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We'd all love X-ray specs for exploration, but in the meantime let's settle for 2.5D AEM Inversion!

Australian geophysics software provider Intrepid Geophysics markets itself as a one-stop-shop for geology modelling solutions, although its 2D and 3D products can be bought separately.

The first is simply named Intrepid, and facilitates processing, filtering, interpreting, visualizing and map-making from 1D magnetic and FTG data. The 3D product, GeoModeller, builds models based on geology contacts, dip-dip-direction data and drill hole data.

However, the firm suggests that a mix of the two is ideal, pairing the speed and analytical precision of 1D datasets with the resolution of 3D inversion datasets. Intrepid describes the resulting solution as a 2.5D AEM inversion model, the primary advantage being that it can model topography and irregular subsurface structures over a geo-electric distance greater than the AEM 3D source footprint.

Although Intrepid provides extensive educational resources to clients, it recognizes that learning and running the software can be time-consuming, and like many software firms it provides a managed service option, as well as the option to design custom solutions.

The firm also provides a marine gravity solution, Sea-g, and a centralized data management system, JetStream.

To learn what these offerings mean for exploration clients, Chilexplore Group spoke to Intrepid Geophysics managing director Des Fitzgerald.

Intrepid Geophysics MD Des Fitzgerald

CER: A recent presentation by your CEO mentions the evolution of cloud options for the core solution – what about GeoModeller and Jetstream?

DF: The biggest constraint for Cloud software releases is the 3D graphics interfaces, but there are many other details that arise: What is the location of the data vs the software? How easy is it to get a quick result, and in what form does that result show up? It is for these sorts of reasons that the ubiquitous desktop or laptop with installed software is not going away soon.

Before and After: Optimised Data Processing
Source: Intrepid Geophysics

a. GeoModeller is designed to be a desktop integrated geology/geophysics toolbox, so a derivative product with dumbed down capability is the most likely cloud version.

b. JetStream is already the embodiment of a cloud solution. Large data providers/government agencies/mining companies have a massive problem in establishing one point of truth for their core reference datasets. Making these available easily, on demand, and with clever ways to just get the bits you need is where JetStream fits in. Cloud computing just raises the bar on what is expected.

CER: Can you talk about your R&D budget for 2021 vs 2020?

DF: Intrepid has fairly consistently spent around A$1m/year as part of our Australian Government/ATO recognised annual R&D budget. It is a rolling situation: as goals are achieved, there is a change of focus.

Cloud computing has started to take a large chunk of this year’s spend. Amazon has helped by supplementing our budgets, and also providing advice from its experts. The evolution of high-resolution inversion technology that is less ambiguously imaging below the ground has a long tradition in geophysics, especially following the success of seismic in-basin studies.

It is inevitable that airborne surveying using EM sensing will supplement and provide rapid and cost-effective ways to image complex geological section images. Cloud computing just makes this more tractable in semi-real time. Those scenes in Star Trek where, on approaching a new planet, Mr Spock says he can scan below the ground for the required minerals – that still remains science fiction!

CER: In what situations do customers ask for a customized solution?

DF: Large organizations with a very targeted brief and legacy data issues seem to stand out as requiring customised solutions. In South America, the Andes also present unique challenges for explorers. We know that huge investments have been made in acquiring airborne datasets, e.g. Magnetic Telluric, that other countries in the world have not bothered to do. The call for a specialised response to actually get some new value from this existing sunk cost is a typical customised solution challenge. Otherwise, Intrepid stays as close to vanilla productization as it can.

CER: What problems do users encounter when applying this software in the field?

DF: Complexity, poor control over data acquisition, no idea of rock properties, or the weathering profiles etc. You cannot assume that an existing geology map is correct in detail.

Glyph technology added to Intrepid’s 3D explore tool. Source: Intrepid Geophysics

CER: What changes to the software are customers requesting?

DF: Actually, Intrepid has such a depth of experience and has gone to such great lengths to capture the details of all the scenarios, that we don’t get many requests [for functions] that are not already covered by the existing training and examples.

CER: How well set-up are you for providing the Service option in Latin America?

DF: Obviously, boots on the ground is an issue, as is native Spanish speaking. In the past, for an instrument company I had set up, we had a good local agent in Chile. The Australian mining companies have come and gone quite a bit recently, so coming in with them is not an avenue at present.

In Brazil, Vale and Petrobras were big enough to cope with being serviced via annual visits from Melbourne. They also funded annual training catch up meetings. But, since the crash in Brazil, that has fallen away.

CER: Is there any publicly available data that can be incorporated into JetStream?

DF: South America is poorly served by government agencies on this topic. The big satellite datasets are there, but these lack the resolution for anything of much use when detailed exploration is undertaken.

In the Andes, huge investments have been made in acquiring airborne datasets that other countries in the world have not bothered to interpret the data.

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