Remote Sensing Techniques in Petroleum Exploration
Harold C. MacDonald
In recent years, geological reconnaissance has been augmented by sophisticated terrane data-gathering techniques which have been categorized as remote sensors. Remote sensing, which can be defined simply as reconnaissance at a distance, is hardly a new concept. Remote sensing techniques utilizing the aerial camera or magnetometer are well known to the petroleum geologist. Several airborne devices are now available to supplement the aerial camera for the detection of natural resources, and a multisensor approach to terrane reconnaissance should allow exploitation of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Ranging from the very short wavelengths at which gamma rays are emitted, to the comparatively long wavelengths at which radar operates, multisensor terrane data from the sam area allow extrapolation of geologic information not available with a single sensor.
Those remote sensing techniques that appear to have immediate potential for petroleum exploration include: (1) scanning infrared systems which detect thermal variations between adjacent features, (2) spectrophotography which permits simultaneous recording of narrow-band regions ranging from the visible to near-infrared, and (3) side-scanning radar systems which will operate in the microwave region of the spectrum. Imaging radar perhaps will be the sensor that captures the imagination of the exploration geologist because of the synoptic presentation of regional geologic structures and the penetration capability which has been forecast for long-wavelength systems. Although investigation of the geologic potential of this new family of remote sensors is in its infancy, it is apparent that no single sensor will provide a panacea for petroleum exploration; however, these new data sources will certainly both complement and supplement existing geological reconnaissance methods.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91051©2012 AAPG Rocky Mountain Section Meeting, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 23-26 February 1969