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Identification of Hydrocarbon Seeps by Hyperspectral Remote Sensing
Identifying seeps as an indicator of hydrocarbons is an old idea that can be exploited with a versatile new technology called hyperspectral remote sensing, yielding impressive results.
Our study successfully located existing wells by pinpointing their locations from seal leaks. The hyperspectral data identified light hydrocarbons. Results were used to classify larger areas and to identify natural seeps. Typical methods of seep detection, such as sniffers and soil surveys, have detection limits in the parts-per-thousand ranges. Sensitivity of hyperspectral data is several orders of magnitude greater. Altered minerals resulting from seep activity were used to assess the accuracy of the seep detection.
Light hydrocarbons were identified in a variety of environments. These ranged from open water to timber (including pine, hardwood, and mixed timber) and pastureland. Ground-truthing identified anomalies existing in oil fields, surficial abandoned stream channels, crevasse splays, and areas associated with mineral alteration. These findings demonstrate the potential that hyperspectral remote sensing holds in petroleum exploration. It can be used to generate leads when integrated with other geophysical methods such as gravity, magnetic, and seismic.
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