Extracting minerals and fossil fuels is generally a very profitable business. However, before drilling towers, extraction pumps and mines can be put into operation, a number of preparations have to be made. Above all, the companies want to be sure that exploiting a resource deposit is truly worthwhile. This is where companies such as Walton Bore Geophysics from Queensland, Australia, come into play. Working on behalf of mining, energy and exploration companies, Walton Bore Geophysics collects scientific data from gas wells, water wells, exploratory drilling and existing production boreholes. The data helps the companies to implement environmental protection regulations such as those applying to the groundwater, for example. However, they primarily allow companies to assess the profitability of the resource extraction and develop the most efficient and environmentally friendly means of extraction possible. During this phase it becomes apparent just how cautious the companies are. “Sometimes data is collected for up to 10 years before the mining company actually decides to invest in extracting a resource”, explains Andy Walton, the head engineer at Walton Bore Geophysics.
The potential resource sites are generally located somewhere in Australia’s Outback. Once the exploration teams have carried out the initial test drilling the Walton Bore Geophysics employees then set out. Thanks to the 4×4 drive system, the two Mercedes-Benz Sprinter have no problem negotiating this difficult terrain. After they arrive, a boom is extended and the measurement probes are lowered into the borehole on a cable. The probes record data about the geological characteristics or the condition of the borehole. The scientific methods used range from gamma radiation measurement to ultrasonic and electrical resistance measurements. Camera systems and special probes for measuring the water quality are also employed. At depths of up to 3000 m, the cable transmits the real-time data to the analysis stations and computers in the Sprinter. The employees evaluate the data and create a borehole diagram. This graph enables the customer to precisely identify where the resources are located, their quality and which layers of earth and stone have to be removed to access them. Damage to the borehole which could reduce the rate of extraction is also revealed.
The power for the 220 V cable winch and the modern analysis technology is supplied throughout the entire deployment by either a conventional diesel generator or, as of recently, by an environmentally-friendly solar power system mounted on the vehicle’s roof. One Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has been equipped so far: with solar panels, transformers and batteries. The Australian sun delivers enough energy to recharge the powerful batteries at the same time. These are then used to provide a further 12 hours of power during the nights.
If the sector’s forecasts are to be believed, then Walton Bore Geophysics will not lack for jobs in the future. Because in Australia alone more than 25,000 gas wells are expected to be drilled in the next 20 to 30 years.
Photos: Walton Bore Geophysics