Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
3D seismic surveys have become a well-accepted method of imaging sub-surface geology in the Bushveld Basin. Because both the seismic sources and receivers are placed at surface, most surveys are limited to imaging faults with >=7 m throw. However, some areas such as shaft infrastructure can benefit from the ability to detect smaller structures prior to shaft sinking. Borehole radar and logs such as the acoustic televiewer can identify these structures in the shaft barrel, but not within ~200 m from the shaft. Therefore, Anglo Platinum has developed the method of high-resolution 3D vertical seismic profiles (VSPs) for structural sterilization of shaft sites prior to shaft sinking. VSPs utilize a surface source and subsurface receivers deployed down a borehole. This means that seismic energy goes through the near surface only once, and therefore suffers less frequency loss than when both source and receivers are on surface. Furthermore, VSPs can record 3 component (3C) data which comprises P wave, Sh (horizontal) and Sv (vertical) wavemodes. Because S waves travel at about 0.6 of the velocity of a P wave, shorter wavelengths and therefore higher resolutions are possible using S wave data. VSPs were first used in their one dimensional, zero offset, mode to correlate borehole geology with seismic stratigraphy within seismic surveys. This showed that VSPs record ~30% higher frequencies than surface seismic surveys. The program then applied two dimensional VSPs to the problem of imaging geological structure close to a borehole. 2D VSPs confirmed that high frequency results could be achieved, and that this enabled a more accurate image of the Merensky Reef than could be achieved by surface seismic data. Finally, the program has achieved the successful recording and processing of 3D VSP data, with both compressional and shear wavemodes giving a high resolution structural result. Although P wave data gives ~30% frequency improvement over surface seismic surveys, S wave data can give as much as 80% improvement, further improving the structural image achieved. The high fixed costs of VSP surveys mean that they should ideally be run in multi-client batches, which can reduce the per borehole cost by up to 50%. Their application is anticipated to be on high value capital infrastructure with a geological risk from faults which are not imaged by surface seismics-generally in the sub-7 m range.
Keywords : VSP; 3D seismic; bushveld; platinum; resolution; imaging; shear waves; shaft sinking.