ZoneVu – The Industry’s First Cloud-Based Drilling and Geosteering System

By February 2, 2021 No Comments

Here at Ubiterra, we have spent five years building the first cloud and browser-based app for drilling and geosteering horizontal wells. Now that our early customers have had ZoneVu in production for over a year, we have decided it is time to speak more frequently and publicly about their success with the app and why it is essential.

This blog entry is the first such communication. In this post, we will talk about how people, systems, and processes are strained by today’s ever-increasing ROPs and how the cloud can help.

Two Paradigm Shifts

Our industry is going through a couple of paradigm shifts. The first is the shift to resource plays and horizontal drilling. Here in North America, the transformation began almost 15 years ago. It is noteworthy that this shift has driven the need for “real-time” geoscience. In other words, geoscientists are now called upon to use 3D seismic and geosteering to help drilling engineers keep laterals in the pay zone when rates of penetration are approaching or even exceeding 500 feet per hour. Sounds challenging!

This challenge calls for a new breed of software that leverages real-time data telemetry from the drilling rig. It also needs to be inherently multi-user – all disciplines need to participate in this new kind of software since there is no time to email data and attachments between geoscientists and drilling and completion engineers. It should also natively support a 3D view of the subsurface, including the output of today’s 3D seismic interpretation systems.

An example of the paradigm shift as the Williston Basin went from 2,000 active vertical wells in 2005, to 29,000 mostly horizontal wells in 2020.

What Kind of Software Should This Be?

This gets us to the second paradigm shift – cloud-based software. Windows-based PC workstation software has a long and venerable history in our industry. PC workstation software has been the means by which nearly all prospects have been developed and horizontal wells geosteered.

It will continue to be used, but a new generation of software, developed from the ground up for the cloud, has appeared and is making a massive impact on various industries. This software is exciting because it works much better for real-time workflows and multi-user collaboration.

We use cloud software like this all the time in our personal lives. You access it through a web browser, it puts information at your fingertips instantly, and it connects you to people in a plethora of ways. When will software of this new type be available for use by our industry?

Introducing ZoneVu

ZoneVu is one of the first examples of native cloud software for the Oil and Gas Industry. It is the first such app targeting the needs of geoscientists focused on geosteering horizontal wells. Why is ZoneVu a big step forward? Let’s focus on geosteering.

Existing Windows PC geosteering software is either part of a workstation suite (Kingdom, GeoGraphix, etc.) or standalone and dedicated (SES, StarSteer). With these apps, you generally “steer off the emails” from the LWD company. Some have ways of sharing information – for example, saving a project to a cloud disk, and ways of sharing a screen, even via web browser extensions to the central PC app.

But these are subject to the usual hassles of all installed PC software – including the need to install software and dealing with licenses and bit-locks. As far as support for 3D seismic, the workstation apps handle this well, at the cost of some complexity.

As far as support for 3D seismic, the workstation apps handle this well, at the cost of some complexity. The dedicated geosteering apps don’t support that at all.

ZoneVu, on the Other Hand, is a Native Cloud App that Runs in the Microsoft Azure Cloud

Why is this good? First of all, ZoneVu runs in a browser, and there is no software to install, just like any modern browser app! It is designed so that any number of people in any discipline can access it. For example, well and seismic data and projects in ZoneVu are a shared resource across all users in a company. Anyone with a user id can access well data – using the intuitive ZoneVu map interface – instantly.

It goes a step further – having set up a project, say a pad with 20 wells to be drilled – in ZoneVu, you can share that project with your geosteering contractor, allowing geologists from both companies to steer in tandem, watching each other’s ongoing interpretations as they work! Similar to Google Docs, but for geosteering.

Cloud software is a game-changer for multi-user workflows.


Next, Let’s Talk About Real-Time Data

An active drilling rig is an excellent example of the application of real-time data. Unfortunately, the previous generation of software (i.e., PC software) does a poor job with real-time data and workflows. A fundamental reason is that PCs are designed to work standalone, and when you are not working, your PC is generally turned off.

ZoneVu, on the other hand, runs in the Azure cloud, and the Azure cloud is always turned on. Therefore, ZoneVu is always running, regardless of whether anyone is signed into it from a browser! When your wells are drilling, ZoneVu is still connected to your rig and always up-to-date.

Let’s face it, those who have steered wells over the weekend have been strained by the constant need to check your email for the latest update from the rig. ZoneVu can send you text or email notifications based on drilling conditions -– for example, texting you when a new survey station is detected — allowing you to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Cloud software is a boon for dealing with real-time data.


Thanks to the Azure cloud, Geologists can make decisions instantly, allowing them to keep up with accelerated ROP’s. At the same time, the live seismic curtain in ZoneVu provides a constant QC in tectonically complex areas.

Lastly, let’s talk about 3D

It wasn’t so long ago that to do 3D properly, you needed a high powered PC workstation. However, there has been fantastic progress in 3D graphics for laptops, and importantly, for commonly used web browsers, such as Chrome, Edge, and Firefox (ZoneVu works in all 3). So believe it or not, you can spin a 500 sq. mile 3D seismic survey with interpreted horizons and faults in ZoneVu in a browser! You can pull up wellbore curtain lines, inlines, crosslines, and depth slices easily and rapidly.

It goes even one step further. In an industry first, the seismic curtain line for your drilling horizontal well updates automatically in the browser while you are geosteering as ZoneVu detects new survey stations from the drill rig! ZoneVu leverages the full value of your 3D seismic interpretations while you geosteer, all in a simple web browser.

ZoneVu banishes the days of loading jpeg backdrops behind your geosteering interpretation, or even worse, calling your geophysicist at 2 in the morning to request a new seismic line because your well walked 100 ft to the west.

The 3D viewer in ZoneVu allows the Geologist to actively view offset wells, faults, surfaces, and multiple seismic attributes while simultaneously geosteering a well.

Impact on Horizontal Wells

We all understand that resource plays are here to stay, and the cloud apps and browsers are taking over, but what is the value for our industry at the end of the day? ZoneVu empowers geoscientists to keep up with real-time drilling data flows, allowing them to provide timely advice to drilling engineers so that they can keep the lateral in the pay zone.

Our latest release of ZoneVu also gives completion engineers access to the rich information in ZoneVu (drilling, seismic, petrophysical, lithologic, and structural) to use in designing their completions. The net result is a more optimally placed and completed horizontal well, and less stressed out geoscientists!

Stay tuned for more blog posts highlighting the numerous features of ZoneVu. Also, reach out to if you would like a demo or a free trial of ZoneVu.