Abstract

Advanced seismic-while-drilling (SWD) technologies are being utilized to steer drilling operations and provide high-resolution subsurface images around and ahead of the bit. We present a case study of SWD imaging using a recently acquired field data set from a desert environment with a complex near surface. Data acquisition is performed with wireless geophones and top-drive sensors using continuous real-time recording. The drill-bit noise data are analyzed while continuously recording in real time by using a specialized workflow that combines elements of SWD and conventional vertical seismic profiling processing with controlled seismic sources. First, the workflow enhances the direct wavefield to retrieve accurate first-break picks for traveltime tomographic inversion along east–west- and north–south-striking walkaway lines. Then, it extracts and enhances upgoing reflection events, illuminating parts of the subsurface around and ahead of the bit. During the final step, these upgoing reflections are imaged using the inverted velocity model to reconstruct a migrated subsurface image around the well. As is the case for land surface seismic in the presence of a complex near surface, we observe a significant variation of data quality for the orthogonal receiver lines. As a result, each line provides a robust image of a different part of the subsurface. The east–west-striking line's migrated image delineates a major shallow reflector that serves as a marker for predicting the drilling depth of a deeper horizon. Likewise, migrating upgoing reflections from the north–south line accurately maps a deeper target horizon ahead of the bit. The obtained SWD images assist in setting the casing points accurately and provide a more precise ahead-of-the-bit depth for different horizons with significantly less uncertainty than surface seismic.

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