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KROHN

Exxon Production Research Co.

Houston, Texas

G eophysicists often ascribe the cause of poor data quality

to geophone ground coupling. To accurately record ground

motions for a seismic survey, the geophones must be

coupled firmly to the ground. Certainly, the geophone

hanging in a bush or loosely placed in a crack will not

accurately record ground motions. Even though the well-

planted geophone can follow ground motions at lower

frequencies, it may fail at higher frequencies. Generally,

coupling is not a problem for conventional recording in

favorable terrain, but it is a crucial factor in high resolu-

tion and shear wave recordings.

Having measured ground coupling for vertical and

horizontal geophones in both the laboratory and the

field, I have determined how coupling depends upon

soil conditions, plus geophone placement, spike length,

radius, and mass. In this paper, I discuss how coupling

is measured, how coupling affects the amplitude and

phase of the seismic signal, and how to plant the geo-

phones for the best results.

In this investigation of geophone ground coupling,

laboratory measurements were made with a large shake

table, which was vibrated at different frequencies and at

different amplitudes. A box was bolted onto the table,

soil was placed in the box, and a geophone planted in

the soil. An accelerometer monitored table motion and

a feedback circuit kept table velocity constant as frequency

was changed. Both the voltage amplitude and phase of a

geophone were measured as a function of frequency with

a gain/phase meter. Alternatively, the amplitudes for two

separate geophones could be measured simultaneously.

U se of the shake table had the advantage of carefully

controlling the vibration of the geophones. It was espe-

cially useful for measuring the effect of vibrational ampli-

tude and for comparing the response for two geophones

under the same conditions. It had the disadvantage of

having soil confined to a box. I found that the table re-

sponse for sand in a box was fairly flat except for a small

perturbation around 270 Hz. In addition, the measured

geophone response had extra high-frequency resonances

which were not seen in the field, but were seen with other

techniques when used with the box. I think that both of

these effects could be caused by the coupling of the soil

to the box.

Two field techniques were used to measure coupling.

In the first technique, two geophones were fastened

together. One geophone was driven with an oscillating

voltage, and the motion was detected with the second

geophone. This method yielded a clean geophone response

with little noise; however, the dual geophone was heavier

and more cumbersome than the original. The second tech-

nique was easier to perform; the geophone was given a

small tap either by dropping a steel ball on it from a fixed

height or by using a very small hammer. The impulse

response (voltage as a function of time) was measured

with a spectrum analyzer and the geophone response

was obtained from the Fourier transform (frequency

spectrum) of the impulse.

Typical data obtained in this investigation are shown

in Figures 1 and 2. Figure 1 is the measured geophone

response for a vertical geophone. The response is de-

fined to be the output voltage of the geophone, expressed

as a function of frequency, for constant velocity motion

of the ground. At low frequencies, the phase is linear

and the amplitude is flat with a response determined by

the sensitivity of the geophone. At about 50 Hz, the am-

plitude starts to increase gradually up to a peak of about

1.4 times the low-frequency value. The peak in the am-

plitude at 222 Hz corresponds to a change in the phase.

The response for a horizontal geophone is plotted in

Figure 2.

T he geophone response shown in Figures 1 and 2 is

characteristic of damped harmonic oscillation. The in-

56 GEOPHYSICS: THE LEADING EDGE OF EXPLORATION APRIL 1985

ternal mechanism of the geophone, Itself, is also a har-

monic oscillator. Thus, a model of the planted geophone

can be constructed based on a system of two damped

springs as shown in Figure 3A. One spring represents the

real spring within the geophone; the other spring represents

the elastic coupling of the geophone to the ground. The

response of each spring is defined by a resonant frequency

and a damping coefficient. I have shown (GEOPHYSICS,

June 1984) that this simple spring model is adequate to

describe geophone ground coupling.

The calculated amplitude and phase of the geophone

response based on the dual spring model is shown in Fig-

ure 3 for two choices of damping. As can be seen in this

example, the geophone resonance dominates the response

for frequencies less than 50 Hz, and the coupling reso-

nance determines the response for frequencies above 50 Hz.

Figure 1. Geophone response showing coupling of vertical

geophone measured at Friendswood, Texas with the dual

geophone field technique.

Figure 2. Geophone response showing coupling of hori-

zontal geophone measured in sand with a shake table.

0 dBV = I Vrms.

The basic effect of coupling on seismic data can be

described using Figure 3. If the damping is low, the ampli-

tude peak is high and narrow as in the solid curve. In

this case, the coupling will act as a low-pass filter and at-

tenuate the response beyond the resonant frequency.

Furthermore, the amplitude near the resonant frequency

will be enhanced, causing the pulse to ring with this fre-

quency. If the damping is high, the amplitude peak is low

and broad as in the dashed curve. In this case, the ampli-

*2

ml

!i?

Xl

kl

x2

k2

0

1 I I I I I I

0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 4

frequency - Hz

A

200,

I I

I I I I I I

c

0

-200

I I I I I I I

I

0 50 loo 150 200 250 Jo0 350 400

FREQUENCY. Hz

B

Figure 3. Calculated geophone amplitude (A) and phase (B)

for a geophone with an internal resonant frequency of

8 Hz and a coupling resonant frequency of 200 Hz. The

solid curves have a damping of 70 percent of critical for the

internal resonance and a damping of 10 percent for the

coupling resonance. The dashed curves have a damping of

30 percent of critical for the internal resonance and a

damping of 50 percent for the coupling resonance.

GEOPHYSICS: THE LEADING EDGE OF EXPLORATION APRIL 1985 57

tude is not drastically affected, but there would be phase

distortion over a broad band of frequencies, which could

influence measurements of traveltimes. As long as the

survey is done with frequencies much less than the reso-

nant frequency (less than 50 Hz for a 200-Hz resonant

frequency) in the regime where the amplitude is flat and

the phase is linear, the data will not be influenced by

coupling.

T he geophone response in Figure 3 was calculated as-

suming a UIO-Hz coupling resonant frequency. The actual

effect of coupling on the seismic data will depend on the

response for the geophones at the location of the survey.

In the field, 1 have measured coupling resonant frequen-

cies for vertical geophones ranging from 100 to 500 Hz

with damping ranging from 20 to 60 percent of critical.

(Critical damping is that damping at which a harmonic

system will not oscillate but returns smoothly to its rest-

I I I I I I

!

Figure 4. Response of a vertical geophone in firm and

loose sand measured with the shake table.

ing position after a disturbance.) Horizontal geophones

have a coupling resonance which is similar to vertical

geophones except that it is lower in frequency and has a

smaller value of damping. Typical values for horizontal

geophones are 170 Hz and 20 percent of critical.

Actually, the coupling phenomenon is not as simple as

described above in that it is nonlinear; the resonant fre-

quency and damping depend upon the vibrational ampli-

tudes of the ground. Using a shake table with a drive

amplitude of 0.01 cm/set, I measured a coupling reso-

nance frequency of 310 Hz for a vertical geophone in

sand. As the drive amplitude was increased, the reso-

nant frequency decreased. At 0.25 cm/set, a resonant

frequency of 230 Hz was measured. Similar results were

obtained for horizontal geophones. At drive amplitudes

below 0.01 cm/set, little nonlinearity was observed. Non-

linearity was also seen in the field; the resonant frequency

increased as the force used to tap a geophone was de-

creased until a level was reached where there were no

further changes in resonant frequency.

Most seismic signals occur in the regime where the

coupling is linear. However, some first breaks can have

velocities of 0.1 cm/set, and even larger velocities are

found near the source. Nonlinear coupling could distort

the waveforms and attenuate the high frequencies for

geophones near the source.

G. iven the fact that the seismic frequencies should be

much less than the coupling resonant frequency, it is im-

portant to know what factors determine the coupling

behavior. I found that the coupling of vertical geophones

depends strongly on the firmness of the soil. Data for

a vertical geophone planted in sand which was poured

loosely in a box on a shake table and data for the geo-

phone planted in sand which was thoroughly compacted

by vigorous shaking are shown in Figure 4. In the field,

I have observed the resonant frequency shift from 340 Hz

to 120 Hz, and the damping shift from 60 percent to 44

percent of critical by moving the geophone from a firm

lawn to a plowed garden nearby. In general, higher cou-

pling resonant frequencies were associated with higher

Figure 5. Response of a horizontal geophone for different

positions measured in sand with a shake table.

damping and broader, lower peaks.

The coupling of vertical geophones was not sensitive

to any parameter except the firmness of the soil. For ex-

ample, in the laboratory with uniform sand or clay, I

found that the resonant frequency was the same for geo-

phones with different spike lengths, different diameter

flat bases, different masses, or internal geophone fre-

quencies. Geophones from different manufacturers had

the same coupling response. The resonant frequency for

a buried geophone was the same as one normally planted,

but the damping was increased by burying.

In the field, the firmness of the soil increases with

depth, and I found that the resonant frequency of the

geophone increased with burial or with a longer spike.

For example, a vertical geophone with a one-inch spike

had a resonant frequency of 387 Hz and a damping of

51 percent of critical. At the same location, the reso-

nant frequency and damping changed to 440 Hz and 60

percent of critical with a three-inch spike and to 650 Hz

and 66 percent of critical with a five-inch spike.

T he coupling of horizontal geophones is strongly depen-

dent on the placement as shown in Figure 5. In this ex-

58 GEOPHYSICS: THE LEADING EDGE OF EXPLORATION APRIL; 1985

Y

P

b -20 -

E 11

.40 -

-00 -

I d!I I I I I I

-5 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35

I I I

1

Figure 6. Tap test on a vertical geophone. (A) time Figure 7. Tap test on a horizontal geophone. (A) time

response. (B) Frequency spectrum. response. (B) Frequency spectrum.

ample, the buried geophone had a resonance around 260

Hz and a damping of 19 percent of critical, but a geo-

phone with its base firmly resting on the soil had a

resonance of 170 Hz and a damping of eight percent of

critical. If the geophone was lifted only a few milli-

meters so that the base was no longer touching the soil,

there was a drastic lowering of the resonance to 90 Hz.

If it was raised one centimeter off the soil, the peak

shifted to 30 Hz, and at higher positions the geophone

did not respond to soil motion at all.

The measurements for horizontal geophones showed

that the coupling does not depend on the manufacturer,

the internal geophone frequency, the firmness of the

soil, or the length of the spike. In the lab with sand, the

resonance frequency was the same with a spike and with

a flat base; however, in the field, the flat bases were in-

ferior to spikes with resonances of 30 to 40 Hz.

I have shown (GEOPHYSICS, June 1984) that the hori-

zontal geophone coupling resonance is caused by the

tendency of the geophone to rock instead of moving

horizontally with the ground. Such rocking was elimi-

nated by using a dual spike lined up parallel to the direc-

tion of motion. This dual spike eliminated the decrease

in resonant frequency as the geophone was raised off

0 100 200 303 400

the ground; however, if the base of the geophone rested

firmly on the ground, the response was the same as that

for a geophone with a single spike.

T* his result shows that it is crucial that horizontal geo-

phones be planted with their bases firmly touching the

ground. Planting the geophones correctly and leveling

the geophone is easier with a shorter spike. My measure-

ments indicate one-inch spikes should be used on

horizontal geophones since they are as effective in coup-

ling the geophones to the ground as longer spikes.

The existence of coupling problems can be determined

in the field from a tap test such as conventionally per-

formed to check for polarity. Figures 6 and 7 show the

impulse response to a tap test for a vertical and hori-

zontal geophone. Both the coupling resonance frequency

and the damping can be determined from the impulse.

Because the geophone voltage is a measure of the velocity

response to a step acceleration of the geophone, the oscil-

lations in the voltage are at the coupling resonance fre-

quency. Thus, the resonant frequency is the frequency at

which the voltage crosses zero and at which there is a

peak in the Fourier transform of the data. The damping

can be determined from the impulse by measuring the

GEOPHYSICS THE LEADING EDGE OF EXPLORATION APRIL 1985 59

distance A, from peak to trough and the distance A2

from the next trough to peak, as in Figure 5. Then,

damping = In (AI/A,) / [n + In (A,/A2)*]. The

geophone response, itself, is equal to the time integral of

the Fourier transform of the tap test.

I . n domg the tap test, care must be taken that the tap is

not too hard so that the coupling is in the linear regime.

A procedure which can be used to check for nonlinearity

is to hit the geophone repeatedly with decreasing force;

the coupling resonance should increase until it reaches a

limiting value, the coupling resonant frequency.

Because the seismic amplitude and phase is undistorted

by coupling only at frequencies much less than the cou-

pling resonant frequency, it is important that the fre-

quencies used in the survey be much lower than the

coupling frequency. Measuring the coupling with a tap

test in the field will indicate if there is a problem. To in-

crease the coupling frequency for vertical geophones,

longer spikes can be used, or the geophone can be buried.

It is imperative that the horizontal geophones be planted

with their bases firmly resting on the soil. My conclu-

sion is that one-inch spikes should be used with horizon-

tal geophones because they are as effective as longer

ones and easier to plant correctly. To increase the coup-

ling frequency for horizontal geophones, the geophones

can be buried. IE

(An extensive technical presentation of this material, with

supporting mathematics, appeared in the June 1984 issue of

GEOPHYSICS.)

Christine E. Krohn received a B.S. degree in physicsfrom Emory

University in 1973 and a Ph.D. degree in physics from the Uni-

versity of Taas at Austin in 1978. She was a Welch post-doctoral

research fellow at the University of Texas during 1978-79 and

did research in the area of amorphous and liquid materials.

Since 1979, she has been employed by Exxon Production Re-

search Co. in their Long Range Research Division. Upon join-

ing Exxon, she initially worked in the seismic field research

group studying geophone ground coupling. Currently she is

working in the area of rock physics.

60 GEOPHYSICS: THE LEADING EDGE OF EXPLORATION APRIL 1985

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