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CGE 416


Department of Oil & Gas Engineering

Faculty of Chemical Engineering
UiTM Shah Alam
4 Overview of Petroleum Exploration

 Geological Techniques

 Geochemical Techniques

 Geophysical Techniques

After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

 Describe the roles of geological, geochemical and
geophysical techniques in petroleum exploration.
 Discuss the principles of geological, geochemical
and geophysical techniques.
 Identify the methods used in geophysical

 Exploration for oil and gas has long been considered an art as
well as a science.

 It encompasses a number of older methods in addition to new


 The explorationist must combine scientific analysis and an

imagination to successfully solve the problem of finding and
recovering hydrocarbons.
Geological Surveys
Geological Surveys
 A geological survey is the systematic investigation of the
geology beneath a given piece of ground for the purpose of
creating a geological map or model.

 Geological surveying employs techniques from the traditional

walk-over survey, studying outcrops and landforms, to
intrusive methods, such as hand augering and machine-driven
boreholes, to the use of geophysical techniques and remote
sensing methods, such as aerial photography and satellite

 Subsurface maps typically depict the three-dimensional form

of geological surfaces by means of contours and cross
sections. Computer-based models are increasingly used to
provide more comprehensive information storage and
greater flexibility of presentation.
Ms. Taryn Lopez
Cerro Negro Volcano, Nicaragua (2005)
2004 UWEC Geology Alumna
Engineering Geology
Exploration Geology
Mineral resources
Petroleum geology

Gulf of Mexico
Geological Surveys
 Geological mapping is commonly the first mineral
exploration method undertaken on the ground. This
involves a visit by a geologist to look at rock outcrops
and to observe the location, orientation and
characteristics of the rocks or sediments exposed at
the surface.
 It may involve vehicle access to a property, taking and
recording measurements and walking across the area.
It may also involve gathering small samples from rock
outcrops, soils or streams for chemical analysis.
 This information can then be used to prepare a
geological map of the exploration area, recording the
rock types and structures
Subsurface Mapping

 Geological maps are a representation of the distribution of

rocks and other geologic materials of different lithologies and
ages over the Earth’s surface or below it.
 The geologist measures and describes the rock sections and
plots the different formations on a map, which shows their
 Subsurface mapping is a valuable tool for locating
underground features that may form traps or outline the
boundaries of a possible reservoir.
Subsurface Mapping

 Subsurface mapping is used to work out the geology of

petroleum deposits.
 Three dimensional subsurface mapping is made possible
by the use of well data and helps to decipher the
underground geology of a large area where there are no
outcrops at the surface.
 Maps are a 2-D plan view representation of an area.
 The mapped area, in an oil or gas field context, is usually
the agreed limits of the field.
Subsurface Mapping

 Maps are the primary vehicles to summarise, interpret and

communicate spatial data.

 Relationships are shown on maps by contours.

 Contouring is the drawing of lines of equal value through a

discrete data set of values at a few points and can be done
either manually or computers.

 Contour lines describe a surface (next Figure)

Subsurface Mapping
Subsurface Mapping
To visualize what a contour line represents, picture a
mountain (or any other topographic feature) and imagine
slicing through it with a perfectly flat, horizontal piece of
Subsurface Mapping
Subsurface Mapping
Subsurface Mapping
Subsurface Mapping
3D Coordinate System (X, Y, Z)

 In vertical wells, the data is located at the well

coordinates (usually noted as x and y). The depth in a
well (or any other property) is denoted as z.

 In deviated wells, the data point is located at the x,y

that corresponds to the northing (mN) and easting
(mE) relating to the appropriate measured depth in
the well bore (derived from the well survey).
Subsurface Mapping

 Subsurface geological maps used for exploration and

production include;

(1) geophysical surveys,

(2) structural maps and sections,
(3) isopach maps
(4) lithofacies maps.
Manual Contouring

There are 5 golden rules of contouring :

1) A contour line cannot cross itself or any other contour.

2) A contour cannot merge with contours of same or different
3) A contour must pass between points whose values are lower
and higher than its own value.
4) A contour line of a given value is repeated to indicate
reversal of slope.
5) A contour line must close within mapped area or end at
edge of map.
Manual (Interpretive) Contouring

Figure 6.3

 The gross rock volume (GRV) is the total

volume between the mapped surface that defines the top
of the reservoir or potential reservoir and the hydrocarbon
contact or expected hydrocarbon contact.

 The GRV of a reservoir is determined from the structural maps.


Manually – using a mechanical device known as a


By computer – by substracting oil-water contact grid

(surface) from top structure grid.

 Next Figure shows the basic procedure for

Basic Planimeter Procedure

Step 1 (Basic planimeter procedure)

Basic Planimeter Procedure

Step 2 (Basic planimeter procedure)

Basic Planimeter Procedure

Step 3 (Basic planimeter procedure)


 This planimeter is used to determine the total

volume between the top reservoir surface
and the hydrocarbon contact.

 This volume is known as Gross

Rock Volume (GRV)
Structural Contour Maps

 Contour maps show a series of lines drawn at regular

 The points on each line represent equal values, such as depth
or thickness.
 One type of contour map is the structural map, which
depicts the depth of a specific formation from the surface.
 The principle is the same as that used in a topographic map,
but instead shows the highs and lows of the buried layers.
Structural Contour Maps

 Contour maps for exploration may depict geologic structure

as well as thickness of formations.

 They can show the angle of a fault and where it intersects

with formations and other faults, as well as where formations
taper off or stop abruptly.

 The subsurface structural contour map is almost or fully

dependent on well data for basic control.
Structural Contour Maps

Structural map and longitudinal profile section showing top of salt, which is datum
for structure contours

 Structural, stratigraphic, and topographic information

can be portrayed on cross-sections that reproduce
horizontally represented map information in vertical

 Maps represent information in the plan view and

provide a graphic view of distribution.

 Cross sections present the same information in the

vertical view and illustrate vertical relationships
such as depth, thickness, superposition, and lateral
and vertical changes of geologic features.

 Raw data for cross-sections come from stratigraphic

sections, structural data, well sample logs, cores,
wireline logs, and structural, stratigraphic, and
topographic maps.

Completed geologic map and cross-section

Isopach Maps

 An isopach map illustrates thickness variations

within a tabular unit, layer or stratum. Isopachs
are contour lines of equal thickness over an area.

 An isopach(s) of the reservoir producing horizon(s)

is required to determine whether the oil column is
thinner than the sand or whether the sand is thin
relative to the oil column.

 In some fields, structure maps do not define the oil

accumulation, but the isopach does.
Isopach Maps
Isopach Maps

 Isopach maps are similar in appearance to contour

maps but show variations in the thickness of the
 These maps may be either surface or subsurface
depending on data used during construction.
 Isopach maps are frequently color coded to assist
visualization and are very useful in following
pinchouts or the courses of ancient stream beds.
Isopach Maps

 Porosity or permeability variations may also be

followed by such means.

 Geologists use isopach maps to aid in exploration

work, to calculate how much petroleum remains in a
formation, and to plan ways to recover it.
Lithofacies Maps

 Lithofacies maps show, by one means or another,

changes in lithologic character and how it varies
horizontally within the formation.

 This type of map has contours representing the

variations in the proportion of sandstone, shale, and
other kinds of rocks in the formation.
Lithofacies Maps

Isopach and lithofacies maps

Petroleum Exploration
to start

The strategy change depending on either

they are looking at

Known oil province unknown oil province

Start with zero
Start with a base map
How do they carry out the process
 Studied previous available data
◦ Data base
◦ Geological reports
◦ Local graduate thesis

 Gather new data / additional data

◦ Geological survey
◦ Geophysical survey
◦ Drilling
Exploration’s Challenge

Exploration Methods
 Geological Mapping
 Remote Sensing Surface Data
 Arial Photography Rock distributions
 Field Studies Outcrops studies
Structural mapping
 Geophysical Mapping Oil seep

 Compilation of existing data

 Production History
 Geophysical Logs Subsurface Data
 Petrography Geophysical Survey

 Geochemistry
Geochemical Surveys
Geochemical Surveys
 Geochemical surveys are undertaken to target areas for further
exploration. The surveys usually involve the collection of soil, rock
and/or sediment samples. These samples are sent for laboratory
analysis to identify areas of potential mineralisation. The surveys
may comprise:
◦ Soil sampling – Hand-held tools such as shovels, picks and hand augers
are used to collect samples of soil and subsoil. Samples are typically
collected on a regular grid pattern and involve collection of small
(approximately one kilogram) samples of soil. Power augers, either hand
operated or vehicle-mounted, may be used. Sampling programs
undertaken using hand tools are supported by a four-wheel motorbike
or vehicle. Holes excavated uring the program are typically back-filled
and vegetation replaced immediately following sampling.
◦ Stream sediment sampling – Approximately two kilogram samples of
sediment are collected within drainage lines. Three samples are usually
taken at the junction of two creeks: one downstream of the junction
and two upstream of the junction (in each of the merging drainage
lines). Samples are typically extracted using hand tools and may be
sieved during collection.
Geochemical Surveys
◦ Rock chip sampling – Up to a few kilograms of rock material from
outcrops are collected using hand-held tools. Rock chip samples will
usually be collected during geological mapping programs.Channel
sampling – A series of samples of soil or rock are collected along the
face of the excavation. This may be a road cutting, the face of an open-
cut or underground mine, a trench or similar.
 The aim of collecting and analysing samples of soil, water and
sediment is to understand the chemical make-up of these samples,
and to enhance our understanding of the sources and mobilities of
chemical substances in the near-surface Earth environment.
Scientists can use these data to investigate how the rocks beneath
us are influencing the soils, sediments and waters around us.
Geochemistry is the link between geology - the study of rocks and
how they form, and the chemistry – what elements make up our
rock, soil and water.
 This geo-environmental survey will help geologists and
environmental scientists to better understand how chemical
elements are naturally distributed in the surface environment.
Geophysical Surveys
Geophysical Surveys

 Geophysics is the study of the earth by

quantitative physical methods.
 It involves the measurement, at or near the
Earth’s surface, of the physical properties of earth
materials such as rocks, sediments and soils.
 Geophysical techniques such as seismic surveys,
gravity surveys, and magnetic surveys provide
a way of measuring the physical properties of a
subsurface formation.
 These measurements are translated into geologic
data such as structure, stratigraphy, depth, and
1. Seismic

 The geophysical method that provides the most

detailed picture of subsurface geology is
the seismic survey.

 This involves the natural or artificial generation

and propagation of seismic (elastic) waves down
into Earth until they encounter a discontinuity
(any interruption in sedimentation) and are
reflected back to the surface.
Main Objective of Seismic Exploration beneath Earth’s surface

The main purpose of seismic exploration is to

render the most accurate possible graphic
representation of specific portions of the Earth's
subsurface geologic structure.

The images produced allow exploration

companies to accurately and cost-effectively
evaluate a promising target (prospect) for its oil
and gas yielding potential.
Seismic Data in 3-dimensional (3D Seismic)
Why do we want to make use of the seismic data?
To be able to see the rock formations that trap hydrocarbons.

3D Seismic Visualization

3D seismic data/volumes used to search for fluids

(hydrocarbon – oil and/or gas) within the rock formations.
3D Seismic Visualization

3D seismic data/volumes used to search for fluids

(hydrocarbon – oil and/or gas) within the rock formations.
Technical Terms used for Reflection Seismology

 Acquisition  Data Processing

◦ Survey Area ◦ Conventional Processing
 On-Shore (Land)  CMP Stacking and Post-Stack Time
 Off-Shore (Marine)
 Transition Zone
 Deconvolution
◦ Method
 Migration
 2D
 Static Correction
 3D
◦ Objective/Target-specific
 3 Component Observation
 4C Observation
 S-Wave Survey
 Pre-Stack Migration
 Depth Migration
 Multiple Attenuation
 AVO (AVA) Analysis
Acquiring Seismic Data at Sea

The instruments are

continuously moving!

The seismic (energy) source is

usually an array of airguns
towed behind the survey vessel
and just below the sea
surface. The airguns are fired at
regular intervals as the vessel
moves along pre-determined
survey lines.

Energy reflected from beneath

the seafloor is detected by
numerous 'hydrophones' con-
tained inside long, neutrally
buoyant 'streamers' - often
almost 5 kms long - also towed
behind the vessel.
Seismic Data Acquisition : offshore – marine … 2
Seismic Fundamentals  On-land, seismic
“shooting” produces
acoustic waves at or
near the surface by
energy sources such
as Dynamite, a
“Thumper” (a weight
dropped on ground
surface), a “Dinoseis”
(a gas gun), or a
“Vibroseis” (which
literally vibrates the
earth’s surface).

 Seismic surveys are used

to determine the structure
of rocks in the subsurface.
A vibrator truck or small
explosion is used to
generate seismic waves.
Sound  Sedimentary layers reflect
Waves the seismic waves which
are recorded on

 The travel times are

Vibrator Truck recorded and used to
Recording interpret the rock
(Energy Truck structure.
Seismic Surveys

 The seismic tools commonly used in the oil and

gas industry are 2-D and 3-D seismic data
 Seismic data are used to:
 Define and map structural folds and faults
 Identify stratigraphic variations and map
sedimentary facies
 Infer the presence of hydrocarbons
Seismic Surveys

Figure 6.8 : schematic illustration of seismic acquisition

Seismic Surveys

Figure 6.9 : Example of seismic section


Normal-planar fault Normal-listric fault


reverse fault
5 Key Ingredients

There are five key ingredients

to acquiring useful seismic data:

1. Positioning / Surveying

2. Seismic Energy Source

3. Data Recording

4. Data Processing

5. Data Interpretation
General Workflow of Application of Geophysics in Petroleum Exploration
Back up slides
Seismic Reflection
 This technique is used
extensively in oil exploration as
well as for metal ores.
Seismic Reflection 2
 The seismic reflection method
works by bouncing sound
waves off boundaries between
different types of rock.
 The reflections recorded are
plotted as dark lines on a
seismic section.
Seismic Reflection 3
 This can be done on land or at
 It can show up oil traps and
dipping beds.
 It shows up rocks with
contrasting densities so ores show
up well as well as less dense rocks
like salt.
Seismic Refraction
 This is basically the same as seismic
reflection but this time the waves
are refracted through the layers
before returning to the surface.
 These waves hit the boundary
between 2 rocks and then travel
along the boundary before
returning to the surface.
Gravity Surveys
 These use a gravimeter
that measure the gravity
at a given point.
 These can be carried in
planes, ships or carried by
 If there are denser rocks
below (ores) they will give
a positive gravity anomaly.
 If there are less dense
rocks (salt/halite) there
will be a negative anomaly.
Magnetic survey using a proton magnetometer
 They are fast, provide a great
deal of information for the cost
and can provide information
about the distribution of rocks
occurring under thin layers of
sedimentary rocks, useful when
trying to locate orebodies
 Aeromagnetic surveys are
taken from a moving plane.
 A magnetometer is the
instrument used to measure
the intensity of the magnetic
field at a particular place.
Magnetic survey using a proton magnetometer 2
 The data for a survey can be
plotted as a contour map using
lines which join points of equal
"magnetic" value.
 From these maps geoscientists
can locate magnetic bodies
(even if they are not
outcropping at the surface),
interpret the nature of
geological boundaries at depth,
find faults etc.
 Electrical conductivity
(resistivity) can be measured by
applying a current directly into
the ground through a pair of
 A voltage difference measured
across a second electrode pair
provides the necessary
information to calculate the
apparent earth resistivity.
 The depth of investigation
depends on the electrode
separation and geometry, with
greater electrode separations
yielding resistivity
measurements to greater
Down hole logging surveys.
 In the oil industry many
types of geophysical survey
can be carried out by
placing instruments down
the exploration borehole.
 See page 35 of the oil book.
 Such things as:
◦ Resistivity
◦ Sound wave velocity
◦ Gamma ray radiation
 These give clues about:
◦ Porosity and permeability
◦ Dip of beds
◦ Fluid pressures
Geochemical Exploration Methods
 There are only really two:
◦ Soil surveys/sampling
◦ Water surveys/sampling
 Soil surveys give an
indication of the chemistry
of the underlying rocks
(that have been
 If on a slope the rock will
be further up slope from
the soil.
Geochemical Exploration Methods 2
 With stream sampling
the chemistry of the
water will be influenced
by the rock it flows over.
 The concentration of an
element will be highest
just downstream from
the ore.
 The concentration will
then decrease as the
water gets diluted
further downstream.
Direct exploration methods:
 There are 2 main methods:
◦ Drilling
◦ Mapping
 Drilling in an area is often the
only way of being absolutely
sure what is underground.
 The geochemical and
geophysical methods will give
a clue.
 Analysing the samples and
noting the depths at which
rocks occur can help decide
whether an ore is worth
Direct exploration methods 2
 If rocks are exposed
at the surface then
mapping them can
give a clear indication
of the geology not
only on the surface
but also underground.
 You may be able to
work out an
underground cross
 It is usual for a whole
array of techniques to
be used together in
order to finally decide:
◦ Where the oil is.
◦ How much there is.
◦ The grade of the oil.
◦ Any geological problems.
◦ Whether it is worth