The Cat Scans Of The Oil Patch

New technology is finding crude in fields thought to be played out

Five years ago, when Exxon Corp. began drilling for oil and natural gas in marshes 15 miles southeast of Lake Charles, La., the only things it seemed sure to find were muskrats and snakes. Southern Louisiana is one of the most heavily drilled regions on earth, and big new discoveries are rare. Geological maps based on so-called seismic data weren't much help. Reviewing the squiggly lines "was like turning on a TV and just seeing snow," says Johnny L. Hall, technology manager at Exxon USA.

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