Window on the oily deep

For someone who doesn't generally watch TV, it is an intriguing show. Tiny balloons of natural gas move up the side of a ''fracture'' in an oil well like air bubbles gurgling up to the top of the office water cooler. Little puddles of oil ooze out of one crevice into the other. One imagines a soundtrack: glub, glub.

The ''downhole'' video camera was developed at the Amoco Production Company Research Center here to provide close-up views of the inside of oil wells. ''There are many ways to inspect a formation to see whether it will bear oil - electrical, acoustical, temperature, magnetic,'' says Jerry F. Bowen, who is in charge of the downhole video program. ''But they're all extremely interpretive.'' The camera, on the other hand, provides an objective picture.

The technology has been widely adapted for other uses, but Amoco developed it to inspect wells that had been hydraulically ''fractured'' to make the oil easier to get out. The camera is just one of many developments being worked on at Amoco's Tulsa labs, which are responsible for all the oil exploration and production research for the Amoco Production Company.

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