Quantitative Clastics Laboratory

Executive Summary

Quantitative Clastics Laboratory Industrial Associates:
Quantitative Morphometrics of Clastic Systems
Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences,
The University of Texas at Austin

The mission of Quantitative Clastics Laboratory is to provide our industry members a source for rigorously collected, carefully analyzed, and systematically organized data on clastic reservoir architecture and depositional system morphology, as well as for regional context studies, modeling methodologies, and data-collection techniques and tools so members can assess their own data.

  • To provide quality research observations, data and products that are timely, pertinent and easily incorporated into our sponsors' business
  • To develop predictive models of clastic systems architecture, development, and response to change
  • To educate students and advance scientific understanding of the evolutionary process of continental margins around the world

The project team utilizes both small (hundreds of sq km) and large (thousands of sq km) 3D data sets to allow harvesting of clastic architectural data on various elements of the depositional systems. Seismic architecture is investigated using techniques that employ conventional seismic sequence framework development, quantitative seismic geomorphologic analysis, various attribute extractions, export and harvesting of morphologic information in ArcGIS and ErMapper, and import of these data into various programs for statistical analyses of temporal and spatial distribution and relationships.

The team also works with a significant legacy archive of outcrop data provided from decades of clastic systems research at the Bureau, as well as with data from current outcrop studies. These outcrop results consist of thousands of detailed facies, lithology, and shale architecture measurements, integrated with over 100 kilometers of detailed architectural drawings from photopanoramic images. Datasets include significant subsurface logs integrated with outcrop data, as well as porosity, permeability, and velocity measurements. These data are being harvested for the morphologic information that they document. Both the seismic-derived and outcrop-derived data form the basis for probabilistic models of reservoir occurrence, character, and evolution. Results are conveyed to members as statistical as data sets, modeling studies using both Schlumberger's Petrel and Landmark's DecisionSpace software, and are combined with results from published works and previous studies to form a larger searchable Sedimentary Analogs Database (SAND).

Seismic data is our currency. We pride ourselves in the breadth of our research both geographically and in the geomorphologic settings that we investigate. These data provide a three-dimensional view of systems that simply can not be viewed in even outcrop. Seismic studies are complimented with outcrop studies in similar depositional systems to form observations at a variety of scales.

Studies currently underway include:

  • Alaska's North Slope Cretaceous (outcrop and subsurface)
  • Shale architecture in Heterolithic Systems (Sego Sandstone, Tocito Sandstone, McMurray Formation) (outcrop and subsurface)
  • Modeling approaches in complex tidally influenced shorelines (modeling, outcrop and subsurface)
  • Influence of Submarine Topography in deposition of deep water facies (modeling and seismic)
  • Shelf Edge Deltaic Evolution in Structurally Complex Margins (seismic and logs)
  • Sand distribution across wave and storm influenced shelves (seismic and logs)
  • Source-to-Sink study of the Tuscaloosa Formation, GOM (outcrop and subsurface)
  • Mass Transport Deposits — worldwide distribution, controls on occurrence, rheology and morphology (outcrop and subsurface)
  • Fluid flow in mud volcanos, gas hydrate formation and near surface cementation in submarine environments (seismic, shallow sediment studies, modeling)
  • Seismic geomorphology of confined channel complexes (seismic and logs)

Some areas currently under study:

  • Gulf of Mexico, U.S.A. (deep and ultradeep, shallow shelf, onshore)
  • Utah Book Cliffs Sego Sandstone
  • New Mexico San Juan Basin Tocito Sandstone and El Vado Sandstone
  • North Slope Alaska Prince Creek and Schrader Bluff Formations
  • Canada McMurray Formation
  • New Zealand Taranaki Basin
  • Trinidad Eastern and Northern Offshore Marine Areas
  • North Sea Heidrun Field
  • Morocco Eastern Offshore

The high uncertainty and cost of exploring in basins around the world demand a dense quantitative architectural database with which to make deterministic and probabilistic decisions. The QCL IA is providing those data.

The ongoing development and harvesting of fluvial, deltaic, shallow marine and deep marine reservoir systems demand increasingly comprehensive understanding of how to interpret complex reservoir architecture and how to better utilize 3D seismic and dense well databases to improve field design and increase production.

QCL IA is committed to providing systematically and rigorously collected data, improved applications for data use and a increased utility of archive for companies to use in exploring for, modeling and developing their clastic assets.

Clastic systems are highly complex and deterministic description is often highly uncertain. Probabilistic approaches require dense databases, but those data must be quality controlled and rigorously collected to ensure quality. The QCL IA is providing those data bases.

As companies grow, so do the challenges of disseminating information throughout the organizations. Companies rely more and more on electronic dissemination of corporate knowledge. The QCL IA is providing digital products that are user friendly, not space intensive, interactive and informative for all levels of geoscience experience.

Reservoir bodies are three-dimensional. Complexities involved in finding and producing both deep and shallow marine, and fluvial deltaic reservoir systems are four dimensional, involving temporal variability as well as spatial variability. For this reason, geoscientists must turn to multi-dimensional data sets to provide insight into these systems. 3D seismic examined over time is the answer to that need. The QCL IA is heavily focused on providing answers using 3D seismic data, ground truthed with sediment data and outcrop understanding.

  • Jacob Covault, Research Scientist; deep-water sedimentology and stratigraphy, source-to-sink sediment routing, subsurface and outcrop studies
  • Peter Flaig, Research Associate; Outcrop research, fluvial-deltaic-shallow marine specialist, Antarctic research
  • Dallas Dunlap, Research Associate Scientist; Digital interpretation expert, data base management, visualization expert
  • Paula Beard; Webmaster
  • Aaron Averitt; Programmer
  • Research calendar each year begins January 1 and runs through December 31.
  • One to two annual meetings held worldwide
  • Access to research group's website is limited to membership years; however annual folders of material remain available for years of membership
  • Annual 2 day visit to member offices to work with geoscientist, teach, etc.
  • A standard letter of agreement
  • $45,000 per company per year

Jacob Covault; jake.covault@beg.utexas.edu; (U.S.) 512-475-9506

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