Environmental and Energy Law Blog

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The ABCs of Seismic Surveys: Part One

Seismic surveys are used to produce images of rock types and their locations beneath the ground. These surveys are utilized by oil and gas companies to determine the location and size of gas and oil reservoirs. The process, which involves bouncing and recording sound waves off of underground rock formations, provides surveyors with valuable information about rock types and the availability of fluids and gases underground. In this two-part series, we examine seismic surveys in detail.

An overview of seismic surveys in Texas

Seismic surveys are the primary tools of gas and oil exploration companies in Texas. A seismic survey is conducted by creating a seismic wave on the surface of the ground along a predetermined line. This wave then travels into the earth, bounces off subsurface formations, and returns to the surface, where it is then recorded by special receivers called geophones. These waves are created either by special vehicles or explosive charges that vibrate on the ground. By analyzing how long it takes for these waves to bounce off of subsurface formations and return to the surface, a surveyor can predict where gas or oil may be trapped in order to facilitate exploration activities. Until recently, seismic surveys were only able to create two-dimensional pictures. These pictures, known as two-dimensional or 2D seismic data, have recently been replaced by the use of 3D seismic surveys.

3D seismic surveys

As noted above, geophysicists now primarily conduct 3D seismic tests. 3D surveys are useful, as they can be conducted in a variety of different environments, including swamps, oceans, and urban areas. These surveys can cover several square miles of land and typically cost up to $100,000 per square mile to perform. However, despite the high cost, the data obtained from seismic surveys is extremely valuable, and it is often protected under trade secret laws. Once seismic data has been compiled, it is licensed, purchased, and sold by exploration companies, seismic survey companies, and brokers.

Texas Oil and Gas Attorney

Oil and gas laws are always changing. Therefore, it’s imperative that those involved in the energy industry have reliable, experienced, and knowledgeable legal representation to help guide them through the ever-changing energy landscape. In the areas of oil and gas, it’s particularly important to ensure that all contracts are properly drafted. Oil and gas contracts are sophisticated documents, and it’s important that they be drafted in a manner that ensures the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved. At the Law Office of C. William Smalling, P.C., we are highly experienced in the drafting and review of such contracts, including joint operating agreements, farm-out agreements, master service agreements, drilling contracts, licensing agreements for use of seismic or technical data, and nondisclosure agreements. If you are in need of expert oil and gas legal representation, contact us today for a consultation.


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