Innovation plays a large role in the continued search for oil and gas. As large oil and gas fields become increasingly difficult to find, geologists, geophysicists, and engineers employ new technologies, such as seismic, to uncover resources that just 10 years ago were unimaginable. Seismic is a technology that bounces sound waves off rock formations deep below the surface of the earth to provide explorers with a picture of the subsurface, often revealing locations where oil and gas may be trapped.
When you shout in a long hallway or a large room, the echo you hear is the sound of your voice bouncing off the walls back to your ears. The larger the room or the longer the hallway, the more time it will take for you to hear the echo. Seismic relies on a very similar process, in which sound generated at the surface travels into the earth, hits a rock formation and then bounces back to devices that record the echo. The time it takes the sound to bounce back to the receiver is related to the depth of that rock formation. When thousands of these echoes are recorded over time, they create a picture of the rocks beneath our feet.
This technology has been used for decades in the industry but is constantly changing and adapting to new challenges. Today, novel changes in the technology allow seismic to image deep rock formations that were previously invisible, shrouded by huge salt flows rising from thousands of feet below the surface like big balloons. This method assisted the recent discovery of huge oil fields in the ultradeep water offshore Brazil.