by Alexander Prikhodko
During the last few years the topic about IP effect (induced polarization) in the EM (electromagnetic) transient method (mostly in airborne time-domain) has been actively raised by many authors through geophysical magazines, conferences and meetings.
Here we will look into the topic without formulas and deep theory for a better understanding of the IP effect by general users of electro-prospecting methods.
The nature of the IP phenomenon is universal regardless of an electric field source inducing (causing) the phenomenon or a measurement way of the appearance. First of all, the IP theory is out of Maxwell equations solutions because the process is accompanied by mass transfer and connected with EM field transformations. In contrast to IP theory Maxwell’s equations deal with electromagnetic induction which the time-domain (transient) method is built from.
In the case of IP the term “induced” means “caused” and does not relate to the concept of EM induction.
The concept of Induced Polarization (a substance ability to separate opposite charges) incorporates different phenomenons but related processes that occur:
1) in heterogeneous fluids or in pores filled with fluids;
2) due to electrochemical processes.
These two phenomenons – electrokinetic (1) and electrochemical (2), is a key to understanding how IP is used in applied geophysics.
Electrokinetic processes occur on contacts between ionic conductive fluids and a solid phase.
Electrochemical processes occur on contacts, or surfaces, between phases with electronic (metallic) and ionic (non-metallic) conduction. This is fundamental when IP method used when exploring for sulfide mineralization, especially if the sulfides are disseminated as the IP effect will be stronger than for massive sulfides of the same volume because its surface area is less.
Historically electrochemical nature of IP phenomenon first investigated and used in geophysics by Conrad Schlumberger (published in 1920). Later, during further electronic industry development and equipment sensitivity and bandwidth increasing, IP effect began to be observed all over the geologic environment due to the possibility of measurement of rapid and comparatively weak IP signal of the electrokinetic nature.
Generally, the IP effect of both natures potentially may affect data obtained with any electro-prospecting method including inductive time-domain method, regardless that the strongest IP effect occurs in the geologic environment at galvanic (grounded) way of the current inducing and the voltage measuring.
So, the IP component in transient or time-domain data is a parasitic effect which is not under Maxwell’s EM theory. (By the way, in the widely employed original DC-IP method, the inductive component is considered as a source of noise.) There are some technical requirements to sensitivity, bandwidth and geometry of a time-domain system to get better the parasitic signal superimposed on the inductive, native to the method, component.
Fortunately the IP parasitic signal is opposite to the inductive secondary field component allowing to recognize it and separate out it in some cases from the measured total secondary field. The favorable condition to get IP component from time-domain data and investigate it is rapid decaying inductive secondary field, i.e. resistive environment in general is favorable, but there are cases when a strong IP component is prominent in presence of long inductive decay.
Unfortunately the existing theories of the electrokinetic and electrochemical natures of the IP phenomenon are on a qualitative basis. It means there is no chance to get petrophysical or/and petrochemical parameters of the geologic environment and to classify the IP sources according to their nature. On practice, empirical approximations are used for the IP process description with limited controlled parameters (in particular, Cole-Cole formula and the corresponded parameters) despite the nature of the phenomenon. To our delight it enables creative and thoughtful geological interpretation of the IP data if we get it correctly.