Harnessing seismic waves could ease oil and gas industry’s ocean surveys

By on February 18, 2015

Researchers hope that naturally occurring seismic waves can provide the oil and gas industry with the same information as current data-gathering methods with fewer potential environmental consequences, according to a press release from Stanford University.

Current “air gun” methods use sound pulses to gather subsurface information that tells oil and gas companies how they might maximize production and also indicates the presence of troublesome gas pockets. Each survey costs millions of dollars.

A new method — ambient seismic field noise-correlation tomography — uses sensors embedded and connected in the sea floor. Digital isolation of the sensor data from natural seismic waves produced by the earth’s crust allows scientists to create “virtual” seismic patterns very similar to those produced by air guns but with much less impact on wildlife.

Scientists have raised concerns about the noise pollution caused by the air gun method, which is especially disruptive to species dependent on sound for physical orientation, herd movements and communication.

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