From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
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Bureau Seminar, December 2, 2004

3D Modeling of Carbonate Ramp Systems: Permian and Cretaceous Examples

Charles Kerans


New developments in our ability to capture outcrop images digitally with laser scanning technologies (lidar) has created a spectacular world of virtual outcrops and afforded the possibility of turning our outcrop mapping studies into fully 3D models. This ability to quantify spatial relationships and interpret in a three-dimensional setting has fostered a much closer link between our research (outcrop analog studies) and its application in the subsurface world.

I will show results of two lidar-guided 3D models that were constructed with the help of the larger RCRL group, including Bellian, Janson, Wang, Lucia, Zeng, Frost, Playton, and Davis. One model is of cyclic carbonate ramp-crest strata of the Permian San Andres Formation of the Guadalupe Mountains and the other is of Mid-Cretaceous grainstones and rudist biostromes from the Pecos River Canyon. A unique ability of the outcrop 3D modeling environment that we have created is that it allows us to calibrate a range of parameters for deterministic and stochastic 3D facies modeling and to validate these approaches by comparing results directly back to the mapped “truth” from the outcrop walls.

The workflow that the RCRL group has developed for capturing and modeling outcrops in 3D has widespread application to a range of sedimentologic, stratigraphic, structural, and other geologic problems where preservation of three-dimensional relationships is a priority.