The search for new fields

The search for new field is very expensive, and therefore it must be carried out with great care. The initial information is obtained by studying aerial photographs made from planes or satellites, which provide a map of the surface rocks, using the Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to integrate the data, and for the reconstruction of digital models of the ground. Subsequently, geochemistry, micropaleontology and petrography provide all the information that is required with regard to the physical and chemical characteristics of the rocks, their age and composition.
When a potentially interesting area is located, a series of inquiries are necessary in order to classify the nature of the rocks and their geological structure in the deeper layers underground, many thousands of metres in depth. In particular, the scope of the inquiries is to identify the presence of rocks containing hydrocarbons (reservoirs) and traps that enclose them. For this, geophysical investigation is carried out, and in particular reflection seismology. Shock waves are generated using small explosive charges and using systems that make the land vibrate (on the earth’s surface) or with a rapid expansion of compressed air (in the sea). The waves spread in the ground or in the water, and are reflected differently, depending on the layers they meet. When they return to the surface they are recorded by suitably positioned geophones. The elaboration of the recordings provides a sort of “map” of the composition of the underground layers, and from which the presence of any traps may be deduced. The final scope of the preliminary inquiries is to calculate the volume of hydrocarbons present in the field. This is calculated by studying the structure and size of the traps with the help of sophisticated software that can manage all the data collected in the research phase. For this three-dimensional models of the structures are created, in order to calculate the volume, and these models are subsequently used to decide the number and optimum locations of the exploration wells. Not all the traps, in fact, contain oil and only by drilling wells, the presence of oil in the traps can be confirmed.

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