, process the data, and actually load it on XCover machines. So these Xeek solutions might be something XCover Explorers-in-Residence have never seen before and can try out with their project. They’ll also be able to close out the day without any worries because it’s all backed up and saved, nice and secure.

Seems like something that you would use…

It would be yeah. I would like to use it because sometimes I don’t need an expensive piece of software for an entire year. I just need it for a day. So that’s what makes XCover enabling. I’m not locked in for extended periods of time or having to learn a new tool, more than what I need to use it for.

If I were a genie and I can grant you three wishes, what would they be in this context for Studio X? Or another way to think of it, what would be the most desirable or the maximum desirable product for Studio X?

What I’d really like to see happen is around Xeek, and where we’re moving now with microservices and Xeek. It’s where we’re actually taking a piece of code that somebody’s written, maybe a a deep learning algorithm or a widget, and that then becomes something that any geoscientist can just pull down and use. The person who wrote it gets a bit of money for writing the code because you have to pay per use but then the customer gets to use this really cool tool to go do a specific workflow.
When this happens, then I imagine coding and technology will really start spreading very quickly in the geosciences because people will now have all these different tools that they can use to do their workflows differently and better. And this also will encourage you to to write and do more yourself in terms of building the right tool that you want to see out there.

Let’s switch gears and talk a little bit about you. What has it been like for you to work with the Studio X team?

I think it’s great to see the Studio X team put things together. There’s been quite a bit of problems with learning about geoscience data. The Studio X team has been very flexible and always looking for solutions and always trying to find the easiest way to match the job that needs to be done. So I really appreciate their flexibility. Also, I appreciate that their backgrounds are also coming to show. If it were a bunch of geoscientists building this platform, we would probably end up with some of the same problems and sluggishness that we’ve had before.

What’s a fun fact about you. What’s one thing you want to leave with everyone about Nate?

Fun fact about Nate. Well, I was rightly reprimanded by a Moroccan shepherd at one time for trespassing. And you know I shouldn’t have done it. But there was just these amazing rock features in this stone that I couldn’t resist inspecting and so I walked onto their property.