Recently Shell and HP announced a new onshore wireless seismic acquisition system designed to provide higher sensitivity and ultra-low frequencies. Called inertial sensing technology, the sensor is the result of a multi-year joint development project suggested by Shell, which has been clamoring for a land seismic system that can provide 1 million channels.

The sensing technology has a noise floor – a measure of the smallest detectable acceleration over a range of frequencies – of 10 nano-g per square root Hz, equal to the noise created by ocean waves at the quietest locations on Earth. Its sensitivity was tested at the US Geological Survey’s Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory, where it also picked up an earthquake in the Gulf of California some 800 miles away. The signal from the reference sensor was matched by the new sensor down to 25 mHz.

While Shell plans to use the inertial sensor for large land surveys, Paul Helm, worldwide program director, Manufacturing Industries, Upstream Solutions for HP, sees much wider potential. For instance, the sensors could be used in an ocean-bottom seismic system, and they could be useful as passive seismic monitors both for production monitoring and CO2 sequestration. “There is a whole raft of opportunities,” Helm said. “This is a big advance in my view.”

The sensors could be used in pipeline monitoring to sense the buildup of wax and paraffin and alert operators to the location of the potential problem. Other uses include as a gravimeter, environmental monitoring, corrosion monitoring, and the calorific value of the fuel on a platform, he said. “You’d know exactly how much CO2 you were putting into the air,” he said. “These sensors can generate a lot of data.”

In well construction, they could be useful in the drill string as well, gathering data from the BHA, wellhead, riser, or platform. In fact, Helm said that this could move the industry into predictive analysis – data collected from the well could help characterize how the drilling is going.

“In the wellbore, it can detect changes in fluid and improved gas-to-oil ratio, and it can predict onset – in other words, sensing patterns that have resulted in problems in previous wells,” Helm said. “You can see the pattern evolve, and your well might be following the same path.”

HP has come a long way since it provided gauges and metering devices on offshore platforms, he added. “We’re building off a strong legacy, and our clients are asking more of us,” he said. “There’s a constant pull to do more. Currently we’re saying, ‘Bring us a difficult problem.’”

For more information and to view a video about the earthquake experiment, visit