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Deep insights: Oil exploration boosted by hi-tech seismic nodes

Ocean Bottom Nodes are helping BHP navigate the technically challenging Gulf of Mexico, penetrating immense salt structures to find hydrocarbons through the ocean floor. 

“It’s like a land survey, only 10,000 feet below the surface,” BHP’s Chief Technology Officer, Diane Jurgens told the BAML SmartMine conference in London recently.

She said the OBN technology was helping overcome the historic challenges facing the resource sector in the Gulf of Mexico, which BHP viewed as having significant potential, but remained relatively underexplored.

“The enormous salt structures that characterise this part of the Gulf make it very difficult to use seismic imaging to get an accurate idea of where hydrocarbons might be present below the sea’s surface.

“It is a bit like sitting in an airplane at 30,000 feet on a cloudy day, looking down and hoping for a clear view.”

This is where Ocean Bottom Nodes come in, Ms Jurgens said.

“We put them on the sea floor to act as receivers and collect data – it’s similar to doing a land survey but underwater.

“We expect this to deliver us high quality seismic data that reveals any mature hydrocarbon potential. In planning, a live, four-dimensional visualization of our assets, with TIME being the fourth dimension, is helping us to build more sophisticated models, which, when combined with real-time operational and financial data, gives us more accurate picture of the future than ever before.”

Ms Jurgens said to fully realise its ambitions across options in some of the world’s premier copper, oil and potash basins, BHP must constantly work on developing and maintaining industry-leading capabilities that will take the Company’s unique portfolio to the next level. 

“Technology and innovation are among the most critical of those capabilities,” she said.