A Multidimensional Bureau of Economic Geology:
Scott W. Tinker
Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin
Three-dimensional computer modeling was once limited to the playground of the majors, as software, hardware, and manpower requirements were prohibitively expensive for independent professionals. Technology has been evolving steadily over the past decade, and 3-D modeling tools are now fairly common in the toolkit of many subsurface geologists.
Historically, geologists have described geologic problems with 2-D renderings (maps, cross sections, tables, and graphs). The application of 3-D and 4-D (time being the fourth component) modeling tools to these geologic problems has had tremendous impact on the description and modeling of hydrocarbon and water subsurface reservoirs. In some cases, the models indicate that many of these original interpretations adequately described the system, whereas in other cases we are seeing things that we never dreamed possible.
The modeling and visualization of complex subsurface geology, combined with the ability to model the movement of fluids and gases within and through the volume, have revolutionized our understanding of subsurface behavior. Models now help oil companies extract incremental hydrocarbon reserves previously thought to be unrecoverable and help hydrologists model the volume and quality of water in aquifers to forecast future resource allocations.
I will emphasize the importance of accurate geologic frameworks in 3-D modeling and show several animated examples of 3-D hydrocarbon and aquifer models, mainly from Texas. In addition, airborne and ground-based laser technology owned and operated by the Bureau of Economic Geology will be highlighted. We might even catch a ride on the back of a camcorder with a headlamp and head into the subsurface of Central Texas to look at the Edwards aquifer, and of West Texas to visit a classic Texas giant oil field.