And What Role Does Seismic Play in all this Oil and Gas Talk?

Geophysical surveys are also widely used for oil and natural gas exploration, to survey or map the earth’s geological features to best determine where oil and gas resources are likely to be located. 

Seismic is perhaps the most commonly familiar geophysical technique used to locate potential oil and natural gas deposits in the geologic structures within the earth.  Seismic surveys can be conducted on onshore (land) and offshore (marine).  Land and marine surveys operate on the same basic principles but differ operationally.  Like an ultrasound imaging of a human body, seismic surveys also use sound to accurately image the earth’s subsurface and likely oil and gas resources before a single well is drilled.

Scientists then use the survey

information to produce detailed

maps of the subsurface geology


Commitment to Environmental Stewardship

The geophysical industry is committed to conducting both its land and marine operations in an environmentally responsible manner, including compliance with mitigation and monitoring guidelines and regulations. Industry supports a process of developing and implementing effective mitigation measures that are based on assessing the level of risk or significant impacts on animals and the environment.

Learn more about our environmental stewardship for the
land and marine environments.

Contributing to Science

For marine geophysical surveys, the IAGC, together with the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) and several oil and gas companies, support research to fill any knowledge gaps that may exist about our understanding of the effects of sound on marine life from oil and gas exploration and production activity. This research helps governments make regulatory decisions based on the best available science and remove some of the uncertainty about possible effects of seismic surveys.

Learn more the oil and gas industry’s commitment to science.

It All Starts with the Geophysical Industry

 The use of oil and gas is so central to our lives that we often do not recognize just how essential it is.  There is no question that this affordable, abundant and reliable source of energy is responsible for enriching the quality of life and wellbeing for people all over the world where they have access.

But how do we know where oil and gas resources are located and how does it get to us?  Glad you asked!  The geophysical industry makes it all possible.  So, what does geophysics mean and how does this fit into the oil and gas picture?

Geophysics is the subsurface site characterization of the geology, geological structure, groundwater, contamination, and human artifacts beneath the Earth's surface, based on the lateral and vertical mapping of physical property variations that are remotely sensed using non-invasive technologies. Many of these technologies are traditionally used for exploration of economic materials such as groundwater, metals, and hydrocarbons (Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society).

Geophysical surveys are a non-invasive investigation of the earth’s subsurface

features and conditions which produce maps or models that show the earth’s

geography, stratigraphy, rock distribution and geological structure delineation.

Geophysical surveys are not a new technology although there have been

tremendous advancements over the years.  Geophysical technology has

been used for mineral exploration since the 1600s when a magnetic compass

was used in Sweden to find iron ore deposits.  Learn more about the history of

geophysical technology.

They have been used for oil and gas exploration for more than 50 years around

the world.  Technology developed for oil and gas surveys led the way for these

surveys to be used for many other important uses.  Some of the uses of

geophysical surveys, include groundwater location, archaeology, siting renewable energy projects, construction engineering projects, and many more.  Learn more about the use of geophysical surveys, benefits, and methods.


to help locate likely reserves of oil and natural gas.  This data informs governments’ long-term energy policies and future leasing decisions, and is also used by energy producers to determine the safest and most efficient drilling locations.  Geophysical surveys are critical to safe energy exploration and development, reducing the number of exploratory wells that need to be drilled in a given area and, thereby, minimizing the overall environmental footprint of exploration.

Once oil or gas is found, and a reservoir is being developed and produced, seismic images increase the understanding of the reservoir and optimize development plans. More efficient oil and gas extraction requires fewer wells while increasing the production of hydrocarbons.

Learn more about seismic and other geophysical surveys for oil and gas exploration and production.