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MONOGRAPH

SERIES

Paul C. Wuenschel, Editor

NUMBER

ELEMENTARY

GRAVITY

AND

MAGNETICS

FOR

GEOLOGISTS

AND

SEISMOLOGISTS

By L. L. Nettleton

SOCIETY

OF

EXPLORATION

GEOPHYSICISTS

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Societyof ExplorationGeophysicists
P.O. Box 702740

Tulsa, OK 74170-2740

1971 by the Societyof ExplorationGeophysicists


All rightsreserved.
Published

1971.

Reprinted1973, 1976, 1983, 1991, 1996. 1998.2001,2004, 2006, 2008.


Printed in the United States of America

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CONTENTS

Preface .....................................................
Introduction ..................................................
PART

I. THE

GRAVITY

vii
ix
METIIOD

Chapter I - Sourcesof Gravity Anomalies...........................


Rock densities

3
4

Sourcesof density information ..................................

Cores ....................................................

Cuttings from drilling ........................................


Gamma-gammadensitylogs ..................................
Seismicvelocity logs .......................................
Borehole gravity meter ......................................

5
5
6
6
7
7
8
8
8
8

Surfacesamplingby gravitymeter .............................


Rangesof rock densities ......................................
Chapter 11- Gravity Instruments .................................
Unit of gravity measurement ...................................
Classificationof gravity meters ..................................
Weight on a string ..........................................
Torsion

fiber

..............................................

Zero length string ..........................................


Relation of sensitivityto period ..................................
General requirementsof gravity meters............................

Chapter lll -- SpecialGravity Instruments...........................


Underwater (bottom) gravity meters ..............................
Shipbornegravity meters ......................................
The LaCoste and Romberg shipbornegravity meter ................
The Graf-Askania seagravimeter...............................
The Bell ship gravity meter ...................................
The vibrating string acceleration sensor..........................
The E/stv;3s effect

............................................

Chapter IV -- Field Measurementsand Data Reduction.................


The latitude correction
......................................
The elevation correction
.....................................
Terrain correction
..........................................

9
9
10
11
11
12
13
15
15
17
17

20
20
20
21

Terrain correction for gravity at sea.............................


The Bouguer gravity map.....................................
Chapter V -- Anomaly Separation .................................
The center-point-and-one-ringsystem...........................
Analytical calculationsof derivatives............................
Continuation systems.... -....................................
Comparison of graphical and grid systems.......................
Surface fitting methods......................................

21
22
24
25
25
28
28
32

Frequency analysisof potential fields...........................


Example of anomaly resolution ..............................
Chapter VI- The Interpretation of Gravity Results ..................
Calculations in gravity interpretation .............................
The sphere ...............................................
Horizontal cylinder .........................................

38
42
47
48
48
49

iii

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Semi-infinite horizontal sheet or fault ...........................


Thin fault ................................................
Thick fault to the surface ....................................

49
49
50

Applications of formulas for gravitational forms ....................

52

Methods

55

for more detailed calculations ...........................

Two-dimensional calculation systems...........................


Three-dimensional

calculations ................................

Solid angles...............................................
Applications of digital computers................................
Analysis of salt dome gravity anomalies...........................
Densities and density contrasts................................
Gravity anomalies..........................................
Caprock and salt effects .....................................
Chapter VII - Gravity, Isostasy,and the Earth's Crust ................
The different gravity anomalies .................................
The "free air" anomaly .....................................
The Bouguer anomaly.......................................
The concept of isostasy .......................................
The "Moho"

. ...............................................
PART

11. THE

MAGNETIC

METHOD

................................................

Fundamentals of the magnetic field ..............................


Magnetic field of the earth .....................................
Magnetization of rocks ......................................
Chapter IX - Magnetic Instrumentation ............................
Ground magnetometers .......................................
Airborne magnetic instruments .................................
The Fluxgate magnetometer ..................................
The proton precessionmagnetometer ..........................
Pumped alkali vapor magnetometer............................
The vertical magnetic gradient ...............................

Chapter X-

56

57
58
61
61
61
62
64
64
65
65
65
68

Chapter VIII - The Magnetie Field ...............................


Introduction

56

Airborne Magnetie Surveying .........................

Diurnal magnetic variation ....................................


General plan of magnetic observations ...........................
Navigation systems...........................................
Photography ..............................................
Electronic positioning.......................................
Doppler navigation .........................................

Chapter XI -- Sourcesof Magnetic Anomalies and Interpretation ........


The mapping of basement depths................................
Depth determination from magnetic profiles .......................

73
73

73
74
76
78
78
78
78

80
81
83
84
84
86
86
86
86
88
89
89

Corrections .................................................
Correction for scale ........................................
Correction for azimuth ......................................

91
91
91

Correction for flight elevation ................................


Intrabasement and suprabasementanomalies ......................
Isolation of anomalies for magnetic interpretation ..................
Automatic interpretation ......................................

91
91
93
93

iv

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Chapter XII -- Examplesof BasementMapping ......................


Senegal ...................................................
Peace River: statisticsof reliability ..............................
Orinoco Basin, Venezuela

.....................................

Mapping local oil field structures................................


Puckett field, Pecos County, Texas ............................
Swanson River field, Alaska ..................................

95
95
97
98

100
100
104

Tioga field, North Dakota ....................................


Chapter Xlll -- Review and Conclusions...........................
Bibliography ..................................................

104
115
118

Index ........................................................

119

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PREFACE

In 1961 the writer made a distinguished

it may lead to a better understanding


by the nonspecialistsin potential methods
of Petroleum Geologists. Much of the of the place which these methods should
material tbr these lectures was published have in overall petroleum exploration
as "Gravity and Magnetics for Geologists planning and practice. Therefore, the
included
which
was
selected
and Seismologists" in the Bulletin of the material
AAPG (Nettleton, 1962).
from the extensive body of published
In 1968 and 1969 the writer partici- material and from the writer's experience
pated in the Continuing Education Pro- of over forty years in this field, has been
gram of the Society of Exploration chosen to give the basic principles of
Geophysicists and gave a series of lec- operations of the potential methods and
tures over a total period of from 6 to to illustrate their effectiveness. l'echnical
derivations
are
10 hours in several days at each of six details and mathematical
local groups or sections of the Society. reduced to those considered desirable to
The subject matter tk)r these lectures clarify the applications.
If this material
contributes
to a better
was rather largely expanded from that
which had been given previously in the appreciation of the role of the potential
AAPG tour. The present monograph has methods and brings about their greater
been prepared to make readily available application in petroleum exploration
which this writer firmly believes is well
the material given in the SEG talks.
To the writer an important factor in deserved, the purpose of this effort will
participation in the SEG program and in have been achieved.
preparing this monograph has been that
lecture

tour

for the American

Association

vii

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INTRODUCTION

they can be applied with proper perspec-

Xhc purposeof this work is a general

tive in the overall exploration picture.

review of the gravity and magnetic nleth-

From the beginningof geophysicalex-

odsof geophysical
explorationas applied
in the searchfor petroleum.This material
is not designedfor the gravity and magnetic specialistbut rather l)r the geologistsand seismologists
who may not have
a thorough appreciationof the applica-

ploration in the petroleumindustryin


the 192()'s,three basic physicalprinciples
were used: i.e., the measurement of small

tions of these metht)ds in the overall

variations in the magnetic field, the measurement of small variations in the gravitational field, and the propagation of

expl()ration picture.
A subtitlc for this monograph might

elastic waves through the earth. These


three and only thesethree physicalprinci-

well be "-l'hc Other Five Percert." This


is because the seismic method and its

ples are the basisfor practicallyall of

associateddata processingaccount for


sornc95 percentof the total expenditures
Ik)r petroleum exploration geophysicsso
that whatever application is made of the
gravity and magnetic nethods comes
out of the other 5 percent. This does not
mean that these methods

make a pro-

portionately small contribution to the


overall explorationeffort. Becauseof the
relatively rapid rate of progressin the
field, particularlyby airbornemagnetics.
the total area covered by gravity and
magnetic surveysmay bc greater than
that coveredby the muchgreaterseismic

expenditures.As a very rough rule-ofthumb, the relative cost per unit area of

magnetic,gravityand seismicfield work


with data processingstand in the ratio

the geophysicalwork up to the present


time. Many other methods have been
conceived and tried in the field in a lim-

ited way, but none has persistedto the


extent that field operationsare carried out
on a scaleat all comparablewith that of
the three primary methodslistedabove.
The seismic method, of course, usually
is much more direct in its relation to

geologythan the potentialmethods.Retlection zones or horizons frequently are

directly correlativewith geologicstrata


and give relativelyaccuratemeasures
of
their depth and form. In many cases.
however, correlations with geology may
be uncertain or misleading. In such cases.

gravityandmagnetic
datamaycontribute
by establishing
boundson possiblecorrelationsand provide lithoiogic information.

of I to 10 to 100. It is the hope and

-I'o some degree, the dominance,and


purposeof this monographthat a better
occasional
over-applicationof the reflecappreciation
of the valueof the potential
methods and understanding of their ap-

plicationsmay be broughtaboutst)that
ix

tion seismicmethod may be attributable


to the relative simplicity of the basic

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principles applied. 'l'he concept of initiating a disturbance at the surface, detecting a return signal from a reflecting layer
and determining the depth of that layer
by knowing the speed of the wave propagation is very simple. On the other hand,
the magnetic and gravity nethods are
both "potential" methods and depend on
action

at a distance.

measurements

This

are made

means

farther

that

from

as

the

disturbing anomalous magnetic or density contrast, the effect becomes more


and

more

attenuated

so that details

and

smoothed

are less evident.

out

The effect

is a little like that of the covering of the


roughnessof objects or other irregularities of the ground surface by a heavy
snow fall. Features on the ground which
are immediately recognizable under a
thin

snow

cover

becomc

more

and more

rounded out as the snow gets deeper until their effect becomes only rounded
bumps on the surface. Even a body as
large as an automobile could be covered

to such an extent

that

it is not immedi-

ately recognizable as such without additional information. For instance, a series

()f such rounded bumps in a line along


the side of a street, would be recognized
as cars parked along the curb. Discrimination among them would be difficult;
a Volkswagen could be distinguished
from

a Cadillac

but

not a Ford

from

Chevrolet. In a somewhat similar way


the interpretation of magnetic and gravity
surveys is inherently ambiguous and any
quantitative control on the nature of the
body causing the disturbance must come
from

additional

information.

Such

in-

formation can come from drilling contacts,

seismic

results

or

reasonable

geologic limitations. In spite of such ambiguities and lack of precision, magnetic


and gravity surveys can impose very
definite limits on geological interpretations and can thereby make specific and
useful

contributions

ploration picture.

to

the

overall

ex-