How Can Seismoelectric Help Find Groundwater?
Humans, at some point, had the great idea to poke holes in the ground to find water. An idea that likely followed closely after was, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could know where to put those holes to have the best chance of finding water?” Identifying where to drill or dig for water has veered from a mystic art to a science since then. Contractors who want to deploy scientific-based methods turn to products like AquaLocate. Briefly, the method uses seismic waves sent through the ground, and areas where those waves encounter interference generate electromagnetic waves that get recorded and interpreted on the surface. That information can help contractors characterize underground fluids, like water and oil.
To find out more, we spoke with Ervin Kraemer, the founder and owner of AquaLocate. The company sells seismoelectric devices, and trains and consults with drilling contractors and others on how to properly deploy and interpret the technology.
Our conversation is edited for space and clarity.
Q. For those who don’t know, briefly describe what AquaLocate is and how it works.
A. AquaLocate’s technology is based on a science called seismoelectrics. It’s been identified by many different terms over the years. ... About 20 years ago the original inventors of the system — the GF6 is what we call it today — were able to capture the seismoelectric event with consistency. A seismoelectric event occurs any time seismic energy passes through a resistive liquid storage zone — an aquifer is the best example and what most people are familiar with. When the seismic event passes through there, a small but detectible electrical event occurs when the water moves away from the surface of the rock. It oscillates away. That electric event is recorded by the GF6 and then processed with the proprietary firmware, hardware and software.
What we do is we look at the one-way seismic travel time and, with known information about velocities of various rock or geologic structures, we can determine approximately the maximum depth of any aquifer detected but, even more importantly, the beginning and end of that zone. And we can see multiple zones. So we can determine how deep to drill — the maximum drill depth, for any detectable zone, and then even approximate thickness and, using algorithms that are built in to the software, we can determine things like permeability, approximate porosity, and then output — the potential flow or yield.
Q. AquaLocate has a sister brand, PetroLocate. Does that work on the same principle, or is oil and gas a different animal?
A. It operates under the same scientific principle, it’s just a different firmware and different software. Those are necessary because of depth. The hardware is roughly the same. There are a few differences in the hardware, but primarily it’s the same. It does operate under the same seismoelectric principles.
Q. What types of formations would seismoelectric methods have the best success in?
A. Any geologic structure that’s capable of storing water would be good. It’s better to discuss the most difficult, which is typically karst limestone in some areas. So, where you have an aquifer that is in a karst limestone where you have big solution openings, for instance collapsed zones, it creates what might be described as “bright spots.” They’re hard to replicate because you’ll go across them, depending on the interval of testing, and you could see a bright spot and then it would disappear because the permeable zone is fairly small, compared to the area that might be tested. So those are actually the most difficult areas. Typically non-karst or very minor karst conditions, it works perfectly fine. … Operators that use our technology operate in every major geologic and most minor geologic structures you could think of. And it works quite well, because it’s not imaging the structure itself. It’s imaging or detecting the presence or absence of liquid.
Q. AquaLocate’s parent company is relocating to Fort Worth, Texas. What’s the thinking behind that move?
A. There’s a number of reasons why we’re moving to Fort Worth, and it has almost nothing to do with the operation of the company. It’s more favorable business practices, a favorable business climate for us, as the founders and the people that run the company. It’s favorable for us. We’re relocating as well. Mostly, for the business side of things, it’s just a favorable business climate. We can operate this from anywhere.
Q. What do you say to drillers who might be skeptical of seismoelectric technology?
A. The science is well vetted and well known. What I tell people, not just drilling contractors, but everybody, is the technology that we sell and/or operate isn’t necessary everywhere. In an area where water is a no-brainer and there’s not a requirement for a specific yield — they just need water — then really the technology does not need to be used there. Where it’s difficult to find water, why is it in the best interest of the property owner, for them to just drill holes until they find water? ... The question isn’t, “Is the science solid?” It is, “Is the technology capable of consistently recording the event?” We have 20 years of that history, the technology has been around since the mid- to late 90s.
Q. AquaLocate is shifting to more to sales of GF6 equipment — along with training, instead of using the equipment to serve contractors. If I’m thinking about it, why should I buy?
A. It’s reasonably easy to use but, more importantly it is going to enhance your service if you already have a service in place. This is going to make your service better because you’re filling a need for some people. Not every one of your clients need this. You don’t want to use it for all of them. However, when you go to a property where there are multiple dry wells in the area and it’s not due to drilling practice issues, but rather due to the aquifer and the nature of the aquifer, then this is going to buy down risk in a substantial way for those people. It enhances the service for any drilling companies that work in an area where water is difficult to find. If you find yourself in Louisiana where you put a hole in the ground just about anywhere and get water, I’m not sure this would help you much. If you find yourself in certain parts of Oklahoma, for instance, where water’s a challenge to find and you’d be lucky to get a gallon a minute, this will definitely buy risk down substantially and hopefully keep people from making huge investments in either property or drilling before they know what’s there.
Find Out More
Ervin Kraemer will talk more about AquaLocate and the GF6 devices at Groundwater Week. See his presentation at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 8 in Area B of the Las Vegas Convention Center exhibit hall or visit him at Booth 1218.