Laser Intensity Mapping of Outcrop Geology: Over 1 Billion Surveyed

Jerome A. Bellian
Bureau of Economic Geology
John A.& Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences
The University of Texas at Austin

Lidar (light detection and ranging) is a new tool for outcrop geologists. The speed and quality of acquiring quantified dimensional data utilizing lidar technology are, as of yet, unsurpassed. These acquisition advancements interlaced with software and hardware data handling have revolutionized the often tedious and inaccurate traditional methods of generating reservoir analogs from outcrops. Not only can we bring outcrop geometries into a 3-D volume, but we can now bring difficult or impossible to access outcrops back into the office or laboratory where they may be revisited, reexamined, or previewed from any workstation or personal computer. 3-D models can be acquired to examine tectonics, large- or small-scale fracture patterns, stratigraphy, sedimentology, geochemistry, or any geological attribute that is optically detectable. The high-resolution digital terrain models generated from lidar data can be co-rendered with conventional photography, outcrop shape attributes, multispectral and/or hyperspectral data, which allow for investigation of nearly any geological aspect.

Much of the BEG’s current lidar/outcrop research focuses on a carbonate and mixed siliciclastic-carbonate system of the West Texas Permian Basin. In the past 10 months we have acquired a new ground-based instrument (ILRIS 3-D). In that time we have used ILRIS 3-D to acquire and process more than a dozen data sets from around the world, including data from Patagonia, Chile, Northern and Southern Spain, Baku Azurbaijan, Central Saudi Arabia, as well as Central and Western United States totaling well over 1 billion individual surveyed points. I would like to take this opportunity to convey some of what we have learned about geology and digital outcrop imaging and mapping as well as outline some new ideas for 2003.