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The Application of Modern Remote Sensing to Oil & Gas Exploration: How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?

Brovey, Robert L.*1; Baker, Ralph N.2
(1) Geoscience Imaging, Brovey and Associates, Houston, TX.
(2) Satellite Mapping, Fugro NPA, Houston, TX.

Until the advent of reflection seismology most hydrocarbon discoveries were found locating surface structure or natural seeps. With 2D seismic, detailed structural and stratigraphic mapping (and modeling) was facilitated by airborne remote sensing technology which developed rapidly after World War II. The utility of air and spaceborne sensors were accelerated by advances in computer hardware and commercial image processing beginning in the mid-1970s. With satellite imagery (e.g. LANDSAT, etc.) becoming widely available in the 1970s and 80s, some advocates prematurely exploited this infant technology as a potential “black box solution” to exploration. In most cases remote sensing was secondary to the primary exploration tools (field mapping, seismic) which led to discoveries. There are few examples in this era where remote sensing itself can be credited with sole source exploration successes.

For more than thirty years remote sensing has supported the discovery and exploitation of new reserves. While most regard 3D reflection seismic to be the dominant exploration tool, remote sensing technology plays an important supportive role as rapidly evolving sensors become more capable, agile, and broadened their imaging reach.

We will chronicle early successes and new imaging technology that eclipses early LANDSAT; brought together in common geospatial imaging environments. These technologies will augment the efforts of new generation oil & gas explorers in defining discoveries.

When properly integrated and constrained with sound geoscience, remote sensing is evolving as another potential primary tool. We’ll look at modern technologies; examine what we can do, and where we’re headed.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90142 © 2012 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, April 22-25, 2012, Long Beach, California