From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
For more information, please contact the author.


AAPG/SEPM Annual Convention, June 3–6, 2001, Denver, Colorado

3-D Reservoir Modeling: Hydrocarbons and Aquifers

Scott W. Tinker1 and Donald H. Caldwell2


From the moment we are born, we begin taking in data through our senses: smell, taste, touch, sound, and perhaps the most important of all senses, sight. The visual input is a color, 4-D animation of the world around us. The physical tools we are given at birth dictate the way we learn, analyze, and interpret external input.

Computer animation has evolved to the point where we can visualize, and in fact analyze, animated 3-D and 4-D datasets in real time, in much the same way as we have been trained since birth. In the earth sciences, we are just beginning to scratch the surface of possibility.

Several datasets of 3-D and 4-D digital animations illustrate the potential of this exciting technology. We will look at surficial topography in Austin, Texas, Big Bend National Park, and the Texas coastal plain. We will look into a rock core at cement distribution and look inside a wellbore at actual subsurface caves filled with oil. We will travel into the shallow subsurface to examine the Edwards aquifer of Central Texas and the Ogallala aquifer of the Texas Panhandle. We will delve into the deep subsurface to look at a selection of 3-D static models of hydrocarbon reservoirs from around the world, and select 4-D reservoir simulation output. Finally, we will attempt to draw qualitative conclusions regarding the scientific and economic impact of 3-D and 4-D visualization technology.

1Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin, University Station Box X, Austin, Texas 78713; e-mail:

2Marathon Oil Company, 5555 San Felipe, Houston, Texas 77056; e-mail: