Geophysicists with passion

Horst R ter in an interview

Horst R ter, Vice President of the Geothermal Association and member of the German Geophysical Society (DGG) and the Geounion / Alfred Wegener Foundation (AWS) © Information campaign Renewable Energies
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Whether geothermal energy in Germany, coal fires in China or seismic borehole exploration in Texas - Horst Rüter is passionate geophysicist. For his scientific life's work, he was recently awarded the Schlumberger Award 2005, one of the most important international honors in the geosciences.

But no reason for the Vice President of the Geothermal Association and the board member of the German Geophysical Society (DGG) and the Geounion / Alfred Wegener Foundation (AWS) to rest on his "laurels". In addition to his professorship at the Ruhr-University-Bochum, he now heads a private geophysical research and consulting company in Cologne. In an interview he gives information about the award ceremony and his future plans.

: You recently received the Schlumberger Award 2005 for "fundamental contributions to seismology and borehole geophysics." What exactly did these exist?


: Seismic explores the subsurface with the help of sound waves and is mainly used for reservoir exploration in the oil and gas industry and in mining. As early as 1975, together with the then company Prakla Seismos, we undertook the first tests in the Ruhr area to improve this technology. This resulted in the modern 3D seismic, with the help of which today the underground can be explored three-dimensionally down to several thousand meters depth. A special development is also the so-called Flözwellenseismik, a mining underground seismic measurement method, with the help of which today tectonic disturbances in coal seams are explored. In borehole geophysics, the contributions were mainly in imaging processes such as the "borehole televiewer" or in the development of special measuring instruments such as the "borehole shuttle", which can be washed into a borehole without a cable.

: So they were instrumental in the development of 3D seismic, a standard method of deposit exploration today. What other innovations do you expect in the future in this sector?
Drill bit © Geothermische Vereinigung eV, Geeste


: After 3D comes 4D - so the recording of temporal changes as an additional dimension. Thus, seismics evolves from an instrument of pure exploration to an instrument of comprehensive reservoir management. In addition, the interpretation methods are further refined, for example by the extraction of the spectral properties of seismic data. Due to the ever-increasing resolution, the 3D seismic also conquered other fields of application. For example, the world's first 3D measurements to explore geothermal reservoirs are currently taking place in Speyer. display

: They are working on refining passive seismic techniques to explore the subsurface. What do you think about the advantages over other techniques?


: In contrast to active 3D seismics, in passive seismic no artificially generated sound waves are emitted from the surface. Rather, the sounds are observed, which causes the raw material support directly in the ground. These sounds are mainly caused by the flow of oil or natural gas in the rock. In particular, the localization of these sound sources provides information about the reservoir and the processes occurring in it. In this way, not only the location of the raw materials but also the pathways within the reservoir can be explored. Such a comprehensive mapping makes no other method. However, there is still considerable need for research.

: For more than 30 years you have headed the Geoscientific Department of the German Montan Technology (DMT). What has changed technologically in these three decades?


: In principle, it has always been about integrating new technologies from sensor technology, electronics or IT technology into the geo-area. For example, the ability to process large amounts of data has enabled new imaging techniques that use the old saying: "It's duster" before the hoe. A modern and highly technical mining would be inconceivable without these professional exploration techniques. The German mining technology was and is pioneer in many areas. The methods developed by us are now used worldwide.

: Geothermal energy in Germany is lit up again and again. How do you see the future prospects?
Horst R ter, Vice President of the Geothermal Association and member of the German Geophysical Society (DGG) and the Geounion / Alfred Wegener Foundation (AWS) Information campaign Renewable Energies


Paradoxically, geothermal energy has an image problem for reasons that in and of itself are its clear advantages: it can not be seen, heard or smelled. The potential of geothermal energy is, according to human judgment, inexhaustible. In my opinion, geothermal energy will also play an important role in heating and cooling in Germany in the near future. If the political framework does not deteriorate fundamentally, we will soon have 100 or more geothermal power plants. Germany is even technologically world-leading in the use of thermal waters below 150 degrees, for example for power generation.

: You are also currently working with the underground coal fires in China what does that have to do with your work as a geophysicist?


: Alone in northern China destroy the underground fires annually 10-20 million tons of coal, which at least corresponds to the coal production in Germany. At the same time, about ten times that amount will be unusable for mining, causing unacceptably high losses for coal, which is indispensable for China's energy supply. However, deletions of the fires can only be purposefully planned and carried out if their location and extent are well known underground. This is a classic geophysical exploration task. Magnetic and electromagnetics are currently being used both on the ground and by helicopters. Geophysical methods are also used during the extinguishing process and serve to monitor already extinguished fire zones, as there is a constant risk of re-ignition.

: What are your next research projects and projects?


: The coal fires project will certainly continue for some years to come. In addition, I will focus more intensively on methods of controlling deep drilling through measurements during drilling (LWD). The focus here is mainly on electromagnetic methods of greater penetration depth. Furthermore, there are some projects on the topic of geothermal energy, whereby the preliminary investigation and thus risk reduction is in the foreground. In addition to seismic, other, for example, electromagnetic methods are used for this purpose.

: Mr. Rüter, we thank you for the interview.

Related Links:

Geothermal Association


Coal fires in China

(Horst Rüter, 16.08.2005 - AHE)