The application of ground and airborne magnetometry for precisely locating plugged and abandoned oil and gas wells is common practice. In recent times, there has been a shift in how magnetic data are collected promulgated by the availability of affordable, sophisticated autonomously operated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) originally designed to carry cameras for cinematography. These aircraft have a payload capacity to carry a light weight magnetometer. The emergence of drone enabled magnetometry would not be happening if it were not for the recent availability of innovative light weight low power highly sensitive magnetic field sensors and the development of residential communities over legacy oil and gas fields along Front Range of Colorado and elsewhere.

In addition to locating plugged and abandoned oil wells with high precision, drone enabled magnetometry can also detect and delineate buried steel pipelines and buried ferromagnetic debris in large areas at 20% of the time required conduct a ground based magnetic survey. Through the judicious application of electromagnetic conductivity mapping technology, areas impacted by contamination from legacy oil and gas operations as well as pipeline leaks can be mapped both laterally and vertically within the subsurface resulting in a reduction in the cost of remediation.

Primary Author / Conference Presenter:
Ronald Bell
International Geophysical Services, LLC
Lakewood, Colorado, USA