Data application helps improve drilling operations

10 May 2012

A drilling rig on the Paralana Geothermal project in South Australia. Image courtesy of Petratherm Limited.

A drilling rig on the Paralana
Geothermal project in South Australia.
Image courtesy of Petratherm Limited

Research involving compilation of worldwide geomagnetic and gravity data, including recent high-resolution aeromagnetic data obtained by Geoscience Australia, could provide significant benefits to minerals and energy resource exploration companies.

A team led by Stefan Maus, a Senior Scientist in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Geophysical Data Center and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, has used the data to investigate ways to improve the placement of drill holes, particularly in the application of directional drilling.

The Earth's gravity and magnetic fields are used as natural reference frames to direct the drill. Standard geomagnetic reference models represent the magnetic field originating in the Earth's liquid core, but do not account for crustal magnetic anomalies, which constitute a significant source of error in directional drilling.

Addition of the high-definition geomagnetic data, such as those obtained by Geoscience Australia, has enabled the research team to develop a high definition geomagnetic model which has more than an order-of-magnitude improvement over previous models. The worldwide resolution has been reduced from around 400 kilometres to around 28 kilometres.

The new models will allow precise directional drilling in real-time to significantly reduce drilling costs and minimise the risk of intersection with other drill holes.

The Chief of Geoscience Australia's Minerals and Natural Hazards Division, Dr Andy Barnicoat, said that this type of research demonstrates the importance to national, regional and global investigations of the high resolution geophysical data sets obtained by Geoscience Australia in collaboration with State and Territory agencies.

"These aeromagnetic, geomagnetic and gravity datasets ensure that the Australian region is accurately represented in research projects that provide benefits to the mining and exploration industry around the world," Dr Barnicoat said.

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