How to Prospect for Oil

Oil prospecting requires coordination of geologists and engineers to measure potential oil fields for volume.

The film “There Will Be Blood” opens with a small team of men at the turn of the century. They are using a steel bar to drive into the ground, with the hope of finding oil in a deep ditch. Today, our methods are a little different, but the science is quite similar.

Surface Visibility

The first thing a prospector looks for is some evidence on the surface that there is oil down below. Common giveaways include oil seeps, natural gas leaks, and pockmarks in the soil. This kind of visual inspection isn’t just relegated to the past, even though prospectors do rely on complex equipment for most prospecting today.

Seismic Surveys

A seismic survey is the most common method of hunting for oil. Geologists use surveys to detect large-scale features of what’s below-ground. A geologist might use sound, for instance, to get a radar-like layout of the cavity below the earth and use that readout to judge if oil could be present.

Pressure Sensing

Once a well has been identified, a small exploratory drill is done. In this phase, geologists will use oil pressure sensing within the drill to measure the volume of oil beneath the ground. This important sensor measures the pressure within the cavity, determining how much oil might exist based on those readings.

Final Thoughts

Make no mistake. Oil prospecting is still an expensive operation that carries significant risks to all involved. Oil can make companies a lot of money, but it can be a hassle to find and get to. A downhole pressure sensor can help identify whether oil might exist, but it won’t tell engineers anything about the rocks or the land. These important factors must all be considered before a drill ever enters the earth.

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