This paper describes a well logging method and device designed to determine radial inhomogeneities in the elemental content of the borehole environment with high spatial resolution. The sounding factor that determines the spatial resolution is the time elapsed from the moment of neutron emission from the device to the moment the device records the gamma rays from neutron inelastic scattering (inelastic gamma rays, IGRs) in the formation. The time interval characterizes the distance to the point of origin of a gamma ray, and the energy of a gamma ray passing through the formation without interaction determines the chemical element involved in inelastic scattering.

Simulations have shown that at each time, the density of inelastic scattering is very well localized in space owing to the small number of fast-neutron scatterings: on average, one to two events. It is the compact localization of inelastic scattering events that provides high radial resolution (and, if necessary, high azimuth resolution) during fast-neutron sounding of formations and measurement of unsteady IGR fluxes. Recording of IGR distributions over time also provides increasing sounding depth because powerful IGR fluxes from nearby regions reach the detector at short times and do not overlap the weaker IGR fluxes from distant regions because the latter reach the detector later.

To evaluate the radial resolution of the method, we calculated the response of the sonde for typical models of a borehole environment which include a borehole, an iron casing, cement, an invaded zone, and an uninvaded rock. The boundaries of spatial inhomogeneities and the elemental content in the regions between these boundaries were determined from time dependences of unscattered spectral lines in IGR spectra for the elements Ca, Si, C, O, and Fe. The results of the numerical simulation indicate a high sensitivity of the measurements to the radial boundaries and an adequate spatial resolution: about 1 cm at a 0.1 ns time sampling of logs. The interfaces between the radial zones are clearly marked in the time distributions by steep fronts with a length of 0.1 ns (at a collimation angle of the source of about 30°) to 0.15–0.4 ns (at an angle of 90°).

A method of solution was formulated for the inverse problem consisting of determining the boundaries of the radial zones and the elemental content in these zones. The problem is solved using a qualitative model of the borehole environment, for example, a “borehole–casing–cement–invaded zone–uninvaded rock” model. The method is based on searching for approximating model curves to measured time distributions of unscattered IGR fluxes jointly for all components of the model. The search is conducted by spatial optimization of the sought parameters—the distances {rS} from the neutron source to the boundaries of the zones and the concentrations {C} of specified chemical compounds in these zones. The initial approximations for the sought parameters {rS} and {C} are calculated by linear inversion of logs, which proves to be very accurate because the contribution of singly scattered neutrons to the inelastic scattering density at small times (10 ns) is, on average, 50–90%.

Model curves are calculated by numerical simulation of the transport of neutrons and gamma rays. An appropriate calculation method is the Monte Carlo technique. Since the multiplicity of neutron scattering is low and, for gamma rays, only the unscattered component is of interest, the numerical simulation is a fast process.

The practical implementation of the method requires the use of advanced developments in the design of neutron generators, spectral gamma-ray detectors, and fast analyzers for recording subnanosecond processes. Use of associated-particle neutron generators, Ge semiconductor detectors with electron cooling or LaBr3 (Ce) and BaF2 based fast scintillator blocks of high energy resolution will allow the application of the proposed method to logging measurements.

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