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Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 2001.

113123
www.elsevier.comrlocaterjpetscieng

Using genetic algorithms for reservoir characterisation


C.E. Romero, J.N. Carter )
Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London SW7 2BP, UK

Abstract
Reservoir characterisation is the process of describing a hydrocarbon reservoir, in terms of the parameters of a numerical
model, so that its performance can be predicted. We describe the use of a specially designed genetic algorithm to search for
the reservoir description that is most likely to match the measurements made on the reservoir. The genetic algorithm uses six
separate chromosomes for different types of reservoir parameters. Three of the chromosomes have multi-dimensional real
number structures, while the other three chromosomes are one-dimensional binary bit arrays. Specially designed crossover
and mutation operators have been created to work with the non-standard genome structure. The method has been tested on a
realistic, complex synthetic reservoir model, and compared with a simulated annealing SA. algorithm. We have shown that
our genetic algorithm produces better results than the simulated annealing algorithm and results which are comparable to
what might be achieved by hand. Also, we have shown that the performance of the genetic algorithm is robust to the details
of how it was set up. Given the ease with which the method can be cheaply parallelised, its robustness to lost or corrupted
solutions, and that it returns a suite of good solutions, it is an ideal method to implement as an automatic reservoir
characterisation algorithm. q 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Genetic algorithms; Petroleum engineering; Bayesian analysis; Characterisation; Production; Artificial intelligence

1. Introduction
Reservoir characterisation is the process of describing a hydrocarbon reservoir, in terms of the
parameters of a numerical model, so that its performance can be predicted. The process makes use of
measurements, made on the reservoir, to restrict the
range of values that the parameters might take. The
measurements used are wide ranging and include:
seismic data; core and log data from wells; well-test
data; data from geological analogues; and production
data. The result of the process is a set of flow
simulation models that, to a greater or lesser extent,
)

Corresponding author. Tel.rfax: q44-20-75947322.


E-mail address: j.n.carter@ic.ac.uk J.N. Carter..

agree with the measurements made upon the reservoir. There are very many papers in the literature
that describe this process, including: Tan and
Kalogerakis 1996., Oliver et al. 1996., Wu et al.
1999., and Floris et al. 2001..
To properly characterise the flow, simulation
model requires that every part of the reservoir is
adequately described. Direct inversion of the complete model is not a practical proposition, so it is
necessary to introduce a coarse grid of pilot points
and some interpolation method. There are numerous
papers that discuss the choice of pilot points and
interpolation methods, e.g. Bissell 1994.. Having
selected pilot points and interpolation method, one
then needs to use some optimisation technique to
match the numerical results to the measurements.

0920-4105r01r$ - see front matter q 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 9 2 0 - 4 1 0 5 0 1 . 0 0 1 2 4 - 3

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C.E. Romero, J.N. Carterr Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 (2001) 113123

Most attempts to automate this process have used


gradient type methods, see Deschamps et al. 1998..
An alternative approach for the optimisation would
be to use heuristic type methods, e.g. simulated
annealing or genetic algorithms.
Genetic algorithms GAs. are a class of optimisation methods which draw on ideas from natural
evolution and genetics. Over the last 20 years, genetic algorithms have been shown to be effective
over a wide range of problems; examples include:
nuclear reactor management Poon and Parks, 1992.,
gas pipeline operation Goldberg, 1983., reservoir
characterisation Bush and Carter, 1996., travelling
salesman problem Gretenstette et al., 1985., process
control Fogarty et al., 1995., and aircraft design
Parnee and Watson, 1999..
In this paper, we describe our application of a GA
to the problem of characterising a numerical reservoir to production data. The reservoir is a synthetic
model constructed as part of the PUNQ project
PUNQ.. We base our characterisation on the use of
pilot points de Marsily et al., 1984; Bissell et al.,
1997., with sequential Gaussian simulation Jensen
et al., 1997; Deutsch and Journel, 1998. as the
interpolation scheme.
The structure of the paper is as follows. The next
section describes the reservoir and the framework of
reservoir characterisation, then, we describe the details of the GA formulation, followed by the results
obtained.

2. Description of the problem


In this section, we outline the reservoir characterisation problem that we have attempted, including a
description of the reservoir, the data that has been
used, and the theoretical framework within which the
assessment was carried out.
2.1. The reseroir
The reservoir that we are studying is synthetic,
and was constructed as part of the PUNQ project
PUNQ.. A detailed description of the model can be
found elsewhere Bos et al., 1998; PUNQ Complex
Reservoir.; here, we simply outline the model. The

geological description is of a clastic reservoir, typical


of the Brent sequence found in the North Sea. The
geological model has dimensions of 60 = 220 = 197
grid blocks, with each grid block being of size
50 = 50 = 1 m.
The first stage of the construction involved specifying a geologically reasonable deposition, i.e. we
specified porosity, permeability, net-to-gross ratio
and volumetric shale fraction for each of the 2.6 =
10 6 grid blocks. Stage two was to subject the model
to realistic changes in structure, due to seismic and
tectonic activity, to produce a faultedrdomed trap,
which was allowed to fill with oil. Stage three was to
upscale the model onto a 20 = 60 = 20 grid blocks
model that could be used as part of a simulation. The
final stage was to design a realistic production plan
and simulate the expected production using the
ECLIPSE 100 black oil simulator.
The production plan calls for a total of 15 producers and eight water injectors. The intention is to
maintain the pressure, throughout the reservoir, above
the bubble point pressure and to use the water drive
to sweep oil towards the producers. The extensive
faulting was expected to minimise bottom water
drive. Six wells, four producers, and two injectors,
were predrilled into the crest of the reservoir. Additional wells were drilled and completed at a rate of
one every 2 months. The drilling programme was
completed in just less than 3 years. All the wells are
controlled by flow rate, subject to a bottom hole
pressure BHP. limit. Production rates are measured,
through a test separator, each month for each well.
Once per year, each production well is closed in and
worked over to eliminate excessive water production.
Fig. 1 shows the large-scale structure of the reservoir
and the location of all of the wells.
We have attempted to characterise a reservoir
model of dimensions 12 = 44 = 10 grid blocks. The
structural part of our model is as accurate as can be
achieved with the coarseness of grid that we use; all
the large faults are included. The 10 layers of our
model are distributed among the geological layers as
follows: Tarbert, 1 layer originally 35 layers.; Upper Ness, 3 layers originally 50 layers.; Mid-Ness
Shale, 1 layer originally 2 layers.; Lower Ness, 3
layers originally 40 layers.; Etive, 1 layer originally 20 layers.; and Rannoch, 1 layer originally 50
layers.. The data that we use to perform the charac-

C.E. Romero, J.N. Carterr Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 (2001) 113123

115

Fig. 1. Structural model of the PUNQ reservoir and well locations.

terisation are: well logs at each well; production


data; and geological priors on the field properties.

tions. Simple kriging and a spherical variogram were


used.
Global fault parameters controlling details of
how the fault transmissibilities are calculated, as
defined in Manzocchi et al. 1999..
Well skin-factors, used to control details of the
well flow rates GeoQuest, 1998..
The field properties Vshale and permeability are
used to calculate the flow properties of every fault in
the numerical model Manzocchi et al., 1999.. The
complete process is shown in Fig. 2.
v

2.2. Variables and model construction


To characterise the model, we need to specify the
following field properties in each grid block: permeability, porosity, and volumetric shale fraction
Vshale .. Clearly, this is impractical due to the high
dimensionality of this problem. We therefore reduce
the dimensionality of the inversion problem by using
pilot points de Marsily et al., 1984; Bissell et al.,
1997. and geostatistical interpolation methods.
For each layer in our numerical model, we have a
regular grid 4 = 10. of pilot points, plus the 23 well
positions. These 63 points, in each layer, are the
control points that we seek to determine, for each of
the three field properties. Once the optimisation routine has selected trial values for the variables, the
details of the model are calculated, layer-by-layer,
using sequential Gaussian simulation Jensen et al.,
1997; Deutsch and Journel, 1998..
We also need to optimise a number of more
general variables, these are discussed below.
Geostatistical parameters variogram constants:
correlation range, anisotropy constant, maximum
correlation direction angle and nugget effect constant. controlling the sequential Gaussian simula-

2.3. Bayesian analysis of data


The measurements we have from the reservoir are
of two kinds: measurements of rock properties at

Fig. 2. Simplified diagram of the characterisation process.

C.E. Romero, J.N. Carterr Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 (2001) 113123

116

wells; and production measurements for each well.


Every measurement has associated with it a degree
of uncertainty.
We analyse our data within a Bayesian statistics
framework Sivia, 1996.. In essence, this involves
asking how likely it is that a particular reservoir
description gave rise to the measurements observed.
We use the relationship
Pi A exp y

1
2

m i y si

si

1.

to represent the probability, Pi associated with one


measurement, where m i is a particular measurement,
si is the equivalent value from the simulator and si
is an indication of the uncertainty associated with the
measurement. Making reasonable assumptions about
the independence of the measurement errors, the
adequacy of our model and assuming uniform priors,
we seek to find those reservoir descriptions that
maximise the likelihood over n measurements given
below.
n

P s Pi

2.

is1

It is a common practice to plot L s yln yP .


Sivia, 1996, p. 65., a practice we follow here.
2.3.1. Rock measurements
The rock measurements from the wells, for each
of the three properties, are estimates of that property
close to the well. The comparative measurement
from the numerical simulation model is the value for
the grid block that contains a particular well. The
uncertainty will be based on the geological variability of the relevant parameter. The question being
asked is how likely is it that an average grid block
value of si would give rise to a measurement m i at
the well.
2.3.2. Production measurements
The production measurements are given below.
Injector wells have their BHP and flow rates
measured once per month. The simulator is controlled by fixing the water injection rate at the
measured rate for the whole month and using the
v

BHP as the measurement to be compared with the


simulated value.
Producer wells have their BHP, oil production
rate and water production rate measured each month.
The simulator is controlled by fixing the oil production rate at the measured rate for the whole month.
We then compare the water production rate and BHP
to assess the associated probability.
For the given data, this is not the only way of
controlling the numerical simulation model. The most
appropriate choice of controls will depend on the
types of questions that you wish to answer with the
characterised model.
v

3. Genetic algorithms
Genetic algorithms GAs. have been extensively
developed and applied over the last 20 years. The
algorithms are based on using ideas from genetics to
describe individuals, and Darwinian evolution to
breed further solutions to the problem under consideration. Anyone wishing to learn more about the
fundamentals should consult one of the introductory
texts, such as Mitchell 1996..
To formulate a GA for a particular problem, three
areas need to be addressed: the selection and breeding structures used to generate solutions; the design
of the genome to contain the variables that define a
possible solution and the generation of the phenotype
the numerical model.; and the crossover and mutation operators used to generate new solutions. In the
following three sections, we describe the design of
the GA that we have used.
3.1. GA formulation
A GA works with a population of individual
potential solutions to the problem being considered.
As the optimisation process progresses, the current
population of solutions is progressively replaced by
new solutions. The exact way this is achieved depends on the formulation of the GA. In our case, the
population is completely replaced every generation.
The original population is known as the parent population, the new population is known as the offspring
population. A member of the offspring population is

C.E. Romero, J.N. Carterr Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 (2001) 113123

either cloned from one individual in the parent population, or is bred from two individuals in the parent
population. In either case, it is possible that the
offspring might suffer some mutation before entering
the offspring population.
We have used the following GA formulation: the
population size is 20 individuals; the whole population is replaced every generation with no elitism
strategy; 1 the number of function evaluations is 400,
which means we have 20 generations; the probability
that an individual is produced by breeding, using the
crossover operator is 0.99; the probability that an
individual gene suffers a mutation is 0.06; parents
are selected from the parent population by two person tournaments Goldberg et al., 1989..
The initial population was generated using a
semi-stochastic method. At every well in the reservoir, we have measurements for the field properties,
e.g. porosity, for each layer. We also have an estimate of the measurement error for each well measurement. We can then generate 20 sets of well data
that are consistent with the measurements that we
have. We then use geostatistical methods, as described above, to generate a complete reservoir description for each set of well measurements. The
initial values of the geostatistical parameters are
generated randomly from their a priori probability
distribution functions pdf.. From these complete
descriptions, we can then extract the values at the
pilot points to complete the information in the individual chromosomes. All of the other variables
needed, i.e. well skin factors and global fault parameters, are generated randomly from the relevant pdf.
3.2. Genome structure and phenotype
The standard approach to most optimisation problems is to specify all of the variables in a large
one-dimensional array. These numbers can then be
used to construct, without ambiguity, the appropriate
numerical model. In the language of genetic algorithms, the array of variables is the genotype and the

1
Elitism is a strategy where the best member of the parent
population is cloned directly into the offspring population with no
mutation.

117

numerical model is the phenotype. In the standard


approach, there is a one-to-one correspondence between genotype and phenotype. In our case, to completely specify the numeric model would require in
excess of 16,000 variables. However, it is not necessary to describe the properties in every grid block
since they are not independent. We can obtain a
good description of the reservoir by using the pilot
point method and geostatistical methods to interpolate between pilot points, as described in Section 2.
This means that the phenotype and genotype are
no longer in one-to-one correspondence. The genotype only provides the rules from which the phenotype is built. In this case, the genotype contains the
field property values, at the pilot points, plus parameters that control the geostatistical processes, parameters that describe fault properties and well skin
factors. It follows that a single genotype may produce a variety of phenotypes, depending on the
random elements of the geostatistical methods.
Having selected the information that is to be held
within the genome, we need to specify the structure
of the genome. Traditionally, the structure has been a
one-dimensional array with each number specified
by binary bits. It has been common practice to use
Gray coding Whitley et al., 1995. in preference to
binary coding as this generally gives better performance. Whitley 1999. has recently given a theoretical basis to this choice.
We have chosen to use a non-standard structure
for the genome. The variables have been split into
six groups with each group being allocated to a
separate chromosome. The chromosomes are for the
three field properties porosity, permeability and
Vshale . and three for miscellaneous parameters geostatistical, fault and well skin factors.. Each of the
three field property chromosomes has the same structure, as illustrated in Fig. 3. They are three-dimensional arrays with insertions for the wells. The arrays
correspond to the grid of pilot points, so that neighbouring elements in the arrays have the same spatial
relationship as the equivalent pilot points in the
phenotype. This structure has been chosen based on
our experience of using GAs on problems that are
inherently two dimensional in nature Carter, 1997..
We also use real number representations, rather than
binary forms. Our reasons for doing this are: to
reduce the complexity of the data handling; and

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C.E. Romero, J.N. Carterr Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 (2001) 113123

crossover mask, e.g. My s y1, y1, q1, q1, q1,


y1, y1, y1, y1, q1. for the y-direction. We
then select the array element in the offspring chromosome according to the following rule:
Let A i, j,k . s Mx i .My j .Mz k ..
If A i, j,k . s q1, choose gene from parent 1,
otherwise, choose gene from parent 2.

Fig. 3. Illustration of a three-dimensional chromosome and the


pattern of inheritance.

because our problem does not require us to find


precise values for each pilot point, approximate values are sufficient. Each chromosome is therefore a
4 = 10 = 10 array of real numbers plus a 23 = 10
array for the well data. The miscellaneous variables
are held in three separate chromosomes and form
one-dimensional arrays of binary encoded numbers.
Each of the miscellaneous parameters is encoded as
10 binary bits; this means the three chromosomes
have lengths of 40, 30 and 230 bits, respectively. In
future work, we intend to use Gray coding instead of
binary encoding.

A two-dimensional example is shown in Fig. 4. The


values for the wells are chosen so as to be consistent
with the local choice for the pilot points. A simple
illustration of the resulting pattern of inheritance is
shown in Fig. 3. The expected number of crossovers
in each of the three coordinate directions is 2, 3, 3..
The miscellaneous chromosomes use a standard kpoint crossover with three crossover points per gene
of 10 bits.
3.3.2. Mutation operator
For the three real number chromosomes, we use
two mutation operators, jump and creep.
v

Jump mutation: the value of the gene is randomly reset to a value determined by assuming
a uniform pdf with the appropriate upper and
lower bounds.
Creep mutation: the value of the gene is randomly changed by a small random quantity
assuming a quadratic pdf centred on the current
value.

3.3. Crossoer and mutation operators


The complex nature of our chromosomes naturally leads to a requirement for specially designed
crossover and mutation operators.
3.3.1. Crossoer operator
Our crossover operator for the three-dimensional
chromosomes is a generalisation of the k-point
crossover, also known as parameterised uniform
crossover Spears and De Jong, 1991.. We generate
a mask that is used to define from which parent a
particular gene pilot point. is copied. This same
mask is used for each of the chromosomes containing field properties. The first step in defining the
mask is to generate, for each of the coordinate
directions of the chromosome, a one-dimensional

Fig. 4. Example of the crossover operator being applied to a


two-dimensional chromosome.

C.E. Romero, J.N. Carterr Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 (2001) 113123

The probability that any individual gene suffers a


jump mutation is 0.02, while the probability that it
suffers a creep mutation is 0.04. The three binary
chromosomes are also subject to the same mutation
operators. There is a probability of 0.02 that any
individual bit will be flipped 0 to 1, or 1 to 0.. Also,
any 10-bit gene is subject to a creep mutation with
probability 0.04.
Normally, mutation is considered as a rare event
that slightly changes one gene. The mutation rates
we describe above are quite large and occur quite
frequently. In the context of our problem, even this
level of mutation is unlikely to produce large effects
in the objective likelihood. function. However, future work will examine the effect of using smaller
amounts of mutation.

4. Results
Our results are described in two sections. In the
first, we examine the choice of parameters used in
the characterisation process. In the second, we consider a series of sensitivity studies to the formulation
of the GA.

119

4.1. Reseroir study


Fig. 5 shows the progressive reduction of the
likelihood function through a sequence of 400 function evaluations simulations.. We show two curves:
one for a single run of our GA and one for a
simulated annealing SA. optimiser. The SA uses the
two mutation operators described in Section 3.3 and
an automatic cooling schedule developed by Huang
et al. 1986.. We have tried several different versions
of the SA algorithm, using different probabilities for
the application of the jump and creep operators. The
curve shown is the one with best performance found
to date. There are a number of points to note: the GA
performs better than the best of the SA runs that we
have generated, even though it is doubtful that this
GA is optimal; the initial population has an average
likelihood value of approximately 2.5 = 10 6 , the average of the final population is 5.5 = 10 5, with a best
likelihood value of 4.2 = 10 5, the best value obtained by the SA algorithm is 1.5 = 10 6 ; the variability within a single generation of the GA is reduced
as the scheme progresses.
Fig. 6 shows typical relative contributions from
the three well production measurements: injector

Fig. 5. Comparison of the performance for the GA and SA algorithms.

120

C.E. Romero, J.N. Carterr Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 (2001) 113123

Fig. 6. Contributions to the GA function values from the principle measurement groups.

BHP PI.; producer BHP PP.; and water production


WP.. It is clear that the main reduction in likelihood
value is due to an improved match of the injector
BHP. There is an initial slight reduction in likelihood
value due to an improvement in the producer BHP.
However, no improvement is seen in the water production measurement. When we examined the results

in detail, it was found that the WP contribution was


almost entirely due to excessive water production
from two wells, and this overproduction was almost
unchanged throughout the optimisation process.
A close examination of the model showed that
both wells had been placed on the down-thrown side
of a fault, rather than the intended up-thrown side, a

Fig. 7. Oil production profile from a typical production well.

C.E. Romero, J.N. Carterr Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 (2001) 113123

121

Fig. 8. BHP and water cut profiles from a typical production well.

consequence of the grid coarsening. This resulted in


both wells being completed below the oilwater
contact. We conclude that, unsurprisingly, the GA
method is not able to compensate for a structural
error in the numerical model.
Figs. 7 and 8 show the typical behaviour of a
production well. The period that we use to characterise the model is 1460 days, during which the well
shown perfectly matches the oil production rate. The
BHP is also in good agreement for most of this
period. However, we can see that the water influx
has not been accurately matched. Beyond this initial
period, we compare our prediction with what actu-

ally occurred. The predicted oil rate is above the


measured value, while the BHP fell below the
planned minimum of 200 bar. The model is a poor
predictor of water influx. This poor prediction of
water production is a problem often encountered,
even with numerical models prepared by experienced
reservoir engineers. Overall, the quality of the match
achieved is similar to that which might be achieved
manually by an experienced reservoir engineer.
4.2. Sensitiity studies
We have conducted two sets of sensitivity studies.
The first set considers the variables used within the

Table 1
Sensitivity to optimisation variables

Base case
M1
M2
M3
M4

Fault
parameters

Geostatistical
parameters

Skin
factors

Well
locations

Pilot
points

Performance

1.000
1.060
0.817
0.824
0.803

C.E. Romero, J.N. Carterr Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 31 (2001) 113123

122

numerical reservoir model. The second set compares


variations in the GA formulation. We use the same
measure of performance throughout our analysis. For
our base case, we measure the improvement in average likelihood value between the first generation and
the last generation. The performance of each case is
then reported as a fraction of the base case result.
Values greater than 1 are an improvement, values
less than 1 are worse. Care must be taken when
interpreting the results, as they are based on single
runs of the GA.
4.2.1. Numerical parameters
In the base case we include: parameters to control
the fault transmissibilities; the parameters to control
the geostatistical simulation; well skin factors; the
well locations as pilot points; and the grid of pilot
points. Table 1 shows which parameters were included in each sensitivity case, it also gives the
performance measure. From case M1, we conclude
that for this model, little was gained by including the
fault and geostatistical parameters in the optimisation. Cases M2, M3 and M4 show that it is important
to include well locations and grid locations as pilot
points, and that skin factors are important.
4.2.2. GA parameters
We have tested three of the GA parameters: the
population size; the probability that a gene is mutated; the probability that crossover occurs. We also
checked that changing the random number seed made
no significant difference. The results are shown in
Table 2. From these results, we conclude that the GA
performance is robust to changes in its parameter
settings.

5. Conclusions
In this paper, we have demonstrated that genetic
algorithms can be applied to a realistic reservoir
characterisation problem with more than 1900 variables. The genetic algorithm used was designed to
exploit features in the problem. We cannot claim, at
present, that this is the best form of the genetic
algorithm for this problem. We have shown that our
genetic algorithm does out perform a simple simulated annealing algorithm.
We have shown that the method is reasonably
insensitive to the parameter settings used to control
the GA. It is also robust to the failure, or loss, of
individual simulations. Additional advantages are:
the ease with which the method can be parallelised
without the need to purchase expensive computers
Forrest et al., 1999.; the algorithm returns a suite of
solutions, i.e. the final population, from which an
engineer can select a representative group, or they
could be used to assess prediction uncertainty. It is
an ideal method to implement as an automatic reservoir characterisation algorithm.
With respect to the reservoir model that we have
used, it has been shown that: with a sufficiently high
density of pilot points, the results obtained are insensitive to the geostatistical parameters; the inclusion
of the well locations as pilot points is important, but
not sufficient, to obtain a good result; well skin
factors needed to be included as optimisation variables; the GA was not able to overcome mistakes in
the construction of the model.
Our future research will concentrate on testing our
formulation of the GA, and to correct the underlying
reservoir model.
Acknowledgements

Table 2
Sensitivity to GA parameters
Population Mutation Crossover Random Performance
size
probability probability seed
Base 20
case
G1 40
G2
G3
G4

0.06

0.99

seed 1

1.000

seed 2

1.030
0.984
1.004
1.047

0.12
0.60

The authors would like to acknowledge the support of PDVSA E & P and the Commission of the
European Union and the assistance of the PUNQ
Project group.
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