[ASC-media] CSIRO: 'Electronic ears' to guide mining drills

Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au
Tue Apr 29 05:22:39 CEST 2008

29 April 2008

Ref 08/63

'Electronic ears' to guide mining drills

CSIRO scientists with the Minerals Down Under National Research Flagship
have successfully used an electronic listening post to track and control
a drill operating more than 300 metres below the Earth's surface.

While there is still a lot of research to be done, CSIRO's successful
trial has demonstrated, for the first time in Australia, that the use of
'microseismics' technology has significant potential in delivering cost
savings and efficiency improvements in the directional drilling process
for exploration and mining applications.

The trial was carried out at a coal field test site in Queensland as
part of a program to develop and exploit coal seam gas.

Normally in coal seam drilling for gas, a vertical production well in
the subsurface is linked to another borehole that has been drilled
through the main seam where the gas is generated and channelled. 

The challenge is that when using current methods to try to connect a
sub-horizontal borehole to the vertical production borehole, the bit
often misses the target. CSIRO's solution was to use seismic monitoring
to identify the location of the drill bit from the noise it generated
while drilling.

Minerals Down Under Microseismic Team leader, Dr Xun Luo, said the drill
string and bit were navigated sub-horizontally towards the target gas
production well situated approximately 1200m from the test drilling

"We used a multiple geophone array to improve the signal to noise ratio,
but even so, the seismic data was still rather noisy and contaminated by
periodic electrical noise signals," he said.  

"However, we applied a sophisticated filtering and cancelling algorithm
with the result that we could successfully identify the drill bit
location and were able to intercept the target borehole at the first

A new technology that contributes to reducing the cost and increasing
the efficiency of drilling could produce major benefits for the

Drilling is a critical component of both the exploration and mining
industries. It contributes approximately 20 per cent of exploration
costs and 10 per cent of mining costs.

The initial trial and future research is being supported by one of the
leading producers of coal seam gas in Australia.

National Research Flagships. www.csiro.au/flagships

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based
solutions in response to Australia's major research challenges and
opportunities. The nine Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with
industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for

Image available at:

Further Information:

Xun Luo, Minerals Down Under National Research Flagship
07 3327 4551; Xun.Luo at csiro.au 

Media Assistance:
Bob Chamberlain, Minerals Down Under National Research Flagship
07 3327 4469; Bob.Chamberlain at csiro.au 


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Beck Eveleigh
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0409 395 010

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