- The layers of rock crack, and one side shifts upward or downward.
- A layer of impermeable rock is squeezed upward into thereservoir rock.
The task of finding oil is assigned to geologists, whether employed directly by an oilcompany or under contract from a private firm. Their task is to find the right conditions foran oil trap -- the right source rock, reservoir rock and entrapment. Many years ago,geologists interpreted surface features, surface rock and soil types, and perhaps somesmall core samples obtained by shallow drilling. Modern oil geologists also examinesurface rocks and terrain, with the additional help ofsatellite images. However, they alsouse a variety of other methods to find oil. They can use sensitive
tomeasure tiny changes in the Earth's gravitational field that could indicate flowing oil, aswell as sensitive
to measure tiny changes in the Earth's magnetic fieldcaused by flowing oil. They can detect the smell ofhydrocarbonsusing sensitiveelectronic noses called
. Finally, and most commonly, they use
,creating shock waves that pass through hidden rock layers and interpreting the wavesthat are reflected back to the surface.
Photo courtesy Institute of Petroleum
Searching for oil over water using seismology
In seismic surveys, a shock wave is created by the following:
- shoots pulses of air into the water (for exploration overwater)
- slams heavy plates into the ground (for exploration over land)
- drilled into the ground (for exploration over land) or thrownoverboard (for exploration over water), and detonatedThe shock waves travel beneath the surface of the Earth and are reflected back by thevarious rock layers. The reflections travel at different speeds depending upon the
of rock layers through which they must pass. The reflections of the shock wavesare detected by sensitive microphones or vibration detectors --
over land. The readings are interpreted by
for signs of oiland gas traps.Although modern oil-exploration methods are better than previous ones, they still mayhave only a 10-percent success rate for finding new oil fields. Once a prospective oil