il and gas production is on the rise. Since 2006, oil
production in the U.S. and Canada has gone up by
16 percent to nearly 16 million barrels per day. And
according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, American
dependence on foreign oil has declined significantly. In 2005,
the U.S. imported 60 percent of the oil it consumed; the num-
ber dropped to 45 percent in 2011.
The production increases have opened new sources for oil and
gas and triggered booms in the U.S. and Canada, and improve-
ments in geophysical exploration have played a central role.
Over the past 15 years, advances in positioning, mapping and
computing technologies have enabled seismic surveying to
keep pace with market demands. One of the primary drivers
is the increased capability of the software and computing
hardware used for geophysical modeling.
In Canada, Calgary-based Clean Harbors Exploration Services
provides services for geophysical exploration project manage-
ment. In addition to the need for increased amounts of data, a
major challenge comes in fitting the seismic program design
into the reality of terrain and obstacles in the field. Clean Harbors
uses GPSeismic® software to manage the survey points and
information, including uploading data to the field and exporting
final results to the clients’ formats. In the field, crews use Trimble
R8 GNSS rovers, with Trimble R7 GNSS receivers set up as RTK
base stations. A typical job can have 10 or more survey teams,
with each team setting 100 to 200 points in a day. Working
conditions are challenging, ranging from heavy forest and deep
snow to windblown prairies.
GNSS surveying has a positive environmental impact in
exploration. GNSS surveyors can take a meandering path to
reach points more efficiently, and multiple crews can work
simultaneously on different sections of the same line. The
impact from the mechanical equipment has been reduced as
well. In the mid-1990s, cut lines were often 5 m (16 ft) wide;
now lines range in width from 0.5-3.5 m (1.6 to 11.5 ft). Over a
large project, the modern methods result in significantly less
ground disturbance and fewer trees cut down.
Clean Harbors keeps a close eye on the bottom line. In 2010, the
company saw a 10-percent increase in productivity over their
previous systems. Field crews reported that the Trimble GNSS
equipment was responding more quickly, the real-time com-
ponent behaved better and the crews achieved better results
in the high-noise, tree-covered areas where they frequently
operate. With constraints coming from two directions—cost
and environmental concerns—oil and gas exploration con-
tinues to evolve. Thanks to further integration between GNSS
field systems, geophysical analysis, LiDAR and GIS, seismic
surveyors will see further improvements in productivity, costs
and environmental impact.
See feature article in POB's February issue: www.pobonline.com
Exploring at High Speed
Seismic Surveyors Face Increased Demand, Cost Constraints
and Environmental Concerns.