Sampling rocks in hard places – the value of visualisation software12 April 2012
Intelligent visualisation and analysis software can increase productivity by revolutionising routine analysis techniques. Rowan Watt-Pringle spoke to Jérôme Hummel, application engineer and mining specialist at VSG, about the value of visualisation and analysis, as well as about new options unveiled within the seventh version of the company’s Avizo Fire 3D visualisation software.
Versatile and advanced 3D visualisations
VSG boasts more than 20 years of experience in 3D imaging software. Its Avizo Fire offering is an advanced 3D visualisation and analysis software application for exploring core sample data sets.
Hummel pointed out the versatility of this software, and said: "It can range from simple mine model visualisation to complex analysis."
Hummel used the example of Avizo Wind, a software application typically used with mechanical data in the field of mechanical and physical metallurgy to "aid an understanding of the results from solvers in the domain of computational fluid dynamics and finite element analysis, by providing advanced post processing and feature extraction capabilities".
The Avizo Fire series, said Hummel: "Provides advanced tools to extract quantitative information from 3D images, allowing (for example) the deduction of petrophysical properties from a scanned core sample extracted from the core hole."
These properties can include porosity or absolute permeability, while Hummel added that: "Fracture analysis of many core samples can help to elaborate a fracture model of the mine."
Visualising increased productivity with Avizo Fire
Avizo Fire 7, through the use of non-destructive analysis, also increases the productivity of routine analysis.
"Non-destructive, or image-based, analyses reduce the analysis time compared to physical experiments," Hummel explained. "In addition, Avizo Fire 7 allows process automation. The analysis needed on any given data can be automated to be repeated on hundreds of rocks, while the software is also a simulator for physical properties."
This is just one of the reasons why Avizo Fire 7 represents an advancement of previous 3D imaging software: "The new XLab Hydro extension allows the user to simulate physical properties like absolute permeability directly from the 3D image, with no need to extract a 3D mesh," Hummel added.
Advantages of this application should not be underestimated. As Hummel pointed out: "If physical property calculation is done on hundreds of rock samples, the time and cost of the calculation can be dramatically reduced by using our simulator." Instead of doing the physical experiment on every core, they can now be done on a few core samples to check the error margin with the simulator.
Hummel also re-emphasised the fact that this is just one of several software advances: "This new edition of Avizo Fire offers many new visualisation techniques, measurement tools and image filters, which all bolster the segmentation process, and performance has been greatly improved, with some intensive calculations now being accelerated with a graphic processing unit (GPU)".
Automated workflows and expansion via Open Inventor
One of the most significant advances in the seventh edition of Avizo Fire is surely the introduction of several automated workflows, which assists users in performing complex analysis processes simply and efficiently.
"Avizo is an open framework. It provides a C++ development wizard, to integrate custom modules within the standard framework, meaning that end-users are able to add in-house algorithms to the platform," Hummel noted.
"Open Inventor is an object-oriented, cross-platform 3D graphics toolkit for the development of industrial-strength, interactive applications using C++, .NET or Java," said Hummel. "It is used by hundreds of thousand users worldwide and in hundreds of professional software applications."
According to Hummel, while Open Inventor has been around for more than two decades, there have been a number of recent advances, including very advanced mesh and volume API (application programming interfaces) which facilitate large data management features and cutting-edge visualisation techniques.
Open Inventor provides a flexible and extremely high-performing graphics engine, while several visualisation extensions are available. "These include very powerful features for mesh visualisation," he stated.
"MeshViz XLM is ideal for visualising and interacting with block models of any kind (regular, sub-blocked or stratigraphic, for example). Block models can be filtered interactively for ore body extraction, while isosurfaces - as well as any plane - can be extracted.
"VolumeViz LDM, meanwhile, is a very advanced solution for out of the core volume data," he continued. "It can be used to interactively visualise and manipulate extremely large block models consisting of billions of blocks."
VSG's customer support, development and cooperative R&D
Hummel concluded by highlighting the vital function played by VSG's comprehensive customer support, as well as custom development and cooperative R&D for Avizo users: "We work very closely with leaders in their respective markets. This helps us to understand the needs of our users better and provide improved help, based on our knowhow in terms of visualisation and data analysis."
This is clear from a host of satisfied long-term clients, including Physics of Geological Processes (PGP) - one of Norway's Centres of Excellence, funded by the Norwegian Research Council and hosted by the University of Oslo.
A cross-disciplinary research centre, PGP aims for a fundamental and quantitative understanding of the Earth's complex patterns and processes and uses Avizo to analyse and visualise fracturing in organic-rich shale during heating.
IFP Energies nouvelles has also used VSG's Avizo software offerings to support advanced research projects on the experimental characterisation and modelling of multiphase flow in porous media. The main objective of these projects is to understand and improve the assessment, development and exploitation of oil and gas fields, as well as developing CO2 geological storage methodologies and technologies.
Germany's Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics (LIAG), meanwhile, employs Avizo's software to visualise and understand complex pore networks, as well as derive and quantify petrophysical data from micro CT (computer tomography) images.
Research conducted by LIAG's department for Petrophysics and Borehole Geophysics relies on Avizo's software to achieve this, with results being directly linked to improving recent and developing new methodologies, devices and techniques for, among other things, paleoclimatic research, geothermal energy usage and CO2 sequestration and storage (CCS).