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Gazprom Neft is developing its use of drones in exploration

Gazprom Neft has now completed its 2020–2021 geological prospecting season — this being the first season in which the company has used drones in electrical and magnetic exploration, in remote areas of Western Siberia. The company also started widespread deployment of digital twins in seismic surveying.

The most recent prospecting season has seen Gazprom Neft conduct geophysical surveys at license blocks throughout the Khanty-Mansi and Yamalo-Nenets (Yugra) Autonomous Okrugs, as well as the Tomsk Oblast, with prospecting works covering 1,900 square kilometres, in total.

The company has significantly broadened its use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) in investigating license blocks in Western Siberia. Initially used on those parts of investigations that could previously only be covered by small aircraft, drones are now being used in electric surveying, multi-level magnetic surveying, aerial photography and infrared video surveillance. Drones have also been used to automate data collection from seismic recording equipment. This increased drone functionality has allowed Gazprom Neft to reduce the significant costs involved in using manned aircraft, as well as increasing accuracy, speed and safety in fieldwork, and minimising human involvement in geological exploration at remote blocks.

Gazprom Neft’s key project in developing ground-based exploration techniques in the 2020–2021 season was the widespread deployment of D-Seis digital-twin seismic prospecting.** This innovative platform integrates data from more than 80 geological prospecting projects. Online availability means specialists from various locations in Russia have rapid access to statistics and analytics on all fieldwork and desk-research metrics. Digital algorithms deliver an exponential reduction in the time spent on analysing information, as well as enhancing the quality of geologists’ decision making.

Going forward, this digital-twin seismic system will also monitor adherence to the principles of “Green Seismic” prospecting — an innovative approach that helps minimise environmental impacts in seismic operations.*** Green Seismic technology was used across more than 1,200 square kilometres last season. A new-generation technology, Green Seismic 2.0, was launched at the Salymsky-5 block in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug-Yugra — the use of small-scale drilling and compact mechanical equipment allowing specialists to further minimise environmental impacts in those areas surveyed.

“Modern technologies have optimised our approaches to hydrocarbon prospecting. Gazprom Neft’s digital-twin seismic exploration system, process robotisation and drone usage have, already, allowed us to significantly increase accuracy in prospecting forecasts, as well as cutting project lead-times and costs. This innovative platform will continue to evolve in the near term, with the deployment of advanced analytics tools, automatic planning of Green Seismic 2.0 technological solutions, and automated procurement procedures. This will not only facilitate high efficiency and profitability in geological prospecting projects, but also allow us to manage these in the most environmentally friendly way possible, in harmony with the natural environments in those regions in which we operate.”
Yuri Masalkin
Yuri Masalkin Director for Geological Exploration and Resource Base Development, Gazprom Neft
Notes for editors

* The geological prospecting season in most exploration areas is traditionally about seven months. This is due to the geography of the license blocks under investigation — many of which are in hard-to-reach locations, including in the Russian Far North, in marsh areas or areas surrounded by rivers, lakes or streams. Transporting people and equipment to these exploration zones is only possible in winter, under sub-zero temperatures, on specially constructed temporary winter ice-roads.

** The D-Seis platform is an integrated app environment available for use by Gazprom Neft and its contracted service companies, offering full transparency across all processes and integrating all levels in decision-making on seismic exploration projects. It includes detailed calculations of all necessary resources, ongoing oversight of fieldwork, and a platform allowing interaction between all parties involved.

*** Green Seismic technology is based on using lightweight technical equipment and wireless radio-telemetry data-logging systems, meaning manmade environmental impacts on forested areas can be reduced. Using compact mobile equipment helps reduce the width of forestry-clearance access trails for delivering and installing seismic-recording equipment by as much as five-fold. Second generation technology — Green Seismic 2.0 — is designed to allow further use of compact equipment, in this case drilling rigs for operations at access trails where seismic signals are generated. Green Seismic technology is being successfully deployed throughout facilities belonging to Gazpromneft-Khantos, Slavneft-Megionneftegaz, Gazpromneft-Vostok, Gazpromneft Technology Partnerships (formerly the Bazhen Technology Centre) and Gazpromneft-Noyabrskneftegaz.