High-resolution 3D seismic reflection imaging

Key challenges in a nutshell

  • Development of environmental friendly high-resolution 3D seismic reflection imaging methodology
  • Development of software system and algorithms combining different subsurface geophysical imaging methods

Short description of the technology

High-resolution 3D seismic reflection imaging of the subsurface is a key component to control the uncertainties of the positioning of the Einstein Telescope infrastructure.

State of the Art: technology in existing gravitational wave detectors / TRL

Traditionally used and developed in the energy and the raw materials sectors, there has been an increase of the use of multi-dimensional seismic reflection methods for the civil engineering sector due to the development of modern acquisition hardware and processing software allowing for a more accurate imaging of the near-surface (0 to a few hundreds of metres subsurface penetration). 3D seismic reflection surveys are today standard in the O&G industry and several technological improvements have recently been developed both on the acquisition (e.g., six-component sensors, distributed acoustic sensing) and the processing side (e.g., cloud-based full-waveform inversion and machine learning). More recently, the technology has evolved to provide solutions for the near-surface and mid-range depth (few hundreds to ca. 2000 metres).

Intended use in the frame of the Einstein Telescope

Non-invasive and high-resolution 3D seismic reflection surveying covering the entire construction site (> 100 km2) is necessary to prepare the construction phase of the infrastructure. All subsurface data in the current feasibility study of the Einstein telescope site is either 1D (e.g., boreholes) or 2D (e.g., reconnaissance seismic surveying). A preliminary 3D surface-subsurface geomodel will integrate the existing (and currently acquired) near-surface and deeper subsurface data.

For actual underground construction activities, high-resolution 3D seismic reflection data (tens to few hundreds of metres subsurface penetration) will be needed to accurately predict variable subsurface geology along the course of tunnels and at cavern locations. High-resolution 3D seismic reflection surveying will increase lateral and vertical subsurface resolution across the study area to a few metres, which allows to-the-point planning of underground construction techniques and installations.

Improvements needed: Technological challenge for the Einstein Telescope

Data acquisition for 3D seismic reflection

  • Development of a non-invasive, high-resolution 3D seismic reflection technique supporting detailed (m-scale) 3D modelling of the subsurface.
  • Adapting 3D seismic reflection technology to shallow depths where attenuation is stronger.
  • Site-adapted optimized experimental design to ensure high spatial resolution at reasonable costs in terms of surveying (sensors deployment).
  • Development of new exploration methods (minimally-invasive).

Software development / data integration

  • Combination of different geophysical methods (borehole geophysics, geoelectrics, georadar, etc.) in one consistent geomodel based on modern joint inversion approaches and machine learning
  • Integration of data acquisition, geophysical data processing and analysis to set-up a 3D model in an interdisciplinary approach (geophysics/geology integration).
  • Integration of surface waves in full-waveform inversion.
  • As the tunnels and caverns of the Einstein telescope (hosting technical high-quality equipment) must be dry, the 3D model imaging has to support the planning of drainage infrastructure (drainage wells).

Economic perspectives of participation beyond the ET applications

Methodology development of target-oriented, high-resolution 3D seismic reflection surveying solutions will be of immediate importance for other tunnel and underground cavern construction projects. The anticipated linkage between pre-construction 3D seismic reflection data acquisition, reflection processing, seismic interpretation, geological model building and on-site tunnel drilling can serve as a template for future subsurface construction projects.

The development of a specifically environmental-friendly, non-invasive 3D seismic reflection technology combined with other state-of-the-art near-surface and deep-surface geophysical methods (borehole geophysics, geoelectrics, georadar, etc.) opens a new quality of 3D subsurface imaging supporting the development of new business fields (e.g. subsurface storage development).

In general, the development of high-resolution 3D seismic reflection technologies will allow a new quality level for the preparation of building projects. This offers a wide range of applications for companies which are active in this field.

We are open to any companies’ proposals.

Related projects and labs

Division Energy & Mineral Ressources, Geological Institute at RWTH Aachen

Division of Mineral Resources and Raw Materials Engineering, Institute for Advanced Mining Technologies at RWTH Aachen

Chair of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology at RWTH Aachen

Institute for Applied Geophysics and Geothermal Energy at RWTH Aachen

(near-surface geophysical equipment, joint inversion of different geophysical methods and experimental facilities to measure geophysical (including seismic) rock properties)

Ongoing and future procurements

None at present. 2D seismic lines are planned.

Business Development contacts

Peter Gier
AGIT DE – p.gier@agit.de

Dirk Kalinowski
NMWP DE – dirk.kalinowski@nmwp.de

Michel Stassart
Skywin BE – michel.stassart@skywin.be

Maxime Corvilain
POM Limburg BE – maxime.corvilain@pomlimburg.be

René Kessen
LIOF NL – rene.kessen@liof.nl

Technology contact

Stefan Back

RWTH Aachen University – stefan.back@emr.rwth-aachen.de

Florian Wagner

RWTH Aachen University – florian.wagner@eonerc.rwth-aachen.de