Azimuth Reference System Conversions

Most well proposals are generated from rectangular coordinates derived from the UTM or local grid system. The surface location to target direction will therefore be referenced to Grid North. Since wells must be surveyed with sensors that reference direction to either Magnetic or True North, it will be necessary to convert between these references.



92° 301 w 30° 401 N 91° 201 28° 40' 91° 201 25° 40'

Magnetic Declination Correction

Magnetic declination correction converts azimuth values between the Magnetic North and True North systems. The magnetic declination correction is the angle between the horizontal component of the earth's magnetic field lines and the lines of longitude. When Magnetic North lies to the west of True North, the magnetic declination is said to be westerly, and if to the east, easterly.

Values of magnetic declination change with time and location. Magnetic Declination models are updated every year. Their values and rates of change can be obtained from Computer programs like GEOMAG or "world magnetic variation charts" or "isogonic charts" which are issued by all major hydrographic institutes in the world once every five years (1980, 1985, '90, etc.). Computer programs like GEOMAG use current magnetic models and calculate up-to-date local declination figures. The most accurate method to determine local declination is to measure the magnetic field with a magnetic transit.

When magnetic results are recorded, the declination and the date must be included. Local values of magnetic declination should be stated in the well program to plus or minus 0.1O.

Grid Correction Angle. A grid correction converts azimuth readings between the True North systems and the specified grid system. The angle of correction is the angle between the meridians of longitude and the Northings of the grid system at a specified point. The magnitude of the correction angle depends upon its location within the grid and its latitude. The closer the point is to the grid central meridian and to the equator, the smaller the correction.

The computation of the grid correction angle or angle of convergence will require special mathematical techniques depending on the type of projection of the curved earth's surface on to the flat grid. The directional software packages will at minimum handle UTM and Lambert conformal conic convergence. The chosen sign convention displays Grid North as "x" number of degrees east or west of True North. For example, when you convert the geographic coordinates latitude N 30° 00' 00" and longitude W 95° 00' 00" to UTM coordinates (using the Hayford Inter-national - 1924 Ellipsoid), the computer will display the following results:

UTM Coordinates: Hemisphere = North Zone = 15

Northing = 3320517.348

Easting = 307077.096

North Azimuth LabelTrue North Magnetic North Grid North

This listing indicates a grid convergence of 1o 00' 00". Grid convergence as calculated by the directional software package is the angular difference in degrees between True North and UTM Grid North. UTM Grid North is said to be "X" number of degrees either east or west of True North. When working with the UTM system, the calculated direction between two UTM coordinates is referenced to Grid North. To convert this UTM Grid North direction to a True North direction, you must apply the grid convergence to the calculated UTM Grid North direction. This sign convention is not necessarily the same for all contractors and should be clearly communicated and understood before drilling begins.

System Conversions

Once accurate magnetic declination and grid convergence angles are acquired, all that is needed to change reference systems is to add or subtract these angles from one another. While this seems a simple task, misunderstandings surrounding the relationship between these references can cause a target to be missed. To avoid this confusion, declination/grid conversion polar diagrams should be drawn on all maps and clearly defined on all survey printouts. With this in mind, the following procedure is suggested:

  1. Convert quadrant/bearing readings, including declination and grid convergence, to a 0-360 degrees azimuth system.
  2. Draw a polar diagram showing True North at 0 degrees azimuth (12 o'clock).
  3. Draw an arrow for Magnetic North using an exaggerated angle east or west of True North showing the declination angle (east declination is east of True North and west is west).
  4. Draw an arrow for Grid North using an exaggerated angle east or west of True North showing the grid convergence angle (be sure of the sign convention of the grid convergence value used, for example does a west convergence angle put Grid North west of True North or visa versa?).
  5. Draw an arrow pointing east (azimuth of 90°) for an arbitrary borehole azimuth reference.
  6. Label the borehole azimuth with reference to each system.

True North azimuth will equal 90°; Magnetic azimuth will equal 90° plus/minus declination; Grid azimuth will equal 90° plus/minus grid convergence. With these three references it is a simple matter to determine whether declination and/or convergence need to be added or subtracted to switch from one system to the other.

Was this article helpful?

+4 -3


  • haiden
    How to apply convergence to utm azimuth?
    9 years ago
  • jeff
    How to determine plus or minus of convergence in mapping?
    8 years ago
  • Ralph Schuhmacher
    What is grid north ,magnetic north,angle of convergence?
    8 years ago
  • leonardo
    How to calculatewest and east grid convergence?
    8 years ago
  • welde
    What is the difference between true north and magnetic north?
    8 years ago
  • will
    How can calculate the magnetic north?
    8 years ago
  • heikki
    How to get grid convergency?
    7 years ago
  • michelle
    What are the three azimuth reference systems?
    6 years ago
  • esmeralda
    Can well azimuth be referenced in true north?
    5 years ago
  • simone
    How to compute convergence betwenn refernce meridians?
    3 years ago
  • goytiom
    How is reference north considered for azimuth?
    2 years ago
  • Erin
    Why you lose azimuth drilling magnetic north or south?
    11 months ago

Post a comment