Canadian researchers to improve monitoring of fracking

Geophone sensors developed to “listen” and pinpoint microseismic rock fracturing in real time.

Comments Off November 9, 2012
by Design Engineering Staff

Calgary – Researchers at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta announced a $1.86 million joint research project that will help geophysicists and engineers listen to hydraulic fracture treatments.

Fracking is the technique of injecting fluid into cracks in underground rock formations, forcing them to open further and allowing additional oil and gas to flow out so it can be more easily extracted.

By using sensors called geophones lowered deep into a borehole to record ground vibrations, University of Calgary and University of Alberta scientists can now pinpoint and analyze rock fracturing as it occurs. This microseismic monitoring is one of the few techniques available to track and chart the growth of fractures during hydraulic fracture treatments. Information gathered with microseismic monitoring is used to improve the process and detect any fractures that occur outside the zone of interest.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is providing 50 percent of the funding for this three-year, $1.86 million initiative while 10 Canadian industry partners will contribute the remainder.

“Collaborating with Alberta’s oil and gas sector to investigate key industry issues, expanding international understanding of new monitoring techniques and offering students an invaluable opportunity for hands on learning through this partnership between the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta will bring economic benefits today and tomorrow and safeguard against unexpected environmental effects,” said Ed McCauley, vice-president (research) for the University of Calgary.

David Eaton, a professor of geophysics in the University of Calgary’s Department of Geoscience, is the principal investigator for the project while Mirko van der Baan, a physicist from the University of Alberta, will be the co-investigator. Both researchers specialize in microseismic monitoring, a rapidly developing technology that draws from several areas of research including applied geophysics and earthquake seismology.

Eaton is excited that “the NSERC Collaborative Research and Development grant fosters unique university-industry synergies incorporating all aspects of microseismic technology, from data acquisition in the field to state-of-the-art computer visualization.”

The University of Calgary is the only university in the world with a borehole microseismic system, designed by the Canadian-based company ESG Solutions and purchased with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Alberta Innovates.
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