Finding Oil, Gas and Minerals from the Air
Tanya Trofimencoff posted on July 28, 2016 |
Gravity gradiometry sensor finds resources beneath the Earth’s surface.
Gravity gradiometry inversion and forward modelling. (Image courtesy of Colorado School of Mines Center for Gravity, Electrical & Magnetic Studies.)
Gravity gradiometry inversion and forward modelling. (Image courtesy of Colorado School of Mines Center for Gravity, Electrical & Magnetic Studies.)

A new gravity gradiometry sensor currently under development is 20 times more powerful and has 10 times the bandwidth of current technology. The sensor would be capable of finding an armored truck full of gold 20 meters underground, purely by sensing the bullion’s effect on the local gravity field. Lockheed Martin plans to build the Full Tensor Gradiometry (FTG) Plus sensor prototype to detect natural resources from aircraft owned and operated by Neos, Inc. 

"FTG Plus transforms what we can do and what we can see from the air," said Jonathan Faiman, chairman of Neos Inc., "Remote sensing is going to dominate the exploration market, and with this sensor, Neos will have the most advanced in the world. It will enable us to image resources cleaner, quicker and at a lower cost to our customers."

From One to Three Directions

Instead of measuring the acceleration of mass due to gravity only in the vertical direction, gravitational surveys are pushed to the next level to detect the location of natural resources more accurately by measuring gravitational fields in three directions. In the case of the FTGs, several accelerometers are used in the three different planes to improve measurements. 

Left: one component of the gravity field is measured. (conventional gravity survey); right: all three components of the gravity field are measured (FTG). (Image courtesy of Finding Petroleum.)
Left: one component of the gravity field is measured. (conventional gravity survey); right: all three components of the gravity field are measured (FTG). (Image courtesy of Finding Petroleum.)

"The advances we will make here are extraordinary. One of the reasons is that in the past we and competitors had used military hardware, modified for geophysical survey purposes," said Gregory Paleolog, FTG Plus program lead for Neos, "FTG Plus is the first time Lockheed Martin has specifically built a sensor for our precise use and needs. That is a fundamental change; it is an entirely new design for us, and we have exclusive rights to use it."

Surveying with Gravity

Neos plans to implement FTG to its airplanes and helicopters. Providing more accurate results in surveying will significantly improve the speed at which resources can be located and provide more precise locations for drilling. With higher-level surveying, resource extraction planning and execution from the group will improve and more products can be recovered. Exploration teams will have more precise information from their new guide: the FTG. 

"At a time when so much marine seismic equipment is being cold stacked, we will be able to use nonseismic technology with a new sensor 20 times better than anything we have ever seen before," Paleolog said. "This means we will find more resources quicker and with more accuracy than ever before. It will be transformative."

For a very different use of gravity, check out this new concept for a gravity-fed flow battery.

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