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Gravity Exploration Method

In gravity surveying subsurface geology is investigated on the basis

of variations in Earths gravitational field arising from density
contrast between the subsurface rocks

The basis of gravity survey method is Newtons Law of Gravitation.

where G = universal gravitational constant = 6.670 10-11 N-m2/kg

M1, M2 = masses 1 and 2, respectively
R = distance between center of masses
F = force
This equation is also known as the inverse square law, since F varies
with 1/R2

Gravity Units
Gravity is the acceleration on a unit mass. Objects fall to Earth with
an acceleration of about 980 cm/s2. The unit "centimeter per
second square" (cm/s2) is known as a gal in honor of Galileo. In
gravity exploration, the acceleration of gravity is the fundamental
quantity measured, and the basic unit of acceleration is the milligal
(mGal). Thus, the acceleration of a body near the Earth's surface is
about 980,000 mGal.

Gravity and Geology

The attraction of gravity is not uniform at every point on the earths
surface. There are small variations from place to place because of
irregularities in rock densities.
Exploration geophysicist hopes to distinguish different kind of rocks
by detecting density variations from measurements of gravity.

Buried Salt dome penetrates layers of shale would produce small
but measurable decrease in observed gravity value, because
average salt density (2.0 g/cm3) is lesser than shale density (2.6

Application of Gravity Survey in Oil Exploration

Most of gravity survey are carried out for reconnaissance of large,
unexplored areas.

Gravity method initially was used for locating salt domes in Gulf
Coast of USA. Gravity method can be used to detect some structure
traps for hydrocarbon.

Gravity survey can help geophysicists to determine thickness of the

sedimentary basin
Most of the sedimentary basins have lower densities as compared to
basement rocks. This density contrast can help us to know the depth of

Gravity Measurements

Earth gravitational attraction can be measured with portable

instrument known as gravimeter. The instrument consists small
object supported by very sensitive spring. The stretch of spring
changes because of variation of gravity at different places.
Land Gravity Survey???
Marine Gravity Survey????

Gravity Survey Design

The spacing of observation sites depends upon the size of
structure/feature of the interest. To detect anomalies cause by
relatively small structures such as salt dome or buried reefs, which
are usually less than few kilometers in size, we require gravity meter
readings at intervals closer at the interval of one or two kilometers.
As a rule of thumb, minimum observations interval should be of half
of the size of the structure/geological feature.

Processing of gravity data

The attraction of the earth is about 980 gals (980,000 mGal). Gravity
anomalies of exploration interest sometime of order of magnitude 1
mGal, which means we are interested in variations in earth gravity
field of about one part in million.
Before the interpretation, we have to remove all other variations,
which are not due to the difference of the densities of subsurface
rocks. This process is known as gravity reductions.

Gravity Reductions

Drift Correction
The change in the gravity field with the passage of time at one point
is removed by drift corrections. This change in the gravity
observation is because of changes in spring properties with
temperature and passage of time.

Gravity Reductions

Drift Correction (continued.)

Correction for instrumental drift is based on repeated readings
at base stations after regular time through out the survey. The
meter reading is plotted against time and drift is assumed to be
linear between two consecutive base station readings.


Following gravity values were obtained from gravity survey. Measure readings were


made using a warden gravimeter with a dial constant of 0.3801 mgal per dial division. Relative
gravity values can be obtained by multiplying each dial reading by the instrument dial constant.
Observed gravity at the base station is 979700 mgal. Calculate the drift correction


Gravity Reductions

Tidal Correction
During different timings of the day the position of the sun & moon
change w.r.t position of earth, changing the gravitational effects
exerted by sun & moon. These are called tidal effects. These effects
can be removed by knowing the time of the day and phase of the
moon. Tidal effects are removed along with the drift effect of the

Gravity Reductions
Latitude correction

Gravity value varies with latitude

because of non-spherical shape of
the earth. Earth's diameter is
approximately 20 km smaller from
pole to pole than through the
equator, the force of gravity
increases the closer we get to the

Gravity Reductions

Because angular velocity of a point

on Earth increases zero at poles to
maximum at equator. The centripetal
forces causes the gravity to
decrease at equator.

Gravity Reduction
Latitude correction
The theoretical gravity is given in milligals by the
International Gravity Formula :
g( ) = 978 031.846 (1 + 0.005 278 895 sin2 +0.000
023 462 sin4 )????
based on the 1980 Geodetic Reference System, where
is the latitude in degrees of any point on the Earth. The
effect of latitude is removed by subtracting the
theoretical value of gravity from the observed values

Gravity Reduction
Elevation correction
Elevation correction is applied in
two steps i.e Free correction and
Bouguer correction
Free Air Correction
According to Newtons law gravity
value decreases as the distance of
observation point increases from
center of the Earth. The gravity
values are observed over the
surface of the Earth having different
elevations, in order to remove the
effect of elevation, these observed
gravity values need to be calculated
at one datum.

Gravity Reductions
Free Air Correction
To correct for variations in elevation, the vertical gradient of
gravity (vertical rate of change of the force of gravity, 0.3086
mGalm-1) is multiplied by the elevation of the station and
the result is added, producing the free-air anomaly. The
free-air gravity anomaly is given by the formula:
FA = go - gt + (g/z) h
go = observed gravity (mGal)
gt = theoretical gravity (mGal)
g/z = vertical gradient of gravity (0.3086 mGalm-1)
h = elevation above mean sea level (m).

Gravity Reductions

Bouguer Correction
To isolate the effects of lateral
variations in density on gravity, it
is also necessary to correct for
the gravitational attraction of the
slab of material between the
observation point and the mean
sea level. This is the Bouguer
gravity anomaly,

Gravity Reductions

Bouguer Correction
BA = go - gt + (g/z - 2Gc) h
go = observed gravity (mGal)
gt = theoretical gravity (mGal)
g/z = vertical gradient of gravity (0.3086 mGalm-1)
G = gravitational constant (6.672 x 10-11 mkg-1s-2 or 6.672 x 10-6
c = density of crustal rock (kgm-3)
h = elevation above mean sea level (m).

Gravity Reductions

Terrain Correction
In Bouguer correction it is assumed that topography around
observation point is flat. This is the rare case further correction is
made to account for the topographic relief in the vicinity of
observation point. The gravitational pull of the surrounding terrain
reduces the observed gravity.

Gravity Reductions

Terrain correction
Terrain correction can be
calculated as
T=0.4191 (density(r2-r1+

Gravity Reductions

Terrain Correction
Terrain corrections can be computed using transparent template,
called Hammer Chart, which is placed over a topographic map.


What is the expected value of gravity at the top of a 400 m hill

located at latitude of 30 degrees?


g( ) = 978 031.846 (1 + 0.005 278 895 sin2 +0.000 023 462
sin4 )
g(30o) = 979 324.012 mGal is the expected
value for gravity at the base of the tower.
Using the free-air gradient, ga = 400m(.3086 mGal/m); gravity is
123.440 mGal less at the top of the tower.
The expected value of gravity at the top is 979 200.572 mGal.

Interpretation of Gravity Data

After applying all corrections, we obtain gravity values, depends
only upon the density variations due to subsurface lithological and
structural changes. The final gravity value obtained is called
Bouguer gravity.
The patterns of Bouguer gravity variations are usually displayed on
contour maps just like topographic map.

Interpretation of Gravity Data

Gravity anomaly over salt dome
Average density of salt, is less
than most sediments in a
basin, so salt often rises in
diapir due to its bouyancy.
Makes good target for gravity
surveys, and will show up as a
bullseye (relatively low gravity
anomaly over the salt)

Interpretation of Gravity Data

Gravity anomaly over anticline
When subsurface geology
contains successive formations
having significant density
contrast, folding should be
reflected in gravity map. If
lithologies having relative greater
densities are brought near the
surface at the crest of an
anticline, the crest line of an
anticline will have greater gravity
Fig. Bouguer Gravity Map of Ghawar Anticline and
Comparison with Field Outline (H. Stewart Edgell )

Interpretation of Gravity Data

Gravity anomalies due to regional structures
Gravity surveys sometime provides good subsurface geological
information where there are no exposures on the subsurface.
Regional gravity surveys can provide reconnaissance information
about little explored areas of economic interest. This type of
information can help geophysicist in planning of other detail
geophysical and geological surveys.

Interpretation of Gravity Data

Gravity map of

Interpretation of Gravity Data

Data Enhancement Technique

Regional-Residual Separation
Bouguer Anomaly maps contain:
Regional anomaly: long wavelength features due to deep crustal
Residual anomaly: short wavelength anomalies due to shallow
structures and small structures
In order to perform proper interpretation residual gravity anomalies
must be separated for interpretation. This can be done fitting
smooth trend to Bouguer anomaly graphically or by computer

Data Enhancement Technique

Data Enhancement Technique

Upward Continuation
Transformation of gravity data measured on one surface to some
higher surface is known as upward continuation. It is the operation
that smoothes the original data by removing the short wavelengths..
This is low pass filter and help to recognize the regional structures.

Data Enhancement Technique

Upward Continuation

Data Enhancement Technique

Data Enhancement Technique

Directional filters
Sometimes interpreter is interested in only some particular direction
anomalies. In this special type filter anomalies of particular
directions are retained and anomalies of other directions are
suppressed. Suppose user is only wants to see the anomalies in
direction of NE-SW.

Data Enhancement Technique

Vertical Derivative
Derivative are calculated to enhance the local gravity anomalies.
The derivatives are regarded as high pass filter.

Quantitative Interpretation (Gravity Modeling)

Gravity modeling is divided into two broad categories:
Forward modeling
Inverse modeling
Forward Modeling
Commonly used technique for quantitative interpretation of
processed gravity data involves the direct calculation gravity effect
of assumed densities, depth and size of the body. The assumed
parameters then modified by trial & error. Some constraints can be
placed using available geological and other geophysical data.

Quantitative Interpretation (Gravity Modeling)

Quantitative Interpretation (Gravity Modeling)

Inverse Modeling
In gravity forward modeling we iterate with different parameters to
match the calculated and observed gravity values. It is also possible
sometimes to directly infer directly from the observed gravity data.
The model can be prepared by keeping the inferred parameter

Direct Interpretation
Information can be directly obtained from gravity anomalies. The
possible information which can be interpreted are
1. Depth of the body producing the anomaly
2. Excess mass determination

Direct Interpretation
Estimation of depth of anomalous body
There are various methods which are helpful in calculating the depth
of buried body causing gravity anomaly.
Half Width Method
Half-width, X1/2 , is the distance from the centre of an anomaly at
which amplitude has decreased to half its peak value.

Direct Interpretation

If anomaly is spherical:
If anomaly is horizontal cylinder:

If anomaly is vertical cylinder:

Direct Interpretation
Depth Estimation by Gradient-Amplitude Method
Depth of the body causing gravity anomaly can also be estimated by
calculating maximum slope.
For 3D body
For 2D body

Direct Interpretation
Excess mass Determination
Me =


ni=1 gi tti

M = 1 Me / (1 - 2 )

Figure is a Bouguer anomaly
Map, contoured at an interval of
50 gu, of a drift-covered area.
a) On the map, sketch is what you
consider to be the regional field and
then remove it from the observed
field to isolate anomalies, which be
represented on the map as contours
drawn in a different colour.
b) Construct gravity profiles along line
A A- illustrating the observed, regional
And residual anomalies.

At Artic the ice has the density of 0.91 g/cm3. At a location of 80
degrees north. The ice surface is 1530 m above sea level and ice
layer is 2470m thick. The value of observed gravity is 983.061 gals.
The density of rock beneath ice is 2.67 g/cm3 .Calculate the free air
and bouguer gravity values.