Preparing for the Challenges Ahead
Basin Modeling Hedberg Draws 200
Basin modeling traditionally has been used in oil and gas exploration to estimate source rock maturity and to determine charge -- but in recent years, the range of basin modeling applications has expanded.
Today, the applications include such areas as:
- Reservoir property prediction.
- Pore pressure prediction.
- Seismic velocity analysis.
- CO2 sequestration.
This diversity was showcased at the AAPG Hedberg Research Conference on “Basin Modeling Perspectives: Innovative Developments and Novel Applications,” held in May in The Hague, Netherlands.
The conference, co-organized by AAPG and TNO (Geological Survey of the Netherlands), assembled nearly 200 basin modelers from around the world -- a record attendance for a Hedberg conference, but not altogether surprising in that the last conference dedicated to basin modeling was back in 1999 in Colorado Springs (AAPG/Datapages Discovery Series 7, 2003).
About 45 percent of the participants were from industry, 40 percent from academic and other R&D institutions and 15 percent from vendor companies.
Due to the overwhelming number of submitted abstracts, the conveners decided against holding open discussions or breakout sessions, instead increasing the time available for extended poster sessions -- 43 oral and 90 poster presentations were grouped in nine sessions.
The session themes reflected the broadness of today’s basin modeling approaches, covering:
- Rock and fluid properties.
- Geodynamics and heat flow.
- Structural and salt deformation.
- Integration of geophysical data and methods.
- CO2 sequestration and rock interaction.
- Novel methods in flow modeling and uncertainty and risk quantification.
- Integrated basin modeling studies.
The lively discussions and fruitful exchanges of ideas during the poster sessions continued post-session, at the receptions and the conference dinner. The overall open atmosphere during the conference was very enjoyable and stimulating.
Bruce Levell, Shell’s vice president of exploration new ventures, said in his keynote address that exploration is going to be more technically challenging for international oil companies because remaining accessible basins are becoming more complex and targets becoming deeper, with higher technical risks and higher associated costs.
The conference clearly demonstrated that basin modeling is prepared to meet those challenges; it has become an integrated component of the exploration process, and a primary vehicle for integrating different data types and for evaluating the interdependencies of subsurface physical and chemical processes that affect rocks and fluids.
This was particularly evident from the large interest in the sessions on rock and fluid properties, and on integrating structural geology and geophysics with basin modeling.
It also was clear, however, that prediction of temperature, maturity, pore pressure, porosity or fluid properties is highly dependent on the availability of good calibration data and a thorough understanding of the processes involved. In many cases only a range of uncertainty or the relative importance of key parameters can be realistically expected.
Heat flow, source rock type and kinetics -- as well as timing of petroleum expulsion and migration versus structure formation -- are the main uncertainties addressed by basin modeling.
New types of calibration data such as isotope analysis of rocks and fluids, fluid inclusions, seismic attributes or experimental insights into rock and fault mechanics were demonstrated to constrain model outcomes such as:
- Charge directions and magnitude.
- Column heights.
- Reservoir and hydrocarbon fluid properties.
- Present-day P-T distribution.
- Timing and magnitude of past thermal and stress events.
The next clear challenges for basin modelers are the identification and handling of key uncertainties, quantitative models for rock property evolution and the ability to model in complex structural settings.