Dr. Andrei Yakovlev (in front of Moscow University, MGU) is an adjunct Professor at MGU as well as President of Nord-West Ltd., a geophysical company which is actively using Phoenix System 2000 MT equipment for regional profiles, exploration surveys and academic studies with MGU.
Russia has a long history of outstanding accomplishments in EM exploration techniques. With the largest land area in the world, highly prospective for metals, oil and gas, Russia has always sought rapid, low-cost geophysical reconnaissance techniques.
Major practical accomplishments of Russian EM and MT include the discovery of the large basement uplift near the little trading post of Urengoi in the Tyumen region of West Siberia. When drilled, this structure was found to host the giant Urengoi gas field, with reserves of 5 trillion cubic metres, which now supplies large amounts of gas to western Europe.
A major Russian theoretical accomplishment was the co-invention of the MT technique in the early 1950s by Tikhonov. (The other co-inventor was Cagniard, in France.) Russian geoscientists soon developed analog MT systems which were easy to use, portable and robust. From the 1950s to the 1970s, more than 100 geoelectric crews mapped large areas of Russian territory. Such widespread application of geoelectrics still has no counterpart in western countries.
Russian scientists also developed a high level of expertise in other EM techniques: Transient Sounding (TS); Frequency Sounding (FS), and Induced Polarization (IP), all of which were used in oil and gas exploration. Little of the Russian literature about these techniques has been translated to English.
As relations between east and west improved in the 1970s, western scientists gradually became aware of the high level of development of EM theory in Russia, as well as the wide practical application in exploration of MT, TS and FS. Australian geoscientist Brian Spies visited the USSR in the early 1980s and wrote a well-known review paper, "Recent Developments in the Use of Surface Electrical Methods of Oil and Gas Exploration in the Soviet Union", GEOPHYSICS 48, page 1102, 1983. Other western geoscientists such as Keeva Vozoff and George Keller facilitated translations of relevant Russian works. Emigration of Russian EM experts (including Kaufman, Tabarovsky and, later, Zhdanov) also disseminated EM expertise in western countries. The TS technique (called TDEM, or time domain electromagnetics in western countries) was also invented in Russia. It was rapidly adopted by Australian geoscientists in the early 1980s when they realized that the TDEM technique was ideal for "looking through" the typical tropical-zone weathered, conductive surface layer which covers much of Australia.
This prompted development of an Australian TDEM system (called SIROTEM) by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). Similar systems were developed by North American geophysical companies.
MT played key role in discovery of
supergiant Urengoi gas field
The first North American commercial MT systems (based on Russian and French experience) appeared in the early 1970s. These developments were accelerated by the post-1973 increase in oil prices, with consequent increase in frontier oil exploration by multinational oil companies. In such frontier regions, seismic data is often poor or unusable, or very costly to obtain. By contrast, MT or EM techniques cost much less than seismic and often can easily "see" through the same rocks which cause problems for the seismic technique.
In the late 1970s, several factors combined to spur rapid evolution of western MT and EM equipment. High oil prices, advances in electronics and microprocessors and the 1978 theoretical breakthrough in MT called "remote reference", led to much wider application of MT by western oil and gas companies. Then the 1985 crash in oil prices caused western oil and gas exploration with geoelectrics to decline. Staff reductions and consolidations led to the present low level of theoretical and practical knowledge of EM techniques within western oil companies. The present "seismic by default" exploration paradigm inadvertently deprives many oil companies of the benefits of MT and other EM techniques realized elsewhere.
By contrast, since the early 1980s, geoelectrics in China (especially MT) has experienced continued growth in oil and gas exploration, creating a new market for western MT and EM equipment. (Phoenix first entered the China market in 1983.) Political and economic changes in China increased demand for hydrocarbons; high imported oil costs stimulated domestic exploration; academic expertise supported practical application in exploration; and the large area of unexplored sedimentary basins (many of them unsuitable for seismic exploration) emphasized the role of deep-penetrating EM techniques, especially MT. Recent significant large discoveries (see Issue No. 21) have accelerated the trend.
Geoelectrics suffered a temporary decline in Russia between 1985-2000 due to the widespread changes brought about by the end of communism. Today, improvement of the Russian economy, increased oil and gas production (and higher prices), greater east-west linkage and availability of modern western equipment have sparked renewed interest in EM in Russia. Phoenix is increasingly active in the Russian market and strongly supports this rebirth of Russian EM under some of the ablest practitioners in the world.
The above article is based in part upon a review paper "Geoelectric Surveys in Russia: Oil and Gas Prospecting" very kindly prepared under the direction of Prof. Mark Berdichevsky of Moscow State University (MGU). The MGU group, under the direction of Professors Berdichevsky and Leonid Vanyan, has made numerous and outstanding contributions to MT and EM (Electromagnetics).
Prof. Berdichevsky (shown at right) is the leading figure in Russian MT. He has published more than 250 scientific papers and several books and has been a professor at MGU since 1969.