[Posted on November 19th, 2013 by Michael L. F. Slavin]
In order to assure a steady supply of fuel for Americans, the United States must work to develop its own sources of petroleum and gas. Many previously undeveloped oil and gas reserves still exist within the United States, and developing these resources is one step toward American energy independence. New technologies, including seismic exploration and oil well investment, hold the key to locating and utilizing these hard-to-find reserves.
Precursors to Seismic Technology
Through oil well investment, excavation technology has been able to advance through the years.
Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the potential of using various forms of wave energy for communication and mapping was recognized. Sound and radio waves were the first types of waves used to detect the location of things unseen. Seismic exploration is based upon the same type of wave creation and recording technology, but, rather than sound or radio waves, seismic technology uses energy similar to that released during an earthquake to map the subsurface of the Earth’s crust.
Performing Seismic Exploration
The seismic waves used in seismic exploration are far weaker than those experienced in an earthquake. A person standing nearby might hear the sound of the waves being created, but the waves are not strong enough to cause damage to nearby structures or ecological habitats. When performing seismic exploration, the seismic waves are created in one of two ways. One method employs a truck equipped with a vibrating device that strikes the surface of the ground, while the other involves the detonation of buried explosive charges. The waves created travel through the ground and strike different layers of rock, moving at different rates through different materials, and are then intercepted with special recording equipment placed at locations around the site. Currently, seismic testing can be used to explore to depths of over five miles.
Seismic Computer Modeling
Hand-in-hand with seismic technology is the use of computer modeling. Small-scale seismic surveys have been performed for decades, but without the use of modern computer software to make models from the information, the usefulness of data gathered from seismic exploration was limited. Thanks to modern technology, the data recorded from seismic testing is now downloaded directly into a computer modeling software program. Previous generations of modeling software created two-dimensional maps that were more informative than the information gathered from other types of exploration, but the most modern software now creates a three-dimensional model of the geologic formations underground. This extremely detailed information presents a complete picture of the location and thickness of the layers of underground strata and allows experts to pinpoint the most likely areas for oil and gas deposits to be found. The information compiled from using seismic technology in conjunction with high-tech computer applications improves the chance of striking a productive reserve each time a well is drilled. This information is especially important to well drilling companies and individuals who invest in oil and gas well drilling projects.
Seismic exploration is known by a number of technical names, including reflection seismology, seismic reflection and seismic testing. Aside from its effectiveness when used to explore the location of oil and gas reserves, seismic exploration is also useful in detecting the location of groundwater and coal. The new technology of seismic exploration represents the most modern method of locating the petroleum and gas reserves that are critical to furthering American energy independence.