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Cooper, N.M.1
Mustagh Resources Ltd., Calgary, 400 604 -- 1st Street SW, Calgary, Alberta T2P 1M7, e:mail:
Exploration for oil and gas involves the evaluation of a variety of information. Well logs provide detailed
information at specific locations, usually an area less than one meter surrounding the well bore. We use
our knowledge of formation signatures to recognize depositional environments and try to project this
information between wells.
Reflection seismic methods can be used to create images of the geologic changes between wells. These
images can help complete a picture of the subsurface that should enhance the ability of the explorationist
to successfully select future well locations. Seismic is an effective tool as long as it provides meaningful
and helpful images for the desired objectives. The seismic tool must provide a cost efficient alternative to
additional drilling.
3D seismic has become a common exploration and production tool. This year, about 1200 3D programs
will be recorded in Canada. In fact, Canadian geophysicists are internationally recognized as experts in
the design, acquisition and processing of 3D seismic programs. 3D has also taken a strong hold on
seismic operations in the United States. In every country where the author has consulted (18 countries on
6 continents), 3D techniques are either being used or are under serious consideration. The following map
indicates the locations of some of the more intense onshore 3D activity. It is by no means a complete
record of activity levels.

What is it about 3D that is making it such a popular tool? What determines the cost of 3D seismic and
how does it compare to 2D?
Reflection seismic is a method that allows us to image changes in the subsurface geology by inducing an
acoustic wave from near the surface of the earth and listening for the echoes from deeper stratigraphic
boundaries (much like ultra-sound is used to create pictures of unborn babies in their mother’s wombs).
2D seismic is recorded using straight lines of receivers crossing the surface of the earth. Acoustic energy
is usually provided by the detonation of explosive charges or by large vibroseis trucks. The sound spreads
out through the subsurface as a spherical wave front. Interfaces between different types of rocks will both
reflect and transmit this wave front. The reflected signals return to the surface where they are observed by
sensitive microphones known as geophones. The signals detected by these devices are recorded on
magnetic tape and sent to data processors where they are adjusted and corrected for known distortions.
The final processed data is displayed in a form known as "stacked" data.
In the 3D seismic method, we record
many lines of receivers across the
earth’s surface. The area of receivers we
record is known as a "patch". Often, we
employ lines of source points laid out
orthogonally to the receivers. By
sequentially recording a group of shots
lying between two receiver lines
(referred to as a "salvo") and centered
within the patch, we obtain uniform,
one-fold reflection information from a
subsurface area that is one quarter of the
useful surface area of the patch.
Although we usually record a large
square or rectangular patch, the useful data at our zone of interest is offset limited by several geophysical
factors. Therefore, we often consider the useful area of coverage as a circle with a radius equal to our
maximum useful offset. By moving the patch and recording more salvos of source points, we accumulate
overlapping subsurface coverage and build statistical repetition over each subsurface reflecting area (bin).
The quality of the sub-surface image obtained can be related to the statistical diversity of the information
recorded for each cell of sub-surface coverage (known as a "bin"). The more observations obtained that
contain unique measurements of the echoes from a certain area, the more successful we will be in re-
constructing the subsurface geological configuration that caused those observations. The multiplicity (or
"fold") of the recorded data for 2D and 3D methods is given by the following equations:
It is important to note that desired 2D image quality is controlled by our maximum useable offset
(proportional to target depth) and governs our selection of source interval. 3D image quality is sensitive to
offset squared and controls our selection of line grid density. The fact that 3D coverage is proportional to
offset squared means that the economics of our program (grid density) and success of our program (image
quality) are very sensitive to our evaluation of useable source-receiver offsets. We consider this factor to
be of prime importance in a 3D design.
One of the most obvious differences between 2D and 3D seismic is that 3D imaging provides information
continuously through the subsurface within the bounds of the survey whereas 2D seismic reveals only
strips of information. Consider the images below and our ability to see both gross outlines and fine
features when just a few lines are revealed versus a rough image of all points in the picture.

Now observe our increased ability to see distinct features (eyes, nose, lips, teeth, individual strands of
hair) as the image quality is sharpened. If our objective is to see only the gross structural elements (where
is the face ? ... Where is are the edges of the head ? ... Is the head separated from the shoulders ?), then the
coarse image is sufficient and we need not spend the extra money to obtain finer image quality.
However, if the details of the structure are important, if a fault cuts across the structure (i.e. the thatch of
hair crossing the face), then we need better image quality and must pay the price of better coverage. If we
are pursuing subtle stratigraphic plays, we may need to see individual spaces within the fall of hair either
side of the trace (analogous to sand bars within fluvial channels). Then we must attain optimal resolution
and we will be concerned if the cost of the 3D still justifies the benefits we may achieve.

Furthermore, the final stacked data in 2D is plagued by source related noise, multiples, and incorrectly
migrated events from out of the plane of seismic section (illustrated below in the picture on the left). To
some extent, 3D methods improve each of these concerns. 3D imaging provides more traces and more
diverse statistics to the seismic process. The picture on the right below shows three different recorded
traces using three different source points and three different receiver points. All traces image the same
mid point (where deep reflections are assumed to occur). Each trace represents a different source-receiver
offset. Also, each trace represents a different source-receiver azimuth. Azimuth is a statistic unique to 3D
recording and not a contributor to 2D processes. Azimuth adds a dimension of statistical diversity that is
very helpful to the imaging procedure.

The magic of 3D is best conveyed by considering how we capture measurements of a returning wavefield.
When we introduce acoustic energy in the earth, it is like dropping a large bag of ping-pong balls from
the ceiling of a large room. The balls will bounce erratically from inhomogeneities in the room (chairs,
desks, people). Many of the balls will return to the ceiling where their return could be observed and
measured. By analyzing the timing and position of the returning balls, we can infer what irregularities
may exist in the room. In oil and gas exploration, we are trying to image reservoirs and traps. Our image
and reconstruction of the subsurface will be limited if we only receive the "ping pong balls" in distinct 2D
lines. However, if we observe the reflected wavefield (ping-pong balls) over a large area, we will have
much more useful information to construct our subsurface images.
Subsurface redundancy is determined by the density of source and receiver lines in proportion to the
maximum useable source-receiver offset. Since shallow targets mean more restricted offsets, the density
(and therefore the cost) of 3D programs for shallow objectives increases dramatically compared to
surveys for deeper objectives. This phenomenon is not so noticeable in 2D since 2D parameters are not so
sensitive to useable offsets.
Typical Costs of 2D Seismic
Play Offset Fold Source CDP Cost
Type (depth) % Interval Size (per km)

High 500 50 10 5 $7,500

Shallow 680 20 34 8.5 $6,500
Paleo 960 12 80 10 $5,500
D-3 1400 14 100 12.5 $5,000
Deep 2000 20 100 12.5 $5,000
Foothills 4000 40 100 12.5 $30,000
Typical Costs of 3D Seismic
Play Offset Fold Line Bin Cost
Type (depth) % Spacing Size (per sq

High 500 20 100 5 $700,000

Shallow 700 10 200 15 $40,000
Paleo 1000 14 240 20 $24,000
D-3 1400 18 290 25 $18,000
Deep 2000 20 400 30 $12,000
Foothills 4000 10 1120 40 x $8,000
The above costs are approximate averages for the Western Canada Basin and should be used as guidelines
for relative comparisons only. The "High Res" parameters refer to detailed 4D work performed of certain
shallow enhanced recovery projects where the intent was to map advancing steam or fire fronts.
In order to record data with sufficient density over large areas, we require a large number of recording
channels. The operations of 3D are considerably more elaborate than 2D and the daily cost of crew is
substantially increased. However, the rewards include fewer dry holes, more optimized well locations,
guidance for horizontal drilling projects, more complete evaluation of mineral rights and better
understanding of the nature of prospects.
The following comparisons of 2D and 3D activities in Western Canada for the year of 1997 are compiled
by personal communication with a sampling of clients, loose interpretation of industry statistics (total
wells drilled from ERCB, crew activity levels from CAGC), and personal involvement in approximately
20% of seismic recorded in Canada. These interpretations do not represent any formal study or extensive
surveys of the industry. None the less, we believe the following numbers represent the approximate state
of the industry in a fairly accurate relative comparison.
2D versus 3D Seismic Activity Levels (1997)

2D 3D

Program 30,000 km 24,000 sq km

Recorded (1200

Crew Months 200 350

Channels per 200 1200
Average Cost $5,000 $350,000
Total $150,000,000 $420,000,000
2D versus 3D Estimated Results (1997)

2D 3D

Wells Drilled on 3000 8000


Drill Density 1 per 10 km 1 per 3 sq km

Seismic Costs /Well $50,000 $52,500
Est. Completion 60% 80%
Quality of Fair Good
Although 3D does not remove all exploration risk, it generally improves success rates and productive
wells will more often be on optimal locations and should deliver better production and exhibit slightly
longer life. One client who recently recorded a 3D over a well developed pool stated that six to ten of the
dry holes associated with pool development would obviously not have been drilled if the 3D data was
available prior to drilling. The costs of a 3D program may seem high, but the above figures indicate that
exploration and development efficiency can be considerably enhanced by knowledgeable application of
the 3D method.


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Seismic Exploration
Seismic exploration is the search for commercially economic subsurface deposits of crude oil, natural gas and minerals by
the recording, processing, and interpretation of artificially induced shock waves in the earth. Artificial seismic energy is
generated on land by vibratory mechanisms mounted on specialized trucks. Seismic waves reflect and refract off subsurface
rock formations and travel back to acoustic receivers called geophones. The travel times (measured in milliseconds) of the
returned seismic energy, integrated with existing borehole well information, aid geoscientists in estimating the structure
(folding and faulting) and stratigraphy (rock type, depositional environment, and fluid content) of subsurface formations,
and determine the location of prospective drilling targets.

Seismic exploration includes the following processes and activities:

 Review existing seismic and available data.

 Acquire, process and interpret new 2D seismic across concessions.
 Drill science well to evaluate reservoir characteristics by acquiring data in drilling phase, open hole logging, core
analysis and production tests.
 Drill second well with potentially a horizontal section for further analysis and production tests .

2D Seismic

The oil and gas industry uses 2D seismic, or seismic reflection, to analyze the structure of the rocks hidden beneath the
surface. Seismic reflection involves sending acoustic energy into the ground (using an energy source such as a Vibroseis) to
create a sound picture beneath the surface. Each stratigraphic layer within the Earth reflects a portion of the energy back and
allows the rest to pass through. These reflected energy waves are recorded by sensitive receivers, or geophones, at the
surface. Each receiver’s reading of the reflected energy waves is recorded onto magnetic tape then the shot location is
moved along and the process repeated. Typically, the recorded signals are subjected to further processing before they are
ready to be interpreted, an area of significant active research within industry and academia. In general, the more complex the
geology of the area under study, the more sophisticated techniques are required to remove noise and increase resolution.
Modern seismic reflection surveys contain large amount of data and so require large amounts of computer processing.

A 2D seismic profile is produced when the processing is complete – Step 1. The seismic
profile below shows an interpreted cross section. Geoscientists use these profiles, in addition to
nearby well information, to produce maps of the rocks buried below – Step 2. These
maps allow the geoscientists to accurately position exploration wells in order to find oil
and gas deposits.


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April 15, 2009

How do seismic surveys work?

By John McFarland
Seismic surveys have become the primary tool of exploration companies in the
continental United States, both onshore and offshore. 3-D seismic surveys have
lowered finding costs and allloowed exploration for reserves not locatable by other
means, revolutionizing the industry. Below is a non-scientific explanation of how
seismic surveys work.

A seismic survey is conducted by creating a shock wave – a seismic wave – on the

surface of the ground along a predetermined line, using an energy source. The seismic
wave travels into the earth, is reflected by subsurface formations, and returns to the
surface where it is recorded by receivers called geophones – similar to microphones.
The seismic waves are created either by smalle xplosive charges set off in shallow holes
(“shot holes“) or by large vehicles equipped with heave plates (“Veibroseis” trucks) that
vibrate on the ground. By analyzing the time it takes for the seismic waves to reflect off
of subsurface formations and return to the surface, a geophysicist can map subsurface
formations and anomalies and predict where oil or gas may be trapped in sufficient
quantities for exploration activities.

Until relatively recently, seismic surveys were conducted along a single line on the
ground, and their analysis created a two-dimensional picture akin to a slice through the
earth beneath that line, showing the subsurface geology along that line. This is referred
to as two-dimensional or 2D seismic data.

A 2D Seismic Line Image:

In the last 20-30 years, with the development of computers, geophysicists have been
able to take seismic testing to a new level by conducting three-dimensional, or 3D,
seismic tests. In 1980, about 100 3D surveys had been performed. By the mid 1990’s,
200 to 300 3-D surveys were being performed each year. In the 1980’s it took the most
sophisticated Cray computers to analyze the data. Today, the analysis is performed on
super-desk-top computers. Currently, almost all oil and gas exploratory wells are
preceded by 3-D seismic surveys. The basic method of testing is the same as for 2D, but
instead of a single line of energy source points and receiver points, the source points
and receiver points are laid out in a grid across the property. The resulting recorded
reflections received at each receiver point come from all directions, and sophisticated
computer programs can analyze this data to create a three-dimensional image of the

A 3D Seismic Image:

3D surveys can be conducted in almost any environment – in the ocean, in swamps, and
in urban areas. A 3D seismic survey may cover many square miles of land and may cost
$40,000 to $100,000 per square mile or more. The data obtained from such a survey is
therefore very valuable, and if protected from disclosure constitutes a trade secret.
Seismic datea is licensed, bought and sold by seismic survey companies, brokers and
exploration companies.

There are three phases of seismic surveys: data acquisition, processing, and

Data Acquisition

3D surveys are acquired by laying out energy source points and receiver points in a grid
over the area to be surveyed. The receiver points – to record the reflected vibrations
from the source points – are laid down in parallel lines (receiver lines), and the source
points are laid out in parallel lines that are approximately perpendicular to the receiver
lines. The spacing of the source and receiver points is determined by the design and
objectives of the survey. They may be several hundred feet apart, or as close as 200 feet.

In on-shore data acquisition the energy source for a seismic survey is either Vibroseis or
an explosive charge, generally some form of dynamite or an explosive product called
primacord. A Vibroseis truck has a large metal plate under the center of the truck body
that is lowered onto the ground so that the entire weight of the truck is on the plate. The
plate is then caused to vibrate at a specified power and frequency, creating seismic
waves that travel into the ground. A single vibrator truck can generate more than
40,000 pounds of ground force, and usually four or five trucks are clustered together to
create the energy at each source point, creating a combined ground force of 150,000 to
200,000 pounds.
A Vibroseis Truck

If the energy souce is an explosive charge, the charge is usually set of in a hole between
10 and 150 feet deep, drilled for that purpose. Hole depths rarely exceed 80 feet. The
charge is a specified number of pounds of explosive – from 2 to 50 pounds, depending
on the depth of the hole.

The area covered by the 3D grid must be larger than the subsurface area to be imaged,
in order to acquire sufficient data for the area of interest. Generally, in order to acquire
“full-fold data for an area, souce and receiver points must be laid one-half to one mile
beyond the boundary of the area of interest. The additional data acquired in this “halo”
on the outer edge of a 3-D survey is sometimes called “tails.” If, therefore, a
landowner’s property is on the outer edge of a 3D survey, the permitting of his land as
part of the survey will not be for the purpose of exploring the subsurface of his property,
but for the purpose of acquiring a “full-fold” image of the adjacent property nearer the
center of the survey. The quality of the subsurface data at the edge of the survey will not
ordinarily be sufficient to map and evaluate the subsurface of these “tail” areas.

3D surveys must be conducted over a large area in order to provide sufficient data for
accurate interpration of the subsurface gdology. 3D surveys commonly cover 50 to 100
square miles or more. 3D surveys conducted at different times and covering different
but adjacent areas can later be combined into a single data set for processing and
analysis, provided there is sufficient overlap of the areas covered by the two surveys.

Data Processing

The data recorded from a seismic survey is originally in its “raw” or “unprocessed”
form. Before it can be used it must go through a series of computerized
processes. These processes – filtering, stacking, migrating and other computer analysis,
make the data useable and require powerful computers and sophisticated computer
programs. As computers have become more powerful and processing techniques more
sophisticated, it has become common to re-process seismic data acquired in earlier
years, creating new opportunities for exploration that could not originally be derived
from the 3D data. Processing of data can be very expensive and time-consuming,
depending on the size of the area surveyed and the amount of data acquire. Processing
of data from one 3D survey may take six months or more and cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars.

Data Interpretation
Finally, the resulting processed data must be interpreted by the geophysicist or
geologist. All seismic data is subject o interpretation, and no two experts will interpret
data identically. Geology is still a subjective science. Although dry holes have been
greatly reduced by 3D seismic technology, they have not been eliminated. The proper
interpretation of 3D data is a critical step in the process.

Posted in: Seismic Surveys

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1.- Se procedió a marcar un mecate cada 5 metros.

2.- Se clavaron 52 electrodos cada 5 metros a lo largo de toda la línea.
3.- Se tomaron las medidas por número n de la tomografía, es decir, primero
se determino la resistividad aparente para n=1, luego para n=2 y así hasta
llegar a
n=6 (figura 25, 26, 27 y 28).
4.- Se almacenaron cuidadosamente los datos en la hoja de campo y en la
computadora portátil.

Resistividad aparente vs
Distancia Horizontal
0.00 8.00 16.00 24.00 32.00 40.00 48.00 56.00 64.00 72.00 80.00 88.00 96.00 104.00 112.00 120.00 128.00
Distancia (m)
Resistividad ( Ωm.m)
Figura 24. Calicata con el a arreglo Wenner. La pseudo-profundidad de la misma es