Topic 4
Hydrocarbon Exploration


On such a big planet, how do geoscientists decide where to drill for oil?

Under all that land, and under all that water, there’s oil. But where? It’s not productive, or cost-efficient, to randomly pick drilling locations and hope to get lucky.

Geoscientists begin with the knowledge that oil reservoirs are likely to be found near particular structures—faults, anticlines, salt domes, and stratigraphic traps. Armed with this knowledge, they employ satellite images, including photographs and images using other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, to find these areas.

What other techniques aid in finding hydrocarbons?

Geoscientists rely on surveys to narrow down their search. Magnetic surveys, gravity surveys, and seismic surveys provide valuable information about what’s going on underground. Using 3D and 4D survey techniques help provide an even better picture.

Learn More

To learn more about the process by which geoscientists decide exactly where to drill for oil, check out these courses about hydrocarbon exploration.

  • Energy 401: Geography and Topography
  • Energy 402: Survey Techniques for Hydrocarbon Exploration