From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
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East Texas Geological Society, Tyler, Texas, January 23, 2002

A Multidimensional Bureau of Economic Geology:
3-D Models, 3-D Seismic, Lidar, and Other Neat Technology

Scott W. Tinker
Director, Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin
State Geologist of Texas


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.

Scott W. Tinker is Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin, a major international energy and environmental research organization. He is the State Geologist of Texas, a Professor in UT's Department of Geological Sciences, and a member of the Executive Committee of the new John A. and Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences. Before joining the Bureau in January 2000, he was with Marathon Oil's Petroleum Technology Center in Littleton, Colorado, where he conducted studies of large oil and gas fields. Tinker holds a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, an M.S. from the University of Michigan, and a B.S. from Trinity University.

Tinker is an expert in energy issues and reservoir characterization of carbonate systems. A recipient of best paper awards in two major journals and former AAPG Distinguished Lecturer, he was recently selected as a 2002 joint SPE/SEG/AAPG Distinguished Lecturer. As a member of many professional and honor societies, he is involved in several technical and steering committees. He is also a member of the Board of Visitors at Trinity University and the American Geological Institute Foundation and was recently appointed by the Lieutenant Governor of Texas to the Oil Field Cleanup Advisory Committee. Tinker is a Certified Professional Geologist (#10564) and a Certified Petroleum Geologist (#5403).