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Introduction to Borehole Geophysics caliper animation

Introduction to Borehole Geophysics

Borehole geophysics is the science of recording and analyzing measurements of physical properties made in wells or test holes. Probes that measure different properties are lowered into the borehole to collect continuous or point data that is graphically displayed as a geophysical log. Multiple logs typically are collected to take advantage of their synergistic nature--much more can be learned by the analysis of a suite of logs as a group than by the analysis of the same logs individually. Borehole geophysics is used in ground-water and environmental investigations to obtain information on well construction, rock lithology and fractures, permeability and porosity, and water quality. The geophysical logging system consists of probes, cable and drawworks, power and processing modules, and data recording units. State-of-the-art logging systems are controlled by a computer and can collect multiple logs with one pass of the probe.

Why log?

Borehole-geophysical logging can provide a wealth of information that is critical in gaining a better understanding of subsurface conditions needed for ground-water and environmental studies. Geophysical logs provide unbiased continuous and in-situ data and generally sample a larger volume than drilling samples.

  • Delineation of hydrogeologic units
    The different hydrogeologic units found in the subsurface display a wide range of capabilities to store and transmit ground water and contaminants. Borehole-geophysical logging provides a highly efficient means to determine the character and thickness of the different geologic materials penetrated by wells and test holes. This information is essential for proper placement of casing and screens in water-supply wells and for characterizing and remediating ground-water contamination.

  • Definition of ground-water quality
    The quality of ground water is highly variable and ground-water contamination may be caused by man-made or natural sources. Integration of borehole-geophysics logging with water-quality sampling provides a more complete picture, whether the objective is to develop a water-supply well or remediate a contaminated aquifer.

  • Determination of well construction and conditions
    Wells are the access points to the ground-water system, and knowledge of their construction and condition are important whether they are being used for ground-water supply, monitoring, or remediation. The location and condition of casing and screen can be rapidly evaluated with geophysical logging.

What are the common geophysical logs and how are they used?

Common geophysical logs include caliper, gamma, single-point resistance, spontaneous potential, normal resistivity, electromagnetic induction, fluid resistivity, temperature, flowmeter, television, and acoustic televiewer.

  • Caliper logs record borehole diameter. Changes in borehole diameter are related to well construction, such as casing or drilling-bit size, and to fracturing or caving along the borehole wall. Because borehole diameter commonly affects log response, the caliper log is useful in the analysis of other geophysical logs, including interpretation of flowmeter logs.

  • Gamma logs record the amount of natural gamma radiation emitted by the rocks surrounding the borehole. The most significant naturally occurring sources of gamma radiation are potassium-40 and daughter products of the uranium- and thorium-decay series. Clay- and shale-bearing rocks commonly emit relatively high gamma radiation because they include weathering products of potassium feldspar and mica and tend to concentrate uranium and thorium by ion absorption and exchange.

  • Single-point resistance logs record the electrical resistance from points within the borehole to an electrical ground at land surface. In general, resistance increases with increasing grain size and decreases with increasing borehole diameter, fracture density, and dissolved-solids concentration of the water. Single-point resistance logs are useful in the determination of lithology, water quality, and location of fracture zones.

  • Spontaneous-potential logs record potentials or voltages developed between the borehole fluid and the surrounding rock and fluids. Spontaneous-potential logs can be used in the determination of lithology and water quality. Collection of spontaneous-potential logs is limited to water- or mud-filled open holes.

  • Normal-resistivity logs record the electrical resistivity of the borehole environment and surrounding rocks and water as measured by variably spaced potential electrodes on the logging probe. Typical spacing for potential electrodes are 16 inches for short-normal resistivity and 64 inches for long-normal resistivity. Normal-resistivity logs are affected by bed thickness, borehole diameter, and borehole fluid and can only be collected in water- or mud-filled open holes.

  • Electromagnetic-induction logs record the electrical conductivity or resistivity of the rocks and water surrounding the borehole. Electrical conductivity and resistivity are affected by the porosity, permeability, and clay content of the rocks and by the dissolved-solids concentration of the water within the rocks. The electromagnetic-induction probe is designed to maximize vertical resolution and depth of investigation and to minimize the effects of the borehole fluid.

  • Fluid-resistivity logs record the electric resistivity of water in the borehole. Changes in fluid resistivity reflect differences in dissolved-solids concentration of water. Fluid-resistivity logs are useful for delineating water-bearing zones and identifying vertical flow in the borehole.

  • Temperature logs record the water temperature in the borehole. Temperature logs are useful for delineating water-bearing zones and identifying vertical flow in the borehole between zones of differing hydraulic head penetrated by wells. Borehole flow between zones is indicated by temperature gradients that are less than the regional geothermal gradient, which is about 1 degree Fahrenheit per 100 feet of depth.

  • Flowmeter logs record the direction and rate of vertical flow in the borehole. Borehole-flow rates can be calculated from downhole-velocity measurements and borehole diameter recorded by the caliper log. Flowmeter logs can be collected under non-pumping and(or) pumping conditions. Impeller flowmeters are the most widely used but they generally cannot resolve velocities of less than 5 ft/min. Heat-pulse and electromagnetic flowmeters can resolve velocities of less than 0.1 ft/min.

  • Television logs record a color optical image of the borehole. In addition to being recorded on video-cassette-recorder tape, the optical image can be viewed in real time on a television monitor. Well construction, lithology and fractures, water level, cascading water from above the water level, and changes in borehole water quality (chemical precipitates, suspended particles, and gas) can be viewed directly with the camera.

  • Acoustic-televiewer logs record a magnetically oriented, photographic image of the acoustic reflectivity of the borehole wall. Televiewer logs indicate the location and strike and dip of fractures and lithologic contacts. Collection of televiewer logs is limited to water- or mud-filled open holes.

For more information on borehole geophsics:

Keys, W.S., 1990, Borehole geophysics applied to ground-water investigations: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques of Water-Resources Investigation, book 2, chap. E2, 150 p.

American Society for Testing and Materials, 1995, Standard Guide for Planning and Conducting Borehole Geophysical Logging (D5753-95): Annual Book of ASTM Standards, 8 p.

For further information, contact:

John H. Williams
U.S. Geological Survey
Water Resources Division
425 Jordan Road
Troy, New York 12180

F. Peter Haeni
U.S. Geological Survey
Water Resources Division
University of Connecticut
11 Sherman Place, U-5015
Storrs, Connecticut 06269

World Wide Web:

Prepared by
John H. Williams

"Advances in Borehole Geophysics for Ground-Water & Environmental Investigations"
"Training & Technology Transfer"
New York District homepage
Branch of Geophysical Applications & Support
Office of Ground Water, Reston, VA (internal only)
USGS-Reston, VA homepage

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