Mapping onshore seepage to establish the presence of an active and thus risk-reducing source rock is seen as highly desirable but is much harder to isolate than slicks occurring on water surface such as in the marine or lacustrine environments. The physics behind oil slick formation do not work in an onshore, terrestrial environment (although lake and even slack river seepage has been recorded) – as they don’t spread out on the surface, driven by surface tension. Most seeps are recorded as small oily films in river banks, often partially obscured or dribbling down vertical rock faces. They are often initially found by farmers and shepherds that know the terrain.
However, under certain circumstances, onshore seepage can be isolated as geochemical or geobotanical anomalies such as:
The challenge is to find a technique that can isolate the known effects from background noise and anthropologic effects. We have been investigating these phenomena with industry partners and have demonstrated that a combination of spectral techniques such as band ratio, principal component analysis, multi-temporal hyperspectral sampling and geological context can explain some seepage scenarios.
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