Future Directions of Electromagnetic Methods for Hydrocarbon Applications


For hydrocarbon applications, seismic exploration is the workhorse of the industry. Only in the borehole, electromagnetic (EM) methods play a dominant role, as they are mostly used to determine oil reserves and to distinguish water from oil-bearing zones. Throughout the past 60 years, we had several periods with an increased interest in EM. This increased with the success of the marine EM industry and now electromagnetics in general is considered for many new applications. The classic electromagnetic methods are borehole, onshore and offshore, and airborne EM methods. Airborne is covered elsewhere (see Smith, this issue). Marine EM material is readily available from the service company Web sites, and here I will only mention some future technical directions that are visible. The marine EM success is being carried back to the onshore market, fueled by geothermal and unconventional hydrocarbon applications. Oil companies are listening to pro-EM arguments, but still are hesitant to go through the learning exercises as early adopters. In particular, the huge business drivers of shale hydrocarbons and reservoir monitoring will bring markets many times bigger than the entire marine EM market. Additional applications include support for seismic operations, sub-salt, and sub-basalt, all areas where seismic exploration is costly and inefficient. Integration with EM will allow novel seismic methods to be applied. In the borehole, anisotropy measurements, now possible, form the missing link between surface measurements and ground truth. Three-dimensional (3D) induction measurements are readily available from several logging contractors. The trend to logging-while-drilling measurements will continue with many more EM technologies, and the effort of controlling the drill bit while drilling including look-ahead-and-around the drill bit is going on. Overall, the market for electromagnetics is increasing, and a demand for EM capable professionals will continue. The emphasis will be more on application and data integration (bottom-line value increase) and less on EM technology and modeling exercises.

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I would like to acknowledge the support of KMS Technologies, Geokinetics, RWE-Dea, Shell, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Baker Hughes. In particular, I appreciate the support from A. A. Aziz, A. Zerilli, K. Vozoff, T. Hanstein, L. Thomsen, C. Stoyer, S. Dasgupta, and W. Hu.

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Correspondence to K. M. Strack.

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IAGA 21st EM induction workshop Review Paper, Darwin, Australia, 2012.

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Strack, K.M. Future Directions of Electromagnetic Methods for Hydrocarbon Applications. Surv Geophys 35, 157–177 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10712-013-9237-z

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  • Electromagnetics
  • Hydrocarbon exploration
  • Electrical geophysics