Tuesday, 14 November 2017

IODP Expedition 381 
View 5: what does everyone else do during logging?

So the first logging operations were completed over the weekend………….but I am only blogging about this now because unlike those offshore I don’t have to work all weekend! However, all of the team onshore are always on call to answer any queries that the offshore team have and are very good at sending virtual chocolate supplies.

Downhole logging takes place once coring has finished in a borehole (ok this can be a simplification but applies to the first hole in Corinth Active Rift Development: Expedition 381). And logging can take several days, with different toolstrings and different stages, especially when borehole conditions throw up challenges, such as was the case for this borehole. For anyone impatient, here is a photo from early on in the logging operations.

Laurent Brun and Erwan Le Ber early on in logging the first hole. credit: L. Phillpot

What does everyone else do while this is happening? Well, of course supply the loggers with chocolate………
As this is a petrophysics blog, you will have to check out the Expedition blog to find out what other participants do, but here I can discuss how EPC’s Laurence and Abah from the Science Party spent their time. Did they put their feet up and relax? No, certainly not, the gap in core arriving on the ship is often time for the hard-working MSCL operators to catch up on any backlog that has accumulated. Here, as Laurence and Abah had that under control they had plenty of time to run quality assurance and quality control (QAQC) cores through the MSCL to provide checks on the data being acquired and ensure that all sensors are operating to their optimum efficiency. This process is achieved both by using specially selected cores to act as QAQC cores, but also by using the calibration pieces that are prepared in the liners used for each specific expedition.

Laurence Phillpot preparing calibration pieces for the MSCL. credit: E. Le Ber
In summary the Petrophysics team have had a busy few days! What is really enjoyable once the team have both core petrophysical and logging data is tying this together, analysing correlations and identifying where gaps or questions in one dataset can be answered by studying another, and of course starting talks with other scientists about the data that continue into the onshore phase (in Bremen in February 2018) and beyond.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Corinth Active Rift Development: petrophysical measurements in the first borehole

IODP Expedition 381
View 4: looking forwards to the first downhole logging

The petrophysical measurements that are taken offshore include both petrophysical measurements on the recovered core and measurements taken in situ in the borehole by downhole tools. The core measurements on the first hole of the expedition are well underway and we are excited that the first logging is due to take place fairly soon. The next blog post will contain news from offshore on this!

The last blog post introduced the Geotek™ Multi-Sensor Core Logger (MSCL), which is a piece of equipment that EPC staff and those scientist who operate it offshore become very familiar with, and on Corinth Active Rift Development: IODP Expedition 381, EPC’s Laurence and Abah from the science party are working in opposite 12 hour shifts. The MSCL has sensors measuring magnetic susceptibility, electrical resistivity, P-wave velocity, gamma density, and natural gamma radiation, each of which have their own special ways in which they contribute to the expedition aims. Offshore these measurements are also helpful in providing the petrophysics team with some prior understanding of the borehole before downhole logging commences.

Laurence Phillpot introducing Abah Omale to the expedition MSCL logsheets. (credit: E. Le Ber)

The downhole logging measurements plan and operation is coordinated by the Expedition Petrophysics Staff Scientist, Erwan, requiring detailed discussions offshore with the operational team, the Expedition Co-chief Scientists and the logging engineers. In a perfect formation, in a perfect hole, logging is straightforward and each tool can be run in open hole down to the bottom and measure all parts of the borehole. That can and does happen! By this phase of the operation, analysis of the MSCL measurements and observation of the lithologies recovered can help to inform the logging program in this first hole. Where parts of the hole are anticipated to be less than perfect (which also can and does happen!), the logging team consider options such as logging the hole in more than one phase. Again, watch for the next blog post to find out more about the first downhole logging from Corinth Active Rift Development: IODP Expedition 381 …………. or if you can’t wait for that, check out the recent articles on the Expedition 381 blog!

Laurent Brun and Erwan Le Ber testing logging tools. (credit: L. Phillpot)


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Corinth Active Rift Development: the expedition begins

IODP Expedition 381
View 3: second petrophysics blog from the ship

So the time has come, the boat is fuelled, the labs are fully prepared and we are all ready to depart from the port in Corinth to our first site in the gulf. Very soon I will be bobbing up and down on the Gulf of Corinth as we drill into the seabed below us in an attempt to discover how it would’ve looked to witness the gulf appear over the past 5 million years (more on the expedition aims here).

Sunrise on the day of departure

The offshore team has now expanded as we have been joined by a subgroup of the scientists from the science party involved in this project. 9 of the 31 total. These scientists will be assisting with running the labs offshore and completing some of the initial analysis and sampling. The job is not a too privileged position though since the cores won’t be split until they reach the Onshore Science Party (OSP) in Bremen, Germany, during January of 2018. Since there is a little delay between recovery and full analysis of the cores, all of the ephemeral properties of the sediments (those that degrade in quality with time) and essential sampling (drilling mud, pore water, microbiology etc.) will be completed with the help of these 9 scientists on the vessel within the first hours of recovery. As one would expect, the doubling of the team size has affected the group dynamic on board the vessel. However the thing to remember about these 9 new team members is that they are all heavily invested in the science and will be completing research using the data produced by this project, each with their individual spins and focuses. This aspect defines the change. All 9 are all so passionate about the work and excited to be here. It’s infectious.
The Fugro Synergy at port in Corinth

Owing to all this, my next two months will be very different from the usual 9-5 office job. So what will I be doing for this time? I will be working on the opposite 12 hour shift to my work partner to ensure 24 hour continual operation of the Multi-SensorCore Logger . The Multi Sensor Core Logger (or MSCL) is an apparatus that measures ephemeral physical properties of rock and sediment cores, now I know that sounds boring when I explain it like that in full but bear with me. The Geotek™ system that I will be using is a fully automated track system where the cores themselves are moved through stationary sensors rather than there being moving sensors or probes. The process is almost fully automatic and generates masses of data at a great resolution. It really is very cool piece of kit.

MSCL lab

This will not the first time that I have used one, personally I have used this system before as well as using similar systems on other projects such as the Geotek XYZ system during the onshore phase of IODP expedition 357: Atlantis Massif; and using EPC’s bespoke MSCL: Fast-track for training during the Petrophysics Summer School 2016  and Petrophysics Summer School 2017.  


So what does the MSCL do exactly and what is my (and my scientist partner’s) job as the operator? Well to be perfectly honest it is fairly simple to understand and operate if you have a basic understanding of material properties.  The 5 properties that it measures in order are density, p-wave velocity, electrical resistivity, magnetic susceptibility and natural gamma radiation. Density is fairly self-explanatory. The MSCL though records electron density which is almost exactly the same as bulk density for the suite of elements that make up rock-forming minerals. P-wave velocity describes the speed with which an acoustic pulse (or sound wave) travels through a material, the electrical resistivity of a material is the inverse of its electrical conductivity and natural gamma radiation simply describes the natural gamma radiation output of the rock or sediment. Magnetic susceptibility on the other hand is bit less straightforward. It is most simply described as the degree by which a rock can be magnetised by an external magnetic field and in sedimentology it is most widely used to infer clay proportions in sand through the recognition of iron content.


My job as operator of the MSCL is to ensure that it is running and continually logging core for the full 12 hours of my shift, with my partner taking care of the other half of the day. This is important because the logger can complete measurements on 3 metres of core in just over 1 hour and therefore only keeps up with everything else if it is operating 24/7. It’s a busy task but we have air conditioning, speakers and a coffee machine in the container to make sure that we are comfortable and sufficiently caffeinated.


If all goes to plan this expedition will recover over 1500 m of core from the Gulf of Corinth. And that’s a busy MSCL (and busy operator!).


Where I will be working for the next couple of months is just the one of the many labs on Main Street. There are also labs for curation, geochemistry and a combined science office for microscopy, visual core description, palaeontology and core-log-seismic integration. But for more info on those labs keep an eye on the Expedition 381 blog over the coming months.



Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Corinth Active Rift Development: a view from the ship

IODP Expedition 381
View 2: first petrophysics blog from the ship

IODP Expedition 381, the latest Mission-Specific Platform proposal to be initialised, represents the next location on ECORDs sea-bed exploration map. Located in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece, it is the site of at least three carefully placed boreholes designed to resolve some of the biggest questions science currently has about newly forming continental rifts. Continental rifts, the most famous of which in the geological world is probably the East African Rift, are one result when continental plates decide to split and diverge from one another. Unlike the East African Rift, the one here in Corinth is only ~5 million years old (a geological baby), but it is already deep enough to be filling with water.
So what are the questions Expedition 381 is looking to answer? Well firstly, how do syn-rift faults evolve? How is strain (re-)distributed in the crust throughout this process, and how does the landscape surrounding the rift respond in the first couple of million years? The Corinth rift is the perfect place to study these questions since, as previously mentioned, its only 5 million years young. Furthermore it is the fastest opening rift globally at its fastest point at 15 mm/yr and averaging at 11 mm/yr across its length. In addition it is a region of intense seismicity, with a dense seismic database to inform drilling and fault placement. And that, in a nutshell, is the premise of IODP Expedition 381: Corinth Active Rift development. I’m not going to go into it any further, but if you’re of a scientific mind and you wish to look further into the expedition’s specific scientific aims or get some detail on the expected recovery then you can read the project proposal and its associated addendum. Or if you would prefer an easier read with all the same information you can follow the Expedition 381 blog updated regularly by the scientists on the ship.

Actually I should mention as an aside at this point, there are all sorts of IODP expeditions planned for the future in just about every sub-theme of marine and seafloor research you can imagine and all IODP proposals are available to explore. Or if you would like you can submit your own. Just an idea.
So to the matter at hand, what view do I get in the morning? I get this:
Photo: first view of the morning on the night shift (credit L Phillpot)

I am on the night shift for this expedition, working from midnight through to midday to keep the Multi-Sensor Core Logger running in 24 hour operation. I know this morning view is not the most inspiring but if I wait just a few hours for the sun to poke its head over the horizon then I am often greeted with something much more spectacular.

Photo: sunrise on first morning at sea on transit from Malta to Corinth (credit L Phillpot)

This view was not a bad introduction to the Mediterranean in fall. However, for those of you with keen eyes, a plastic bottle can be seen in the bottom left bobbing past us as we travel through the middle of the Mediterranean. A sad reminder of the impacts of plastic waste and disposal throughout the world’s oceans.

As for other sights, I get some cracking views of the Fugro Synergy with its derrick all lit-up at night, and probably the calmest views of “Main Street” that I will get for the next 2 months. “Main Street” is the name that we give to the walkway between the entrances of the ECORD containerised labs and offices. All the offshore science happens on “Main Street” from sampling and curation to geochemistry, petrophysics, microscopy and initial analysis. When we are in full swing and the core recovery rate is high, it will be a bustling hive of activity.

Photo: view of "Main Street" (credit L Phillpot)

At the time of writing the vessel is now in Greek waters and about to make its port-call in Corinth to collect all those scientists who will be sailing with us for the next two months as we explore early continental rift processes in ways that they have never been explored before.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Corinth Active Rift Development: a view from the office

IODP Expedition 381
View 1: introduction

This morning is my first time in the empty office since my colleagues Erwan Le Ber and Laurence Phillpot departed for adventures offshore on Corinth Active RIft Development: IODP Expedition 381 as the Expedition Petrophysics Staff Scientist and EPC Petrophysicist respectively. One of the tasks I am looking forward to while they are offshore is explaining some of the exciting downhole logging and core petrophysical measurements in near-real time.

The Corinth Active Rift development is the eight Mission Specific Platform (MSP) Expedition and the seventh since I joined the EPC team at Leicester. Both Erwan and Laurence previously sailed offshore on the highly successful Chixculub K-Pg Impact Crater: IODP Expedition 364 (refer to earlier blog posts). This experience helps the team be excited for the work ahead and ready for the challenges each expedition throws up that are unique.

Photo: the actual view from my office this morning, but this is less petrophysically interesting than a picture from offshore (unless you really like trees and squirrels), so the next blog update will feature a view from Erwan or Laurence on the drillship Fugro Synergy.

The ship set sail from Malta yesterday and is on route to meet the scientists in Corinth. Watch this space!

In the meantime, for more information see the Expedition 381 webpage or the Expedition 381 blog

Thursday, 5 October 2017

A Fly on the Wall at the Summer School

Between the 2nd and 7th of July 2017, students, academics and industry professionals flocked to the University of Leicester for the 2nd Petrophysics Summer School in order to learn more about the fundamentals and applications of petrophysics. The cohort of participants, which numbered 30, had travelled from 27 institutions, and represented a plethora of nationalities and cultures, but had come together centred on the common interest in petrophysics. To lead this summer school, 19 tutors had been brought in from 10 organisations, including the European Petrophysics Consortium (EPC), ALS Petrophysics, BP, Imperial College London, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and Schlumberger. Amongst these tutors were the University of Leicester’s very own Sarah Davies, Erwan Le Ber, Laurence Phillpot, Tim Pritchard and, the organiser of the summer school, Sally Morgan. The summer school itself was sponsored, with generosity, by the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), the London Petrophysical Society (LPS), Aberdeen Formation Evaluation Society (AFES) and the UK International Ocean Discovery Program (UK IODP). Kind contributions to the school were also given by the British Geological Survey (BGS) and Weatherford, and over half of the participants received financial support to facilitate their attendance from IODP entities: the United States Science Support Program, ECORD, and UK IODP, with the goal of training the next generation of scientists.
Day 0: Saturday evening saw the programme kick off with an ice-breaker party in the King Richard III Visitor Centre in the heart of Leicester. Here the participants were greeted with a gift bag containing a range of goodies as well as their work folders for the week. After being taken to the King’s Hall, the participants were free to mingle and ‘break the ice’ in the informal setting where refreshments eased some of the awkward tension. Both guided and unguided tours of the centre ensued and people could see the most famous parking spot in the UK – the grave site of Richard III.
Day 1: Sunday was a day of laying the foundation of the participants’ understanding of scientific ocean research drilling and offshore operations. Lectures were given throughout the day, interspersed with regular refuelling breaks, where coffee and biscuits were among the offerings, and a large spread was put on for lunch. The regular breaks also gave the participants a chance to view one another’s research posters. Prior to a mini conference, Leicester’s Tim Pritchard gave a thought-provoking talk on the future of petrophysics in which participants were encouraged to imagine the possibilities from a multi-disciplinary standpoint. The mini conference gave participants a chance to introduce themselves via 2-minute elevator-style talks, and to present their research via poster presentations. This really displayed the diversity of backgrounds that people had come from, with research presented covering a vast range of topics (the effects of microbes in CCS to a sedimentological study of the Mercia Mudstone Group in Ireland), using a huge range of analytical methods (including, GPR, XRD and P- and S-wave measurement) and being applied to numerous geological situations. This thirsty work was compensated for by a wine reception during the final poster session. The end of the day heralded a chance for the participants to explore the new, and to some, very unusual and unfamiliar city. A large group travelled over to the Old Horse pub (a favourite drinking establishment of the Leicester Geology Department) and then to a local curry house on Queens Road to sample the curries that Leicester is so famous for.
Day 2: Strong coffee was available for the early start. Prior to lunch were the rigorous lectures of petrophysics 101 delivered by Imperial College’s Pete Fitch, giving the participants a solid grounding in the fundamentals of the subject. Lunch was followed by a session on core processing workflows by Ingrid Paola Tello Guerrero of ALS Petrophysics, from the well site to laboratory reports. BP’s Sam Matthews rounded off the afternoon with an interactive session on estimating hydrocarbons in place, allowing the participants to put what they had learned into perspective and understand the real-world application. In the evening an optional lecture was given by Rebecca Bell (Imperial College London) about the science behind a couple of upcoming IODP expeditions (372 and 375) that will be exploring the Hikurangi subduction margin. Such optional evening lectures are a long-standing tradition at Leicester and the summer schoolers followed the Leicester evening lecture format by continuing discussions about the talk (and the day’s activities more generally) at the pub.

Participants completing a log response exercise during a morning session. (Credit, Erwan Le Ber).

Day 3: On Tuesday, participants took a break from the University-based classroom work and went on an excursion. The morning was spent with Weatherford at their Reeves Wireline Technologies facility in East Leake, where participants could see the origins, research and development, and use of some downhole logging equipment in a state-of-the-art facility. Following this, participants were travelled to the BGS in Keyworth where they enjoyed a packed lunch to tie them over for their visit to the BGS Core Store. This visit was guided by University of Leicester’s Sarah Davies, who had prepared a logging exercise that allowed the participants, to get up close and personal with the core, comparing the lithological packages (from a range of environments, both subaerial and subaqueous) with petrophysical log responses. Participants appeared to be very impressed with the sheer volume of core stored at Keyworth and were also somewhat captivated by a topographic sandbox also at the facility. Many attendees purchased souvenir specimens from fantastic on-site BGS shop. During the evening everyone got into the 4th of July spirit with an American-inspired meal and drinks at Meatcure in the centre of Leicester, an ideal period of down time after a day of such intense study.

Prof. Sarah Davies giving a tutorial to participants, comparing lithologies to log responses at the BGS’s Keyworth core storage facility (Credit, Erwan Le Ber).

Day 4: The field-trip and evening of the previous day had given participants a renewed vigour and people were ready to press on with the work. Wednesday saw their initial introduction to Schlumberger’s Techlog. After a shaky start due to some minor issues with loading data into the software, participants worked through a series of exercises, designed to familiarise them with the interface and Techlog’s capability. The day provided essential groundwork for more complex case studies in the following days. Another bonus evening lecture rounded off the day, this time given by Leicester’s own Mike Lovell entitled ‘Petrophysics in the Kitchen’. Armed with beers the group were treated to a lecture about the everyday uses of petrophysical principles including audience participation involving glasses of milk and chocolate bars.

Participants getting hands-on experience with Schlumberger's Techlog (Credit, Erwan Le Ber)

Day 5: Over the course of Thursday, participants were given further training in Techlog through several extended sessions including exercises on acoustics and borehole images, and core-log-seismic integration from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s Gilles Guerin and Angela Slagle, respectively. As had become typical during the summer school, sessions were punctuated by regular and well deserved coffee breaks. Despite the demanding day of work, everyone made it to New Walk Museum for drinks and an informal tour around the museum’s Geology wing given by Tom Harvey, a paleobiologist and lecturer at Leicester University.

Group Photo Op at New Walk Museum, the ‘Rutland Dinosaur’ making up the backdrop (Credit, Erwan Le Ber)

The Leicester-themed evening continued with a three course meal and drinks at a local curry house generously sponsored by UK IODP. Towards the end of the meal, prizes and acceptance speeches were given to and from those who won the poster and elevator pitch popular votes and the more formally adjudicated poster competition. Dessert rounded off a pleasant evening, and the group slowly turned in for the night in preparation for the final day of petrophysics training.

Dr. Sally Morgan, organiser of the summer school, handing out awards for popular voted elevator pitches and posters as well as the adjudicated poster competition (Credit, Erwan Le Ber)

Day 6: Friday morning gave the group a chance to put their Techlog training to the test, with IODP and shale gas industry case studies. Participants had found the training to be very useful discovering that the software was user-friendly once they understood how to navigate the interface. After lunch there was a free session in which participants could get some unconstrained leisurely use of the software and review any of the things covered in the course to that point. The final session of the summer school was given by Erwan Le Ber and taught participants how to design their own logging plan using IODP Expedition 364, Chicxulub K-Pg impact crater as a case study. The week and the summer school were brought to close by a final thanks and farewell by Sally Morgan, the organiser of the summer school, in which participants received their certificates, including acknowledgement of them having completed 36 hours of CPD-accredited training.

 Joshua Smiles

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Fun and flare in phys props

Not only am I new to the blogging world, I am also new to International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) expeditions. On that basis, I would like to share with you my time with EPC, working on their most recent IODP expedition, Expedition 364: Chicxulub K-Pg Impact Crater. Expedition 364 started in Mexico 6 months ago to discover the secrets of the dinosaur- killing asteroid impact that occurred 66 million years ago; and if you’re interested why, find out here. No expedition more exciting than that, right?
EPC team at Bremen Core Repository
So this has been a fairly well-documented expedition, and there are many blogs out there which outline the scientific details of the expedition, through to documentation of how to decide how many pairs of pants you will need for the duration of the offshore expedition. However, my perspective of the Expedition 364 Onshore Science Party (OSP) is slightly different to most. As mentioned before, I am new to the IODP world, but I think this provides a unique perspective and so I would like to share with you my experiences, and what I took away from my very first OSP.
The first stage: splitting the Chicxulub core
I joined the OSP midway through the onshore stint at the Bremen Core Repository, Germany. Upon arrival (after a very early 3am start back in the UK) I was warmly welcomed by the Physical Properties (or Phys Props as we are famously known) Team of which I was to be a member. The majority of my time at the OSP was spent continuing the ongoing Moisture and Density measurements (or MAD for short) on small, discrete samples from the Chicxulub cores, and the name speaks for itself, it really is MAD! I arrived at a very busy time, when core splitting had surpassed the target of 35 m a day and accelerated up to 75 m a day! That’s a lot of core, and a lot of running between labs to ensure you aren’t lagging behind with your measurements. Although this was the role which I was responsible for, you are part of a team, so help is always given when asked for. However, the Phys Props Team is also a cog in the much bigger OSP machine, and so helping outside of your designated role always helps to keep the core flow going smoothly. For example, you can help the digital line-scan team cart core to the Visual Core Description (or VCD) lab, or prepare the cores so they are ready for colour reflectance work. All these tasks help to keep things in running order. However, there is always room for some creativity, from simple drawings on the core labels, to setting up a time lapse camera, to record the comings and goings in the Phys Props lab during the shifts.

All the running around aside, there is still time for a cup of tea (or coffee if you are that way inclined) and a few biscuits, pretzels, fruit, sandwiches, mini burgers… (you get the picture), while waiting for a batch of MAD measurements to finish. From day one I realised that hovering around the refreshments offers the best chance to meet the vast array of people from different scientific backgrounds and expertise that make up the science party. There was always someone around (with there being over 50 science party and technical staff) providing ample opportunity to learn more details about the expedition, the science that will continue for years to come, and even hear about past and future expeditions, and of course a few anecdotes.
Creative core labels
I found it really interesting to attend the science meetings during the OSP, which occurred at the shift cross-over each day. This was the time where the science party discussed the results and their ever-evolving theories over the coming weeks, as more core was split, described, sampled and analysed. This was the meeting where any member of the OSP could listen to discussions and learn more about these fascinating cores. Not being an impact crater specialist myself, it was a brilliant insight into the ongoing research, which meant as the OSP progressed I began to understand more about the science and the many different research questions being addressed by the Expedition.

Unsurprisingly, this IODP expedition drummed up a lot of media interest, bringing journalists, photographers and, for the first time on an OSP, a film crew! This was a very exciting time for scientists, who were given the chance to communicate to the general public the importance of the work that the IODP and ECORD are doing, specifically surrounding the Chicxulub impact crater. Of course also this was an opportunity to get yourself in the background of a shot that might end up on TV. Hi mum!

So I’ve mentioned the hard work that has gone into making this OSP a success and the brief moments of respite during shifts, but what happens after the shifts and at the end of the OSP you may wonder? Well, being in Germany, you have to take advantage of the situation, so going for a few delicious beers after work is a sure thing! Although, if you are not familiar with OSP shift patterns (as I wasn’t a few weeks ago), the afternoon shifts are preferable, where you begin at midday, giving you just enough time to recover from the post-shift karaoke antics at Paddy’s Pit the night before. However, being on the morning shift, starting at 7.30 am (as I was), doesn’t stop you from participating in late night karaoke. Once the OSP had finished, we all had the opportunity to relax and enjoy some local events, such as the annual Bremen Freimarkt, which has to be one of the biggest and fantastically bonkers funfairs I have been to. From munching on traditional German Bratwurst and soft pretzels, to enjoying a local beer and riding the roller coasters, there isn’t a better way to end a few weeks in Germany.
The w√ľnderbar Bremen Freimarkt
A final thing I would like to add is that, this isn’t your everyday job, and is definitely unique to anything I have done before. Working as part of an OSP, together with sampling Chicxulub core, sharing in the discovery of impact crater peak ring contents, and having the chance to witness ground zero for the K-Pg boundary is a once in a lifetime opportunity and something I will probably never experience again.