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January 23, 2014
UAS Identifying Oil Reserves

According to researchers, the data gathered by UAS flights are being used to create virtual 3-D rock formations that are accurate to within less than a few millimeters. The research project, called SAFARI, is being supported by 24 oil companies, including many of the major integrated firms.

Researchers are using unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology to scan rock formations in remote areas to better understand what lies beneath the surface and improve understanding of subsurface oil reservoirs.

Professor John Howell, a geoscientist at the University of Aberdeen, explained: “When you drill a well in the North Sea, you can directly measure the rocks in the borehole. However, you have much less certainty about what is going on away from the well. Given that two wells are often several miles apart, predicting what the rock layers in between the boreholes look like is a huge challenge.

“To solve this problem we look at similar rock units, which occur in cliffs above sea level, and we use the drone to make extremely detailed 3-D models. Then we can adapt the models for the subsurface. This gives us a much better idea of what conditions are like between these two bore holes and allows us to predict how the oil will follow and how much we can recover. The advantage of the drone is that it allows us to collect large volumes of data from otherwise inaccessible cliff sections in remote and often dangerous places.”

Image courtesy of Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen.

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