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Underground explosions aid exploration

Lincoln County residents in areas around Zetus Road and Highway550 may have been wondering what work is under way with the groundshaking and the helicopters flying overhead.

The open space at an area long Highway 550 at Sams Road isserving as a helicopter pad for Gliko Aviation, a group out ofBelt, Mont. that is currently contracted by Veritas, a seismiccompany working in areas of Lincoln County.

Veritas is working with Denbury Resources on seismic work toestablish underground maps of where there might be oil throughoutsome of the areas of the county, said Gliko pilot TomMcPherson.

“What they do is map out the subterranean earth to find out whatkind of rock formations are down there,” he said.

McPherson explained that the ground shakes from a series ofunderground explosions that allow researchers to examine to thevibrations through microphones. The explosions occur undergroundand are safe for surrounding areas, officials said.

“Sound travels faster through denser stuff,” he said. “As itrecords the reflections, it maps out the geological formations andthey process the data and can get a pretty good idea of what’sunder the surface.”

McPherson said the science of locating underground oil stores isprogressing with technology.

“In the old days they used to just take a wild guess at where itwas,” he said. “In the earlier days of all this, the drilling wentpretty shallow, only to about 5,000 feet. Engineers got towondering if there could be something deeper than that.”

He said, in essence, that there can be lakes of oil undergroundthat get trapped in or under layers of the bedrock.

Project officials have good reason to wonder if there might bemore oil in the areas that were believed to be tapped out by theoil wells that still populate certain parts of the county,McPherson said.

“Judging by all the oil wells,” he said. “They have to work overthe rigs and clean out the drill holes, and they’re reopening a lotof things. The cost of doing this in equipment alone isstaggering.”

Gliko’s helicopters work in an assisting capacity, he said,moving equipment to the places trucks or other land-based vehiclescan’t reach.

He said the buckets hanging from the copters and used forcarrying supplies are called “Bambi buckets.”

“They typically move equipment and people and lay the bags outso the crews can use them,” he said. “The copters are used in theremote areas.”