Visualization of Basin Modeling Results: An Application to Gulf of Mexico Basin, USA and Santos Basin, Brazil.

Ulisses T. Mello and Clifford A. Pickover

IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center


Scientific visualization is the art of making the unseen visible. This is particularly true in 3-D modeling of the evolution of petroleum- bearing basins, where the amount of data generated can be overwhelming. Visualization is necessary at each step of the process -- from the earliest stages of code debugging to the production of high-quality final images for publication.

Animation of evolving geological structures such as salt domes leads to unique insights not readily seen from static images. Here we describe visualization methods for representing various interesting aspects of sedimentary basin evolution. In particular, in a companion videotape we show the creation of graphics and animations for studying the thermal history and maturation of evolving salt domes in the Santos basin, Brazil. We find that simple graphical techniques such as gradient operators, when applied to thermal profiles of salt dome simulations, reveal features not easily seen in straight temperature-to- color mappings. Such geological structures are also present in many sedimentary basins around the world and which have been associated with significant numbers of oil and gas discoveries along the Gulf Coast. For the Gulf of Mexico basin, we have produced smooth animations showing the evolution of the basin depocenters by temporally interpolating between several static isopach maps (Jurassic, Lower Cretaceous, Upper Cretaceous, Paleogene, Neogene, and Quaternary). This technique helps us better understand sediment supply, paleoclimate, and paleogeography. In addition, we show the results of large-scale, compaction-driven fluid flow modeling for the entire Gulf of Mexico Basin. Implications of the overpressure development to the thermal and maturation history can be seen. Furthermore, animation of maturation on diverse structural levels of the Gulf basin through time provides exciting insights about the prospectivity of this basin. By displaying calculated petrophysical attributes (e.g., porosity, permeability) for the Gulf of Mexico as an animated fly-by of isosurfaces superimposed on basin geography, we can understand the basin architecture and potential areas for hydrocarbon accumulations. To create our visualizations, we use IBM's Visualization Data Explorer software running on a 32-processor IBM Power Visualization System with 1 GB of real memory. Digital animations are stored on a 21 GB disk array and rapidly played on a HIPPI-attached frame buffer.