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Case Study: Ambient seismic noise in an urban environment

Ambient seismic noise in an urban environment: case study using downhole distributed acoustic sensors at the Curtin University campus in Perth, Western Australia


Distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) is an emerging technology increasingly employed to monitor changes of formation properties, production noise and micro-seismic activity, and as an array of sensors in active seismic surveys. The data recorded with the DAS systems are very rich; some features observed in DAS records are often not well understood, and thus are underutilised.

A systematic analysis of the data recorded passively with a DAS system in a 900-m deep well over a period of 12 weeks in the Perth metropolitan area, Western Australia, reveals the presence of several types of ambient energy in the subsurface, such as earthquakes, ocean swell and urban noise. In particular, over 85 days of the experiment, the analysis detected sixteen earthquakes, with epicentres ranging from 126 km to 900 km (for the local events) and from 2300 km to 6400 km (for the remote events). Signals with frequencies below 0.9 Hz are dominated by the oceanic swell. The recorded urban noise includes mine blasting, machinery and traffic.

The experiment shows the ability of DAS to detect these events and as such is potentially useful for subsurface characterisation and monitoring.

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