The people, science and technology behind discovery

Subscribe to the Magazine

Get new articles sent directly to
your mailbox.


Join the network

Twitter Updates Group Forum

Earth Explorer is an online source of news, expertise and applied knowledge for resource explorers and earth scientists. Sponsored by Geosoft.


News & Views

News Archive

August 17, 2016

New IGS Xplore prospectivity maps for Botswana

International Geoscience Services have released a series of base metal prospectivity maps for the Ngamiland District of northwestern Botswana using free geodata available on the recently-launched Botswana Geoscience Portal, hosted by Geosoft. The maps identify favorable areas for copper, zinc and lead mineralization using geological, geochemical and geophysical datasets downloaded directly from the portal.

August 11, 2016

NexGen Makes New High Grade Discovery

NexGen Energy reported the discovery of a new high grade zone of mineralization 4.7 km northeast of the Arrow Deposit as part of an on-going summer drilling program on its 100% owned, Rook I property, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

August 10, 2016

Rampion UXO Disposal to Take Place This Week

E.ON has confirmed that the two unexploded devices, detected along the Rampion offshore cable route will be safely disposed this week following the consultation with the Marine Management Organisation...

August 9, 2016

Diamonds In The Rough: E&Ps Find New Reserves In Mature Basins

The oil industry’s history demonstrates clearly that new plays and prospects have long been found in mature basins that were thought to be well on the way to being squeezed dry. Through the acquisition of new data, developing new concepts and coming up with fresh interpretations, long-producing basins around the world from the North Sea to Malaysia have continued to reveal new riches...

August 8, 2016

Northern Shield Identifies High Quality VTEM Targets at Séquoi

Northern Shield Resources announced the results of the interpretation and modelling of the VTEM survey from the Séquoi Property in the Labrador Trough of Quebec . Séquoi is owned 100% by Northern Shield and is being explored for Noril'sk style Ni-Cu-PGE massive sulphides. After geophysical modelling and interpretation of the VTEM data from Séquoi, six VTEM anomalies of significant interest have been identified...

August 3, 2016

Rio Tinto tailors big data drive to copper

Rio Tinto will put the weight of an exploration big data push and its newly-formed Growth and Innovation group behind its desire to identify a "tier 1" copper asset. Speaking at the annual Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie, Growth and Innovation group executive Stephen McIntosh said Australia was "overdue for a tier 1" mineral discovery of any type...

August 1, 2016

Tetra Tech Awarded $200 Million Navy CLEAN Contract

Tetra Tech announced that it has been awarded a $200 million, single-award contract by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic. Through the Comprehensive Long-term Environmental Action Navy (CLEAN) contract, Tetra Tech will provide environmental engineering support services to installations within the NAVFAC Atlantic Area of Responsibility...

May 3, 2016

NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS), MODUM Partners announce "Young Scientist Summer School on Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons"

This international project cooperates closely with CHEMSEA (Search and Assessment of Chemical Weapons) Project for and sharing and knowledge transfer...

April 12, 2016

Monday mad rush for gold stocks

Renewed optimism about the outlook for gold saw investors pile back into gold stocks, pushing many stock to 52-week highs in heavy volumes...

April 11, 2016

Medgold Resources: Continues to Expand the Boticas Gold Project, Portugal; Proposes $200,000 Private Placement

Medgold Resources is pleased to announce new assay results from contiguous rock-chip sampling from the Limarinho South zone at its Boticas gold project in Portugal, which include a highlight of 6.0m @ 5.7 g/t Au...

April 8, 2016

De-carbonizing our energy sector

Nuclear energy currently provides around 11 percent of the world's electricity. China, the European Union, the United States, India, Russia, South Korea, and other nations’ have major existing fleets...

April 1, 2016

Follow-Up Drilling Results Indicate Wide Gold Zones at Hendricks Gold Discovery

Gascoyne Resources Limited announced that it has received the final assay results from the 10,000 metre aircore exploration drilling programme...

March 26, 2016

The Oil Market Is Finally Hitting Its Breaking Point

After a significant reduction in investments over the past two years, oil companies can no longer overcome the production declines from legacy wells...

March 15, 2016

N-Sea Expands into the French Offshore Wind Industry

Subsea IMR provider, N-Sea, has signed a letter of intent with CERES Recherches & Expertise Sous-Marine and TechSub Industrie Environement, to provide subsea survey, installation and remediation services to the French offshore wind industry...

March 9, 2016

PDAC 2016 Convention Exceeds 22,000 Attendees

Optimism and opportunity abounded at the PDAC 2016 Convention of The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada in spite of recent industry challenges...

March 3, 2016

6 Alpha Launches EOD Contracting Division

6 Alpha Associates, a specialist risk consultancy practice, with expertise in the assessment and management of unexploded ordnance, has launched a dedicated explosive ordnance disposal division...

February 10, 2016

Cameco's new uranium discovery revealed

Canada's top uranium producer has a significant new discovery nearby to one of its largest existing mines...

February 9, 2016

NexGen Drills Most Intense Mineralization to Date at Arrow

NexGen announces further results from its on-going six rig 30,000 m winter 2016 drill program on its 100% owned Rook I Property in the Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

February 9, 2016

Rio Tinto scales up its big data ambitions

Rio Tinto is opening its "vast troves" of exploration data to junior explorers in the hopes they will help sift for opportunities and supply ideas and labour...

February 8, 2016

Online portal improves access to geoscience data from Africa

The Botswana Geoscience Institute is launching a Geoscience Portal...

February 8, 2016

5 Best Minerals & Fossils To Buy With Your IRS Tax Refund

You just got your IRS tax refund and now you're presented with some cash to go out and buy one of a kind minerals and fossils from your local...

February 5, 2016

World's largest offshore windfarm to be built off Yorkshire coast

Dong Energy makes final investment decision on 1.2-gigawatt project that will power more than a million UK homes...

February 2, 2016

World's top 10 rookie gold mines

These high-grade mines will soon start competing with gold mining's industry leaders ...

January 25, 2016

Exxon Mobil Corp's defiant outlook predicts Canadian and Venezuelan oilsands output will 'quadruple' over next 24 years

In sharp contrast to the grim medium-term prognosis for the Canadian oilsands, Exxon Mobil Corp. is predicting sunnier times for bitumen in the decades ahead...

January 23, 2016

Magnetic Survey Keeps Cost Down

At a contaminated furniture factory site in North Carolina, a reconnaissance magnetic survey was conducted toward the end of a Phase 2 investigation ...

Petrobras Deepwater Discovery Success

With its roots in exploration 55 years ago, Petrobras has matured into a world renowned integrated oil company without losing its explorer focus, leading the world in deepwater expertise.


Petrobras discoveries in the Santos Basin reinforce the notion that there is
decreased exploration risk in the pre-salt layer


Petrobras Director of Exploration and Production, Guilherme Estrella,
collects the first oil from Platform P-52: November 2007.


New Oil Accumulation Discovered in the Santos Basin Pre-Salt Layer: May, 2008


Petrobras’ P 51 is the first semi-submersible platform built entirely in Brazil
Photos courtesy of Petrobras.

By Graham Chandler

Petrobras is a perfect fit for exploration and production geophysicist Julio Lyrio, who joined the Brazilian company in 1987, "What makes Petrobras different from many other companies in the industry is the fact that it was born as an exploration enterprise," says Lyrio. "Fortunately this focus on exploration has not changed." To this day the company's main objective has been to discover where the oil is in Brazil. "The recent pre-salt discoveries are a validation of this dedication," he says.

Petrobras has a strong world presence in the oil and gas industry: it can boast the largest market value in Latin America, with nearly 70,000 employees operating in 27 countries; and two and half million barrels equivalent per day of production.

Significantly, it's a technological leader, recognized especially in the highly challenging deepwater exploration and production environments. "Challenge is our energy," quotes the company's website.

The pre-salt discoveries Lyrio refers to are recently-announced findings from those cutting-edge research techniques: in the Santos Basin 300 kilometres off the southeastern coast of the country and 7,000 metres below the South Atlantic Ocean surface. Potential is up to 33 billion barrels or more—some of the world's largest ever—of light sweet crude oil. Just finding them was a challenge. Beneath two kilometres of ocean water lies a post-salt layer (so-called because it was laid down later than the salt layer) half a kilometre thick, then another two kilometres of salt before reaching the pre-salt layer which contains the oil deposit.

That it was a challenge to find is an understatement. That post-salt layer is made up of high velocity rocks that can make it almost impossible to seismically image formations below them, because seismic waves in the salt have such a different velocity than the rocks above. And this is where integration of gravity and magnetics with seismic data were used to advantage.

Lyrio has learned the value of extensive integration of exploratory tools to reduce risk and enhance successes. "Gravity and magnetics have contributed effectively as tools to support interpretation that can produce quick results with low cost and reduced environmental impact," he says.

With the world of oil and gas exploration needing increasing sophistication as the easier deposits have been largely found and exploited, the importance of new and complex methods becomes paramount.

"The exploitation of hydrocarbons presents a growing demand in terms of technological innovations, particularly the software," says Lyrio. "In the field of geophysics, technological solutions that integrate different geophysical methods in exploration have become increasingly important." More and more today, gravity and magnetics are often shot well before bringing in the seismic equipment.

And the techniques are no longer restricted primarily to exploration of virgin territory either. Today, gravity and magnetic methods are being used in Brazil for re-evaluation of mature fields to extend production. Lyrio says Petrobras is using new and advanced gravimetric and magnetic interpretation in regions where environmental issues hamper the use of other geophysical methods such as seismic.

"In earlier times it was believed that the role of potential methods was limited to the initial stages of exploration," he says, such as delineation of basins and major geological structures. "With with the development of interpretation techniques, the availability of specialized software, new techniques for data acquisition, and development of measuring instruments, potential methods have expanded the exploratory process." He says Petrobras uses these potential methods where other methods present difficulties. Potential methods help the interpreters in mapping intra-sedimentary structures such as salt and volcanic spills, for example.

Lyrio describes a case where gravity data became a decisive factor in validating seismic. "During the interpretation of seismic data in a determined area, an important geological structure was defined," he explains. "But with the conversion of [seismic] data in time for depth, the mapped structure suffered significant modifications in terms of direction, and the interpreters were uncertain whether the new direction of the structure was real or only an artifact." He says once the gravity data were incorporated, the new structure was readily validated.

Choosing the right software for situations like this is critical in smoothing and speeding the interpretation process. "Petrobras uses the most advanced software in the market for potential fields," says Lyrio.  About 80 percent of the company's gravity and magnetic projects use the Geosoft platform for interpretation, preparation of maps and grids, and assembly of the database.

"The great advantage of using the Geosoft platform is the fact that it provides the ability for tight integration, from the database through to the preparation of the maps," says Lyrio.  "This has eliminated the need for multiple software and the constant migration of information from one program to another." The variety of software platforms with which Geosoft interacts makes it easy to exchange information between other exploration systems used by the company.
Another advantage that Lyrio likes: the software runs on a PC. "That's a benefit over other programs that require specific hardware," he says. Finally, he says it's very user friendly which makes the platform attractive to new users.

"The variety of tools available for processing and interpreting our gravity and magnetic data, and ease of application, allows us to achieve project completion in a short period of time," he says.

Petrobras' solution also includes company-developed software. "We have developed our own technology," he says, "mainly where the specialized functionality we require isn't commercially available."

Lyrio sees continued growth in the use of potential methods in geophysics well into the future, with a continuing resurgence in their application to hydrocarbon exploration. The reason he says lies in the increasingly complex geological problems being faced and the improved equipment available for dealing with them. He sees one of the largest changes on the horizon to be a change in scale—potential methods will no longer be mainly confined to the broader picture of major features, but will become a viable option for acquiring detail in more specific situations. "A consequence of this will be a bigger demand for technology to deal with integration of exploration methods," he says, "since the goals will be ever smaller and more difficult to interpret."