Geomagnetic referencing is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to north-seeking gyroscopic surveys to achieve the precise wellbore positioning essential for success in today's complex drilling programs. However, the greater magnitude of variations in the geomagnetic environment at higher latitudes makes the application of geomagnetic referencing in those areas more challenging.

Precise, real-time data on those variations from relatively nearby magnetic observatories can be crucial to achieving the required accuracy, but constructing and operating an observatory in these often harsh environments poses a number of significant challenges. Operational since March 2010, the Deadhorse Magnetic Observatory (DED), located in Deadhorse, Alaska, was created through collaboration between the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and a leading oilfield services supply company. DED was designed to produce real-time geomagnetic data at the required level of accuracy, and to do so reliably under the extreme temperatures and harsh weather conditions often experienced in the area.

The observatory will serve a number of key scientific communities as well as the oilfield drilling industry, and has already played a vital role in the success of several commercial ventures in the area, providing essential, accurate data while offering significant cost and time savings, compared with traditional surveying techniques.

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