Está en la página 1de 16

Electromagnetic Sounding for Hydrocarbons

James Brady
Tracy Campbell
Alastair Fenwick
Marcus Ganz
Stewart K. Sandberg
Houston, Texas, USA
Marco Polo Pereira Buonora
Luiz Felipe Rodrigues
Petrobras E&P
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Chuck Campbell
ACCEL Services Inc.
Houston, Texas
Leendert Combee
Oslo, Norway
Arnie Ferster
Kenneth E. Umbach
EnCana Corporation
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Tiziano Labruzzo
Andrea Zerilli
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Edward A. Nichols
Clamart, France
Steve Patmore
Cairn Energy Plc
Edinburgh, Scotland
Jan Stilling
Nunaoil A/S
Nuuk, Greenland
Oilfield Review Spring 2009: 21, no. 1.
Copyright 2009 Schlumberger.
For help in preparation of this article, thanks to Graeme
Cairns, George Jamieson, Jeff Mayville, Fred Snyder and
Xianghong Wu, Houston.
MMCI and Petrel are marks of Schlumberger.

Recent advancements in identifying subsurface features by resistivity contrasts

have added a significant tool in the quest to locate hydrocarbon resources.
The electromagnetic sounding technique comprises two related technologies,
magnetotelluric and controlled-source electromagnetic surveys, that provide distinctly
different insights into the subsurface. Their ability to clarify structures and to help
identify possible hydrocarbon deposits before drilling is exciting explorationists.

The Sun provides us with energy in many forms.

A surprising connection between exploration for
energy resources and the Sun is becoming increasingly significant for the E&P industry. Ions emitted
by the Sun experience a complex interplay with
the Earths magnetic field, generating propagating electromagnetic fields that penetrate the
Earth and interact with its conductive layers. As
the industrys search for hydrocarbon resources
intensifies, more geoscientists are relying on these
electromagnetic fields to probe areas that are
difficult to image with seismic methods.
The study of electrical currents in the Earth,
called tellurics, is not new. Conrad Schlumberger,
one of the founders of Schlumberger, used the
phenomenon in early surface studies that he
directed in the 1920s, prior to his start in wireline logging.1 Louis Cagniard, a professor at the
Sorbonne in Paris, first reported combining a
measurement of electric and magnetic fields,
termed magnetotellurics (MT), for exploration
of the Earths subsurface in 1952.2 However, MT
has become an important tool for explorationists in the E&P industry only within the past few
yearsthanks to advances in 3D modeling and
inversion technology. Now, MT results can be
combined more efficiently with seismic and gravity surveys, resulting in a more-calibrated model
of the earth.

Although Cagniard also discussed a method

related to MT that uses an artificially imposed
electromagnetic field, techniques for generating and detecting a signal strong enough for
use in the E&P industry came decades later, in
the 1960s on land and then in the 1980s in the
marine environment. This method is now termed
controlled-source electromagnetics (CSEM).
The interaction of the earth with impinging electric and magnetic fields is complex.
Two important factors in MT analysis are the
frequency spectrum of the fields and the resistivity (or its inverse, the conductivity) of the
particular medium through which the field waves
propagate. Analyzing data from the frequency
spectrum helps obtain an apparent resistivity as
a function of frequency.3 This apparent resistivity can be related to the true resistivity of the
formation at various depths. If the subsurface is
homogeneous, the measured apparent resistivity is the same as the true resistivity, but if the
resistivity changes with depth, apparent resistivity is a conflation of measurement effects and
some average of the resistivities. Through data
analysis, interpreters can determine the depths
of bodies with contrasting resistivities, providing
a result termed an MT sounding.

Oilfield Review

This article discusses the physics of these

electromagnetic interactions and how they are
interpreted to give information useful in basin
and reservoir evaluation. It also describes the
equipment used to detect and, in the case of
CSEM, to generate relevant electromagnetic
fields. Case studies from the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil
and Greenland illustrate these technologies for
offshore salt mapping and reservoir illumination. A companion article describes near-surface
applications of CSEM on land (see Near-Surface
Electromagnetic Surveying, page 20). The next
section focuses on natural electromagnetic fields
and their interactions with the Earth.

Blowing in the Wind

The solar wind is a stream of positive and negative ions emitted by the Sun. Wind intensity
varies, increasing during periods of high sunspot
activity. This ionic wind blows through space;
auroras manifest its interaction with the Earths
magnetic field in spectacularly colorful ways.4
Although most solar ions are deflected by
the magnetic field in a region known as the
magnetopause, which is several Earth radii out
in space, some ions leak in. Those that reach
the upper atmosphere can ionize particles in
the ionosphere, which ranges from 75 to 550 km
[50 to 340 mi] above the surface of the Earth. In

the ionosphere, the particle velocities are high

enough and the particle density low enough that
charged ions do not immediately recombine
into neutral atoms and molecules: They form a
plasma of charged particles. This plasma makes
the ionosphere a conducting layer, unlike the
nonconducting layers of the lower atmosphere
where the particle density is too high to maintain
charged ions for a significant period of time.
The motions of charges in the ionosphere are
constrained by the Earths magnetic field, whose
lines of force stretch from pole to pole. When
solar ions enter the plasma within this magnetic
field, they generate electromagnetic (EM) pulses

1. Leonardon EG: Some Observations Upon Telluric

Currents and Their Applications to Electrical
Prospecting, Terrestrial Magnetism and Atmospheric
Electricity 33 (MarchDecember 1928): 9194.
2. Cagniard L: Basic Theory of the Magneto-Telluric
Method of Geophysical Prospecting, Geophysics 18
(1953): 605635.

3. Apparent resistivity is a volume average of the true

resistivities of the media within the volume measured
by a device, such as a resistivity or induction tool, or a
magnetotelluric receiver.

4. For a recent discussion about the origin of the auroras:

Brown D and Layton L: NASA Satellites Discover What
Powers Northern Lights, NASA News & Features,
THEMIS.html (accessed March 2, 2009).

Spring 2009


Magnetic field spectral amplitude




Frequency, Hz




> Typical magnetic-field amplitude spectrum from the atmosphere. The

ionospheric signal originating from interactions of the Earths magnetic
field decays rapidly with increasing electromagnetic frequency. Lightning
generates signals in a region called the Schumann bands in the spectrum
between about 7.8 and 60 Hz.

that resonate in the ionosphere, traveling along

the magnetic field lines. The result is analogous
to plucking the string of a guitar; just as the
string resonates at characteristic frequencies, so
too does the ionosphere resonate electromagnetically. The complex interaction of magnetic field,
atmospheric plasma and solar ions results in a
broad spectrum of EM frequencies, including the
visible-light phenomena of the aurora borealis
and the aurora australis. The spectral range useful for E&P-related MT extends from frequencies
of about 0.001 Hz to 10 kHz; for studies extending to the Earths mantle even lower frequencies

are used (above). Frequencies above 1 Hz are

severely attenuated through conductive seawater
and thus create no subsea earth response, making this the effective upper-frequency limit for
marine MT.
The amplitude and frequency spectrum of
the signal is highly variable.5 The fluctuations
in the solar wind reflect the 11- to 14-year cycle
of sunspot activity. The spectrum also depends
on the season and time of day, since sunlight
influences the degree of polarization in the
ionosphere. Signal levels in equatorial regions
are low, whereas they are high in polar regions.

Geomagnetic index



Annual 2007









> Electromagnetic activity. Planetary electromagnetic activity is estimated

from measurements of a geomagnetic index taken by the US National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (see reference 5) at several locations. The
activity fluctuates both annually and weekly, as shown for 2008 (black). The
solar cycle is currently in a quiet period.

This stronger signal near the poles or near

the peaks of the solar-activity cycle results in
higher-quality MT data; conversely, obtaining
data from deepwater equatorial areas, especially
during low-activity periods, is more challenging
(below left).
A part of the frequency spectrum is influenced
by lightning. A lightning discharge can generate
current in the range of 20 to 50 kA, which initiates a strong interaction in the ionosphere. The
charge pulse follows the magnetic field lines
around the Earth, reflecting near the poles and
playing its own resonance notes.6 The EM fields
resulting from a lightning strike are global.7
The lower atmosphere is a poor electrical
conductor, so the EM waves propagate with virtually no attenuation.8 This lack of attenuation
allows radio broadcasts to be heard far from the
source when atmospheric conditions are right for
refracting them to listeners. In contrast, once
the waves reach the surface layers of the Earth,
they interact with seawater and formations that
are electrically conductive to a greater or lesser
extent. Conductive bodies attenuate EM waves.
Most of a rocks solid matrix conducts electricity poorly. However, various saturating fluids
have differing conductivities. Brine conducts
well, but oil and gas have high resistivities.
Adjacent formations with a marked resistivity
contrastsuch as a hydrocarbon-bearing zone
surrounded by brine-saturated strataaffect the
propagating EM field in different and potentially
measurable ways. The resistivity contrast is also
high between brine-filled sedimentary layers and
some specific lithologies, such as salt, basalt and
resistive carbonates.
The EM waves interact with conductive formations and induce a response wave that propagates
back to the surface. Although the geometry of
signal and response is sometimes depicted as
analogous to that of a seismic reflection, the EM
effect has a different physical origin and different behavior than a reflected seismic wave.9 The
time-varying EM signal induces a current loop
in the conducting layer. The properties of this
induced eddy current depend on the resistivity of
the conducting formation and the magnitude and
time rate of changeor the frequencyof the
source signal. The eddy current, in turn, induces
a magnetic field, which propagates from the
formation. Sensors on the surface measure this
response field.

Oilfield Review



= 10

= 10



~ 10

Skin depth

Skin depth

Skin depth
Skin depth

> Skin effect. A downward-moving electromagnetic field (blue curve)

leaving a highly resistive medium, such as air, begins to decay when it
enters a more-conductive medium, such as rock. Lower-frequency waves
(left ) propagate farther than higher-frequency waves (center left and
center right ), and waves propagate farther in less-conductive media
(right ). The amplitude has an exponential decay (red) that is a function of
the conductivity of the medium, , and the frequency of the wave, . The

skin depth is the distance at which the amplitude has decayed to 1/e of
the incident value. The wave in the conductive medium also experiences a
gradual delay in the phase. Since the phase change is difficult to see in this
example, one illustration (far left ) also shows an attenuated wave without
the phase change (violet). Frequency and conductivity values are relative
among these examples.

The eddy current in the conducting formation

opposes the change in the source field. The result
of the eddy current and the transfer of energy to the
response signal is attenuation of the incoming EM
wave. Thus, as the wave passes successively deeper
into the conductor, the eddy current becomes
incrementally weaker, making the response field
smaller also. As this process continues, the incident signal decays, while weaker response signals
form at each successive increment of depth within
the conducting formation. This decay is known as
the skin effect (above).
A characteristic distance for penetration of the
signal into a conductor, termed the skin depth, is
obtained by determining when the field amplitude
drops by a factor of 1/e, the inverse of the exponential function. Attenuation is frequency dependent;
high frequencies attenuate more rapidly than low
frequencies. It is also a function of the formation

conductivity: In more-conductive formations the

impinging field induces greater current flow that
partially cancels the source field. In a typical geological section, the natural frequencies used in
MT have skin depths of a few tens to a few tens of
thousands of meters. The high-frequency components useful for detecting thin, shallow formations
are present only for land-based (or extremely
shallow-water) surveys because of attenuation by
conductive seawater. The deeper a target structure
is buried, the larger it must be to enable detection
through MT evaluation; this basic MT-resolution
problem at depth is more severe than resolving
small, deep features using seismic waves.
The response signal contains information in
the impedance value about the resistive properties of the formations. Impedance is a complex
termcomprising real and imaginary parts
that designates the
difficulty 04
of propagating the

EM energy through a medium. It is determined

from the amplitude and phase relationship that
exists between the measured electric and magnetic fields.10 It is also a tensor quantity that can
be related to the apparent resistivity of the formation. Impedance varies with the frequency of
the incoming signal.
Because the source is so distant, the MT
fields impinging on an E&P survey area can be
approximated over a wide bandwidth as vertically incident plane waves with the electric field
horizontally polarized.11 MT fields are sensitive
to large conductive features, making them useful in studies of large salt, basalt and carbonate
bodies due to the contrast of these resistive
features with the conductive surroundings.
However, the attenuation of the MT fields with
depththe skin effectmakes them insensitive
to resistivity contrasts of thin formations such as

5. Data are available from the US National Oceanic and

Atmospheric Administration, http://www.swpc.noaa.
gov/ftpmenu/indices/old_indices.html (accessed
May5, 2009).
6. This response to lightning is termed a Schumann
resonance, after German physicist Winfried
Otto Schumann, who predicted the resonances
mathematically in 1952.
7. Active storms generating lightning seem to be linked:
Synchronized lightning strikes from widely spaced
geographic locations have been observed from the

NASA Space Shuttle. For more on synchronized lightning

strikes: Yair Y, Aviv R, Ravid G, Yaniv R, Ziv B and PriceC:
Evidence for Synchronicity of Lightning Activity in
Networks of Spatially Remote Thunderstorms, Journal
of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 68, no. 12
(August 2006): 14011415.
8. Electromagnetic waves propagate through a vacuum
with no attenuation.
9. EM energy in a conductive medium has a diffusive nature
rather than a wave nature.

10. The phase of a wave describes where it is in its

amplitude cycle of maximum to minimum and back to
maximum as the phase angle goes from 0 to 360. The
electric and magnetic fields of a propagating wave are
not necessarily at 0 phase at the same time, and the
difference between the two is also referred to as the
phase angle.
11. The waves impinge vertically because air is not
conductive. The uniformity of signal for MT surveys is
based on the large distance to the ionosphere compared
with the length of a survey line. However, if the signal
comes from a lightning strike that is close to the survey
area, the plane-wave assumption does not hold and the
local geometry influences the interpretation.

Spring 2009

Ex (t)

Marine MT
Hy (t)

Ex =

Marine CSEM

Passive (atmospheric) source

Active controlled source

Plane waves, vertically incident

Localized dipole source

Basin scale

Reservoir scale

Detection of structure and lithology

Detection of resistivity contrast, such

as that caused by a resistive pore fluid
against a conductive background

Wave-field sensitive to conductors

Wave-field sensitive to resistors

> Comparison of marine MT and CSEM survey technologies.


= i

a =

formation resistivity
magnetic permeability
formation impedance
electric field
magnetic field
voltage drop across dipole
dipole length

> Sensing impedance. A vertically incident

EM wave interacts with the Earth through the
formation impedance, Z. The Z value can be
determined by measuring the horizontal electric
field, E, and the magnetic field, H, at the surface
or on the seabed (tan). The apparent resistivity,
a, is the aggregate resistivity of the formation
layers beneath the electric dipole antenna and
the magnetometer coil of a sensor (yellow). In
the case shown, E and H are in phase; if the
zero crossings of the two fields were out of
synchronization, there would be a phase angle
between the two fields.

hydrocarbon-bearing sediments. Generally, to be

resolved by MT, the layers thickness should be at
least 5% of its burial depth, and the layer should
be more conductive than its surroundings. These
limitations led to the development of the CSEM
method (above right).
The CSEM method imposes a powerful, artificially generated EM signal. The source is a
localized electric dipole with a controlled signal
that extends over a narrow bandwidth, often just
a few fundamental frequencies and their harmonics. The EM fields generated by such a source are
not plane waves. The composition and geometry
of the signal are chosen to make it more sensitive
for detection of a thin formation at a particular

hypothesized location and with a resistivity value

that contrasts to that of surrounding formations.
This difference between MT and CSEM source
signals affects the method of processing the data
and impacts the type of structures that can be
detected by the two methods, as discussed in the
next two sections.

to obtain a model of the earth. The result is not

unique, so the process iterates until the result is
acceptable. Many algorithms are in use for converging the inversion on a particular model.
A key step of preacquisition planning is to
determine if different models will be distinguishable in the data. This is typically accomplished
by first forward modeling the response of various
Deep Vision with MT
predicted scenarios, then possibly employing
The atmospheric source for MT signals varies inversion on modeled synthetic data. To invesrandomly in time, but at any given time the ver- tigate whether the original model can be
tically incident waves are uniform over a large recovered, the synthetic data include noise reparea. The wavefields are planar and vertically resenting expected background or measurement
incident on the surface of the Earth; the electric noise. This step can help justify the usefulness of
field has only horizontal components, as does the a proposed survey or, alternatively, advise against
orthogonal magnetic field. As a matter of nomen- its application. Acquisition parameters such as
clature, the portion of the electric field that can the location of instruments and how long they
be resolved along the strike of a geologic feature must remain on the ground are also results of this
is termed the transverse electric (TE) mode; the process. In CSEM surveys, the optimal frequenportion across the strike is the transverse mag- cies can also be determined through modeling.
netic (TM) mode.
Recent interest in MT measurements has
Because of the vertical and planar geometry focused on evaluations in marine environments,
of MT, the impedance of the subsurface can be driven by the increasing costs of drilling in deep
obtained by taking the ratio of the horizontal water and the complexity of imaging below salt
electric field in one direction to the horizon- and basalt. As a result, technologies that increase
tal magnetic field in the orthogonal direction the chance of economic success after locating
(above left).12 This calculation removes the tem- drilling targets have great value.
As with seismic surveys, EM surveys require
poral variability of the incident signal, leaving
deployment of equipment, either on land or at
only the desired formation response.
The complex impedance can be calculated to sea. Marine MT surveys are acquired using small
obtain the apparent resistivity, a, of the underly- vessels and small crews. CSEM surveys need
ing formations and the phase angle, , between larger vessels to handle the source equipment
the electric and magnetic fields. Geoscientists and larger crews to operate and maintain that
use these results to interpret the subsurface equipment. Typically, both MT and CSEM surstructure through forward modeling or through veys are targeted, examining specific ambiguous
inversion.13 Forward modeling assumes a struc- structures or promising anomalies on a seismic
ture and certain properties, such as layer depth section. Thus, the duration and areal scope of
and resistivity, and predicts the earths elec- these studies are typically smaller than those for
tromagnetic response to the assumed model. seismic surveys.
Subsea EM measurementsboth MT and
Comparing or normalizing processed data against
this model assesses its goodness of fit. Inversion CSEMare similar to land measurements aside
is the reverse of forward modeling, using the data from the vast difference in the resistivities of seato step backward through the physical process water and air. At the air/land interface there can

Oilfield Review

be no vertical electric current because the air is

not conductive, but on the seabed a vertical electric current can exist in the conductive water.
The consequence of this difference is subtle. On
land, the electric field responds significantly to
changes in resistivity in subsurface layers, but
the magnetic field has much less variation. In
contrast, in the marine environment it is the
magnetic field rather than the electric field that
displays the greater variation with change in
subsurface structure, although both fields carry
information on structure.14
Measuring the Signal
The two basic devices for measuring EM fields
are a pair of electrodes to sense an electric field
potential difference and a magnetometer to sense
magnetic field variations. The pair of electrodes
forms an electric dipole, allowing measurement
of the potential voltage difference between them.
A magnetometer is a coil of conducting wire that
generates a measurable current based on the
changing magnetic flux through the coil.
When only two sensors of one type are used,
they are oriented to measure the orthogonal field
components in the horizontal plane. The vertical
component of the field is measured only if a third
sensor is used.
The primary recent interest in the E&P industry has been offshore, and considerable effort has
been made over the past decade to develop a
sensor for marine use. The Scripps Institution of
Oceanography in La Jolla, California, USA, developed the basic electric field sensor that is used
by WesternGeco today. The magnetometers were
developed by Electromagnetic Instruments Inc.,
which was acquired by Schlumberger in 2001.15
In the WesternGeco device two horizontal
electric dipoles are formed by silversilver chloride electrodes placed at the ends of four long
fiberglass tubes, extending from each of the four
sides of the receiver frame (above right). The present configuration includes a vertical dipole with
a length of 1.82 m [6 ft]. Its length is restricted
by the need to maintain orthogonality and
stabilitya longer dipole is more susceptible to
seabed currents that move the dipole antenna
and introduce noise into the measurement within
the frequency bandwidth of interest.
The magnetometers, multiturn coils in a nonmetal housing, are used to sense the magnetic
flux. The magnetometer tubes are secured horizontally into holes in the frame. The operating
range is from 0.0001 to 100 Hz.
Calibration of both types of sensor is critical. The WesternGeco sensors and amplifiers are
individually calibrated far from electromagnetic

Spring 2009

strayline float

Dipole for
electric field

Gas flotation
Induction coil


Burnwire release

> CSEM receiver. Orthogonal dipole antennas on the receiver measure Ex and Ey and two induction coil
magnetometers measure Hx and Hy . Each tube containing an antenna is 3.6 m [12 ft] long; coupled with
the dimension of the frame, the electric dipole length formed by a pair pointing in opposite directions
is 10 m [32.8 ft]. A concrete anchor carries the receiver to the seafloor, where it remains throughout
the test. The electronic logger records for a set time. At the conclusion of the test, an acoustic signal
from the ship triggers a mechanism to burn through the wire holding the device to the anchor. Airfilled glass spheres raise the receiver to the surface, where it is retrieved and the data are captured.
In some cases, the receiver includes a vertical dipole to measure the vertical electric field, Ez (not
shown). (Image courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.)

noise in a remote part of the Norwegian countryside. In addition, data quality requires strict
adherence to deployment procedures on the
survey ship.
A concrete block attached to the bottom of
the receiver frame provides weight to take it to
the ocean floor. This concrete anchor also helps
to stabilize the instrument against forces from
sea currents; antenna rotation as tiny as 1 rad
can easily be detected by the magnetic induction coil moving in the Earths magnetic field. At
the conclusion of the survey, an acoustic signal
from surface triggers release from the block, and
air-filled glass spheres lift the receiver to surface
for retrieval.
The cost and logistics of establishing electrical connections with multiple receivers placed
on the seabed in deep water are prohibitive, so
engineers designed the receiver to operate independently and to be retrieved at the end of the
test. Each receiver carries a data logger that
controls operation and records the signals on a
compact flash card. High-resolution data from
the dipoles and magnetometers come from 24-bit
analog-to-digital converters, which accurately
record time so that the signals can be synchro-

nized later with the source record and with

each other.
The unit has several independent battery
packs. One provides power to the data-logger
electronics. A separate battery powers the anchorrelease devices, and another powers an acoustic
positioning beacon that indicates the units location on the seabed. The battery pack that powers
the data logger lasts up to 40 days; the long
battery life provides time to deploy the sensors
and then acquire data. The anchor-release battery
pack lasts more than a year, in case circumstances
prevent immediate removal of the device after
the survey.
12. Cagniard, reference 2.
13. For more on inversion: Barclay F, Bruun A, RasmussenKB,
Camara Alfaro J, Cooke A, Cooke D, SalterD, GodfreyR,
Lowden D, McHugo S, zdemirH, PickeringS,
GonzalezPineda F, Herwanger J, VolterrraniS,
MurinedduA, Rasmussen A and Roberts R: Seismic
Inversion: Reading Between the Lines, Oilfield Review 20,
no. 1 (Spring 2008): 4263.
14. Constable SC, Orange AS, Hoversten GM and
MorrisonHF: Marine Magnetotellurics for Petroleum
Exploration, Part I: A Sea-Floor Equipment System,
Geophysics 63, no. 3 (MayJune 1998): 816825.
15. Webb SC, Constable SC, Cox CS and Deaton TK:
A Seafloor Electric Field Instrument, Journal of
Geomagnetism and Geoelectricity 37, no. 12 (1985):
Constable et al, reference 14.

The seabed orientation of the horizontal sensors is random. The measurement directions are
resolved to a desired orientation during processing. The newest devices have a compass, but in
the past the orientation for each receiver was
obtained either by comparison with land-based
sensors or by orientation based on the direction
of a towed source in a CSEM survey.


Cable to
survey vessel

Streamer Antenna
buoyant cable

Tow-cable termination

300-m dipole


Electrode 1

Electrode 2

2.5 m
Strain relief



20 m

A: Telemetry and signal conditioning

B: Transmitter power section

> CSEM transmitter. The transmitter comprises a towfishthe head section containing power and
instrumentationand a streamer antenna with dipole electrodes at the ends of two cables. The
dipole is the source of the CSEM signal. The signal transmission and waveform parameters are set
from the survey vessel during operations, and results are telemetered to the operators for real-time
quality control of the signal. The photograph (top) shows a towfish being removed from the ocean,
with the antenna trailing in the water.


Five-term sum



9 0

3 0

5 0

7 0


2 09

Time, s

Square wave ( 0) =

sin( 0t) +

sin(3 0t)

sin(5 0t)

sin(7 0t)

sin(9 0t)

+ ...

> Square-wave components. A square wave (magenta) can be broken into

an infinite series of sine waves by using the Fourier transform (equation). The
fundamental frequency, w 0 , has the greatest amplitude; each subsequent odd
harmonic has a lower amplitude. Even-numbered harmonics are not included
because of the symmetry of the square wave.


CSEM: Focusing on Hydrocarbon Detection

MT measurements are not sensitive to thin resistive layers, so they are not well suited for evaluating potential hydrocarbon reservoirs. Over the
course of a few decades starting in the 1980s,
several research institutes and companies developed the equipment, modeling and interpretation
tools that became the marine CSEM technique
(see Marine CSEM: Evolution of a Technology,
page 1).16 The systems are now widely available.
Since the same receivers function for both
CSEM and MT measurement, both responses
can be recorded during a survey. The CSEM
technique focuses on measuring and interpreting the response from the controlled source,
while between those measurements, MT data
are recorded. The processed and interpreted
MT data establish a background model for the
CSEM interpretation or inversion.
The typical marine CSEM transmitter source
is a long horizontal dipole (above left). The
source comprises two neutrally buoyant antenna
cables, each terminating in an electrode, thereby
forming a dipole. The electrodes are pulled
through the water behind a streamlined sensor platform, called a towfish, that is towed by
the ship at a nominal speed of 2.8 to 3.7 km/h
[1.7 to 2.3mi/h or 1.5 to 2.0knots] at an altitude
of 50 to 100m [160 to 330ft] above the seabed. To
provide accurate values for processing, the towfish measures seawater conductivity, local sound
velocity and altitude above the seafloor.
The strength of the dipole source is given by
its dipole moment. This value is the product of
the magnitude of the electric current flowing
through the electrodesgiven by the strength of
the first harmonic of the output signaland the
distance between the electrodes.
The power to generate a high-current, lowvoltage source signal and propagate it along
16. The first development was by Charles Cox of Scripps
Institution of Oceanography: Cox CS: On the Electrical
Conductivity of the Oceanic Lithosphere, Physics of
the Earth and Planetary Interiors 25, no. 3 (May 1981):
For a recent overview of the history of CSEM: ConstableS
and Srnka LJ: An Introduction to Marine ControlledSource Electromagnetic Methods for Hydrocarbon
Exploration, Geophysics 72, no. 2 (MarchApril 2007):

Oilfield Review

[6.2 mi] away, the electric-field magnitude is

small, less than 1nV/m. For the typical 10-m span
of a seabed receiver dipole, the measured 10nV
is about 80 million times smaller than a AAA
batterys 1.2V. The response magnetic-field magnitude at that distance from the source is about
0.0001nT, which corresponds to about 2 parts in
a billion of the Earths DC magnetic field.
The controlled source typically generates
square waves or sequences of square waves at
user-defined fundamental frequencies. Fourier
analysis resolves the square wave into sinusoidal
waves of many frequencies (previous page, bottom left). The strongest components are the
primary frequency w0 and the odd harmonics 3w0, 5w0 and 7w0, each with sequentially
decreasing magnitudes. The combination of the
skin-depth relationship to frequency and use of
multiple frequencies means this process samples
at several depths and with several resolutions.

several kilometers of cable is typically provided

by a 250-kV.A system on the ship. Transformers
convert this to a low-current, high-voltage signal
sent along the cable. In the towfish the signal
is transformed back to the high-current, lowvoltage signal.
The towfish generates a designed waveform
based on commands from the ship. The actual
current waveform transmitted by the source electrodes is measured and recorded by a data logger
in the towfish and transmitted to the vessel in
real time for quality control via high-speed telemetry. Because the waveform transmitted by the
antenna is affected by antenna impedance and
wear and by water salinity, accurate monitoring
of the actual waveform is required to correctly
resolve the survey data.
Although the power emitted at the source
is largenominally 50 kWthe signal decays
rapidly with distance. At a receiver placed 10km

The data from the receivers are collected as

time-series data, but for the CSEM method, they
must be synchronized to the source square-wave
signal through accurate time measurement.
Thus, in addition to the source GPS synchronization, each receiver has a high-precision clock
that is GPS synchronized upon deployment and
recovery. The instantaneous dipole-source position and orientation must also be captured for
accurate inversion. Acoustic transponders in
several locations along the antenna give this
information by transmitting their positions at
1- to 4-s intervals. Accurate measurement of the
feathering or tilt of the antenna is important for
correct processing.
The measurements of the fields are timedomain data, but these are typically converted
to the frequency domain using a Fourier transform (below). The data are stacked by overlaying
responses from multiple, sequential square-wave




Time, min








Frequency, Hz

Scaled electric amplitude, V/(A.m2)



Source-receiver offset, km

> Converting time-domain measurements to amplitude versus offset. Each receiver records data for two horizontal electricand magnetic-field measurements (top). A Fourier transform converts these time-domain signals into the frequency domain.
Fourier conversions of similar measurements at many receiver locations allow development of a frequency-dependent
amplitude versus offset relationship (bottom). This can be developed for each measured component of the electric field (only
one is shown) and the magnetic field. The resistivity of the subsurface affects the shape of these curves.

Spring 2009


Air-wave signal
Direct sig



Geologic signal


Electric field, V/m





(no resistive formation)


Source-receiver separation, km


> Paths from marine source to receivers. Signal energy from the marine source reaches the receivers
by following three types of paths. A direct signal passes through the water to the receiver; this signal
is strongest at the near-offset receivers. Signal energy that enters the subsurface interacts with layers
of varying resistivity and generates a response signal containing geologic information that travels up to
the receivers. Signal energy that reaches the air interface travels along the interface as an air wave,
which also travels to receivers. In shallow water or at long source-receiver offsets in deep water, the
air-wave signal is strongest.

series, called a time gather, to improve the signal/

noise ratio. The window for the time gather must
be short enough that the source movement does
not significantly alter the sampled volume of
the subsurface.
Since the objective of E&P prospecting is
to detect hydrocarbons, the signal from the
CSEM source is optimized to find thin, nonconducting layers (possible hydrocarbon-bearing
formations) in a conducting background (waterbearing formations). The discussion on skin
depth pointed out that detecting thin formations
requires higher-frequency components than
available using MT. The typical frequency range
of the CSEM signal is between 0.05 and 5 Hz; 1Hz
is the effective upper limit for marine MT studies.
As a first-order approximation, the signal can
take three general paths between the source
and the receivers (above). When the sourcereceiver offset distance is short, the direct path
through the water dominates the signal. The
strength of the signal decreases rapidly with


distance because of its attenuation in conductive water. A second contribution comes from
the air wave. The electromagnetic field travels
to the water surface, where it encounters highly
resistive air. The resistance contrast forces
the wave propagation to follow the air/water
interface. In deep water, the air-wave signal
dominates only at long offsets, normally beyond
10km, because, unlike the signals following the
other two paths, the signal at the air/water interface has little attenuation.
The third portion of the signal travels through
the subsurface. Under the proper conditions of
frequency, water depth and subsurface conductivity, there is aEM_FIGURE
range of offsets
11 for which the
third path dominates the signal. For this path,
waves propagate into the subsurface, where they
interact with resistive formations and generate a
response field; some of that energy travels back
to the seafloor receivers. This response signal
appears at receivers at offset distances that are
typically greater than the reservoir depth below
the seabed, but at even greater offsets it attenu-

ates so much that the air-wave signal overwhelms

it. Since the waves propagate more easily though
a resistive than a conductive formation, the
presence of a reservoir enhances the received
signal compared to a uniform subsurface lacking a resistive layer. Geoscientists can identify
resistivity anomalies and therefore infer geologic
information by analytic means through comparing the observed data with predictive models or
by numeric means through inversion.
At a certain offset distance, the natural noise
limitation of the receiver exceeds the strength of
the signal that originated at the source transmitter, presenting an effective limit on the depth of
investigation in the subsurface. This limitation,
or noise floor, varies with frequency and depends
on the characteristics of the receiver and its
environmentsuch as mechanical noise generated by water waves moving the antennas. The
noise floor can be lowered through improved
instrumentation, such as quieter electronics or
more-stable mechanics, or through intelligent
signal processing to remove motion noise or
coherent noise across the survey.
The source, receiver and environmental
characteristics can be incorporated into a presurvey analysis to determine whether a resistive
target at a certain depth can be detected (next
page). Carbonates, which are resistive, present
a problem: A trap with low oil saturation inside
a resistive carbonate host may have insufficient
detectable contrast.
The receiver data can be presented as electricor magnetic-field amplitudes and phases that are
functions of the offset distance between source
and receiver. The effect of a resistive anomaly
can be highlighted by several methods: analytic
methods using only measured data, modelbased methods derived during survey planning,
and inversion.

Oilfield Review

Spring 2009






Frequency, Hz











Depth, m






Transmitter-receiver offset, m







Frequency, Hz

One of the analytic methods normalizes the

electric- and magnetic-field amplitudes versus
offset response over the anomaly to the response
of a distant receiver that does not sense the
anomaly. A second analytic method compares the
normalized response of the inline measurement
with the crossline measurement, essentially
comparing the two horizontal components of
the electric field, Ex and Ey. The presence of an
underlying resistive structure, such as a hydrocarbon-bearing formation, has greater effect on
the inline response because of the polarization
of the signal.
A third analytic method converts the field
data to apparent resistivity in a 2D or 3D pseudosection plotted as a function of source-receiver
offset and signal frequency.17 When the dataset
is normalized to a section space that contains
no anomaly, the anomalous apparent resistivity
values appear as deviations from unity.
Alternatively, presurvey models can be built
when seismic data or data from nearby wells
are available. Typically, a WesternGeco survey
includes at least two 3D models that are based
on the target properties and survey geometry.
One model incorporates a resistive body; the
other uses a uniform earth without a resistive
body. Response curves are extracted from the 3D
models for each receiver-site and tow-line combination. Once data are acquired, the observations
can be normalized to each of the models to determine which provides the best fit.
Beyond these analytic and model-based
methods, CSEM inversion is a powerful way to
derive the earths resistivity profile from observed
data. However, like most inversion methods, the
solution is not unique. Forward-modeling codes
are run iteratively with model parameters perturbed until the output result matches the data
within an acceptable range. Jointly inverting as
many significant channels and frequencies as
possible constrains the possible solutions, but
at a cost of longer processing time. Additional
constraintssuch as placement of known geologic structuresare sometimes introduced. Log
and seismic data provide a starting model to help
constrain the inversion.
MT data also have limited resolution, so the
modeling step benefits from information based
on other types of measurement. Seismic interpretations often serve as constraints. Gravity
surveys provide an independent constraint, as
do well logs. The WesternGeco MMCI multi
measurement-constrained imaging technique
uses an iterative approach with gravity, MT and
seismic data to improve inversion results, leading
to a final, more-constrained depth image.










Resistivity, ohm.m



Transmitter-receiver offset, m



> Presurvey modeling. To optimize CSEM acquisition parameters, the subsurface is modeled as a
series of resistive layers (left ). Two models having identical geometries are compared. One model
incorporates a layer of highly resistive basalt (yellow and brown); the other model assigns that layer
a lower resistivity (yellow only). The two models have different phase and amplitude responses to a
simulated CSEM pulse. The amplitude ratio between the models (top right ) is maximum (red) at an
offsetdistance from source to receiverof about 7,000 m and at a frequency of about 0.7 Hz. The
phase difference (bottom right ) has a maximum (red) at about 8,500 m and at a frequency less than
0.1 Hz, and another maximum (violet) at long offset and high frequency. Based on the information in
both plots, geoscientists determined that the optimal offset to maximize the chance of detecting this
anomaly is about 8,000 m, at frequencies of 0.5 and 0.125 Hz. The contour lines indicate various levels
of receiver noise floors (labeled by the power of 10), which depend on the sensors, electronics and
the environment. Although the noise floor in some environments may be as poor as 10-14, these plots
extend to a noise floor of 10-15, which can usually be achieved.

Although marine MT and CSEM receivers Mexico, offshore Louisiana, USA.18 Exploration
have been used in studies since the 1990s, the companies have had an interest in evaluating
industrys interest has risen rapidly in the last hydrocarbon potential in subsalt formations
few years, resulting in a rapid increase in the in this area. The seismic data available at the
total number of sites evaluated. A large, multi time, a legacy survey called E-Cat, had been
phase study recently performed in the Gulf of reprocessed recently over Garden Banks, but it
Mexico included more marine MT receivers than had insufficient resolution to reliably determine
the base of a salt intrusion. The objective of the
the total deployed worldwide to that date.
new study was to integrate marine MT, fulltensor gravity and seismic measurements using
Finding the Base of Salt
In 2006, WesternGeco began a test of the MMCI an MMCI evaluation to improve the interpretaconcept in the Garden Banks area of the Gulf of tion of the base of salt.
17. A pseudosection uses approximate or pseudo spatial
coordinates. It provides a semiquantitative way to look
at spatial data.

18. Sandberg SK, Roper T and Campbell T: Marine

Magnetotelluric (MMT) Data Interpretation in the Gulf
of Mexico for Subsalt Imaging, paper OTC 19659,
presented at the 2008 Offshore Technology Conference,
Houston, May 58, 2008.


Line 5

Line 4

Line 3

Line 2

Line 1

depth, m



Tamara well



Line 6

The Garden Banks study included 171 seabed

receivers, more than any previous marine MT
survey, although surveys of this density are more
common today. The survey utilized five parallel north-south lines of receivers, about 2.5 km
[1.6 mi] apart, and an east-west cross line
(right). Additional receivers placed between
these lines provided denser coverage near the center of the survey area. Bathymetry data indicated
seabed expressions of the underlying salt domes.
During the course of the project, two events
provided additional data for this investigation. During October and November of 2007,
WesternGeco acquired a multiclient wideazimuth (WAZ) seismic survey over the area, which
provided significantly better resolution for base of
salt than did the previous E-Cat narrow-azimuth
survey. However, even with WAZ illumination, the
base of salt was poorly resolved in some areas.19
The second event occurred near the end of
2007, when BP released logging data from its
Tamara well in Garden Banks Block 873. This
well was drilled through the central portion of
the survey area. The gamma ray log indicating
the base of salt became available after most of
the MT interpretation was completed, providing
a base-truth point for comparison.
An approach combining 1D models for each
receiver station detected the salt body, but the
details of the structure were incorrect because
of its complex geometry. Several 2D approaches








> MT survey in Garden Banks area. The MT receivers (inset) were placed in
five north-south lines and one east-west crossline. Additional receivers were
placed in the central area, near the Tamara well. The color-coding indicates
seawater depth from bathymetry.

19. For more on WAZ surveys: Camara Alfaro J, CorcoranC,

Davies K, Gonzalez Pineda F, Hampson G, Hill D,
HowardM, Kapoor J, Moldoveanu N and Kragh E:
Reducing Exploration Risk, Oilfield Review 19, no. 1
(Spring 2007): 2643.

20. An autochthonous formation is one that was deposited in

its current location. This salt would be the source of the
shallower salt bodies that moved to their current positions
because of density difference and salt plasticity.


Oilfield Review

Spring 2009

2.1 kg/m3
2.7 kg/m3

Volume = 3,600 m3

3,600 m3

2,800 m3

> Nonuniqueness of gravity survey. A gravity survey responds to the mass of an

anomaly. A solution can propose one object or many, or have different density
and size, as long as the mass and the center-of-mass location for the anomaly
are the same. In this example, all three readings measure the same mass.

The success of this proof-of-concept study

was the impetus for a large-scale multisurvey
MT project that has been active since May 2007
in other key areas in the Gulf of Mexico. For
example, in the Keathley Canyon area, deter-

mining base of salt from seismic data alone was

difficult. Gravity data provided improvement, but
several alternative interpretations could not be
distinguished. By adding MT data and combining
all the information through the MMCI approach,

Distance, km







Resistivity, ohm.m


Depth, m

were also used, but the results of all the 2D

inversions indicated thinner salt bodies than
shown by data from the Tamara well. The threedimensional nature of the body dictated a 3D
approach to modeling.
The first 3D approach taken by the study
team was to fit the MT data independent of seismic and gravity data. The model started with a
homogeneous and isotropic resistivity below the
seabed. During iterations, each cell resistivity
was allowed to change to match the apparent
resistivity and phase measurements. A smooth
inversion algorithm ensured that the resistivity
changed as smoothly as possible from cell to cell.
Agreement above the main salt body was good
among the WAZ seismic result, the MT fit and the
gravity model. In addition, the interpreted base of
salt is within a few hundred feet of the log-derived
base of salt in the Tamara wella good match.
However, the gravity model required adjustments
to fit the measured gravity data. Similar gravity
measurement results can be obtained for different configurations (above right). In this case, salt
could be added either to the salt layer within the
model space or to the autochthonous saltwhich
was mostly below the maximum depth of the
seismic-velocity volumeor the subsalt formation
densities could be altered to match the result.20
A second approach used the interpreted
seismic survey to provide a starting point for the
shape of the salt body. Resistivity for this a priori
model was initially set at 50 ohm.m inside the salt
body and at 1.2 ohm.m in the surrounding sediments. The inversion changes the values of the
resistivity in the grid blocks to fit the measurement data while preserving the initial model as
much as possible.
The best interpretation used MMCI procedures, incorporating all available information,
including MT, gravity and WAZ seismic data.
Porosities were computed from the WAZ velocity field using local knowledge of the sand/shale
ratio of the sedimentary section, and densities
were computed from the matrix densities of
sand and shale, the density of seawater and the
velocity-derived porosity. Density in the salt was
assumed constant at 2.16 g/cm3.
The 3D model result in the Garden Banks
area had an improved interpretation of the base
of salt compared with that based on seismic data
alone (right). Resistivity data indicated that a
large lobe suggested by the seismic interpretation is not a part of the salt, but belongs to an
underlying formation.





> Confirmation by drilling. MT measurements detected a high-resistivity salt intrusion (pink). The
Tamara well, drilled near MT receiver Line 3, provides a point of reference for interpretations of base of
salt. The base-salt interpretation (gray) of the best WAZ data available shows a lobe to the southeast
that is not supported by the MT resistivity data; the 35- to 50-ohm.m area of resistivity (pink) excludes
that lobe from the salt. The 3D MMCI interpretation of seismic, gravity and MT data indicates a base
of salt (white) within a few hundred vertical feet of the base determined from the well gamma ray log
(turquoise). At the base of salt, the well log resistivity (orange) decreases significantly. MT receiver
locations are shown on the seabed (white squares).


the analysis team obtained a consistent interpretation of the structure, including the base
of salt (below). In parts of the survey area, the
difference in interpretation of the base of salt
was almost 3,000m [9,700ft].

EM Studies Offshore Brazil

Marine MT surveys have also improved depth
imaging in other parts of the world. The Santos
basin, offshore Brazil, contains recent subsalt
discoveries made by Petrobras. High-resolution

Distance, km








Depth, m





Distance, km






Resistivity, ohm.m


Depth, m



MMCI base salt

Seismic base salt

> Keathley Canyon interpretation. The base of salt is difficult to find in the WAZ seismic section (top).
The best pick based on the seismic data had a thick section to the right of middle (white outline, bottom).
MT resistivity data (colors) add significant new information. Combining seismic, MT and gravity data in
the MMCI evaluation improves the previous interpretations of the base of salt and gives interpreters
greater confidence in their result (yellow dashed line).


seismic imaging has mapped the stratigraphy

of hydrocarbon-producing turbidite reservoirs
and the geometries of salt structures, including a thick sedimentary sequence in a syn-rift
structure beneath the salt.21 The lithology of this
sequence was defined by the first discovery well
of the Tupi area. An MT survey northwest of Tupi
confirmed the complex structure and demonstrated
the utility of marine MT surveys to Petrobras.22
To the east of the Santos basin MT survey
just described, Petrobras and WesternGeco performed a marine CSEM survey in the Tambuat
block of the basin as part of a cooperative
project (next page, top).23 The survey location was
about 170km [106 mi] south of Rio de Janeiro.
The water depth was taken from bathymetry data,
and processing also included the variation in
seawater resistivity as a function of depth.
The survey used 180 receivers spaced
approximately 1km [0.6mi] apart and deployed
on the seabed over known reservoirs. A vessel
towed the source over the receiver lines. Data
acquisition used 0.25- and 0.0625-Hz square-wave
signals that are also rich in odd harmonics of
these frequencies.24
Analysts processed multicomponent electricand magnetic-field responses for all frequencies
in the survey using an advanced workflow based
on instantaneous measures of dipole length,
dipole moment, dipole altitude, feather angle and
dip. The data interpretation proceeded in stages,
starting with generating a background model to
compare with the processed measurements.
Borehole measurements provided information on background resistivities, but the log data
have more detail than CSEM measurements can
discriminate. Thus, analysts reduced the number of layers in the resistivity model to reflect
the resolving power of CSEM, but they ensured
the resampled well logs retained the same CSEM
response as the detailed log-based layering
would have. To determine where the boundaries
had to be placed, both the cumulative resistance
and cumulative conductance were calculated
from the well logs and coupled with stratigraphy. This not only clarified the locations of the
layer interfaces but also determined the resistivities of the layers and the anisotropy caused
by interbedding low- and high-resistivity layers.
Analysts conducted detailed 3D modeling based
on the blocked well log resistivities and based
on model geometries derived from seismic sections without incorporating any reservoirs.
The resulting models generated reference
background fields, which provided a basis to
normalize processed multicomponent field data
at each receiver location.

Oilfield Review

Risking Prospects in the Arctic Frontier

As operators move into increasingly difficult
environments, the Arctic beckons as one of the
last mostly unexploited frontiers. In 2008, the
US Geological Survey (USGS) estimated undiscovered resources north of the Arctic Circle at
14billion m3 [90billion bbl] of oil and 47.8trillion m3 [1,669 Tcf] of gasof that total the
province west of Greenland and east of Canada
had an estimated 1.1billion m3 [7billion bbl] of
oil and 1.5trillion m3 [52Tcf] of gas.25
21. Syn-rift refers to events that occur at the same time as
the process of rifting. A syn-rift basin is formed along
with, and as a consequence of, the rifting process. In the
Santos basin, the rifting refers to the early stages of the
separation of the South American and African continents.
22. de Lugao PP, Fontes SL, La Terra EF, Zerilli A, LabruzzoT
and Buonora MP: First Application of Marine
Magnetotellurics Improves Depth Imaging in the
Santos BasinBrazil, paper P192, presented at the
70th EAGE Conference and Exhibition, Rome,
June 912, 2008.
23. Buonora MP, Zerilli A, Labruzzo T and Rodrigues LF:
Advancing Marine Controlled Source Electromagnetics
in the Santos Basin, Brazil, paper G008, presented
at the 70th EAGE Conference and Exhibition, Rome,
June 912, 2008.
24. The strongest harmonics are 0.75, 1.25 and 1.75 Hz
for the 0.25-Hz signal, and they are 0.1875, 0.3125 and
0.4375Hz for the 0.0625-Hz signal.
25. Bird KJ, Charpentier RR, Gautier DL, Houseknecht DW,
Klett TR, Pitman JK, Moore TE, Schenk CJ, Tennyson ME
and Wandrey CJ: Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal:
Estimates of Undiscovered Oil and Gas North of the Arctic
Circle, USGS Fact Sheet 2008-3049 (2008), http://pubs. (accessed March 31, 2009).

Spring 2009





Altitude, m



Rio de Janeiro


So Paulo



Selected tow lines were interpreted using a

2.5D inversion. The 2.5D analysis incorporates a
2D geological model and solves for multiple transmitter positions simultaneously, but the sources
and receivers are not confined to the plane of
the geological model. Thus, realistic acquisition
geometries can be simulated (bottom right).
The known reservoir underlying the survey area
appeared in the EM response as a zone of higher
resistivity than the surrounding formations.
As with the MT project farther west in the
Santos basin, the CSEM project also shows promise for adding considerable value in upstream
applications. Both projects underscore the
need for advanced integrated interpretation to
improve the result over individual seismic, well
log and electromagnetic measurements. They
also advance the case for the industry to include
these novel integration paradigms in standard
applications. Petrobras has a technical collaboration agreement with Schlumberger to develop
technology that integrates marine EM into other
technologies for enhanced depth imaging and
reservoir characterization.





depth, m




Tupi area






> Marine MT and CSEM surveys, offshore Brazil. Three lines of receivers for the MT survey (red)
extended offshore toward the southeast and into deeper water. The main line was about 148 km [93 mi]
long, starting about 42 km [26 mi] offshore, and the two adjacent lines were each about 54 km [34 mi]
long. The CSEM survey lines (white) to the east of the MT survey covered the Tambuat block (red).
The map shows the ground elevation and ocean depth.










> Combined analysis for the Tambuat block. Reservoirs (green and pink outlines, top) identified by
seismic interpretation were the targets of a CSEM and MT study. Receivers (white triangles) were laid in
orthogonal sets, and the CSEM source was towed along the same lines (black). A 2.5D MMCI inversion
based on EM and seismic data resulted in a section color-coded for resistivity, with seismic data providing
texture (bottom). Along tow line LTAM10 N, a 20-ohm.m resistive anomaly (red) is clearly distinguished from
the more-conductive background of about 1.2 ohm.m (green). Seismic results constrained the anomaly
shapeby defined control points (white circles, bottom)for the data inversion.


Prospect without
resistive anomalies

Volcanic flows


Prospects with
resistive anomalies

> Prospects with resistive anomalies. Several prospects in a block west of

Greenland were interpreted from seismic data (green outlines). The survey
design placed lines of CSEM receivers (white icons) along the source tow
lines (white lines) above the seismically determined prospects. The CSEM
study distinguished the structures with vertical resistive anomalies (oranges
and yellows) from those with no anomaly (representative locations labeled).
Volcanic flows above the target formation are also identified along the lines.
In this view, resistivities less than 10 ohm.m are not shown. The contour
lines indicate depth of the seismic horizon of the target; each contour
line represents a 100-m [328-ft] depth difference (also represented as the
background color sequence).

EnCana Corporation and its joint-venture exploration targets. For more information on
(JV) partners Nunaoil A/S and Cairn Energy volcanic formations, see Evaluating Volcanic
have exploration prospects in two blocks in the Reservoirs, page 36.
Before conducting the CSEM survey,
frontier basin offshore Greenland, 120 to 200km
[75 to 124 mi] west of the capital city, Nuuk. WesternGeco performed extensive 3D resistivity
The ocean depth over the prospects ranges from modeling over each prospect. This step confirmed
250 to 1,800 m [820 to 5,900 ft]. Geologists that the survey could help define the presence of
believe this areas rifting and sedimentary-fill hydrocarbon-bearing reservoirs at up to 3,000m
history is similar to that of the productive North below the seafloor. Synthetic data were used in
Sea basins. However, the nearest well control is forward-modeling and inversion methods. Based
more than 120km away, and there are no proven on well log data from key distant offset wells,
petroleum systems in the basins. The JV needed a simplified starting model was created that
a way to lessen the risk of drilling dry holes, so a included a reasonably uniform, 1.5-ohm.m clastic sedimentary
section from the seafloor to the
CSEM survey was acquired to help identify potenEM_FIGURE
target depth, a deeper layer with 4-ohm.m resistial hydrocarbon-bearing features.26
Sedimentary filling of the basin following rift- tivity extending to the basement, and a 60-ohm.m
ing created a fairly simple geology, with the major basement formation.
As part of this presurvey analysis, geosciencomplication coming from Paleocene volcanic
activity. The volcanic flows are easily identifiable tists optimized the design for target sensitivity,
geologically, seismically and magnetically. These presence of volcanic cover, reservoir proximity to
volcanic rocks are the only known resistive litho- basement and signal waveform, as a few examlogic units in the survey area above basement, ple parameters. This optimization helped the
and they are well separated from the Cretaceous EnCana JV plan a survey covering the vast area
in a cost-efficient way.


The survey layout based on this analysis comprised 24 transmitter lines and 182 receivers. The
tow-line geometry generated data from multiple
angles on the receivers. The resulting vertical
resolution was designed to be 50 m [164 ft] for
the Cretaceous targets at depths of 3,500 m
[11,500ft] below the seafloor.
A high-quality CSEM dataset was obtained in
the summer of 2008. Processing the electric- and
magnetic-field measurements yielded amplitude
and phase responses at each receiver. Starting
with electric-field responses, geoscientists
analyzed these data using a complex 3D anisotropic-resistivity model. The starting geometry
used the JVs seismic interpretation and well log
resistivity information, but no potential reservoirs
were included. The 3D inversions required considerable computation time and interpreter input.27
The results were numerically stable with electrical
models that were geologically consistent.
The inversion process identified resistive
anomalies over 8 of 14 prospects. The team used
Petrel seismic-to-simulation software to visualize
the resistivity volume data for these eight anomalies with geologic, seismic, gravity, magnetic and
marine MT data (left). The results were insensitive to reasonable variations in the starting
model, with each variation converging to a similar resistivity solution.
The known Paleocene volcanic rocks provided another indication that the inversions were
robust and geologically meaningful. Although the
isolated volcanic features were not included in
the starting models for the inversions, the inversion procedure located them correctly.
The EnCana JVs objective for obtaining the
CSEM study was to improve the assessment of
the probability that the structures were charged
with hydrocarbons. With firm data lacking prior
to the study, the hydrocarbon-charge probability
was indeterminate and the JV assigned it an initial value of 50% for each of the eight prospects.
The teams analysis increased the probability of
hydrocarbon charging for several features and
decreased it for others.
The prospect with the greatest probability
for hydrocarbon charging displays many of the
characteristics the geoscientists looked for in
the analysis. Its resistivity anomaly conforms
well with the target interval. The CSEM inversion
resistivity within the anomaly increases upward
from 10 ohm.m at the base of the structure to
35 ohm.m at the crest. Finally, the anomaly
base is flat, which could suggest a hydrocarbon/
water contact.

Oilfield Review

> Deployment of CSEM receiver. Each receiver is assembled on the deck using defined deployment
protocols. Then the receiver is hoisted and dropped at a specified location.

EnCana and its partners are now prioritizing

their prospects to identify the most prospective
drilling candidates based on the geology, the
geophysical mapping and the CSEM 3D model
inversion results. The risk for exploration in this
frontier Arctic basin remains great, but CSEM
technology offers promising potential to reduce
dry holes.
Sounding for the Next Generation
Although MT and CSEM surveys have been performed for many years, commercial use of the
marine technology in the E&P industry is relatively new. The industry is still in its infancy in
interpreting this electromagnetic survey data
and combining the information with that of seismic surveys.
26. Umbach KE, Ferster A, Lovatini A and Watts D:
Hydrocarbon Charge Risk Assessment Using 3D
CSEM Inversion Derived Resistivity in a Frontier
Basin, Offshore West Greenland, CSPG CSEG CWLS
Convention, Calgary, May 48, 2009.
27. Mackie R, Watts D and Rodi W: Joint 3D Inversion
of Marine CSEM and MT Data, SEG Expanded
Abstracts 26, no. 1 (2007): 574578.
28. National Petroleum Council (ed): Hard Truths: Facing the
Hard Truths about Energy. Washington, DC: National
Petroleum Council, 2007. Also available online at http:// (accessed May 5, 2009).
29. WesternGeco regularly performs 3D modeling studies
and offers 3D CSEM inversion including the use of
algorithms in which the MT data are jointly inverted to
help constrain the CSEM inversion.

Spring 2009

The seabed receivers used by WesternGeco

follow the basic design developed by Scripps
Institution of Oceanography, but the devices and
methodologies are continually being upgraded
to improve instrument efficiency and reliability.
In addition to changes in materials used in the
manufacture of the dipoles and magnetometers
and their packaging, new equipment has been
added to the receiver pack, such as a highprecision compass.
The dipole source for CSEM is also under
going improvement by the industry. Equipment
vendors have worked to refine the timing
synchronization of the source waveform and the
precise positioning of the source antenna.
Major obstacles to marine EM efficiency are
the cost and time involved in data collection.
Seismic measurements over large 3D areas are
efficient because vessels tow multiple receiving
streamers and source array guns. In contrast,
CSEM surveys cover less area because either
sources or receivers, or both, are deployed individually, with receivers remaining stationary
during the survey and then recovered (above).
The development of a purely surface-towed,
deep-reading EM system is likely at the forefront
of R&D activities at many geophysical companies.

The problems are noise inherent in the motion

of sensors through the water and signal attenuation in seawater, which dramatically reduce
the coupling of the source with the seafloor and
the amplitude of the response field. The dipole
antennas are long, and even with the present
seabed configuration, currents can move the
antennas and impact data quality.
The National Petroleum Council (NPC), an
industry body that advises the US government,
studied several advancements related to CSEM,
rating them as highly significant for exploration
activities.28 To secure energy resources for the
future, this expert group identified two improvements in CSEM technologies needed over the
short term. Development of fast CSEM 3D modeling and inversion could reduce the number of false
positives, or resistive anomalies that currently
may be misinterpreted as a commercial petroleum
response. These include hydrates, salt bodies and
volcanic lithologies. The second short-term goal is
integration of CSEM with structural information
from seismic surveys to improve the resolution
of the EM data. As discussed in the case studies
in this article, this work is currently underway
through efforts such as the MMCI method.29
Over a longer term, the NPC experts also
rated advancing the realm of CSEM studies into
shallow water, onshore, and deeper formations
as highly significant. The signals in shallow
water and onshore are much noisier than in
deep water because of the air wave. Signal
strength now limits the depth of the CSEM
surveys, but the NPC group saw that developments leading to evaluating deeper formations
would extend the application to new basins.
Alternative acquisition geometries might play a
role in ultradeep reservoirs.
The term electromagnetic sounding is not
yet commonly heard in the E&P industry, but
impressive results from this generation of tools
and interpretation methods have already sent
a clear message. With commercial success will
come further advances in technology and a wider
variety of applications.