Advanced geophysical sensing while drilling is being driven by trends to automate and optimize drilling and the desire to better characterize complex near surface and overburden in desert environments. We introduce the DrillCAM system, which combines a set of geophysical techniques from seismic while drilling (SWD), drill-string vibration health, estimation of formation properties at the bit, and imaging ahead of and around the bit. We present data acquisition, processing, and initial application results from the first field trial on an onshore well in a desert environment. In this study, we focus on SWD applications. For the first time, wireless geophones installed around a rig were used to acquire continuous data while drilling. We demonstrate the feasibility of such a system to provide flexible acquisition geometries that are easily expandable with increasing bit depth without interference from drilling operations. Using a top-drive sensor as a pilot, we transform the drill-bit noise into meaningful and reliable seismic signals. The data were used to retrieve a check shot while drilling, make kinematic look-ahead predictions, and obtain a vertical seismic profiling corridor stack matching surface seismic. Robust near-offset check-shot signals were received from roller-cone and polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bits above 7200 ft after limited preprocessing of challenging single-sensor data with supergrouping. Detecting signals from deeper sections drilled with PDC bits may require more advanced processing by using an entire 2D spread of wireless geophones and downhole pilots. The real-time capabilities of the system make the data available for continuous data processing and interpretation that will facilitate drilling automation and improve real-time decision making.

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