Interview

1 min read

Habib Al-Khatib and Elodie Morgan
SpotLight is a monitoring tool that can be used alongside other monitoring technologies, helping to create fuller visibility of underground activity.
Habib Al-Khatib and Elodie MorganSpotLight

Can you give me an overview of the company and how it was founded?

Al-Khatib... SpotLight is a light seismic monitoring solution that highlights subsurface dynamics but uses only one surface seismic source and one receiver. It identifies specific areas or “spots” to monitor, rather than the entire area, meaning small seismic change monitoring is more targeted. This is a radical shake-up of current seismic monitoring that delivers 3D and subsequently 4D images, allowing us to track changes against time too. It’s very different from the current methods, which meant it was a slight challenge to bring it to market.

Founded in 2017, the company was self-funded from day one, securing a steady stream of revenue in the first twelve months. By early 2019, just as SpotLight was preparing to demonstrate its first prototype, the team and I met representatives from Omani venture capital firm Phaze Ventures, who saw the potential of our solution. Once they were on board, they became central to our success and opened a number of doors for us.

What are the company’s main products or services?

Al-Khatib... SpotLight is a monitoring tool that can be used alongside other monitoring technologies, helping to create fuller visibility of underground activity. The system works by monitoring specific areas for change — creating a simpler picture and targeting attention where it matters most. It’s perfectly designed for monitoring oil and gas (O&G) operations.

Our solution targets critical production uncertainties that could affect safety and O&G field operations. We can help answer questions like, where is my steam front? Is this fault permeable or not? Is this channel active? Is my caprock stable? Is my injection front moving too fast? The answers to these questions could be worth millions of dollars.

We focus our expertise on the physics – that is the software and processing – and outsource acquisition – the single source/receivers – to others using standard equipment. Our solutions work in two steps. First, we undertake a survey design to identify the best areas to monitor, then we extract information from the spots and present the changes to the client.

What is the greatest challenge that the company overcame?

Al-Khatib... One of the biggest challenges has been resistance to change from one of our targeted industries. Oil and gas companies are used to taking a “Hollywood” approach to seismic monitoring — taking several photos of the same area and running them together to view fluids movements. The goal is to create a perfect seismic Oscar-winning picture before making production decisions. But geology is not an action film, structural changes don’t take place on a human scale, and it simply isn’t necessary to re-image everything. Changes happen on a very limited area, in and around the reservoir, and are linked to human activity, such as wells.

Our most recent milestone has been securing a pilot project with Petroleum Development Oman, thanks in part to its relationship with Phaze Ventures. This pilot has continued, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and has helped to prove the value of our offering. With the COVID-19 related economic crisis the need for cost-effective solutions is rising and we believe SpotLight is well positioned to provide this.

What is the main innovation you bring to the market?

Al-Khatib... Our monitoring approach is different, cheaper and effective. Rather than looking at the whole area, we monitor critical zones where subsurface activity is not well understood and might compromise production or the overall integrity and safety of a reservoir. 

The solution’s power and accuracy come from survey design and data processing rather than extensive deployment of topside equipment, making it both cost-effective and non-invasive. Focusing on these few key areas can provide enough information to ensure work proceeds safely and with less risks. 

In a nutshell, we develop solutions that are reliable, agile, green and cost-effective. For some wells, our approach makes sub-surfacing monitoring commercially viable for the first time.

How does the solution tie into the growing use of automation?

Al-Khatib... Several aspects of our approach are directly linked to automation. When a spot is identified to be monitored, we can pre-plan decisions depending on the behaviour of that spot, for example whether we use open or close injector. 

Data is key to any automation process and by placing the receivers in strategic locations, we reduce the amount of data collected so that all of it is usable. This way, the data can be streamlined and processed in real time. Our ideal situation is to have our live detections integrated into the field traffic light systems that are emerging.

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