Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) has been utilised in the oil and gas industry for over 60 years. The technology was recently identified as having potential value in iron ore, where latent bound moisture may affect ore handling even after dewatering and extraction. The first step in introducing this technology to iron ore involved laboratory tests on drill core samples. These results established the parameters for a downhole borehole magnetic resonance (BMR) tool for iron-rich environments, which was subsequently developed. A major challenge involved shrinking what is a very large tool in the oil industry to a slimhole, lightweight, 1-man deployable mining tool.
Of primary concern was the ability to measure the very fast transverse relaxation times (T2s) seen in the lab results on iron ore samples. Iron creates local field gradients that significantly decrease the T2 times. As a result, the BMR tool had to be able to measure T2s in the range of hundreds of microseconds, a level not required in clastic sedimentary formations. The choice of T2 cut-offs in iron ore is critical to successfully separating the free and bound fluids. The industry has typically focused on T2 cut-offs in clastics and carbonates, but not in systems with high iron content. Using core analysis results (poro-perm and NMR) we were able to verify the BMR response. The T2 cut-offs were determined from NMR core analysis and then applied to the logs so as to provide a continuous, calibrated permeability log.
Field results that highlight the challenge involved in logging in iron-rich environments are presented, as well as some minimum requirements for a successful BMR log. Examples from boreholes in an active iron ore mine in the Pilbara iron ore province in Western Australia are presented, as well as explanations for how NMR data can be combined with bulk density logs to provide a continuous dry weight density log based on the original density-porosity equation from Alger et al (1963).
Hopper, T A J, Trofimczyk, K K and Birt, B J, 2017. Development of a slimhole downhole nuclear magnetic resonance tool for iron ore – some applications and limitations, in Proceedings Iron Ore 2017, pp 473–480 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).