In measurement while drilling (MWD), wellbore azimuth is determined relative to the direction of the geomagnetic field. Converting this magnetic azimuth to a true azimuth requires accurate knowledge of the direction of the geomagnetic field at the point of measurement downhole. In the Arctic, MWD processing must include corrections for rapid changes in the geomagnetic field caused by auroral electrojet currents.?The auroral zone, those latitudes at which the aurora borealis (or the northern lights) occurs, is a region where the electric field of the magnetosphere precipitates along magnetic field lines into the ionosphere. At 100 km above the surface, this electric field drives auroral electrojet currents in the east/west direction, generating the strongest magnetic field disturbances on the planet. The direction of the geomagnetic field in the auroral zone can change by several degrees in less than an hour.
Data from geomagnetic observatory and variometer stations can be analyzed to characterize the auroral electrojets and compensate for the disturbance. Knowledge of the spatial structure of the electrojets' magnetic signature is essential for deploying a ground network of monitoring stations in the Arctic. This network provides the real-time geomagnetic infrastructure essential to support MWD operations, making it the most cost-effective technology available to achieve accurate wellbore placement in horizontal, relief well, and extended reach drilling, as well as in collision-avoidance applications.
In one case study using historical data from two nearby observatories from 1995 to the present, the disturbance field was characterized and a time series of maximum disturbances was derived and extrapolated to the year 2020. Maximum disturbance in the magnetic field was found to lag the maximum of solar activity by approximately two years, predicting the next maximum in 2015-2019.