WATCH: Seismic surveys take oil exploration to next level in Abu Dhabi

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Earlier this year, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UAE, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company awarded the world’s largest seismic survey to a unit of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation.

The deal was estimated to be worth Dh5.88 billion and the project itself is expected to be completed in 2024. But many outside the oil-and-gas industry were asking what exactly seismic surveys were.

Essentially, they help geologists map out the earth's subsurface up to 7,600 metres. They provide real-time data that helps engineers identify trapped oil structures.

The surveys are carried out both onshore and offshore.


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The National visited a site in the Al Dhafra Region of Abu Dhabi, where Adnoc is carrying out work onshore.

This involves a three-step process.

First, crew members lay out special sensors called geophone cables across the desert, then a vibrator truck surveys the area, sending energy waves into the subsurface along the way.

These energy waves are reflected back by the different layers in the subsurface, and captured by the geophones that are on the surface.

All of this raw data is then sent over to Adnoc’s headquarters where geologists create 3D models of the subsurface.

Operations such as seismic surveys are part of Adnoc's 2030 growth strategy to increase oil production efficiently and reach their targets.

Abdulla Shatteri, an exploration manager for geophysics and geology at Adnoc, summed up the long-term prospects of these surveys.

“The main objective of this is to accelerate the exploration and production in these blocks, and that will contribute to the overall economy of our country,” he said.

This week, Adnoc said it has discovered large hydrocarbon deposits equivalent to a 1 per cent increase to existing oil reserves and a 7.1 per cent addition to proven gas reserves as it raises investment spend to boost crude output capacity to 5 million barrels per day by 2030.