Why Acquire New Gravity & Magnetic Data?

Grav-MagWe often get asked the question, “if I already have access to some public Grav-Mag data, why are you suggesting I spend more money to acquire a newer version of the ‘same’ data?”

While it’s true that we’re dealing with the same measurements – gravity and magnetic – the quality and utility of the public data can vary greatly depending on how the measurements were acquired. For one thing, public datasets are often acquired at fairly sparse line spacing – often 5-10km. Moreover, the public measurements might have been acquired using ground-based acquisition stations. If this is the case, not only is the ‘cross-line spacing’ going to be 5-10km, so too will be the ‘in-line’ spacing.

In the case of the Grav-Mag datasets that NEOS typically acquires for a neoBASIN survey, the cross-line spacing will be much tighter; our standard flight-line spacing is 1km. The in-line sampling density will be even greater, as the aircraft we use are capturing measurements roughly every 80 meters for gravity (1Hz sampling) and every 8 meters for magnetic (10Hz sampling).

The results become visible in the panel of images above. The upper panel shows the (Tilt Derivative of) Magnetic data, while the bottom panel shows the (First Vertical Derivative of) Gravity data. On the right side is the data we actually acquired for our neoBASIN project in and around Venango County, Pennsylvania. The black lines are faults and lineaments that were interpreted based on an analysis of not only these two derivative products of the Grav-Mag datasets, but also of a suite of roughly 15 direct Grav-Mag measurements and associated attributes and derivatives that were extracted from them.

We then decimated the actual datasets back to 5km (middle panels) and 10km (far left panels) flight-line spacing and reinterpreted the datasets (and the associated attributes and derivatives) to identify the faults and lineaments we felt were present. Hopefully you can see the improvements in not only resolution, but also in the number of interpreted faults and lineaments, as one moves from left to right.

And these are still best case differences – we didn’t decimate the datasets in-line; had we done so, the middle and left side data quality (and fault interpretations) would be even worse.

It is for the reasons shown here that we often recommend that our clients acquire new Grav-Mag data as part of a neoBASIN regional program even if they have access to publicly available measurements. After all, who would want to take the risk of drilling and fracing a $10 million well using “left panel data” when only 1/3 of the faults in the area have been identified?

First Project in the Rockies. Oo-rah!


NEOS is about to launch our first project in the Rocky Mountain region. Underwriting support for a neoBASIN regional survey has been received from a long-standing customer.

According to Chris Friedemann, Chief Marketing Officer and VP of Business Development…

Several exploration targets exist within the survey area, including the Niobrara shale. We will be mapping the thickness, burial depth, and areal extent of all of the zones of interest and identifying the basement features and localized fault systems that are often associated with enhanced well productivity in the Niobrara. In this part of Colorado, the need to conduct oil & gas activities with the utmost consideration of the environment is paramount. Our airborne geophysical operations support this objective, as will the hyperspectral data that we plan to acquire. The hyperspectral images will allow us to map surface-based ecosystems and enable licensees of the neoBASIN data library to plan and execute future development activities in an environmentally prudent manner.

Several members of the NEOS management team fondly remember the location of this survey, as it served as one of the testing grounds for a cableless seismic acquisition system that they had helped to introduce to the market at a previous geophysical company. In this particular area, airborne geophysical acquisition has a number of advantages.

First, we’ll be acquiring data over an environmentally sensitive area characterized by challenging topography which can pose an HSE risk to ground-deployed seismic crews like the one shown below. The neoBASIN survey won’t require us to put dozens of people on the ground, supported by heli-transport operations that drop off heavy equipment in pre-determined areas so that the ground-based crews can retrieve them, haul them along exposed and rock-laden cliffs to the designated receiver points, and drill the holes required for seismic sensor emplacement.


Moreover, low-touch airborne operations don’t cause disturbance to surface-based flora, fauna, and ranch lands. Regulatory restrictions to support protected species greatly limit the acquisition windows in which ground-based geophysical operations can be conducted.

Because we’re “flying above the fray,” we don’t have to worry about these access challenges or the risk of environmental disturbance. In addition, we can cover a much broader expanse of territory at a fraction of the cost of conventional geophysical operations.

After we’re done in about 6 months, our client will have both surface and sub-surface insights over a nearly 1,000 square mile expanse of the Niobrara shale play. And what do these insights include? Among other things:

  • Maps of naturally occurring, surface-based oil seeps and indirect hydrocarbon indicators
  • Maps of surface-based ecosystems (e.g., waterways, farms, ranch lands)
  • Maps of basement topography and key structural and stratigraphic horizons
  • Basement-to-surface maps highlighting local faults and associated fracture networks
  • 2-D cross-sections and regional 3-D structural models of the subsurface
  • Maps of the Niobrara, including an isopach, burial depth, and depth-to-basement map
  • Regional resistivity voxels down to ~10,000 feet subsurface
  • Regional ‘sweet spot maps’ depicting the most (and least) prospective areas for leasing, drilling, and/or further G&G study and investment.

In this part of Colorado, the Niobrara is liquids prone. Well productivity is enhanced by natural fracture systems which themselves are often induced by faulting. The faults themselves can be deep seated and impacted in location and magnitude by variations in the basement architecture. Our gravity and magnetic detection methods are well suited to mapping these basement features and the locations of fault (and associated fracture) networks.

In addition, we’ll be able to develop a regional potential fields model (calibrated by any seismic and well control in the area) which will allow us to generate 2-D cross-sections and a regional 3-D subsurface model from which isopachs, etc. can be extracted for horizons of interest.

Airborne EM methods will let us get a view into resistivity variations both horizontally and vertically throughout the geologic column. And hyperspectral will let us search for DHIs and indirect hydrocarbon indicators on the surface, especially along surface-cutting lineaments, faults, and fold axes, and also map the pre-development state of surface-based ecosystems, something all residents in the area (including this brown bear) care deeply about!


It’s setting up to be a terrific project, and both we and our lead underwriter can’t wait to get started. Stay tuned to the Sweet Spots blog as we share more from this exciting neoBASIN project.

NEOS in New Technology Magazine


The rush for unconventional oil and gas resources is increasing the level of hazards faced by producers in the field. Hazards and risks could include anything from long-abandoned wellbores to shallow gas pockets, unknown faults and fractures, and the natural seepage of hydrocarbons into groundwater that may be blamed on drilling operations at some future date if baseline information is not gathered first.

NEOS GeoSolutions, Inc., a Houston-based geosciences company known primarily for its airborne neoBASIN surveys, has now adapted its expertise to a specialized survey created to deal with those concerns. Called Eco-Assurance…

The article continues. To read the full article, click here or on the image above.

To access the website for New Technology magazine – the First Word on Oilpatch Innovation – click here.

NEOS in First Break: Predictive Analytics in E&P

FirstBreakCoverNEOS GeoSolutions CEO Jim Hollis and Transform President Murray Roth co-authored a pathbreaking article in the March 2013 issue of the EAGE‘s First Break magazine in which they describe the applications for predictive analytics methodologies in oil & gas exploration and development. Click here or on the image above to download the article.

Click here to access the First Break web site.

NEOS and Transform have been thought-partnering on predictive analytics since the 2012 SEG Annual Conference and Exhibition. An interview in which Murray and NEOS VP of Exploration, Dr. Craig Beasley, discuss the applications of predictive analytics in E&P is accessible by clicking here.

NEOS Launches Eco-Assurance Offering

Appalachia FarmNEOS has launched a new Eco-Assurance solution for oil & gas companies seeking additional insights related to surface and near-surface geologic conditions. Although designed for E&P companies operating in Appalachia, the Eco-Assurance solution can be implemented in almost any natural resource exploration and development setting.

E&P operators in Appalachia face significant scrutiny when conducting their drilling, fracing, and production activities. The Appalachian Basin is an active hydrocarbon system in which gas has been migrating towards the surface along naturally occurring faults for millions of years.

Some of this gas has become trapped in shallow structures which are very difficult to see on seismic and which E&P operators wish to avoid when drilling down to deeper reservoir targets in the Marcellus or Utica shales.

Other geo-hazards that operators want to be aware of include the location of faults in the shale intervals that can reduce the effectiveness of fracing operations and a large number of orphaned wellbores throughout the region that were drilled decades ago, often pre-dating modern record-keeping systems that noted their locations.

The Eco-Assurance solution makes use of hyperspectral, magnetic, and both passive-source and active-source electro-magnetic (EM) sensors. These geophysical measurements are acquired using both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and, after they are processed and interpreted, provide insights into:

  • Shallow gas geo-hazards;
  • Near-surface and reservoir-interval fault zones;
  • Orphaned wellbore locations;
  • Wetlands locations;
  • Oil seep and gas plume locations on the surface;
  • Pre-development conditions in local waterways and aquifers.

NEOS has already delivered these insights on several projects in Appalachia. In fact, one client presented their perspectives on the methodology and the value it provided at a Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC) forum last year: tinyurl.com/NEOS-GWPC.

A narrated slideshow describing NEOS’s Eco-Assurance offering is available at: tinyurl.com/NEOS-EcoAssurance.

[important]If you’re interested in discussing Eco-Assurance for your exploration, appraisal, or development program in Appalachia, please contact Carl Kincheloe using the form below.