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The History of Wireline Logging in a Nutshell

Wireline logging refers to the practice within the oil and gas industry of lowering a logging device attached to a wireline into a borehole or oil well to measure the properties of the rock and fluids of the formation. The measurements obtained are then interpreted and used to determine the depths and zones where oil and gas can be expected to be found.

Wireline logging has a history that goes back just over 80 years to September 5th, 1927 when two brothers, Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger, ran what is considered to be the very first wireline log at the Pechelbronn Oil Company oil field in France.

Their experimental logging attempt was a success and the brothers called their new technique an electric survey. A few years later in the early 1930s in the USA the term “well log” was being used. Wireline logging is so called because the logging tool is lowered through the oil well or borehole on the end of a wireline.

Wireline logging tools are typically cylindrical in shape. They range from a narrow diameter of around one and a half inches up to around five inches. There are three basic types of wireline logging tools.

The first type measures the spontaneous potential. This is the difference in voltage between an electrode in the wireline logging tool while it is in the oil well or borehole, and another electrode located on the surface. This type will usually also have additional instruments to measure the natural radiation coming from natural isotopes. In this way it can measure temperature and pressure.

The second type of wireline logging tool has a source of excitation or stimulation as well as a sensor. The sensing systems used in this type can be magnetic resonance, inductive, electric, acoustic, or other methods.

The third type of tool used is one that can perform some kind of mechanical manoeuvre. This kind of wireline logging tool can retrieve rock samples at various depths to allow scientists to physically examine the actual formation. It can also retrieve oil samples at determined depths and bring them back up to the surface for examination.

There are also differences in the kinds of electric log tools used. They can be categorised by whether they are used before the oil well is cased, and are therefore open hole logs, or after it has been cased, and therefore cased hole logs.

Electric logs are further defined by the physical properties the tool measures. When the specific resistance of the rock and fluids are measured it is a resistivity log. When a given volume of rock has its percentage of pore volume measured, it is the porosity log tool that is used. Porosity logs use technologies based on sound waves or nuclear reactions.

The advantages of wireline logging are considerable. It allows the acquisition of valuable data at a fast rate and over a wide range of depths. This allows fast and accurate decisions to be made regarding drilling, based on the information obtained. Understanding the physical properties of an oil well is critical to properly managing it over its lifetime. Wireline logging makes that possible.

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