University of Texas at Austin

Quantitative Clastics Laboratory (QCL) Innovates Sedimentary Geology Research

January 24, 2018
Jake Covault and Zoltan Sylvester

QCL PI Jake Covault (left) and research scientist Zoltan Sylvester

What if your company plans to invest millions of dollars in an offshore drilling program and you need to know more definitively what kinds of sediments will be encountered in your target area, and in what kinds of depositional systems? Connecting with the work of the Bureau of Economic Geology’s Quantitative Clastics Laboratory (QCL) could be the best place to start. 

Under the leadership of principal investigator and research scientist Jake Covault, the QCL has become one of the most renowned and recognized labs in the world studying the sedimentology and stratigraphy of clastic depositional systems. The QCL has attracted a distinguished team of geoscientists who, assisted by talented graduate students, conduct high quality and innovative research across a broad spectrum of the field of sedimentary geology.

The QCL investigates sedimentary depositional environments—their processes and what controls those processes—at all levels. Researchers use outcrop, subsurface, and Earth-surface data to investigate fluvial, shallow-marine, and deep-water depositional systems to determine the impact of realistic modeling of reservoir architecture and facies distribution on reservoir performance of these systems. QCL researchers also use multiproxy provenance analysis to understand external drivers and paleogeography of sediment source areas, drainage networks, and depositional systems to predict reservoir presence and quality. Current areas of study include the Permian Basin, the Gulf of Mexico, the Campos Basin of Brazil, areas of the Caribbean, and the North West Shelf of Australia.

QCL research scientist Zoltan Sylvester’s work is a prime example of the innovative research being generated by the QCL. Dr. Sylvester has analyzed 30 years of data from Landsat satellites featuring several rivers of the Amazon Basin and has used computer simulations to better understand how rivers migrate through time. The data and model clearly indicate how sand and mud were deposited along these riverbeds in the past. As the model is enhanced, it will be an invaluable tool for anyone seeking to understand and predict the nature of the stratigraphic record of meandering rivers anywhere in the world.

For more information about how you can benefit from the broad research of the Quantitative Clastics Laboratory, please contact Jake Covault.

river migration image

Image showing approximately 30 years of migration of the Mamore River. Colors represent relative age: yellow is younger and blue is older.