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Square One, Part 3 - Seismic Surveys and Well-Site Prep Set the Stage for Drilling

Whether it’s crude oil, natural gas or some other buried treasure, there’s one piece of advice from Indiana Jones that still rings true — finding it is never as easy as “X marks the spot.” Well-site preparations and drilling can take long enough on their own, but that doesn’t account for the time it takes to ensure — or at least raise the odds — that those all-important hydrocarbons will actually be found. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how seismic surveys are conducted and the key steps in permitting and well-site preparation.

We recently started on a series of “101”-style blogs designed to provide a better understanding of how hydrocarbons make their way to their respective downstream markets. In Part 1, we discussed the basics of the upstream portion of the oil and gas value chain, from what the sector does to the types of companies that operate in that space. In Part 2, we looked at the highly complex leasing process, which involves everything from landmen and attorneys to obscure-but-critical terms such as the “Hefner Form” and the Habendum clause.

When considering a tract of land as a potential drilling location, the typical next step is to evaluate what lies hidden underneath the surface before spending millions of dollars on the development of a well site. Whether onshore or offshore, this is typically done through a three-part process called a seismic survey. Our focus is on the data-acquisition stage of a seismic survey but you should also know that the geological data acquired is put through some of the world’s largest, most complex supercomputers. This data, showing the different makeups of subterranean rock layers, is evaluated by geologists and provides valuable insights into where the best drilling locations are, as some rock formations are better suited for production than others.

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