Well Location Surveys using UAV

We have recently joined forces with Juniper Unmanned, a Golden Colorado-based company to provide ultrahigh-resolution drone-based surveys for abandoned well and pipeline location services.

Juniper Unmanned is a premier operator of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with advanced sensing technologies. Juniper Unmanned provides premier drone solutions for commercial, federal, state, and military organizations. The company integrates best-in-class aircraft with the most advanced sensors. When combined with Juniper’s engineered processes, advanced software, and analytics, clients receive unparalleled data and actionable intelligence to provide solutions and improve their business.

We initially worked with Juniper in the fall of 2019 on several well location projects in northern Colorado. During this process, we found that the data acquired using their Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) could be further enhanced by our advanced processing techniques to image previously unmappable well and pipeline signatures.

Utilizing this synergistic approach, we are now offering well and pipeline location services to local, regional, and state agencies tasked with the identification and remediation of abandoned wells and pipelines. In addition to governmental agencies, private sector environmental consultants and developers are prospective clients for this ground-breaking technology.

At the core of this process are the UAS and geophysical equipment used for data acquisition. Geometrics, Inc. of San Jose, California has been the leading manufacturer of magnetometers since they invented the first commercially available unit back in the 1970’s. Their most recent breakthrough was the development of a miniaturized laser-pumped magnetometer with integrated GPS that has allowed the overall size of a system to be reduced by more than an order of magnitude.

Juniper Unmanned utilizes several models of UAS, matching specific flight characteristics to specific sensors and tasks. For our well location surveys, they are acquiring data using a DJI 600 Matrice drone, which is a six-rotor helicopter-type aircraft.

Case Study

We performed a survey for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) as a “proof of concept” of survey planning, data acquisition, and processing for specific targets. An area of 70 acres in Logan County Colorado was suggested by COGCC for the study because it was known to contain abandoned wells as well as collector lines associated with storage tanks.

A grid of 20-meter flight lines was generated along with a flight plan that incorporated a 10-meter flight height with additional clearances over powerlines and the storage tanks. A grid of 20-meter flight lines was generated along with a flight plan that incorporated a 10-meter flight height with additional clearances over powerlines and the storage tanks.

The standard first-order processing eliminated the heading error along the flight lines and began to define coherent anomalies over the storage tanks and other features. Three abandoned wells were located within the study area along with numerous pipelines, which are thought to be collector lines or flow lines associated with the wells, leading to the two large collection tanks in the center.

To better image these pipelines and resolve sharper images of the surrounding anomalies, we applied our advanced processing techniques to enhance features that exhibit discrete magnetic signatures. The advanced processing we utilize for these surveys involves a large number of iterative steps, each designed to amplify the discrete signatures of wells and pipelines while maintaining the integrity of the original data.

The result using advanced processing techniques is shown on the left. In addition to the pipeline features positively identified before, the dashed lines indicate areas having subtle magnetic signatures, which indicate ground disturbances where small diameter or non-metallic pipelines may be located.

When the conditions are favorable i.e. low noise and magnetically clean terrain, digging or trenching that has disturbed the soil alters the magnetic field to the extent that these features can be imaged.

In summary, the combination of accurate, low-level drone flights and advanced processing techniques allows for precise mapping of abandoned wells and pipelines in areas with difficult surface access. Drone acquisition offers quick surveying over a considerable area given that a 160 acre section can be completed in just a few days. We believe that this partnership can offer clients a more accurate and cost-effective result than a ground-based survey. For more information or survey design, planning and cost please contact us .