Low-frequency passive seismic experiments in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: implications for hydrocarbon detection

Mohammed Y. Ali, Karl A. Berteussen, James Small, Braham Barkat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Low-frequency passive seismic experiments utilizing arrays of 3-component broadband seismometers were conducted over two sites in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The experiments were conducted in the vicinity of a producing oilfield and around a dry exploration well to better understand the characteristics and origins of microtremor signals (1-6 Hz), which had been reported as occurring exclusively above several hydrocarbon reservoirs in the region.The results of the experiments revealed that a strong correlation exists between the recorded ambient noise and observed meteorological and anthropogenic noises. In the frequency range of 0.15-0.4 Hz, the dominant feature is a double-frequency microseism peak generated by the non-linear interactions of storm induced surface waves in the Arabian Sea. We observed that the double-frequency microseism displays a high variability in spectral amplitude, with the strongest amplitude occurring when Cyclone Gonu was battering the eastern coast of Oman; this noise was present at both sites and so is not a hydrocarbon indicator. Moreover, this study found that very strong microtremor signals in the frequency range of 2-3 Hz were present in all of the locations surveyed, both within and outside of the reservoir boundary and surrounding the dry exploration well. This microtremor signal has no clear correlation with the microseism signals but significant variations in the characteristics of the signals were observed between daytime and nighttime recording periods that clearly correlate with human activity.High-resolution frequency-wavenumber (f-k) spectral analyses were performed on the recorded data to determine apparent velocities and azimuths of the wavefronts for the microseism and microtremor events. The f-. k analyses confirmed that the double-frequency microseism originates from wave activity in the Arabian Sea, while the microtremor events have an azimuth pointing towards the nearest motorways, indicating that they are probably being excited by traffic noise. Results drawn from particle motion studies confirm these observations. The vertical-to-horizontal spectral ratios of the data acquired in both experiments show peaks around 2.5-3 Hz with no dependence on the presence or absence of subsurface hydrocarbons. Therefore, this method should not be used as a direct hydrocarbon indicator in these environments. Furthermore, the analyses provide no direct evidence to indicate that earthquakes are capable of stimulating the hydrocarbon reservoir in a way that could modify the spectral amplitude of the microtremor signal.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)875-899
Number of pages25
JournalGeophysical Prospecting
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2010


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