Exploration Data for Iraq’s 4th Licensing Round Rescued

Published Oct 10, 2011
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 Gravity coverage with 4th round exploration blocks – Aeromagntic Coverage with 4th round exploration blocks 

A treasure trove of neglected Iraqi oil and gas prospecting data retrieved in the 1990s from a City of London lock-up garage. That was the unlikely starting point to the crucial role being played by GETECH, the UK petroleum and minerals consultancy, in Iraq’s 4th Oil and Gas Licensing Round launched in Amman, Jordan in September.

Today GETECH can announce its exclusive agreement with the Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals to compile and market gravity and aeromagnetic datasets to assist oil companies considering bids for the 12 exploration blocks on offer in the round which completes in January next year. The data is particularly vital because Iraq’s 4th Round is inviting the international oil industry for the first time in four decades to explore for the country’s hydrocarbons, which rank as the third largest potential oil reserves in the world.

Although the available seismic data coverage over the blocks is generally good, the vintage of the data and potential lack of penetration could mean that only shallow structures are being imaged, whilst deeper structures that relate to basement structures are not necessarily being seen. GETECH and Iraqi petroleum authorities believe the gravity and magnetic data could be especially significant for modelling sub-surface structures from the shallow Alpine fold and fault in N and NE Iraq to the deeper basement controlled antiforms and grabens identified in S and W Iraq. A major part of the gravity data were originally collected between 1945–1959 for the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), by a consortium of Exxon, BP, Shell, Total and Partex which was nationalised in 1972. In the mid 1990s GETECH was asked by the original IPC partners to rescue the data from the lock-up garage and reprocess them into a unified computerised database. The data were in their original form as field note books, hand written field sheets and maps relating to 90 survey camps spread out throughout Iraq.

Last year IPC agreed to release the digital gravity data processed by GETECH to the Geological Survey of Iraq, (GEOSURV). Subsequently GETECH was requested by GEOSURV in December 2010 to compile an integrated and unified gravity and aeromagnetic database for Iraq in time for the 4th Licensing Round. The country wide re-compilation of over 120,000 gravity stations and 184,000 line km of aeromagnetic data was completed in June 2011.

The legacy aeromagnetic data incorporated in the new integrated set, originating from a national Iraq airborne survey flown in 1973/74, also had to be rescued. As a result of the turmoil in Iraq, storage of the magnetic tape archive was improperly maintained and found to be suffering from ‘sticky tape syndrome’. Fortunately with American funding during 2010, 98% of the aeromagnetic data from the tapes was recovered and during the first half of 2011 were reprocessed by GETECH.

Prof. Derek Fairhead, GETECH’s founder and president, said: “The recovered aeromagnetic and gravity data constitute a valuable national asset for Iraq which should serve exploration operations for years to come.”



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