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An Introduction to the History of NMR

Well Logging
Schlumberger-Doll Research, Old Quarry Road,
Ridgeeld, Connecticut 06877; email: kleinberg@ridgeeld.
Los Alamos National Laboratory (retired); e-mail: jajbsj
KEY WORDS: NMR; NMR well logging; NMR
history; borehole NMR
Although nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)
well logging is almost as old as NMR itself, it is
unknown to a large segment of the NMR com-
munity. New techniques, developed in the last
two decades, have made made this technology
an indispensable tool in the petroleum industry,
similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in
medicine. It was recognized at an early date that
nuclear magnetic resonance could contribute to
the in situ investigation of earth formations. Lab-
oratory NMR studies of uids in rocks, on clays,
and in other porous media started in the 1950s at a
number of oil company research laboratories, most
notably those of Chevron, Mobil, and Shell. More
than three dozen patent applications for borehole
NMR devices were led between 1948 and 1960,
representing work sponsored by Chevron, Schlum-
berger, Mobil, Texaco, and Varian.
Measuring properties of earth formations
in situ by nuclear magnetic resonance obviously
requires apparatus much different than that com-
monly used in the laboratory. Instead of plac-
ing the sample inside the apparatus, the appa-
ratus is placed inside the sample, which is, in
fact, the earth. Thus inside-out NMR equip-
ment is required: large static magnetic elds and
high frequency oscillatory magnetic elds must be
projected outside of the apparatus and into the
surrounding rock formations. Figure I-1 shows the
scale of the MRIL NMR logging tool.
Due to the relatively weak B
elds used in
well logging, two points should be claried for the
benet of NMR spectroscopists and others accus-
tomed to working with magnetic elds in the tesla
Received 21 June 2001; accepted 22 June 2001.
Present address: J. A. Jackson, 6 Woodleaf Avenue, Red-
wood City, California 94061.
Concepts in Magnetic Resonance, Vol. 13(6), 340342 (2001)
2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
range. (1) Only proton NMR has been employed
to date and (2) because the elds are weak
and relatively inhomogeneous, chemical shifts are
not observable; hence, all information is obtained
from relaxation data.
The history of borehole NMR instrumen-
tation has four main institutional participants:
Chevron Corporation, Los Alamos National Lab-
oratory, NUMAR Corporation, and Schlumberger
Ltd. Although each institution has had different
long-term goals and imperatives, their immedi-
ate objective was the sameto develop a com-
Figure I-1 Scale of the MRIL NMR logging tool.
Table I-1 Timeline of NMR Logging
1946 Discovery of NMR by Bloch (Stanford) and Purcell (Harvard)
1948 Russell Varian les patent for Earths-eld NMR magnetometer
1950 Spin echo, Hahn (U. of Illinois)
1952 Russell Varian les patent for Earths-eld NMR well logging
1953 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Bloch and Purcell
1954 Carr and Purcell devise spin-echo pulse train
Harold Schwede (Schlumberger) les patent application for permanent magnet well logging tool
1956 Discovery of reduced uid relaxation time in porous media by Brown, Fatt, and others
1960 First Earths-eld NML toolChevron Research Lab and collaborators
1960s Laboratory and theoretical studies in various university and petroleum laboratories of the effect of
restricted diffusion on T
, and relationship of T
and permeability
1960s Several companies offer NML commercial logging service
NML fails to live up to advance billing; NML gains bad reputation in petroleum industry
1978 Schlumberger introduces new, improved NML tool
1978 Jackson at Los Alamos, invents rst inside-out pulsed RF NMR logging technique
1980 Laboratory demonstration of Los Alamos technique
1983 Proof-of-principle demonstration of Los Alamos logging technique at Houston API test pit
1984 NUMAR formed to commercialize advances in medical NMR technology
Schlumberger begins development of permanent magnet/pulsed NMR technique
1985 NUMAR obtains license for Los Alamos inside-out NMR patent
1985 NUMALOG demonstrates increased S/N for new magnet/RF scheme in laboratory scale model
1989 First eld test of full scale NUMAR logging tool in Conoco test hole, Ponca City, OK
1990 NUMAR announces commercial availability of MRIL logging service based on Series B single frequency
1992 Schlumberger starts eld test of skid-type pulsed NMR tool
1993 Numar and Western Atlas sign cooperative agreement for MRIL services
1994 NUMAR introduces dual frequency MRIL Series C tool
Western Atlas logs MRIL in combination with conventional tools
1995 Schlumberger announces commercial introduction of CMR tool
Peoples Republic of China purchases two logging systems from Western Atlas, including MRIL
1996 NUMAR and Halliburton sign cooperative agreement for MRIL services
1997 Halliburton buys NUMAR
1990s Laboratory and theoretical studies of the effect of restricted diffusion on T
(most NMR logging data
use T
2000 NMR logging-while-drilling prototype
mercially viable oil well measurement instrument.
All four groups not only developed instrumenta-
tion, but also made major contributions to under-
standing the basic science of the NMR of uids
in rocks and to developing novel methods suited
to the peculiar demands of the oileld environ-
ment. Although the authors herein have written
four independent histories, they have tried to show
how the four stories overlap and interact with each
The background of this saga involves sev-
eral laboratories and players, many with names
well known in NMR, e.g., Varian, Bloember-
gen, Bloch, and Torrey. In addition, personnel
at major oil company labs were active in funda-
mental studies of the NMR properties of uids
in porous media as applied to the interpretation
of NMR logging data. These include, in addition
to R. J. S. Brown and his colleagues at Chevron
as described in the rst article in Part 1, Harold
Vinegar, J. D. Loren, and Joseph D. Robinson
at Shell, John Zimmerman and Don Woessner at
Mobil, and Gerhard Herzog and C. W. Wilson at
The story starts soon after the 1946 discov-
ery of NMR by Bloch and Purcell. In 1948,
Russell Varian proposed using the Earths mag-
netic eld to detect proton NMR, and in 1952, he
led a patent application to use this phenomenon
in well logging. Nuclear magnetic logging using the
Earths eld, (NML), was developed most inten-
sively rst by Chevron in the 1950s and 1960s,
and later by Schlumberger. NML was never com-
mercially successful, but the supporting research
into the NMR properties of uids in porous
media laid a rm fundamental basis for inter-
pretation of NMR relaxation in later NMR log-
ging data. These developments are described in
Part 1.
The next technological development was
the invention, at Los Alamos, of permanent
magnet/pulsed radio frequency (RF) NMR well
logging in 1978. This technique used permanent
magnets to produce a B
eld in the geologic
formations surrounding the borehole and used
pulsed RF to manipulate the nuclear spin sys-
tem of formation uids. Laboratory tests of this
technique were followed by a proof-of-principle
demonstration in 1983. This is described in
Part 2.
The Los Alamos discovery was followed, in the
1980s by two new techniques, one at NUMAR
(now Halliburton) and the other at Schlumberger.
Each used the permanent magnet/pulsed RF con-
cept, but implemented it in different magnet/coil
congurations. Both give valuable geophysical
information and are in regular commercial use
in the petroleum industry. The NUMAR and
Schlumberger stories are told in Parts 3 and 4,
These new logging tools have led to new pro-
cedures to extract information on properties of
reservoir uids. These are described in Part 5.
Part 6 describes a new development, NMR
logging-while-drilling (LWD), in which the NMR
instrument is an integral part of the drill string
and is located just above the drill bit.
Table I-1 gives a timeline of these develop-
The story of NMR applied to problems of geo-
physical interest is much larger than that pre-
sented here. For example, an excellent review of
the laboratory work on the NMR of minerals and
rocks may be found in Early Days of NMR in the
Southwest by D. E. Woessner (1). Review articles
and bibliographies on the principles and methods
of NMR well logging are included in references at
the ends of the various articles. A brief glossary
is provided for the readers convenience following
the reference.
1. Woessner DE. Early days of NMR in the Southwest.
Concepts Magn Reson 2001; 13:77102.
Well Logging Overview
Schlumberger-Doll Research, Old Quarry Road,
Ridgeeld, Connecticut 06877;
e-mail: kleinberg@ridgeeld.sdr.slb.com
KEY WORDS: NMR; well logging; geophysical
NMR; petrophysical NMR; petroleum industry;
oil and gas
Well logging is the means by which physi-
cal properties of subsurface earth formations are
measured in situ. The most important, and the
most technically challenging, application of well
logging is to the characterization of hydrocar-
bon reservoirs. Oil and gas are found up to 10
km underground in beds of sedimentary or other
porous rock. Only part of a typical sedimentary
rock is solid mineral matter. The pore space,
which accounts for up to 30% of the volume, can
be lled by combinations of oil, water, or nat-
ural gas. Well logging is directed toward under-
standing these uids and their relationship to
the solid mineral matrix. A large variety of elec-
tromagnetic, acoustic, and nuclear borehole
instruments are used for various purposes. Each
technique has drawbacks and limitations, and no
one logging device (tool) is adequate to give a
complete description of an earth formation (2, 3).
The borehole environment is unusually harsh.
Boreholes drilled to extract oil or gas are typi-
cally 20 cm in diameter and 110 km deep. The
geothermal gradient of the earth can give rise to
temperatures of 175

C or more and pressures that

range to 140 MPa. Borehole logging tools must
not only survive but must make quantitative mea-
surements under these conditions. The require-
ments on electronic components exceed military
specications by a wide margin.
Well logging tools must be rugged enough to
survive transport in arctic, tropical, desert, and
marine environments, and shocks up to 100 g.
They must survive the vibration and abrasion
that result from being dragged over kilometers
of rough rock face in the well bore. They must
comply with laws that regulate transport by air-
craft and helicopter, which is of particular signif-
icance for NMR equipment that contains strong
permanent magnets. The conditions and space
constraints are in many respects more severe than
Received 21 June 2001; accepted 22 June 2001.