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Geologic Modeling and

Sedimentary Systems
Aseries edited by Daniel F. Merriam
1969-Computer Applications in the Earth Sciences
1972-Mathematical Models of Sedimentary Processes
1981-Computer Applications in the Earth Sciences: An Update of the 70s
1988-Current Trends in Geomathematics
1992-Use of Microcomputers in Geology
1993-Computerized Basin Analysis: The Prognosis of Energy and Mineral
1996-Geologic Modeling and Mapping
1999-Geothermics in Basin Analysis
2001-Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems
Geologic Modeling and
Sedimentary Systems
Edited by
Daniel F. Merriam
John C. Davis
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas

Springer-Science+Business Media, LLC

Proceedings of a session titled "Geologic Modeling and Simulation of Sedimenary Systems",
held at the Annual Conference of the International Association of Mathematical Geology,
September 6-12, 2001, in Cancun, Mexico.
ISBN 978-1-4613-5515-1 ISBN 978-1-4615-1359-9 (eBook)
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4615-1359-9
©2001 Springer-Science+Business Media New York
Originally published by Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers in 2001
Softcover reprint of the hardcever 1st editien 2001

AII rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording, or otherwise, without
written permission from the Publisher
dedicated to


a pioneer in process simulation and modeler deluxe,

a dedicated and inspirational teacher with vision to the
future, a champion of higher education
The papers in this volume to honor John W. Harbaugh's 75th birthday will be
presented in a symposium on Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems
organized by John Davis and me for the IAMG2001 Meeting of the International
Association for Mathematical Geology in Cancun, Mexico, 6-12 September 200 I.
We would like to thank our many colleagues for reviewing papers in a timely manner
for this volume. We especially thank our colleagues in the Kansas Geological Survey who
unselfishly reviewed papers sometimes under tight constraints, but who came through in
the pinch.
The following served as reviewers: Klaus Bitzer, University of Bayreuth (Bayreuth,
Germany); Graeme F. Bonham-Carter, Geological Survey of Canada (Ottawa, Canada);
Timothy A. Cross, Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado,USA); John M. Cubitt,
ES-Information and Consultancy, Ltd. (Wrexham, United Kingdom); Ferruh Demirmen,
Independent Geologist (Katy, Texas, USA); Ted Diamond, U.S. Geological Survey
(Denver, Colorado, USA); Roussos Dimitrakopoulos, The University of Queensland
(Brisbane, Australia); Frank Etheridge, Colorado State University (Ft. Collins, Colorado,
USA); Eric Grunsky, Alberta Geological Survey (Edmonton, Canada); Felix M. Gradstein,
Saga Petroleum a.s. (Sandvika, Norway); Ute C. Herzfeld, University of Trier (Trier,
Germany); Thomas A. Jones, Exxon Production Research Company (Houston, Texas,
USA); Andre Journel, Stanford University (Stanford, California, USA); Christopher G.
Kendall, University of South Carolina (Columbia, South Carolina, USA); Ian Lerche,
University of South Carolina (Columbia, South Carolina, USA); Carl McElwee, University
of Kansas (Lawrence, Kansas, USA); Wolfgang Scherer, Independent Geologist (Miranda,
Venezuela); John H. (Jack) Schuenemeyer, U.S.Geological Survey and University of
Delaware (Newark, Delaware, USA); Donald A. Singer, U.S. Geological Survey (Menlo
Park, California, USA); Daniel Tetzlaff, Western Geco (Houston, Texas, USA); John C.
Tipper, Albert-Ludwigs-University (Frieburg LBr, Germany); and from the Kansas
Geological Survey (Lawrence, Kansas, USA): John H. Doveton, Martin Dubois, Evan
Franseen, Harald Poelchau, K. David Newell, Ricardo A. Olea, and Marios Sophocleaus.


LeaAnn Davidson of the Kansas Geological Survey did manuscript transcribing,

corrected copy, handled the layout, proofread, and, in general, assisted the editors in
numerous other ways. Without her dedicated help and expertise in word processing, we
would not have been able to complete this project. Ken Stalder also of the Kansas Survey
helped with processing the manuscripts. Joanne DeGraffenreid assisted in layout, editing,
and proofreading the final copy.
We would like to acknowledge the Kansas Geological Survey and the International
Association for Mathematical Geology for financial support in the preparation of this

Dan Merriam
John Davis


75TH BIRTHDAY (6 AUGUST 2001) ........................ .
Dan Merriam


John Davis


Timothy C. Coburn


TO INDUSTRY ............................................ 45
Daniel Tetzlaff and Gary Priddy

SEDSIM IN HYDROCARBON EXPLORATION. . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . 71

Cedric M. Griffiths, Chris Dyt, Evelina Paraschivoiu, and Keyu Liu


Damian B. O'Grady and James P.M. Syvitski


SEDIMENT ROUTING MODEL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 119
Ruth A. J. Robinson, Rudy L. Slingerland, and Jeremy M. Walsh


Johannes Wendebourg, Nathalie Bordas-Le Floch, and Francine Benard



William W. Hay, Christopher N. Wold, Emanuel SOding, and Sascha Floegel


Klaus Bitzer and Ramon Salas


MODELING .............................................. 205
J. Harff, W.L. Watney, G.c. Bohling, J.H. Doveton, R.A. Olea, and K.D. Newell


SEDIMENTOLOGY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 229
John H. Doveton


I. Lerche and E. Paleologos


ECONOMIC DECISION-MAKING. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 271
Michael Ed. Hohn and Ronald R. McDowell


OF WELL-COMPLETION IDSTORIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 285
Andrea Forster, Daniel F. Merriam, and W. Lynn Watney


Graeme F. Bonham-Carter and Inez M. Kettles


PATTERNS .............................................. 327
Frederik P. Agterberg

CONTRIBUTORS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 347

INDEX .......................................................... 349


A tribute to the modeler and simulator deluxe,

on occasion of his 75th birthday (6 August 2001)
John Warvelle Harbaugh was born 6 August 1926 in Madison, Wisconsin, the eldest
of 5 children - John, Dan, Phillip, Marjorie, and Sylvia; John's mother was an artist and
his father a mining engineer. His early childhood was spent in the Midwest in Wisconsin,
Oklahoma, and Ohio. He developed an early interest in trains from watching the Illinois
Central switch engines behind their house in Madison, Wisconsin. Along with his brother
Dan, John built model trains and planes at an early age, but only the hobby with trains has
continued. He acquired his interest in music listening to a windup victrola and even had
a short career playing the violin and later the trumpet; he is a keen opera fan, especially of
Wagner. He credits his interest in woodworking to his father. Trips with his father during
his adolescence to places of geological interest kindled a desire to know more about these
features and combined with a love of the outdoors naturally led to his eventual decision
to become a geologist. He has a fascination for the history of World War I, and is an
ardent listener to the Garrison Keeler's 'Prairie Home Companion.'
John graduated from Hudson (Ohio) High School in 1944 where he was senior class
president and delivered the commencement address. It was during his senior year that he
became a self-described avid reader, and a dedicated student. John entered the U.S. Navy
V-12 program and was assigned to Denison University (R.C. Moore's alma mater) and
later traJ;lsferred to the University of Kansas, the beginning of his long association with
This love of nature and the outdoors was reenforced after taking a beginning geology
course from Lowell Laudon, the geospellbinder, in the spring semester of 1946. On
discharge from the Navy in June of 1946, he declared a major of geology and that summer
attended the KU geology field camp at Canon City, Colorado. Instructors that summer
were John Frye and Art Bowsher and he described his experience at field camp as the most
formative of his career. Since that enlightening experience, he has taken every opportunity
to be in the field and visit classic and interesting geological localities. After a memorable
month-long field trip in the summer of 1948 with nine other students to the Big Belt

D. F. Merriam et al. (eds.), Geologic Modeling and Simulation

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Mountains in Montana, organized and led by Bob Dreyer, then chairman of the
Department of Geology at KU, he graduated and entered graduate school that fall.
On that Montana field trip he formed several life-long friendships including those
with BiII Hambleton and me. John's dedication was obvious even at this early stage when,
as the rest of us sat around the campfire spinning stories, he was in the university Chevy
carryall reading the 1933 International Geological Congress field guides by the domelight.
John also had his famous encounter with Yellowstone Park bears, where in the middle of
the night he awoke to find a mother bear and her two cubs rummaging through the
campsite. He screamed at the top of his voice '... now you get out of here, bear ... ,' the
frightened mother and two cubs fled to the top of nearby trees and later disappeared into
the darkness, but by then the entire campground was awake.
Because of his interest in botany and chemistry and familiarity with the Tri-State
mining district, he elected to work with Bob Dreyer on a geobotanical project for his
masters thesis. That work resulted in his first publication, Biogeochemical Prospecting
in the Tri-State Zinc and Lead District, which appeared in Economic Geology in 1950.
Upon receiving his masters degree in the early winter of 1950, he accepted a position
with the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver in the Geochemical Prospecting Section.
While in this position, he worked on uranium occurrences in western Colorado and eastern
Utah. After a limited stint with the USGS, John resigned and obtained a position with
Carter Oil Company. He was promptly sent to Shreveport, Louisiana later to be
transferred to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and it was while with Carter that John became interested
in carbonates.
After a lackluster time at Carter, John took a leave to obtain a PhD at the University
of Wisconsin where Lowell Laudon had migrated from KU. After a reconnaissance of the
Klamath region of northern California with another student, Perry Roehl, they determined
it provided the opportunity for dissertations in which John would work on carbonates, in
particular the Permian McCloud Limestone, and Perry would work on clastics. John
obtained his PhD in the spring of 1955 with a dissertation on the Geology of the Shasta
Lake Country of Northern California. With encouragement from Lowell Laudon and
Lewis Cline, but with some family trepidations, he accepted a temporary teaching position
at Stanford University, resigning his position with Carter Oil Company.
Prior to assuming his teaching responsibilities in the fall, he had a summer job with
Humble Oil Company working on a project with Lowell Laudon and Ray Moore in
northern California. The Humble support lasted for only three summers when Humble
decided to terminate the project. So, now in 1958 John was free to accept my offer to
study the Pennsylvanian marine banks in southeastern Kansas. I had noticed these
carbonate buildups that Norman Newell had described many years earlier and thought they
warrented more detailed study. John's interest in carbonates made it a project designed
especially for his expertise and interest, and indeed that was the situation. This started a
long-time association for John with the Kansas Geological Survey and it was during the
first summer field work that he met John Davis who at that time was an undergraduate at
KU. Three classic papers on the marine banks resulted from this work and the now
famous Kansas Geological Society's 27th Field Conference of 1962 and followup trip for
GSA in 1965.

In the meantime, John's position at Stanford was made permanent and he was
promoted to Associate Professor and tenured in 1961 and in 1966 promoted to full
Professor. At the same time he was working with the ancient carbonates in Kansas, John
was formulating an interest in modern carbonates in Florida Bay, the Bahamas, and Baja,
California. But by 1962, John's interest in carbonates had waned and he was piqued by
the new field of computing and its possible applications in geology. This eventually led
to the geomathematics program at Stanford as chronicled by John in his History of the
Geomathematics Program at Stanford (IAMG Newsletters No. 58 and 59, 1999).
Now, in addition to his extensive travels in the U.S., he ventured abroad. His first
major trip was to Britain and Ireland to visit me while I was a Fulbright-Hays Senior
Fellow at the University of Leicester in England. John was never a good traveler,
especially by air, because he suffered from severe jet lag, so he did not remember much
in his whirlwind tour of England. In spite of this, the trip broadened John's horizons and
had a major influence on his career especially because of the number of professional
contacts he made in the international arena. On one of his trips around the world, John
purchased several exquisite, but very expensive, Persian rugs, which he thought would
enhance the family home. Unfortunately, the American Express bills arrived back at
Stanford before he did, and the enthuastism for his purchases was not shared by his
His teaching interests changed from petroleum geology and historical geology to risk
analysis in oil exploration and computer applications in geology. He explored teaching
some cross-disciplinary courses - one with a lawyer and another with an archeologist - and
his courses all had a practical bent. He never was one for teaching introductory courses
taken by the rank-and-file students to fulfill science requirements, although he was and is
an excellent teacher as attested by his many teaching awards. He is patient and
knowledgable - a great combination for a teacher. He moved to the Department of Applied
Earth Sciences in 1971 as professor and was affliated with that department until it was
recombined with geology in the late 1980s. After 1962 his courses were mostly tailored
for students in the Geomath Program.
His interest in computing developed in the early 1960s after Stanford obtained a
Burroughs 220 computer. John wrote a trend-surface program to be used in geologic
applications and at his invitation I spent six months at Stanford learning about computing
and programming in BALGOL. Together we began a cooperative effort in quantitative
geology, which led to his many contributions, first to the KGS Special Distribution Series,
and then to the KGS Computer Contributions for which John served as an author, editor,
and advisor. Our book on Computer Applications in Stratigraphic Analysis in 1968
summarized this early computer work. Then, came the landmark book in 1970 with
Graeme Bonham-Carter on Computer Simulation in Geology - a book many years ahead
of its time. It was on this base that John built his successful Geomath Program at Stanford.
In addition to his teaching responsibilities and research, John tried several
administrative positions including the chairmanship of the Geology Department (1968- 72)
and chairman of the AGI geology curriculum program. John deemed none of these
administration charges to be particularly beneficial or rewarding professionally; however,
he did enjoy his term from 1970 to 1981 as the Stanford faculty athletic representative to

the PAC-8 conference and NCAA. He was active in service work as well, especially for
the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. He chaired the Membership
Committee for several years and later chaired the Computer Applications Committee. He
served on the editorial boards of the AAPG Bulletin and Geobyte. He ran successfully for
Vice President of AAPG in 1989-1990, and was a candidate for President-Elect in
1996-1997. For three years he was chairman of the U.S. National Committee for the
International Geological Correlation Program. He served in several capacities for annual
SEPM and GSA meetings, on numerous government boards and panels, and many
university committees. And last but not least, John has been active in the IAMG in many
roles. He has served on committees and as an assistant editor for Mathematical Geology
and Computers & Geosciences and currently serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for
Natural Resources Research.
John has had an active consulting career; clients include Petroleos Mexicanos,
Southern California Edison, Petrobras, Exxon, and Arco, plus the U.S. Department of
Energy, the Bureau of Interior, and the Bureau of Land Management, as well as the
Norwegian Insitute of Technology. He has served as an expert witness, taught short
courses, and explored for oil and gas as an independent. In 1982 he formed a company
with Glen Kendall and named it Terrasciences, which provided software to the petroleum
industry and later developed the Terrastation.
He has supervised 55 masters and PhD candidates, many who have gone on to receive
recognition in their own right. In addition, he hosted numerous post-docs and visitors
interested in learning about and being involved with his research. He was successful in
attracting outside support - more than two and a half million dollars - for his research, both
from the petroleum industry and government agencies. He has published more than 75
scientific articles and books and shows no inclination of slowing down. His latest interests
are in chaotic behavior and returning to the field to study the evolution of the present
geomorphic landscape of eastern Kansas.
As a result of his interests, his professional life has gone through several seven-year
cycles (as he describes them): field geology (1955-62); computing (1962-69);
administration and entrepreneurial activities (1969-76); risk analysis (1976-83); process
simulation (1983-90); service work and business activities (1990-97); and now, transition
to semi-retirement (1997-). For a summary of his scientific contributions to geologic
modeling and simulation see Tim Coburn's article in this volume.
For his many contributions, he has been recognized by his alma mater with the
Haworth Distinguished Alumni Award (1968), the A.I. Levorsen Memorial Award of the
AAPG Pacific Section (1971), the William Christian Krumbein Medal from the IAMG
(1986), the AAPG Distinguished Service Award (1987), the Stanford Associates Award
(1995), the AAPG's Pacific Section Outstanding Teaching Award (1999), and the AAPG's
Distinguished Educator Award (2001).
In 1951, John married Josephine Taylor in Nowata, Oklahoma and they had three
sons: Robert, a neurologist in Santa Barbara, California, Dwight, a geologist in Reno,
Nevada, and Richard, a contractor in Redwood City, California. He has three
grandchildren. Josephine died oflupus in 1985 and last year in 2000, John married Audrey
Wegst in Fairway, Kansas. Audrey shares John's interest in nature and travel and together

they have been seeing the world, usually from their mobile home camper! This collection
of papers by John's colleagues, former students, and friends is to acknowledge his support
through the years and recognize his contributions to geology. His more than 50-years
service to the profession and his countless unselfish contributions in helping and fostering
his students and colleagues is more than appreciated and is gratefully acknowledged here.

Dan Merriam
This book is a compilation of articles on simulation in geology. However, the topics
do not span all of the subject of geology, nor do they cover every aspect of geological
modeling. Instead, the common thread uniting all of the contributions is the association of
the authors with John W. Harbaugh, either as students or collaborators in scientific
research. The articles reflect, to a great extent, John's own interests in modeling and
simulation which were primarily in the deposition of sedimentary rocks and in risk
assessment for petroleum exploration. John's approach to modeling has been quantitative,
almost entirely deterministic, and heavily dependent upon computers. In risk assessment,
this approach is extended to include a heavy emphasis on financial and economic
The first article in this volume is a detailed compendium of the work of John W.
Harbaugh written by Timothy C. Coburn, who provides a chronology of John's career and
his numerous contributions to modeling in geology. The article includes an extensive
bibliography of John's writings that are relevant to geological modeling or risk analysis.
However, this is not a mere recitation of accomplishments; rather, Coburn speculates about
John's motivations and scientific thoughts as evidenced by his writing. In this way, Coburn
traces the evolution of John's concepts about simulating the deposition of sediments, and
the increasing role that probabilistic components came to play in the modeling process.
This evolution culminated in SEDSIM, a mUltiyear project at Stanford University to
develop a computer system to mimic sedimentary processes in such detail that it could be
used to study the geological development of specific areas. The project, supported by an
industrial consortium, fostered similar modeling efforts elsewhere, many of which are
described in subsequent chapters.
The following article, co-authored by Daniel Tetzlaff and Gary Priddy, owes its place
in the succession of this book for two reasons: it describes the early development of
SEDSIM, and Dan Tetzlaff was John Harbaugh's first graduate student to work on the
project. The two co-authors trace part of SEDSIM's evolution, but focus primarily on
another program, Texaco's STRATSIM, which was constructed on similar physical
principles and might be described as "son of SEDSIM." They illustrate the use of
STRATSIM with two case studies, the first of fluvial and deltaic deposition in a 25 km2
area during a 13 Myr period of geologic time. Input data were derived from a 3-D seismic

D. F. Merriam et al. (eds.), Geologic Modeling and Simulation

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

survey and from cores and well logs. Alternative assumptions about initial topography,
subsidence, and grain-size distributions in the sediment load yielded different model
results interpretable as meandering river deposits or braided stream deposits. The model
allowed the experimenters to conclude that most sands within the study area were
discontinuous and lack seals, making them poor hydrocarbon prospects.
Tetzlaff and Priddy's second case study is an assessment of the stratigraphic
framework in an area containing carbonate reefs of Tertiary age. The study area is 260 km2
in extent; data were obtained from boreholes and seismic surveys. The model was run for
23.4 Myr of geologic history. Alternative grain-size distributions and depositional rates for
clastic sedimentation were specified in different simulation runs. Carbonate deposition,
in the form of reef growth, was set to keep pace with subsidence. Parameters in the model
were varied until a reasonable match to well data was obtained. At this point, net-to-gross
and net pay maps were produced for input into a reservoir simulator. The results of
analyses provided valuable information for interpreting the stratigraphic framework and
its genesis, and for predicting the likely behavior of the reservoir. The authors conclude
by speculating on possible advances in geologic modeling, including the desirability (and
difficulty!) of inverse modeling to obtain optimal parameters for forward models such as
The use of SEDSIM itself was not confined to the academic arena. Although the
research consortium that supported the program's development at Stanford ended in 1994,
Cedric Griffiths continued to refine the program with industry financing, first in Norway
and later in Australia. Although the results of these efforts were proprietary, a public
demonstration project was undertaken at the University of Adelaide, to model part of the
geologic evolution of the Inner Browse Basin of Australia. The demonstration attracted
industry attention, and support was obtained for several prospect evaluation studies. The
modeling research group now is supported by CSIRO and the construction of several
extensions of SEDSIM is underway. Cedric Griffiths and his co-authors describe four case
studies conducted on areas in the Australian NW Shelf; they describe the specific
geological questions addressed, the SEDSIM input data, illustrations of the simulations,
and a most valuable contribution, a description and critique of the results obtained from
O'Grady and Syvitski describe another computer model, SedFlux, that is used to
simulate the filling of a basin with sediment. In their article, they describe simulation
experiments designed to shed light on the relationship between the geomorphology of the
continental slope and the sedimentary processes operating in this regime. SedFlux is a
two-dimensional model (with a pseudo third dimension that allows sediment bypass and
other out-of-plane actions) that yields cross-sections showing stratigraphy and structure.
The model incorporates eleven component processes, ranging from sediment discharge to
subsidence and sea level fluctuations.
The authors demonstrate the capabilities of SedFlux with several examples. The first
is a simulation of the dispersal of sediment from a river mouth; input parameters are
patterned after the observed characteristics of the Mississippi River. Results suggest that

the first-order gradient of the continental slope reflects the present depth of the ocean and
is less influenced by buried topography. The second example is modeling of diffusive
wave transport of sediment, which involves interaction between sediment characteristics
and the magnitude and frequency of storms. A series of experiments investigate the
stability of sediments on the continental slope, by modeling slope failure, turbidity
currents, and debris flows. Next, the authors investigate the effects of cyclic sea-level
changes for a model time of 4 Myr. The final experiments examine the effect of
preexisting slope morphology (basin shape) on the pattern of sediment accumulation.
Finally, the authors provide a classification of modern continental slopes along passive
margins and compare these to their example results. They conclude that deterministic
models such as SedFlux can provide valuable insights into the mechanisms that have
shaped continental slopes.
The Roxburgh Dam on the Clutha River in New Zealand was created in 1956; since
then, the narrow reservoir has become partially filled with .a deltaic deposit of fluvial
sediment. It has been proposed that the reservoir be rapidly lowered in the hope that this
would flush out part of the deposits and restore some of the reservoir's capacity.
However, what conditions of draw-down would be most effective are not known, nor what
possible side effects might occur. Indeed, it is not even known if this course of action
would be effective at all. To investigate this problem, Robinson, Slingerland, and Walsh
used a coupled water/sediment routing program termed MIDAS to model the growth of
the Roxburgh delta during a 33-yr period, and to examine alternative scenarios for
flushing. The model simulates heterogeneous bed- and suspended-load transport, and
accounts for grain hiding, turbulent shear stress fluctuations, and an evolving active layer.
A simulation of a 1994 draw-down flushing experiment on the reservoir accounted for
81 % of the sediment removed. Even better predictions are anticipated from an extension
of the model that will include bed roughness and which varies the active layer thickness
with bed texture, discharge, and excess shear stress.
A major problem confronting modelers is specification of suitable input parameters.
Typically, experimenters must resort to trial and error, hopefully converging on a set of
reasonable inputs. Johannes Wendebourg, the last of John Harbaugh's Ph.D. students to
work on the SEDSIM project at Stanford, describes an alternative approach. With two
co-workers from IFP in France, Nathalie Bordas and Francine Benard, Wendebourg has
applied response surface analysis, an experimental design technique from classical
statistics, to identify input parameters for a model of quartz cementation in a sandstone
reservoir in Columbia. Timing of quartz cementation is important because it may destroy
the porosity necessary for a reservoir if cementation occurs prior to hydrocarbon migration.
To utilize the response surface technique, minimum and maximum values were selected
for input into a basin model. The parameters controlled heat flow, amount of erosion,
timing of erosion, and timing of thrust faulting. Calibration variables were vitrinite
reflectances and temperature measurements recorded in a log of a nearby well. The initial
experimental design was a two-level full factorial with first-order interactions. Initial
results showed that a range of values for heat flow had been specified that was too low.
10 J.e.DAVIS

A quadratic response surface then was run which yielded an estimated start date for
cementation between 8 and 10 Myr. A similar series of experimental designs produced
estimated ages for the end of cementation between 3 and 4 Myr, essentially coincident with
thrust faulting. When combined with calculations of petroleum generation, the estimates
of time of onset and end of quartz cementation allow a relatively accurate reconstruction
of hydrocarbon generation and migration in the basin.
An entirely different type of model is concerned not with details of geological change
within a relatively small area during a relatively short interval of geological time, but with
changes that have affected the entire world over much of its history. Bill Hay and his
associates address one such global-scale problem, estimating the volume of Phanerozoic
sediment and the amount of salt in the sea and in pore waters; in short, the sum total of all
the material derived by weathering. They use an exponential decay model fitted to data on
the mass of sediments of differing ages to produce an estimate of 2638x 10 18 kg sediment,
plus 54xl0 18 kg dissolved salt in the oceans and pore water. From these estimates, they
derive a sediment flux rate of 6.0x10 18 kglMyr. They then proceed to examine the
deviations from this average flux rate and discuss the causes and implications of these
deviations. One conclusion is that the oceans were saltier in the Paleozoic than in the late
Mesozoic and the Recent. The difference in salinity would have had profound effects on
marine life, and on oceanic circulation. The authors provide charts summarizing their
views on changes in sediment mass and oceanic salinity throughout geologic history.
Modeling carbonates presents different challenges than modeling clastic
sedimentation, because carbonates generally are produced in situ as the result of biological
activity of various organisms, and the mechanisms of sediment transport and deposition
play minor roles. Klaus Bitzer and Ramon Salas review the mechanisms and controlling
factors of carbonate deposition, and describe a simulation based on a predator-prey model
of population dynamics. Such models describe the growth of predator and prey populations
by considering the interactions between the two by means of a set of ordinary differential
equations involving terms for growth, death, and efficiency of the predator in catching the
prey. The simple model has been greatly enlarged to include limits on resources,
accommodation space, and other factors. The introduction of clastic sediment and the
possibility of limiting or ending carbonate production because of turbidity or suffocation
introduces more parameters into the differential equations.
Bitzer and Salas illustrate their model with several hypothetical examples, then test
the model by applying it to the Lower Cretaceous Mola de Xert carbonate platform of the
Maestrat Basin in Spain. The geological setting of the carbonate platform is described in
detail. A one-dimensional simulation reproduces the essential features of the sedimentary
column, including the observed succession of carbonate-secreting species. A
two-dimensional simulation model essentially blends the I-D model with a 2-D basin
simulation program.
The predator-prey model, based on partial differential equations, provides a transition
between fully deterministic models such as SEDSIM and its relatives, and stochastic
models based on the observed statistics of the geologic feature being modeled. Jan Harff

and his associates describe the application of regionalization, a statistical procedure that
subdivides physical space (in one, two, or three dimensions) into regions that are as
homogenous as possible and simultaneously as distinct as possible from adjacent regions.
Regionalization provides a starting point for basin analysis by creating cells which can be
assigned values for heat- or fluid-flow calculations. A smaller scale example is used to
illustrate regionalization: the subdivision of a petroleum reservoir (the Zenith oil field in
central Kansas) into "compartments" to be used as input into a black oil production
simulator. The regionalization is based on petrophysical properties measured in wells that
penetrate the reservoir. The resulting model conforms to stratigraphic relationships within
the reservoir, and the number of compartments reflects the different depositional and
diagenetic facies within the reservoir units. This allows reservoir heterogeneity to be
modeled without resorting to speculations about sedimentary genesis or diagenetic and
structural evolution.
John Doveton describes how modern well logs can be used to model changes in pore
characteristics throughout a sedimentary sequence such as a petroleum reservoir unit. The
primary properties of interest are porosity and permeability, which describe the gross
storage capacity of a reservoir and the ability of the reservoir rock to transmit fluids. The
oil saturation at any level in a reservoir is a result of iteration between the height above the
free water level (reflecting oil buoyancy pressure) and the size distribution of pore throats.
Nuclear magnetic resonance well logs provide the size distributions of pores throughout
a reservoir, but do not express the distribution of pore throat sizes. Such information can
be obtained in the laboratory by capillary pressure curves, or can be estimated for
sandstone reservoirs from core measurements of porosity and permeability. When such log
and core data are used in combination, the distribution of pore throat sizes can be modeled
throughout a reservoir section, providing critical information for reservoir simulation.
Doveton provides a case study of this form of petrophysical modeling in a study of the
South Eubank oil field in southern Kansas, a field which contains two sandstone reservoirs
with different properties. The different modeled pore size and pore throat size distributions
have originated from sedimentological differences between tidal flat/estuarine facies
overlain by high-energy shoreface deposits. Doveton briefly discusses the additional
complexities in modeling pore size and pore throat size distributions in carbonate rocks.
Ian Lerch and E. Paleologos address the two-sided question, when is it best to collect
more and better data, and when is it appropriate to improve model resolution? They do this
through the mechanism of modeling groundwater flow, first steady-state, one-dimensional
flow using a perfectly measured (Le., artificial) head data field. Next, they generalize the
procedure to show how models behave with finitely sampled but perfect data. Finally, they
consider uncertainty in the data and consider the effect on model results. In each situation
they consider different flow models and examine the question of how imperfections in data
affect the uniqueness of parameters and appropriateness of the alternative models.
Throughout the body of their article, they consider two alternative models, but generalize
their findings to multiple alternatives in an appendix. Model 1 postulates a constant
hydraulic conductivity; in Model 2, hydraulic conductivity varies in a systematic manner.
12 J.e.DAVIS

Although the two alternative models can be evaluated analytically, more complex models
and more general stochastic behavior of the data field necessitate Monte Carlo procedures
for assessment.
The transition away from purely deterministic models to stochastic simulations is
completed in the contribution by Michael Hohn and Ronald McDowell, who consider the
problem of modeling the value of coal beds within properties in West Virginia. To resolve
the conflicting interests of state government (which wishes to maximize tax revenues) and
property owners (who want to minimize expenses), they consider an estimation procedure
for coal bed thickness based on multiple conditional simulations of coal seams. The result
of the simulations is a distribution of average bed thicknesses, to which confidence limits
can be applied. The authors emphasize that they are considering conditional simulation in
contrast to process simulation, which is the subject of most other papers in this volume.
A case study is provided to illustrate the procedure; estimating thickness of the Eagle coal
bed of Pennsylvanian (Upper Carboniferous) age in the Powellton quadrangle of southern
West Virginia. The study is based on measurements made in outcrops and drill holes at
702 locations. Geostatistical procedures are used to estimate parameters for conditional
Gaussian simulation of bed thickness throughout parcels in the study area. Simulation
creates a more irregular pattern of thickness than does conventional interpolation or
kriging, resulting in a more realistic representation of actual coal thickness. The authors
examine the effects of different selection criteria, different parcel sizes, differences in
average coal bed thickness, and differences in sample size on the simulated results. Their
results are not only of scientific interest, but also of specific concern to both property
owners and tax collectors.
Andrea Forster, Dan Merriam, and Lynn Watney examine the question of modeling
regional temperature fields using bottomhole temperatures (BHTs) measured in wells
drilled for oil exploration. Conventionally, thermal studies are based on detailed
geothermal logs, but these are available only for a few widely scattered research drill
holes. BHTs, however, are measured in almost every well drilled. In the area of Kansas
studied by that the authors, there are thousands of exploratory holes. An empirical factor
based on regression against depth was used to estimate a correction for BHT's. Two
stratigraphic intervals containing petroleum targets were examined, the Mississippian
(Lower Carboniferous) and the Ordovician. The authors note that the estimated
temperature values may not reflect "correct" subsurface temperatures, but the patterns of
relative temperatures seen on the regional thermal maps represent real differences in the
geothermal regime.
Modeling plays an especially important role in environmental studies; an example is
provided in the article by Graeme Bonham-Carter and Inez Kettles, who examine the
distribution of heavy elements around a metal smelter in northwest Quebec. Measurements
made in peat on copper, lead, and zinc showed patterns of high values close to the plant
that decayed to background levels within 50 to 100 km. A statistical model was fitted to
the concentration data, allowing the rate of metal deposition to be estimated for any
distance away from the source. Possible sources of error in the modeling process were

examined and determined to be the result of analytical uncertainty, errors in model fitting,
errors in estimating the bulk density of peat samples, and errors in measurement of peat
thickness. A Monte Carlo study showed that the most significant source of error was
misspecification of the model, followed by errors in determining bulk density, then by
errors in estimated thickness. The probability that the "bull's-eye" anomaly around the
smelter could be an artifact was estimated to be less than 1 chance in 20 for Pb, 1 chance
in 5 for Zn, and about 1 chance in 20 for Cu.
The modeling of patterns formed by the spatial distribution of elements in the
environment is also the subject of the final paper in this volume. Frits Agterberg applies
multifractal simulation based on the De Wijs model to various maps of element
concentration. The resulting images are statistically self-similar, in that they have the same
statistical properties at different scales. Agterberg develops the rationale and mathematical
foundation for multifractal simulation in two dimensions and also includes an appendix
containing a computer program for generating multifractal spectra and frequency
distributions. A real-world example is examined at the conclusion of the section on
mathematical development, the distribution of trace elements in soil around another
Canadian metal smelter, this one in Manitoba.
The articles in this volume progress from discussions of purely deterministic
simulations based on Newtonian physics to abstract treatments of entirely stochastic
processes. The treatments range from the determinedly practical to the highly theoretical.
However, a common ~eme runs throughout all of the discussions: Modeling and
simulation can help increase our understanding of the features of the Earth and the
geological processes that brought them about. This is the view held by John W. Harbaugh,
who directly or indirectly influenced the work of all of the authors in this volume. Some
of these articles mirror the work of Harbaugh and his associates, others cover work that
can be considered outgrowths of his pioneering research, while yet others reflect
viewpoints and approaches to modeling that are quite different. However, all of the authors
will concede that they have been encouraged by John's example, and that their path has
been made smoother by the acceptance of geological modeling that has come from John's

John Davis

Timothy C. Coburn, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas USA


John W. Harbaugh has devoted nearly 40 years of his life to the development of
quantitative and computational mechanisms for describing geological phenomena.
Throughout much of this period he has struggled to craft an appropriate balance between
deterministic and stochastic approaches. An avid learner, and an excellent and prolific
writer, Harbaugh has succeeded in establishing an impressive record of research and
publications that will continue to alter the course of geological modeling for decades to
come. This paper chronicles Harbaugh's contributions to the evolution of the stochastic
approach to modeling and simulation which has come to playa commanding role in many
avenues of geological investigation.


It was nearly 40 years ago that John Harbaugh began to formulate an idea--an idea
conceived in his love of the Earth and its geology, and born in his fascination with
quantitative expression--that has given rise to the art and science of quantitative geological
modeling and simulation. Similar to a literal child, this idea has taken decades to mature
as computing has come of age. In fact, without the computer revolution, young Professor
Harbaugh's theories and conjectures might never have materialized. Fortunately, a rich
stream of scientific development has resulted that has left an indelible mark on the
investigation of geological elements, processes, and phenomena. Perhaps Harbaugh was

Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems

Edited by D.F. Merriam and J.C. Davis, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001 15

prescient in his forethought, or perhaps he was just lucky. Regardless of the situation,
through a lifetime of personal commitment to his ideas and their potential impact, he was
able to infuse the geological community with an irrevocable appreciation for the power of
quantitative methods.
Harbaugh's original idea was that, if properly formulated in quantitative terms, the
Earth's processes and systems could be explained in such a way as to expand greatly
geologists' knowledge. Mathematics and quantification seemed to be the logical vehicles
through which a whole plethora of physical phenomena could be explained. Expressing
geological problems in terms of equations in order to determine what their answers were
supposed to be, and then evaluating the mathematical predictions against observable Earth
responses, represented a formal structure to geological investigation having considerable
scientific appeal. Unfortunately, Harbaugh soon discovered that Earth observations did
not always match what his systems of equations predicted should occur.
Consequently, Harbaugh came to understand early in his career that fixed
mathematical equations are insufficient to model physical earth processes. Although he
recognized that Earth behaves according to a fully determined physics, he also knew that
humans are incapable of knowing completely and observing the behavior that may give
rise to unanticipated variability in responses, or outright surprises, when models are
espoused. Harbaugh soon recognized both the deterministic and stochastic nature of Earth
systems and processes and began to use the dual explanation to his advantage.
Harbaugh was not alone in this endeavor. However, fortuitously ensconced at
Stanford University, he was perhaps the most visible of all the individuals working in this
arena. Although he developed a special appreciation for stochastic methods and pursued
them vigorously, he did not devote all his effort to this approach. After all, the
conventional development of geological models was steeped in determinism. Armed with
a continual stream of bright graduate students and research associates, Harbaugh
nonetheless embarked on a lifelong journey that produced a remarkable evolution in
thought and philosophy. An extraordinary record of personal accomplishment resulted,
characterized by extensive research, writing, and professional and technical leadership.
None of this was achieved without personal sacrifice. There were long periods of
mentoring students, many funding requests to be prepared, and countless late evenings
devoted to mathematical derivations. Yet, with little afterthought, Harbaugh took up the
challenge. As a result, the geological community will long be inscribed with his vision,
his intellectual abilities, and the course he set for developing and investigating models of
Earth processes and systems (Harbaugh, 1967).


Harbaugh's ideas about simulating geological systems and processes took flight in the
early 1960s. Shaped by the early work of individuals such as Bill Krumbein, Harbaugh
devoted much of his initial thinking to probabilistic, or stochastic, methods that could be
used to describe the cyclical nature of sedimentation. Both his thought processes and
accomplishments were stimulated further and encouraged by his association with Dan

Merriam at the Kansas Geological Survey, where computer geology was literally being
given birth, and by his alliance with the Geography Branch of the U.S. Office of Naval
Research, which provided the early funding for his efforts. Harbaugh conducted field
work under the aegis of the Kansas Geological Survey in the late 1950s and early 1960s
(Harbaugh, 1959, 1960); and in 1966, this collaboration resulted in publication of the first
issue in the Kansas Geological Survey's long-running Computer Contribution Series,
"Mathematical Simulation of Marine Sedimentation-with IBM 7090n094 Computers,"
which Harbaugh (1966) authored (also see Harbaugh and Wahlstedt, 1967). Computer
Contribution Series 1 contained one of the earliest presentations of how to represent
geologic processes, factors, and features in terms that can be adapted for computer
simulation purposes. Harbaugh used a three-dimensional grid cell or block diagram
nomenclature (operationalized by a three-dimensional array of integers) to indicate the
presence of such features as dipping beds, faults, dikes, and intrusive masses.
Included in Computer Contribution Series 1 was a computer program titled "Three
Dimensional Sediment/Organism Community Simulation" which may be the first
published computer routine for simulating a geologically related phenomenon. It involved
discretization of the sea floor into square cells and selecting a two-dimensional array of
numbers to represent various organism types. Basically a Markov chain approach, it
incorporated relative probabilities that reflect the likelihood that particular organism
communities will succeed each other in occupying the same cell through time increments
of short duration. In this context-thirty years before the ideas of geostatistics and spatial
correlation really became popular, Harbaugh recognized that selection of any particular
community in any cell is influenced by communities in geographically proximate cells.
This general Markov approach to modeling and simulating geological processes (the
so-called Markov carbonate reef growth model) dominated much of Harbaugh's thinking
for the next two decades, with its inadequacies being refined over and again. Harbaugh
was not alone in his pursuit of this approach. The 1960s were heady times in the quest for
more quantitative description in geology, and Markov techniques were in vogue in the
middle of the decade. A number of individuals in the geological community, including
Agterberg (1966, 1968), Allegre (1964), Buttner (1967), Carr and others (1966), Dacey
and Krumbein (1970), Krumbein (1967, 1968a, 1968b, 1968c), Krumbein and Scherer
(1970), Potter and Blakeley (1967, 1968), Schwarzacher (1967, 1968), and Vistelius
(1967), were active players, along with colleagues in the statistical community such as
Switzer (1965).
About this same time, Harbaugh was joined at Stanford University by Graeme
Bonham-Carter, who arrived to pursue post-doctoral studies. Together they set out to
refine Harbaugh's ideas and to apply them more directly to the notions of stratigraphy and
sedimentation. Their work was aided by the efforts of Alex Sutherland, and somewhat
later, by those of Bill Merrill. This collaboration ultimately led to several reports and
publications, many of them sponsored by the Geography Branch of the U.S. Office of
Naval Research. The investigations were aimed mainly at simulating the buildup of deltas,
treating the transport of sedimentary material from an essentially deterministic viewpoint,
though there were some facets of the approach that could be termed stochastic.

Drawing on the results of Harbaugh's experiments leading up to Computer

Contribution Series 1, the basis of the delta simulation methodology was, again, the
establishment of a regular grid that could be used to define a physical space of interest.
In addition, the configuration of the floor of the receiving basin was defined by an array
of water-depth values, one for each cell of the accounting grid. A source of sediment
supply-either a point source or a line source-then was allowed to pervade the cells of the
network from One of the margins of the accounting grid, with the rate of sedimentation
being controlled by generating a normally distributed random variable.
Operationally, the delta simulation technique encompassed a large number of
one-dimensional constrained random walks repeatedly initiated from the source cell, with
a load ·of sediment being assigned at the start of each progression. As flow stepped from
one cell to the next, the amount of deposition or erosion was calculated as a function of
both water depth and distance from the source; and after each discrete move, all
transactions were budgeted and water depths were adjusted. Provisions were made for
simultaneously handling up to three grain sizes. The specific approach was introduced in
Harbaugh (1967) and further detailed in Harbaugh and Bonham-Carter (1968),
Bonham-Carter and Sutherland (1968), and Bonham-Carter and Harbaugh (1971).
Computer programs were presented in Bonham-Carter and Sutherland (1968), Harbaugh
and Bonham-Carter (1970b), and Harbaugh, Bonham-Carter, and Merrill (1971).
Unfortunately, this approach proved to be too costly for the times in terms of
computation time, and it failed to produce smooth enough surfaces without involving a
large number of random walks. Consequently, despite intense effort and experimentation,
Harbaugh and his colleagues eventually became somewhat disenchanted with the scheme,
concluding neither a purely stochastic nor purely deterministic approach to such problems
was capable of producing realistic models of geological phenomena. Reflecting on this
work some thirty years later, Graeme Bonham-Carter (Bonham-Carter, pers. corom., 2001)
indicated that many of his own contributions were deterministic in nature, "although John's
inclination and encouragement was to pursue a stochastic approach." The ambiguity in
how best to proceed signaled a shift, albeit subtle, in Harbaugh's thinking that would
become evident in much of his ensuing writing.
Parallel to his work with Bonham-Carter, Harbaugh maintained an active collaboration
with Dan Merriam. This partnership ultimately led to the 1968 publication of Computer
Applications in Stratigraphic Analysis (Harbaugh and Merriam, 1968), a bible, of sorts,
for computer geology in the 1960s. The book essentially represented the climax of all the
work Harbaugh had been doing in this arena for the previous decade, marrying the similar
tracts he and Merriam had been pursuing during that time. It not only served as a treatise
on simulation,l about which Harbaugh was particularly interested, but also as a
compendium of ideas about other aspects of computational analysis that were beginning
to appear on the geological landscape-development of information systems, trend analysis,
mapping, and classification.

(The introductory material for the chapter on simlulation was lifted mainly from Harbaugh's previous

Without a doubt, Computer Applications in Stratigraphic Analysis represented the

earliest complete exposition of Harbaugh's thought processes. It served as a treatise on his
fundamental ideas and approaches that would provide the foundation for all his subsequent
work in the simulation arena.
It was in Computer Applications in Stratigraphic Analysis that Harbaugh, in
collaboration with Merriam, first proposed a four-member taxonomy of simulation
models-static deterministic, dynamic deterministic, dynamic probabilistic, and dynamic
hybrid deterministic/probabilistic-and presented examples (not necessarily geological) of
each from the literature. The following excerpts from the text serve to illustrate the
distinction that Harbaugh later would repeatedly draw between deterministic and stochastic
A deterministic model is one in which there is no element of chance. In other
words, in dynamic-deterministic models the state of the model at any point in
time is completely predetermined by factors that affect the model at any previous
time. In a probabilistic model, however, there is a degree of uncertainty. The
state of a dynamic-probabilistic model at any subsequent moment in time cannot
be precisely predicted because of one or more components of uncertainty
(stochastic components) ... Deterministic models may be regarded a special
cases of stochastic models.
At the time, of course, determinism was a hallmark of geological investigation, and
any suggestion that stochastic models could outperform, or even replace, deterministic
ones would not have been accepted widely within the geological community.
Consequently, Harbaugh and Merriam setout to establish the linkage of the two,
illustrating the logical flow of work and thought from one extreme to the other.
Using the work of Allegre (1964) and Carr and others (1966) as examples, along with
a reference to the early writings of Vistelius (1949), Harbaugh and Merriam first
considered the use of the dynamic probabilistic approach, suggesting, as a rationale for
doing so, that the geological processes under consideration might be so complex, or so
poorly understood, as to make deterministic functional relationships difficult, if not
impossible, to determine. They further suggested that a large amount of interdependence
among the variables that affect geologic processes would add to the difficulty of their
representation by functional relationships. The stochastic elements of the dynamic
probabilistic approach suggested by Harbaugh and Merriam came directly from Harbaugh's
earlier experiences with Markov chains, as illustrated here:
Many depositional processes appear to be Markovian in that preceding events
exert an influence on succeeding events ... The simulation process involves use
of the transition probability matrix in selecting each sedimentary unit, and use of
thickness frequency distributions to obtain the thickness of each rock occurrence.
Relative to his later work, the most important aspect of this exegesis of Harbaugh's
taxonomy was, perhaps, the declaration that geological processes can be simulated
effectively by employing dynamic models that combine both deterministic and
probabilistic elements. Harbaugh and Merriam suggested that operationalizing this
connection could be accomplished by· fine-tuning dynamic models until they perform
"properly," comparing model outputs to "known" data. Harbaugh's own work on

simulating sedimentation and the interaction between communities of marine organisms

in shallow seas (Harbaugh, 1966) was cited as an example of the development of a
dynamic deterministic-probabilistic model. 2 This philosophical integration of the
deterministic and probabilistic approaches represented further evidence of the subtle, but
continuing, evolution in Harbaugh's thinking; and he, along with others, would come to
refine his taxonomy as this evolution progressed.
Clearly, Harbaugh's distinction between stochastic and deterministic modeling was
based on mathematical frameworks established by other researchers; but it was he who
would eventually give life to those constructs via computing. Although Harbaugh was a
pioneer in the computerization of geological models, he was not the only one. Other
geoscientists, such as Briggs and Pollack (1967), Dougherty and Mitchell (1964), Fayers
and Sheldon (1962), and Schenck (1963) all made valuable early contributions.
The capstone text for all the collaborative work of Harbaugh and Bonham-Carter in
computer-based simulation was produced in 1970. Titled Computer Simulation in
Geology (Harbaugh and Bonham-Carter, 1970a), the stated objective of this book was to
advance the systems viewpoint in geology, even though geologists had not fully embraced
the use of computers. Thirty years later, that objective yet rings true, with the potential of
geocomputing not having been completely realized.
Computer Simulation in Geology was state-of-the art for its time. The authors set out
to make a philosophical case for simulation "in view of the fact that it involves some
important changes in mode of thinking, particularly because it alters the traditional 'cause
and effect' type of scientific thinking that pervades geology." It was a relatively
mathematical text-perhaps the first to be so-involving a level of technical notation and
expression that would have been unfamiliar to the majority of geologists. In this sense,
it pushed the envelope of knowledge to include avenues of investigation not traditionally
embraced by geologists.
It was in this text that Harbaugh began to refine the taxonomy that he and Merriam
had presented earlier to include static probabilistic models. Monte Carlo methods,
involving repeated random sampling of frequency distributions, were offered as
illustrations. The revised list containing four types, with examples, is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Harbaugh's revised modeling taxonomy, with examples (after Harbaugh and
Bonham-Carter, 1970a)

* Detenninistic Static * Simulation of the gravity responses of buried bodies

* Detenninistic dynamic * Simulation of deltaic sedimentation
* Probabilistic static * Simulation of oil exploration by grid drilling
* Probabilistic dynamic * Simulation of reef growth

It also was in Computer Simulation in Geology that Harbaugh first distinguished

mathematical models from simulation models, as illustrated by the following excerpts:

2However. Harbaugh's writings from the time actually suggests a more purely probabilistic alignment. being
heavily bound to Markov processes.

Mathematical models, of course, may be applied in a variety of ways, such as the

use of statistical models to summarize observational data. Most simulation
models, however, actually generate a great deal of new data, and therefore their
roles are quite different from those of models used for data reduction .
. . . mathematical models involve little or no computation, regardless of whether
they are used in a simulation or in a data-reduction context. Other mathematical
models, however, involve so much computation, either because of their
complexity or because of the need for a large number of calculations or logic
operations, that they can be conveniently manipulated only with computers.
Computer-simulation models are in effect mathematical models in the form of
computer programs.
The emphasis of Computer Simulation in Geology was on exploration of the
consequences of different sets of assumptions, rather than seeking totally right or wrong
answers-again, evidence of a continuing evolution in Harbaugh's thinking. Much of the
introductory material for the book was taken directly from Harbaugh and Merriam (1968),
illustrating the ongoing linkage of thought. A chapter on random number generation was
included, with applications to simulating stratigraphic sequences, along with an extensive
chapter on Markov chains, transition matrices, and transition probabilities. 3 Additional
chapters expanded the utilization of numerical methods for solving deterministic equations
related to flow and transportation, system control, and optimization, all with applications
to the processes of sedimentation. Although many of the basic ideas presented in
Computer Simulation in Geology were not new, presentation of the theoretical
underpinnings was new, providing a much-needed intellectual mooring for the whole
concept of simulation and modeling in the geosciences.
The actual computer programs and associated materials developed at Stanford
University to accompany Computer Simulation in Geology were published in two reports
for the Geography Branch of the U.S. Office of Naval Research titled FORTRAN IV
Programs for Computer Simulation in Geology (Harbaugh and Bonham-Carter, 1970b) and
Programs for Computer Simulation in Geology (Harbaugh, Bonham-Carter, and Merrill,
1971). One of the original objectives of the project sponsored by the Office of Naval
Research was to develop a large-scale dynamic computer simulation model of the water
mass over the continental shelf off central and northern California, and to describe and
predict the manner in which terrestrially derived sediment is transported and deposited
over the continental shelf. Although the actual results indeed did represent an adaptation
of a geological sedimentary basin model to computer simulation, incorporating realistic
complexity, they were somewhat rudimentary, by the authors' own admission, in
comparison to the types of results obtained by Harbaugh and his colleagues later in his
Of the twenty programs contained in this report, the first seven (enumerated next)
dealt with the probabilistic aspects of sequences of sedimentary strata (six of the seven
involved the use of one-dimensional Markov chains):

'Markov analysis, of course, was the foundation of Harbaugh's original simulation approach, applications of
which he and Bonham-Carter had worked so diligently to refine.

•Stochastic sequence generator program

•Markov transition matrix value program
•Stochastic single-dependence Markovian sequence generator program
•Markov transition matrix power program
•Stochastic double-dependence Markovian sequence generator program
•Program to compute double-dependence transition matrices and to test for
double-dependence Markov property
• Continuous-time, discrete-state Markovian sequence generator program
Despite suggestions to the contrary in Harbaugh and Merriam (1968), the work of
Harbaugh and Bonham-Carter (1970b) seemingly was entrenched in stochastic modeling
rather than deterministic modeling. The extensive bibliography contained in this report is
dominated heavily by references to stochastic modeling from a variety of disciplines, and
it is apparent that the authors were seeking to improve the accuracy and precision of their
results from a stochastic point of view. Indeed, the text of the report proposed
incorporating other variables (such as the effects of flood and storm events) into the
simulation process that were not being considered already, and treating them from a
stochastic viewpoint to control the frequency and magnitude of their values.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Harbaugh picked up considerable oil industry
support, and he began to focus the work of an excellent cadre of graduate students and
research associates more directly on specific problems that needed to be addressed in the
overall simulation scheme. Despite the extensive results reported in Harbaugh and
Bonham-Carter (1968) and the noteworthy applications being made by others (e.g., Dacey,
1975; James, 1975), the mathematics of applying Markov processes/chains to lithologic
and stratigraphic succession needed updating for more than one dimension, and better
ways were needed to visualize the results of the models in a graphical sense. Harbaugh
had the foresight to recognize that the direction of growth and interest was towards
three-dimensional modeling and visualization.
In the years subsequent to the publication of Computer Simulation in Geology,
Harbaugh had the good fortune to be associated with Andrei Vistelius, who was visiting
from Russia (Vistelius and Harbaugh, 1980), and with Paul Switzer in the Stanford
statistics department. Switzer, in particular, had been involved in fundamental research
on stochastic processes, some of which also had been supported by the Geography Branch
of the U.S. Office of Naval Research (Switzer, 1976). In the early 1980s, Cunshan Lin
joined Harbaugh at Stanford as a visiting scientist, and together they set about the process
of producing a more theoretical treatment of Markov processes in geological simulation.
The ultimate result was publication in 1984 of the text Graphic Display of Two- and
Three-Dimensional Markov Computer Models in Geology (Lin and Harbaugh, 1984).
This new book essentially represented the state-of-the-art of Markov methods for
geological applications, with the influence of Switzer and other Harbaugh associates being
clearly apparent. It's stated objective was to:
... extend the concepts of random processes, as represented by Markov chains,
to both two and three dimensions. It is an important start in the three-dimensional
revolution, and it forms part of a series of interrelated computer procedures that
will permit geologists to work more effectively in three dimensions.

Graphic Display of Two- and Three-Dimensional Markov Computer Models in

Geology was mainly a book of fundamentals, foundational principles, and examples, with
discussion of some of the specific computer programs developed by Lin and Harbaugh.
It was really a text about the code, the theory behind the code, and how the code was
actually developed. It was a highly mathematical text, particularly for an audience of
geologists. Beginning with a general introduction to Markov processes and the Markov
property, it rapidly progressed to a discussion of transition matrices, one-dimensional
techniques for measuring and generating stratigraphic sequences, and then extensions of
the Markov property to two and three dimensions and anisotropic space. Some of the
material was lifted directly from previous Harbaugh books, while other parts were entirely
new; and there were many references to the work of Agterberg (1966, 1968), Allegre
(1964), Davis (1973), Krumbein (1967, 1968a, 1968b, 1968c), Krumbein and Scherer
(1970), Switzer (1965), Vistelius (1966, 1967, 1972), Vistelius and Faas (1966), and
Other than the technical achievements catalogued in this book, perhaps one of its most
significant contributions was more philosophical in nature. It was in this text that
Harbaugh, for the first time, really broached the argument about the use of stochastic
models over deterministic ones. With Lin, he posited that random models might be more
effective for predictive purposes, particularly where information is scant and where there
is large uncertainty. They noted that Markov models have the capability to compactly
express relationships that might be difficult to represent otherwise, and that they are
excellent for succinctly representing areal or spatial relationships. Lin and Harbaugh went
on to underscore the philosophical importance (at least for that time) of the issue of
randomness versus determinism, specifically noting that
... few geologic processes or features can be described adequately by strictly
deterministic models. As a consequence, random models, although empirical,
may sometimes prove to be more suitable for prediction purposes than
deterministic models.
Interestingly, Whitten (1977) had independently made some of these same points just a
few short years earlier, drawing from his own direct association with Vistelius.
Clearly, Graphic Display of Two- and Three-Dimensional Markov Computer Models
in Geology represented another important plateau in the development of Harbaugh's
thinking about modeling and simulation; and yet, with hindsight, it is evident that there
was a lot more to be done. At the time the book was written, the authors stated that:
... the application of two- and three-dimensional Markov models in geology is
in infancy. The example applications provided here are either geologically
simple or are totally theoretical.
There was no way of knowing in 1984 how understated this claim might be. Nearly
20 years later, however, it is apparent that not even Harbaugh could have foreseen the
expansion in display capabilities and three-dimensional visualization brought about by the
computer revolution. Although these capabilities are not necessarily founded on Markov
processes, many of the mathematical fundamentals on which Harbaugh relied are tenable
yet today.


It is worth noting that, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, other geoscientists, as well
as scientists from other disciplines, independently began to pursue the use of random
models over deterministic ones. The thinking of Allan Gutjahr at New Mexico Tech, a
particularly strong advocate in the field of hydrology, closely mimicked that of Harbaugh
(Gutjahr and others, 1978; Bakr and others, 1978; Gelhar, Gutjahr, and Naff, 1979;
Gutjahr, Bonano, and Cranwell, 1985). Gutjahr pursued random models over
deterministic ones in hydrology because he felt that fewer parameters (such as mean
transmissivities) were needed (Gutjahr, 1992). In general, he postulated that stochastic
models would require less data than deterministic models (see also Watney, Wong, and
French, 1991), and that their use would permit information available from different
sources to be incorporated. Gutjahr went on to state that" ... stochastic representation
may be more realistic and useful than a zoned deterministic model ... ," and he provided
a good discussion of the differences in the two approaches and how they sometimes
become blurred.
As noted, Gutjahr's basic point of view was similar to that of Harbaugh, although he
never really referenced Harbaugh in any of his writings. He was somewhat more succinct
in his classification of modeling types than Harbaugh, preferring to limit the classification
to fully stochastic models and deterministic models with parameter variation.
Other individuals pursued stochastic modeling in hydrology during this same period,
including Anis and Lloyd (1975), Freeze (1975), Smith and Freeze (1979), Gelhar and
Axness (1983), and Brown (1984). There was other interest among the geological
community, as well. For example, Torres (1987) wrote a doctoral dissertation at Georgia
State University pertaining to Markov analysis in geology. In addition, Brian Ripley
(1987), a well-known statistician in Great Britain, published a volume titled Stochastic
Simulation which provided further mathematical underpinnings for some of the approaches
being developed.


The years of work on Markov processes notwithstanding, Harbaugh's modeling

emphasis took at decided turn towards determinism in the mid to late 1980s. As noted
previously, a hint of this shift had arisen as early as 1968 when Harbaugh and
Bonham-Carter experienced some difficulty in obtaining the desired degree of refinement
in the surfaces produced by their models. The interests of Harbaugh's funding sponsors,
many of whom, by this time, were major oil companies whose geologists had been
educated mainly from a deterministic point of view, also might have affected this change
in emphasis. With oil industry funding, Harbaugh was able to establish a formal industrial
affiliates program at Stanford, frequently referred to as the SEDSIM project, the objective
of which was to extend the formal development of computerized modeling to specific
problems and geological regimes of interest to the program affiliates. Harbaugh and his
graduate students set to work on some of these specific problems, while also pursuing their

interests in first principles; and during the next fifteen years they produced a remarkable
stream of books and publications that effectively established modeling and simulation as
a formal subdiscipline within geology and the geosciences.
The first large undertaking in this overall project was the development ofthe base-line
computer code, itself referred to as SEDSIM, to simulate sedimentary processes and
responses in two dimensions. Harbaugh assigned this effort to Dan Tetzlaff, who can be
credited with putting SEDSIM "on the map" as a credible approach to modeling. If
nothing else, he was able to establish a solid and flexible computational foundation on
which Harbaugh could build in the years to come, and more importantly, a method of
visualizing modeling results in three dimensions. This work culminated in Tetzlaffs
(1987) doctoral dissertation, and subsequently, a well-known book coauthored by Tetzlaff
and Harbaugh (1989) titled Simulating Clastic Sedimentation. Some related work was
reported in Bitzer and Harbaugh (1987). Although Tetzlaff (1990) would later
characterize the SEDSIM programs somewhat differently, they represented results having
a more deterministic nature than anything ever published by Harbaugh. Certainly, reliance
on the properties of Markov chains had pretty much been abandoned by this time.
A second major front of investigation pertained to the simulation of sediment transport
by waves and wave-dominated environments. Under Harbaugh's tutelage, Paul Martinez
took the initiative on this project, ultimately leading to a masters thesis, a doctoral
dissertation, and several publications (Martinez, 1987a, 1987b, 1992a, 1992b; Martinez
and Harbaugh, 1989). This project essentially was a wholly deterministic one, with little
or no concern for stochastic influences. Its culmination was the publication in 1993 of
Simulating Nearshore Environments (Martinez and Harbaugh, 1993), a text based mainly
on Martinez's doctoral research.
Harbaugh initiated the third phase of the SEDSIM project with graduate students
Johannes Wendebourg and Y oung-Hoon Lee. Their job was to integrate many of the ideas
of Tetzlaff and Martinez and to "flesh out" an overall modeling and simulation strategy-a
formidable task indeed. Lee and others (1991) reported a specific application to
sedimentation in the Arkansas River (mainly sponsored by Amoco Oil Company), and an
early rendition of the holistic SEDSIM approach that was envisioned was presented in Lee
and Harbaugh (1992).


The decade of the 1990s ushered in a more inspired discussion of the pros and cons
of various modeling strategies as the number of players in this arena substantially
multiplied. Amazingly, the pendulum of conventional wisdom seemed to be swinging
once again, with renewed emphasis-even outside the Harbaugh camp-on modeling
approaches of a stochastic nature (e.g., Lerche, 1990a, 1990b). Perhaps this should not
have been surprising, given the growth in statistical applications across all scientific
disciplines beginning about the middle of the 1980s. On the other hand, maybe the
influences of some of Harbaugh's early ideas were just really beginning to take hold. In
any event, the shifting paradigm was nowhere more evident than in a trio of conferences,

the first held in Denver in 1988, while Harbaugh was on sabbatical at Colorado School of
Mines (CSM), the second held in 1989 at the Kansas Geological Survey in Lawrence,
Kansas, and the third held in Freiburg, Germany, in 1990.
The first conference, a four-day workshop devoted to quantitative dynamic
stratigraphy (QDS), as the realm of computer-based geological modeling was becoming
known, was convened by Tim Cross at the Colorado School of Mines and sponsored by
the American Association of Petroleum Geology, the Gas Research Institute, and various
federal agencies. It was mainly a conference about philosophy--a time to put all the
competing approaches and methodologies out on the table for discussion. Cross (1990)
summarized the goals of the conference as follows:
... to summarize the state-of-the-art in quantitative approaches to stratigraphic
and sedimentary basin analysis; to identify major types and forms of empirical
geological data that are or will be required for constructing, testing and verifying
quantitative models; and, to define research directions that will significantly
enhance capabilities in predicting temporal and spatial relations of sedimentary
facies, stratigraphic architecture, fluid movement, and diagenesis in subsurface
The intent of this conference was to be inclusive rather than exclusive. In fact, in his
preface, Cross (1990) noted that
... the range of topics considered in this book is broad, reflecting the diverse
applications of QDS models. These topics include philosophies and methods of
model construction, concerns about modeling chaotic systems in ... [various
settings], and data bases and methods for evaluating QDS models.
It was Harbaugh who Cross asked to join him in preparing a summary of the
workshop (Cross and Harbaugh, 1990), which became the introductory article to an
extensive text titled Quantitative Dynamic Stratigraphy (Cross, 1990). This article
essentially set the philosophical tone for what QDS was to become, without any real
distinction being drawn between the deterministic and stochastic approaches. Admittedly,
the papers from the conference were predominantly deterministic in nature, because most
of the developmental work initiated in the mid-1980s had deterministic origins. These
included presentations about projects that had been undertaken by other academic
researchers and university-based industrial affiliates programs (such as the SEDpak project
centered at the University of South Carolina), oil companies which were developing their
own proprietary approaches (such as the quantitative stratigraphic modeling (QSM)
program at Marathon Oil), and commercial entities (such as the SEDO program developed
by Dan Tetzlaff at Western Atlas). Yet, there was a not-so-subtle inkling that stochastic
concepts were about to become more influential.
The following excerpts from the summary introductory paper by Cross and Harbaugh
(1990) set the stage:
... traditional scientific paradigms for building deterministic models are not
always appropriate; we need to develop other techniques for building models in
these complex historic systems ... there is another overriding impetus for QDS.
This is the need to increase the predictive capability, establish confidence levels,
and assess the accuracy of sedimentary basin models in general ... QDS models

generally employ mixtures of relationships that span a continuum from

"fundamental" to "grossly empirical."
Ironically, it was a second presentation at the conference by Tetzlaff (1990) that may
have given the greatest impetus to this movement. From the backdrop of his experience
in developing SEDSIM under Harbaugh's tutelage, Tetzlaff wrote that
· .. Randomness, in a broad sense, can appear even in models that are defined
to be completely deterministic. Processes ... are deterministic because they are
governed by precise physical laws, but their behavior can be predicted only
within certain limits. These limits cannot be reduced by increasing the precision
of the initial boundary conditions.
His overall theme was that, for various reasons, dynamic models are limited in their
ability to reproduce actual systems and to make adequate geological predictions. The irony
in this position was that SEDSIM, itself, was being offered as an illustration. Drawing
from the ideas of Slingerland (1990) and others about chaotic systems, Tetzlaff went on
to propose the existence of a class of models, which he termed pseudorandom models, to
which he suggested that SEDSIM really belonged. In fact, it was Slingerland (1990) who,
in a presentation at this same conference, stated that
· .. The possibility of chaotic behavior in even simple nonlinear deterministic
systems make analysis by synthesis all the more difficult. Over a certain range
of initial conditions, the solutions may be well behaved.
· .. In other, a priori unknowable ranges, the solutions may be chaotic. And in
either case, small differences in the initial conditions may produce great
differences in the solutions ... Prediction becomes impossible.
Tetzlaff distinguished psuedorandom models as being different from random models
in the sense that initial conditions are exactly known. Although he hastened to note that,
from a purely theoretical standpoint, psuedorandommodels are really deterministic in their
formulation, the die in favor of a more stochastic approach seemed to be cast.
The second conference, conducted at the Kansas Geological Survey, was devoted
mainly to computer simulations and operationalizing many of the techniques that had been
developed. In one form or another, many of the computer routines constructed within
academia, the oil companies, and commercial entities were on display. At this conference,
stochastic methodologies were at the forefront of the discussion (e.g., Bond, Kominz, and
Beavan (1991), Gerhard (1991), Kaesler (1991), and Kominz and others (1991)). In their
preface to the published proceedings, the editors (Franseen and others, 1991) wrote the
following statement which turned out to be a rather prescient foreshadowing of what was
to come:
· .. An advantage of computer simulations over conventional qualitative methods
is that the uncertainty in any prediction can be quantified if the uncertainty in
model input can be statistically defined ... The theoretical range of any particular
geologic parameter (e.g., subsidence rates) may be broad, but the geologist should
be able to define the most probable distribution for that parameter. By defining
and constraining parameter-range distributions; geologists can put boundaries on
the possible number of reasonable solutions in a given model experiment.
Geology has always suffered as a science because of our inability to define the

uncertainty of our conclusions. The ability to address quantitatively the

uncertainty in a geologic interpretation or prediction signals a new age for
geology as a discipline.
It was Christopher Kendall, however, writing on behalf of his colleagues from the
SEDpak project at the University of South Carolina (a competing effort similar to the
Harbaugh's SEDSIM project), who provided the greatest evidence at this conference of the
expanding appreciation for the stochastic approach. Kendall and others (1991) wrote that:
In our opinion ... probably the best scheme for modeling the sedimentary fill of
basins is a combination of stochastic and forward-modeling systems.
Kendall previously had been an ardent fan of the deterministic approach (reflected in the
development of the SEDpak software), yet in his presentation at the Lawrence conference
he identified the stochastic approach as one of three important directions for the future of
geological simulation. Watney, Wong, and French (1991) echoed much the same
... Optimistic developments in geologic simulation include ... (3) the potential
combination of forward modeling with stochastic modeling to generate variations
in properties and features in areas where scale problems or limited data make
understanding of the geologic system incomplete.
It was at the Freiburg conference in 1990 that the extent to which stochastic methods
were being embraced really became evident. Designed to be mostly methodological in
character, this conference was billed as the first international meeting devoted to
geological applications of three-dimensional computer graphics; and it was John
Harbaugh, who, along with Reinhard Pflug, was asked to edit and publish the proceedings
(Pflug and Harbaugh, 1992). Harbaugh (1992a) wrote the introductory summary paper-a
somewhat philosophical presentation-in which he outlined seven major extant issues in the
simulation of geologic processes. One of these issues was the distinction being drawn
between deterministic and stochastic approaches.
In addressing this distinction, Harbaugh enlarged the position taken by Tetzlaff (1990)
and refined it in such a way as to give it greater meaning and broader understanding. He
wrote that a stochastic model is simply one whose components behave randomly and are
not pre-determined (a definition which now seems somewhat understated). He further
suggested that stochastic models are simpler to formulate because the behavior of the
geologic processes of interest can be represented by randomly sampling one or more
probability distributions; and that one of the principal differences between the two types
is that relationships in stochastic models are highly empirical, whereas deterministic
models usually are represented by equations that lend themselves more to numerical
solution. Harbaugh went on to note, however, that deterministic and stochastic models are
both feasible for incorporation in process simulation models, and that both have
advantages and disadvantages. Reiterating suggestions by Tetzlaff (1990) and Slingerland
(1990), he wrote that, in practice, differences in the two approaches are not large because
many deterministic models tend to actually behave stochastically.
To underscore the distinction being drawn, Harbaugh cited Tipper (1992) who had
made some similar points-perhaps even more emphatically in a paper read at the Freiburg
conference. Taking his cue from the work of Price (1976), Scheidigger (1970),

Schwarzacher (1972, 1975, 1976), and Swift, Chadwick, and Boehmer (1972), Tipper
suggested approaching simulation from a macroscopic viewpoint rather than a microscopic
one, largely because of data insufficiency or unavailability. He reasoned that physical laws
(at the microscopic level) are not wrong, they are just not particularly useful in practice.
The following excepts from Tipper's paper illustrate the macroscopic point of view:
... modeling of sediment-transport systems calls rather for a sort of statistical
mechanics in which the element processed is seen as a population of particles
whose behavior is best predicted by a probabilistic model ... The relationships
between the state variables and the system's behavior are commonly stochastic in
nature (in marked contrast to the determinism that characterizes modeling at the
microscopic level).
Somewhat in contrast to Tipper (1992), Harbaugh offered his own SEDSIM program
as an example of a purely deterministic approach that was observed to behave
stochastically (as described in Lee and Harbaugh, 1992). Wendebourg and Ulmer (1992)
explained the situation a bit differently, noting that parts of SEDSIM were purely
deterministic by design, whereas others relied entirely on the establishment of empirical
relationships (e.g., velocity, sediment load, shear stress, and grain size distributions).
Recall that Tetzlaff (1990) previously had characterized the SEDSIM approach as
The Freiburg conference also proved to be the stimulus for expanded use of
geostatistical techniques and greater emphasis on spatial relationships. The papers
presented by Houlding, Stoakes, and Clark (1992) and Prissang (1992) represented the
first geostatistical work ever published in a book edited or authored by Harbaugh.
Oddly enough, one of the best explanations of the relationship between stochastic and
deterministic models came from individuals working somewhat beyond the sphere of
those participating in the Denver, Lawrence, and Freiburg conferences. In response to its
concerns about the subsurface transport of nuclear contaminants and the construction of
nuclear waste repositories, the U.S. Department of Energy organized a conference in the
late 1980s focused on estimating the probabilities of geologic events and processes. John
Harbaugh was an invited participant, but his formal remarks were aimed more at resource
assessment than at modeling and simulation; It was John Mann and Regina Hunter, the
editors of the volume of papers published from this conference, who really addressed the
pertinent modeling issues. Their concluding paper (Mann and Hunter, 1992) contained
a particularly poignant discussion of the distinction between geologic events and processes
that profoundly affected geologists' thinking about modeling. Mann and Hunter wrote that
events seem as discrete, recognizable entities or occurrences, whereas processes are
determined responses to the physical characteristics of an entire geological system (even
though those characteristics may not be well known). Processes, they noted, may occur
continuously, regardless of what events transpire; may occur slowly, with associated
events occurring ~at frequencies beyond the concern of a particular analysis; and are
inherent in aU geologic systems.
Mann and Hunter further suggested that focusing on the specific distinction between
events and processes is highly pertinent, because the probabilities of events and the
probabilities of processes are established in different ways. They noted (as had others)

that probabilities can be assigned to events simply through empirical density functions (or
frequency distributions); but they also pointed out that the assignment of probabilities to
processes is not so straightforward. In fact, as Mann and Hunter noted, uncertainties
associated with processes may be larger than those assigned to events; and as a result,
processes may be treated deterministically.
The basis of Mann and Hunter's argument was the situation that geologic processes
may be unnecessarily relegated to deterministic treatment simply because of an inability
to describe them stochastically. As they suggested, determinism is neither bad nor
undesirable-it is just that processes can be handled deterministically only if their
parameters are understood adequately and if values for the variables of interest are
accurately known. The down side, as Mann and Hunter aptly portrayed, is that most
geologic processes are too complex to permit simple deterministic analysis. Consequently,
the analyst is left with no choice but to (1) treat them stochastically, regarding the
parameters as inherently random, or (2) regard the data as being uncertain while the
process is considered deterministic.
The ultimate objective of this discussion was to firmly establish stochastic modeling
as a viable methodology for geological investigation. As if to underscore their intent,
Mann and Hunter wrote that:
... Stochastic analysis or modeling is not inferior to deterministic analysis;
correctly forll!ulated probabilistic treatment is equivalent or comparable to
deterministic treatment.
They then prescribed the following two advantages of stochastic modeling over
deterministic modeling:
• it handles natural variation in all geologic processes and material in a simple and
accurate manner; and,
• it leads to better predictions for situations in which all necessary data are not available
and all variables are not well known or understood.
Both advantages had been established previously by Harbaugh and others (e.g., Lin and
Harbaugh, 1984).
In 1994, Harbaugh teamed with Rudy Slingerland and Kevin Furlong at Penn State
to publish Simulating Clastic Sedimentary Basins: Physical Fundamentals and Computer
Programs/or Creating Dynamic Systems (Slingerland, Harbaugh, and Furlong, 1994), a
volume prepared in response to the authors' perception of needs expressed at the 1988
conference in Denver (Cross, 1990). Written principally as a teaching text, it was an
elegant exposition of the first principles and essential mathematics underlying
computer-based geological simulation, complete with examples, results of simulation
experiments, and excellent references from the literature on the physics of sediment
transport (e.g., Miller, McCave, and Komar, 1977; Bridge, 1981; Stevens and Yang, 1989;
Yang and Wan, 1991). Its emphasis was on model building, restricted to two dimensions
for pedagogical reasons; but strangely, for the times, the approach taken was almost an
entirely deterministic one. The only allusions to stochastic ideas and methods came in the
form of establishing simple linear relationships, mostly empirical, among certain physical
properties (such as sediment discharge and denudation), developing frequency
distributions (such as grain-size distributions needed in identifying various sedimentary

environments), and mUltiple regression models (such as those involved in establishing

critical bed shear stress on the basis of such variables as boundary Reynolds number).
Consequently, refined though it was, the appearance of this text was somewhat untimely,
because the shift in the modeling paradigm already was well underway.
The mid to late 1990s brought a whirlwind of activity in modeling and simulation
along with a cornucopia of new players, proposals, applications, and developments. This
period of expansion and evolution featured another important workshop conducted at the
Kansas Geological Survey in 1996 (actually the third in a series of workshops that had
been conducted through the years). One of the five major themes of the workshop had to
do with the advantages and disadvantages of various types of models, and it was a theme
that received extensive discussion. It was at this workshop that one of the earliest
distinctions between forward and inverse modeling in geology was embraced formally,
though such a distinction had been made in related areas (e.g., geophysics) earlier. The
conference also was peppered with stochastic ideas, concentrated mainly in the notions of
model testing, inverse methods, sensitivity analysis, and optimization.
An excellent array of technical papers were presented at this conference, and they were
published ultimately in 1999 as a special volume by the Society of Sedimentary Geology
(SEPM), with John Harbaugh serving as one of the editors. In the preface the editors
outlined ten prospective advances in geological modeling, several of which involved
stochastic components, namely:
• measurement and management of uncertainty in model inputs, computations, and
• quantitative measurement of the degree to which simulation results are in accord with
actual sedimentary sequences;
• development of inverse procedures as an integral part of simulation modeling to assist
in defining parameters that control interacting processes in complex coupled systems;
• enhancements in procedures for comparing and evaluating model reliability and
performance, coupled with quantitative assessment of the degree of validity of model
These themes were expanded further in the introductory paper written by Lynn
Watney, Gene Rankey, and Harbaugh (1999) in which various topics such as (1) what is
modeling?, (2) what is a model?, (3) what are the components of a model?, and (4) how
to classify models were discussed. The authors included a tacit acknowledgement that
modeling can be approached successfully from a variety of perspectives and that
integration of several approaches might be most desirable. In particular, they noted, with
reference to Tetzlaff and Rodriguez (1996), that the distinction between deterministic and
stochastic modeling was becoming increasingly blurred as the notions of geostatistics,
uncertainty estimation, and risk were combined with the more conventional deterministic
ideas. They then went on to offer updated definitions of the stochastic and deterministic
approaches based on ideas that had evolved during the previous ten years.
With regard to stochastic modeling, Watney, Rankey, and Harbaugh (1999) defined
stochastic simulation to be the dynamic interaction of processes to create known or
unknown responses. Their fundamental point was that, as a result of chance, different

results could be obtained with each realization of a model. They identified two specific
types of stochastic simulation-discrete, or object-based; and continuous, or cell-based-and
noted that stochastic models can represent combinations of both types. They also included
within the realm of stochastic modeling those geostatistical procedures that constrain
variation in two and three dimensions, and they described various other characteristics that
stochastic models can represent or exhibit.
Regarding the deterministic approach, Watney, Rankey, and Harbaugh (1999) wrote
that deterministic simulation involves experiments that model the dynamic interaction of
processes to create known or defined responses. They stated that model runs in a
deterministic simulation repeated with the same input parameters generally would produce
the same results, assuming the absence of interdependencies among inputs. They further
subdivided deterministic simulations into two types: stratigraphic form simulations and
sedimentary process simulations.
When completed, the 1999 text, titled Numerical Experiments in Stratigraphy: Recent
Advances in Stratigraphic and Sedimentologic Computer Simulations (Harbaugh and
others, 1999), contained the largest concentration of geology (although not necessarily
petroleum geology) papers oriented towards stochastic modeling of any produced up to
that time. Some are more overtly stochastic in nature, such as those by Lessenger and
Lerche (1999), Bagirov and Lerche (1999), Pelletier and Turcotte (1999), Ray and others
(1999), and Doligez and others (1999), whereas others illustrate more of an integrated
approach, such as those by Cross and Lessenger (1999), Bornholt, Nordlund, and
Westphal (1999), Paola and others (1999), Prins and Weltje (1999), and Turner and Koln
(1999). The Harbaugh influence can be seen throughout much of this work, but most
particularly in the paper by Tuttle and Wendebourg (1999) which presents a nice
comparison of geostatistical, geometrical form, and sedimentary process simulation
procedures. In addition to these, the book included two papers--one of them coauthored
by Harbaugh--that couple the ideas of fractals with stochastic modeling (Penn and
Harbaugh, 1999; Plotnick, 1999).
Not long after the 1996 workshop held at the Kansas Geological Survey, Wendebourg
and Harbaugh (1997) finalized Simulating Oil Entrapment in Clastic Sedimentation, a new
book based mainly on Wendebourg's doctoral dissertation at Stanford (Wendebourg,
1994). It was another well written volume focused on the integrated fundamentals of
geology, mathematics, and sedimentary processes. A highlight of the text was its
identification and definition of four types of numerical sedimentary
simulation-geostatistical, geometrical, diffusion, and process-representing one of the first
distinctions of this type. Although the book mostly was about process simulation (and
mostly from the SEDSIM perspective), it contained a nice, succinct discussion and
comparison of the various simulation types. Wendebourg and Harbaugh wrote that, in
spite of fundamental differences, the four types perform similarly--for example, process
simulators behave randomly because of interacting effects of processes and materials. even
though the factors that produce such effects of not explicitly random. All four types were
described as "forward" in nature. in the sense that "irreversibility sterns from either
stochastic formulation or representation of processes that are inherently irreversible."

Simulating Oil Entrapment in Clastic Sedimentation essentially represented the

culmination of all the work done by Harbaugh and his students on the SEDSIM project at
Stanford; and, in a sense, it exemplified the full evolution in Harbaugh's thinking about
modeling and simulation. It contained perhaps the best characterization of what SEDSIM
was about-a characterization encompassing the tension between the deterministic and
stochastic approaches that Harbaugh and his students had formerly struggled to enunciate
and fully cultivate. Wendebourg and Harbaugh opined that the SEDSIM methodology
yields simulated sedimentary sequences having spatially differing properties that are
constructed on the basis of fundamental physical laws endowed by empirical (statistical
or stochastic) relationships. A typical excerpt from the book follows:
. . . sequences generated by process simulators incorporate a degree of
randomness, which is one of the reasons why they cannot be constrained directly
to accord with actual sequences. Instead, they can be constrained only indirectly
by adjusting control parameters and other boundary conditions.
This volume was truly a capstone text for the entire arena of geological modeling.
Although advancement of the stochastic approach was not its primary objective, it
somehow gave credence to the approach as no book had before. Perhaps it was the
elegance with which fundamentals were presented, the unencumbered manner with which
deterministic and stochastic methodologies were intermingled to form overarching
solutions, or simply the highly organized and fluid style with which ideas were presented.
Irrespective of its original intent, it should prove to be the standard against which future
texts of its ilk are compared; serving to solidly establish integrated approaches to
simulation as the strategy of choice in all future modeling endeavors.


As previously suggested, in the late 1980s the work of Harbaugh and his colleagues
began to be influenced by the emerging field of geostatistics. In retrospect, the 1990
Freiburg conference served as a signal venue for discussions about the prospects of using
geostatistical methods in geological modeling. Evidence of geostatistical thinking is
contained in many of the writings and discussions of Harbaugh and his colleagues beyond
that point (e.g., Pflug and Harbaugh, 1992; Wendebourg and Harbaugh, 1997; Watney,
Rankey, and Harbaugh, 1999).
Nonetheless, application of geostatistical concepts to subsurface processes was really
being more vigorously pursued in other quarters, particularly in petroleum engineering
circles. The principal advocate was Andre Journel, a fellow faculty member of Harbaugh's
at Stanford University. Journel's work in the mid to late 1980s was mainly motivated by
a keen interest within the petroleum industry in developing improved methods of oil and
gas recovery. A new earth science subdiscipline was rapidly ivolving which would come
to be known as "reservoir characterization." At the Stanford Center for Reservoir
Forecasting (SCRF), Journel and his many excellent graduate students provided the
theoretical foundations necessary to develop stochastic models of reservoir features and

phenomena (e.g., Desbarats, 1987), whereas othercollaborators--most notably, Larry Lake

and his students at the University of Texas--took a somewhat more applied approach.
The petroleum industry's emphasis on reservoir characterization lead to a series of
three major conferences, the first two (1985 and 1989) held in Dallas, Texas, and the third
(1991) held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Forum also was
conducted in 1987 at the Tamarron Resort in Durango, Colorado. Applications of
geostatistics and spatial modeling were key topics of discussion at all these events. An
extensive collection of important papers was published from each of the three conferences,
including those of Lake and Carroll (1986), Haldorsen and Chang (1986), Begg and
Williams (1991), Doyen, Guidish, and DeBuyl (1991), and Omre and others (1993),
focusing largely on the modeling of sands, shales, and reservoir facies.
In addition to these formal gatherings in the United States, the connection of
geostatistics to reservoir characterization also was being pursued within the international
community (see, for example, Augedal, Stanley, and Omre, 1986; Haldorsen and
MacDonald, 1987; Hoiberg, Omre, and Tjelmeland, 1992; Darnsleth and others, 1992;
Omre, 1992). Complementing the developments being pursued domestically, much of this
work was focused on the modeling of geological features that can contribute to or detract
from reservoir performance. Haldorsen and Damsleth (1990) published what may have
been the seminal paper of this genre simply titled "Stochastic Modeling."
While geostatistics continued to receive considerable emphasis within petroleum
engineering circles throughout the 1990s, there was sporadic criticism from some quarters
that not enough emphasis was being placed on geology (see Dubrule, 1992). The
prominent text Stochastic Modeling and Geostatistics: Principles. Methods. and Case
Studies (Yarus and Chambers, 1994), which was published by the American Association
of Petroleum Geologists, helped dampen this criticism through its focus on integrated
problem solving. Notable papers included in this text demonstrated that results from both
engineering and geological approaches to modeling could be combined successfully using
geostatistics, stochastic analysis, and spatial thinking (e.g., Cox and others, 1994).
Geostatistics and Petroleum Geology (Hohn, 1988) also helped bridge the gap between
the disciplines.
For their part, Journel and his colleagues continued to produce an impressive array of
theoretical results and algorithms that aroused increased interest and appreciation among
geologists (e.g., Journel and Gomez-Hernandez, 1993; Deutsch and Wang, 1996; Journel
and others, 1998; Journel, 2000). Yet, geostatistical techniques never really emerged as
the primary modeling tools of choice within the geological community. What seemed to
be missing was a truly definitive description of what constitutes a stochastic model, and
a succinct explanation of the role that geostatistics plays in the overall scheme of things.
As previously noted. Tetzlaff and Rodriquez (1996) suggested that the rise of geostatistics
had effectively blurred the distinction between deterministic and stochastic modeling (also
see Journel, 1985; Hatloy, 1994; Houlding, 1994; Journel, 1996).
At the end of the 1990s, it was clear that Harbaugh and his colleagues definitely
viewed geostatistics as useful within the broader realm of stochastic modeling (see
Watney, Rankey, and Harbaugh, 1999). What was not so clear is exactly how and whether
the various and somewhat competing schools of thought could ultimately be unified or

meshed together. Geostatistics had made a profound impact on Harbaugh's thinking, but
it had not supplanted the many other quantitative and computational techniques to which
his career of research, invention, and reflection had been devoted.


Despite the steady production of scholarly writings about modeling and simulation,
Harbaugh was never completely absorbed by the topic. He had other interests as a
geologist and a scientist. In the mid-1970s, he became more interested, and more directly
involved, in the petroleum industry, and he took a bit of a hiatus from modeling and
simulation to pursue problems in resource assessment. This was a time of considerable
uncertainty for the oil business and assistance was being sought on many fronts. It is not
altogether correct to characterize Harbaugh's work during this time as different from
modeling, because a great many models were being developed and applied, both by him
and by others. However, such models did not necessarily involve sedimentary and
stratigraphic processes at the detailed level that Harbaugh and his colleagues had been
pursuing during the previous fifteen years. They were more holistic in nature,
encompassing the entire petroleum system. In addition, there was no real distinction to be
made between the deterministic and stochastic approaches, because most of this work was
entirely probabilistic in nature (although not necessarily founded in stochastic processes
in the strictest mathematical sense).
In 1977, Harbaugh teamed with John Doveton and John Davis at the Kansas
Geological Survey to write the first of two books on probabilistic exploration strategy.
Titled Probability Methods in Oil Exploration, this was one of the earliest texts to espouse
the application of classical probability methods to the search for oil and gas (also see
Newendorp 1975, 1978; Megill, 1971, 1977; McCray, 1975; Davis, Doveton, and
Harbaugh, 1975). The principal quantitative themes of the book were mapping, gridding,
and computer contouring, with some additional consideration given to the use of
multivariate statistical techniques (such as discriminant analysis) in the analysis of certain
types of geological data (for example, geochemical measurements). Davis, Doveton, and
Harbaugh presented their probabilistic ideas from the frequentist point of view, although
they certainly acknowledged the perspective of subjective probability and they drew from
conditional and Bayesian approaches where appropriate. The book included a final
emphasis on integrated exploration systems involving financial reward systems, expected
value theory, and utility-topics in which Harbaugh had become particularly interested.
There was a clear attempt to integrate the probabilistic assessment of both geologic and
financial risk, relying directly on historical data and analytical results derived from
computer mapping investigations. An example of this work is given in Harbaugh and
Duscataing (1981).
Although the exploration strategies advocated in Probability Methods in Oil
Exploration were steeped in the use of computers, computer technology had clearly not yet
come of age. Taking advantage of more experience and more computational savvy within
the petroleum industry, Harbaugh, John Davis and Johannes Wendebourg, partnered in

1995 to write a second, updated volume titled Computing Risk for Oil Prospects:
Principles and Programs. This was a much more extensive text, the intent of which was
to promote the development of exploration strategy through computer simulation in much
the way that one might playa sophisticated computer game. Harbaugh had been refining
his thinking in this area since publication of the 1977 text, presenting his ideas in various
venues related to natural resource assessment (e.g., Harbaugh, 1992b).
Computing Riskfor Oil Prospects: Principles and Programs was one of several new
volumes in this arena to appear in the rnid-1990s, reflecting renewed interest among
petroleum geologists in risk-based assessment of resources (e.g., Lerche, 1992, 1997;
Lerche and MacKay, 1999). Whereas the books from the 1970s were focused mostly on
financial and economic uncertainty, these new versions took a more integrated approach
so that both geological and economic risk were given a more equal footing. The book by
Harbaugh, Davis, and Wende bourg (1995) was no exception, in that material on geological
uncertainty was explicitly included, with some added discussion about the probabilistic
and statistical effects of combining geological variables that mayor may not be
independent. The distinction is that the earlier volume by Harbaugh, Doveton, and Davis
(1977) had already paved the way in the sense that geological uncertainty was one of its
themes. The 1995 volume built on that foundation, with added discussion on mapping
properties and uncertainties, and the use of geostatistical and kriging methods. A section
on the use of Monte Carlo simulation for reserves estimation was included, again bridging
back to the genre of the texts from the 1970s.


By the turn of the century, John Harbaugh had made an enduring mark on geological
modeling, giving it efficacy and enriching it in ways that none of his contemporaries had
been able to do. With help from his colleagues and students, he had unraveled
conventional geological wisdom, exposing the geological community to a profusion of
ideas about quantification and computerization that would positively endow geological
investigation for decades to come. An excellent writer and communicator, Harbaugh and
his collaborators produced a remarkable body of scientific thought and literature that is an
enduring monument to his life's work. Despite the irrefutable evidence of
accomplishment, Harbaugh would likely question the significance of his contributions,
preferring, instead, to revel in the thought of the new ideas and new capabilities yet to
As the year 2000 began, such new directions were already apparent. Under the aegis
of spatial assessment, the term "stochastic modeling," for example, had taken on a
decidedly different meaning in many scientific arenas, with a strong push to incorporate
geostatistical methods, geographic information systems, neural networks, 3-D
visualization, and other spatially oriented techniques. Harbaugh, himself, was an early
proponent of spatial assessment, even though he might not have known exactly how to
proceed to incorporate today's sophisticated spatial algorithms into his models. As with
every opportunity in the past, however, he would no doubt embrace these and all future

developments with the flair, optimism, and enthusiasm that came to characterize his
approach to all such endeavors.
Although it was nearly 40 years in the making, stochastic analysis now has come to
playa commanding role in many avenues of geological investigation. It is difficult to
conceive how any geological study initiated today could succeed fully without at least
some consideration being given to stochastic elements. In the 1960s Harbaugh might not
have recognized the stochastic analysis of today; and yet it is part of his legacy. It
represents a logical extension of his fundamental ideas-an extension made possible through
his own perseverance, labor, inquiry, and scholarship.
In retrospect, Harbaugh can look at his accomplishments with pride and satisfaction;
for through personal achievement he has succeeded in accomplishing his lifelong goal.
His goal was to enlarge man's knowledge of the Earth through quantitative and
computational expression, and to that end he has legitimately arrived.


The assistance of Graeme Bonham-Carter in revising the original manuscript, and the
editorial contributions of an anonymous referee, are gratefully acknowledged.


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Daniel Tetzlaff, Western Geco, Houston, Texas and Gary Priddy, Texaco,
Houston, Texas USA


Sedimentary process modeling evolved from an academic exercise to practical

applications from the 1970's to this day. The SEDSIM model, developed at Stanford in
the 1980's under the direction of John Harbaugh, is an example of a model that
underwent an early development in academia, and later was applied in industry, where it
multiplied into several versions. It differed from other 3-D sedimentary models of that
time in that it attempted to model strictly physical processes for extremely long periods of
time. It initially was an ambitious project, necessitating more computer power than was
available, despite substantial simplifications in the mathematical representation of the
physical processes. Through the vision of John Harbaugh, the original model was
completed just when computer power reached the model's computational requirements
for practical applications. The availability of three-dimensional animated computer
graphics complemented SEDSIM's numerical techniques to make it a useful tool for
hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation, as is illustrated by two application examples
presented in this paper. Future developments should be geared toward integration with
other models, automatic inversion, integration with geostatistical methods, and better
representing the nonlinear dynamics of flow and sedimentation.


Computer modeling of sedimentary processes started in academia as a method of

enhancing the quantitative understanding of the processes of erosion, transport, and
deposition of sediments. Steady increases in computer power permitted progressively
larger simulations, better graphic representation, and friendlier software, leading to the
possibility of using sedimentary process models to predict, rather than just understand,
the present-day configuration of sedimentary sequences. In this capacity, it provides a
quantitative complement to traditional interpretation of seismic data, well logs, and

Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems

Edited by D.F. Merriam and J.C. Davis, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001

outcrop observations. It also complements stochastic modeling based on analogs

(outcrops, fields, etc.). This idea was a distant possibility in the 1970's; it started to see
serious work in the 1980's, and became a reality in the 1990's.
This article shows the key elements of this model that permitted that transition. It
describes the early evolution of one particular sedimentation simulation model (SEDSIM,
which was developed at Stanford in the 1980's under the direction of John Harbaugh).
Although no aspect of this model was new to science at the time, the combination of
techniques it used resulted in a model that was influential in permitting the transition
from theoretical academic exercises to practical applications in industry. It spawned
many versions and "descendants" used in both academia and industry today. After many
enhancements, the SEDSIM model is in use today at the CSIRO Division of Petroleum
Resources, Australia, and described in an article by Griffiths in this volume. In the early
1990's, Texaco developed a model termed STRATSIM, based on similar physical
principles as the original SEDSIM, and in use today. The utilization of sedimentary
process modeling is illustrated in this article by two case histories that utilized the
The evolution of SEDSIM was a history of design compromises. Ambitious
requirements necessitated powerful numerical tools, but limited computer power forced
us to simplify the model to only the most important principles that controlled the
processes represented. Determining these basic principles enhanced the unlierstanding of
the natural systems that were modeled. Thus, the quest for practical applications
ultimately led back to a deeper theoretical comprehension of the simulated systems.


The study of how the simple laws that govern the transport of individual sand grains
or the secretion of carbonates by marine life could give rise to the complex shapes
exhibited by meandering streams, deltas, shorelines, and reefs always has held a certain
fascination to geologists. The earliest attempts at quantifying these processes perhaps
came from geomorphologists studying graded rivers and the evolution of landforms, and
from engineers concerned about sedimentation and erosion in navigable channels and
near man-made structures.
Not until the advent of digital computers, however, were geologically complex
sedimentary features modeled and explained quantitatively. In the mid 1960's, John
Harbaugh and his students at Stanford University started to work on various projects to
simulate sedimentation from a geologists point of view. Some of these simulations were
already three-dimensional. They represented marine sedimentation in which propagation
of carbonate-secreting organisms such as calcareous algae and corals was controlled
controlled by transition matrices of Markov chains.
In the late 1960's John Harbaugh and Graeme Bonham-Carter worked on several
schemes to develop other 2-D and 3-D procedures for simulating the evolution of
sedimentary deposits. Many of these procedures served as the basis for a book, that was
published in 1970 with the title Computer Simulation in Geology (Harbaugh and
Bonham-Carter, 1970). During the 1970' s their book quietly had promoted the interest of
a number of students and researchers throughout the world, who started to recreate,
improve, and further experiment with the methods it described.

One of the most influential models described in their book was a two-dimensional
cross sectional model to represent sedimentation on a continental shelf. It assumed that
the shelf can be represented by a series of columns that extend from the shore basinward.
An amount of sediment is brought from shore into the first cell. A fraction k is retained in
the cell and the remainder (l-k) is passed on to the next cell. The amount deposited is
limited by a wave-base level, above which deposition cannot take place. The process is
repeated cell by cell as the sediment is transported toward the basin. Several other simple
rules may be applied to account for subsidence because of loading, and to accommodate
multiple sediment types with different depositional constants. Although based on simple
rules, the net effect is the generation of a variety of stratigraphic geometries observed in
nature. This model inspired a large variety of other 2-D cross-sectional models in both
academia and industry, many in use and under development today.
In the 1980's, John Harbaugh and one of the authors of this article (Tetzlaff) started
work on an ambitious new model for simulating clastic sedimentation (Tetzlaff and
Harbaugh, 1989). The model was named SEDSIM (for SEDimentary basin SIMulation).
Its development was funded partly by Texaco who used this model in some of the first
applications of 3-D sedimentation models to real-world petroleum geology problems.


When first developed at Stanford, SEDSIM had ambitious requirements. It was to be

able to simulate fluid flow and erosion, transport, and deposition of clastic sediments by
water in a variety of environments. It also was to have the possibility to add other
modules to represent other nonclastic sedimentary processes, such as carbonate growth
and evaporites. It was to be fully three dimensional in its representation of sedimentary
deposits, and it was to represent processes through geologic time. Most importantly, it
was to be fully deterministic, that is, a given set of inputs unequivocally always would
produce the same output. However, this was not to preclude that uncertainty in the input
could be modeled by repeated runs in which the input was differed in Monte Carlo
If these requirements were to be met, a departure from existing strategies of
sedimentary process modeling was necessary. On one hand, it was necessary to start from
quantitative physical laws of flow and sedimentation. We felt that all relationships
between variables had to be inferred from established principles or be provable
experimentally. On the other hand, these relationships would have to be simplified to an
extreme if the model was to have any chance of simulating vast periods of geologic time
following physical principles. Only the core behavior of those processes that ultimately
controlled the geometry of the sedimentary deposit were to be included in the model.

The Change to Three Dimensions

SEDSIM was not the first sedimentary model to simulate processes or deposits in
full three dimensions. Many other models, including some described by Harbaugh and
Bonham-Carter (1970) represented three-dimensional processes and deposits. Among
models of clastic sedimentation, however, SEDSIM was novel in that its mathematical
formulation was independent of the coordinate system. It had no preferential sediment

flow direction or source location, and allowed flow to follow any path on any arbitrary
topography as dictated by physics-based laws that it emulated.
The use of three spatial dimensions was considered fundamental not so much for the
sake of visualizing the complete deposits produced, but rather in order to represent
correctly the processes themselves, even if the results were viewed only in cross section.
Clastic sedimentation models that operate in vertical cross section do not really allow
sediment bypass (i.e. the flow of sediment along a path not contained in the observed
section). In cross-sectional models, sediment may pass over a preexisting deposit but not
around it. This may lead to either unrealistic deposit geometries, or it may require
artificial rules to generate the geometries observed in nature.
To illustrate this point, SEDSIM was run in a deltaic setting using a model with a
single row of nodes, effectively functioning as a 2-D cross-sectional model. Then an
equivalent run was made in a wider simulated area. In both runs sea level, fluid flow, and
sediment supply were steady throughout the experiment. The results are shown in
Figure 1.


Figure 1. Comparison between output of SEDSIM forced to operate on two-dimensional vertical cross-section
(top), and equivalent run in full three dimensions (bottom).

The figure shows completely different sedimentary deposit geometries in 2-D and
3-D. The 2-D example shows monotonous coarsening-upwards beds. Although this trend
is to be expected in delta fronts, there is no lobe and interlobe deposit differentiation in
the 2-D model. The 3-D model, on the other hand, reveals alternating sands and shales.
The trend is coarsening upwards, but clearly there are defined sands corresponding to
deltaic lobes, interbedded with shales that are deposited when the lobe shifts laterally and
accumulates sand away from this section.
These autocyclic effects are pervasive in sedimentary deposits, particularly at the
subbasin scale (a few hundreds or thousands of meters), and are important in determining
reservoir geometry and connectivity of permeable sand bodies. Although models other
than SEDSIM may function better in a two-dimensional cross section, this experiment

illustrates the difficulty they would encounter to simulate various sediment paths that in
reality lie away from the section represented.

2-D-Plus-Depth Flow Simulation

Despite the ambition to make the model completely three-dimensional, flow

simulation in SEDSIM is not strictly three dimensional. To represent truly three-
dimensional flow in a natural environment such as a simple river channel that shifts its
shape and position through time for a period of hundreds of thousands of years would
have been beyond the scope of even the most powerful computer imaginable.
SEDSIM was designed to simulate flow using the approximation that the vertical
velocity profile (i.e. the function that shows the horizontal component of velocity on a
vertical line through the flow) has the same shape everywhere. This precludes different
flow directions at different depths (as may be caused by vertical eddies or helical flow in
river turns), but in principle allows use of a velocity profile function and variations in
fluid depth so that the flow can be termed "quasi three-dimensional." The great advantage
gained from this representation is that flow can be handled numerically in only two
This representation of flow is based on a two-dimensional continuity equation of the
following form:
- (1)
h = flow depth
= time
Q = horizontal flow velocity vector
V • = divergence
This equation states that if flow diverges, depth will decrease. It is similar to a continuity
equation for two-dimensional compressible flow, with the depth h here playing the role of
density in compressible flow.

The continuity equation is combined with the momentum equation, which describes
the effect of forces acting on the flow. After several simplifying assumptions, the
momentum equation can be written as follows:

DQ =-gVH +~V2Q_ c,QIQI (2)

Dt p h
= Lagrangian derivative of horizontal flow velocity vector with respect
to time (i.e. change in flow velocity of a moving element of fluid with
respect to time)

g = Absolute value of gravitational acceleration


VH = Gradient of the water-surface elevation (i.e. gradient of the sum of topographic

elevation plus flow depth)
c} = Bottom friction coefficient
C2 = Fluid friction coefficient
p = Fluid density
V 2 Q = Second spatial derivative of flow, i.e., if Q = (u,v), then

V2Q =-(a 2u + a2u a2v2+ a2v J

ax 2 ay2' ax ay2
This equation states that the flow acceleration is governed by three effects:
• gravity and the elevation of the water surface (i.e. flow is accelerated
downslope ),
• friction of each portion of the fluid against other portions of the fluid (i.e.
macroscopic viscosity), and
• friction of the fluid against the bottom
Equations (1) and (2), combined with a set of initial and boundary conditions (not shown
here) govern flow simulation in SEDSIM.

Particle-Based Numerical Methods

In earth sciences, most numerical problems involving flow fields are solved by some
variation of either the finite-differences or the finite-elements method. For highly
unsteady flows in which drastic changes in velocity with time occur (such as turbidity
currents or river floods) these methods may be inefficient or be totally inappropriate.
SEDSIM used what is essentially a "particle-in-cell" method to solve the flow equations
(Hockney and Eastwood, 1981).
To understand this method intuitively, one can imagine a small elemental "column"
(or "particle") of water that moves over a surface. Its movement is governed by slope and
gravity, (so that it is "pulled" down slope) by friction against the surface, and by
interaction with other particles. The numerical method keeps track of the position,
velocity, and depth of these elemental columns. Additionally, the method requires some
bulk "accounting" for all the elements contained in a given cell of a fixed rectangular grid
(thus the name "particle-in-cell"). This accounting permits the calculation of average
properties of the flow (such as velocity and depth) within an easy-to-handle fixed grid. It
can be shown that a large number of these particles in a fine grid tend in aggregate to
satisfy the described flow equations.

Sediment Transport

In addition to the flow equations, the mathematical model that describes SEDSIM
contains sediment transport equations that allow sediment to be eroded, transported in the
direction of the flow, and eventually deposited. One significant additional benefit of the
particle method for simulating flow is that the same particles that simulate a small
volume of water can be used to account for "carrying" sediment.

Each particle is able to carry a certain amount of sediment of each of several

sediment types. When transport capacity (a variable derived from flow conditions) and
shear stress at the bed are both high enough, erosion occurs. The topographic elevation at
the particle's location is decreased and the equivalent amount of sediment is added to the
moving particle. When the transport capacity decreases (as when the flow slows down in
a delta) deposition occurs. Additional laws are built in to handle multiple sediment sizes.
When sediment is eroded, the bulk mixture at the bed is picked up, but when it is
deposited, the coarse fraction is deposited first.
This numerical scheme permitted to simulate the transport of several sediment types
in complex flow situations with relatively little computer power. Although it is backed by
a mathematical model based on physical principles, this particle method is in essence not
entirely different from Harbaugh and Bonham-Carter's cross-sectional model (described
previously here). In the cross-sectional model, a "particle" moves from one column to the
next depositing its load as it goes. In SEDSIM the particle is allowed to erode as well as
deposit, and is allowed to move freely on a topographic surface rather than being
confined to a cross section. In this sense, SEDSIM was only an evolutionary change from
earlier two-dimensional models.

Time-Extrapolation Schemes

Despite the advantages gained by the particle method, it was difficult to simulate
periods of geologic time with SEDSIM without additional techniques to make it more
efficient. Two sets of methods were devised to improve efficiency further, at the expense
of accuracy:
(1) "Drift" methods consist of running the program for a short period of simulated
time (for example one day), and then extrapolating the effect of erosion and
deposition to a longer period of time (one year or several years). These methods
are adequate when the flow and sedimentation rates are relatively steady (such
as river flow between floods).
(2) "Skip" schemes consist of running the program only for events that are
significant in terms of sediment movement. For example, in a fluvial system
only floods larger than a "ten-year" flood may have a significant effect on
sedimentation. The flood itself may last only a few days, and it may be
unnecessary to represent the time in between floods. This scheme is ideal for
turbidity currents, which may last only a few hours or minutes, and recur only
once every several years.
Both of these schemes may occasionally be combined. For example, one yearly flood
may be simulated in full detail, and the time between floods may be extrapolated from a
single day of simulated time. Caution must be exercised, however, because the "drift"
method may become unstable. Automatic schemes to detect incipient instability--and
adjust extrapolation rates accordingly--have been tried successfully, but they also
complicate the model and may make it harder to set up a given simulation run.

Modular Design

Although SEDSIM was not truly modular in terms of software design, and was
developed before the era of software component objects, it had only a few simple global

data structures on which functions or subroutines operated in a succession of time steps.

These structures contained complete information on the current state of the system. They
included grids that represented the boundaries between preexisting layers of sediment,
grids that represented sediment composition in these layers, grids that represented fluid
flow and depth, and other variables that kept track of boundary and input conditions
(such as location and intensity of sources of flow and sediment that represent, for
example, rivers flowing into the area).
This approach made it easy for developers to design other modules that stepped in
between flow and sedimentation cycles to effect their own changes on the system, such as
compaction, wave action, oil migration, etc. Because the graphic representation
algorithms also worked from the same data structures, it generally was not necessary to
modify the graphic representation program after the addition of a processing module.
Throughout many years, several of John Harbaugh's students extended the power of
SEDSIM by incorporating additional modules that interacted with the original flow and
sedimentation functions of the program (Harbaugh, 1999). Dominik Ulmer focused on
simulating subsidence in response to loading by newly formed deposits. This process is
fundamental in increasing the accomodation space available for new deposition. Paul
Martinez developed the module "WAVE" that represents transport and deposition by
waves in a nearshore environment. Johannes Wendebourg developed "MIGRAT," a
module that represents oil migration and entrapment. Jan Marie Stam worked on eolian
processes, which previously were not handled by SEDSIM. Kevin Tuttle adapted
SEDSIM to represent deposition on an ice-front delta in a late Pleistocene lake in
sourthern Norway. The STRATSIM model developed at Texaco incorporated sediment
diffusion to simulate slumps, creep, and other transport processes that occur at scales
smaller than the cell size.
Also at Texaco, a separate program termed RIVER was developed, to simulate
braided and meandering rivers more efficiently (Tetzlaff, 1991). This model was linked
to STRATSIM to perform long-term simulations of fluvial systems. A sample output of
this model is shown in the next section (Fig. 2).
Possibly, other modules have been linked to SEDSIM and its descendants in recent
years in both academia and industry. This ease of extending the capabilities of the
program certainly contributed to its acceptance in industry.

Determinism and Chaotic Behavior

SEDSIM was designed to be deterministic, namely, a set of input variables and the
numerical methods built into the program would lead to a single possible outcome after a
given simulated time. However, highly nonlinear systems may exhibit pseudocyclic
quasirandom behavior, termed chaos (Slingerland, 1989). Chaotic behavior is not
complete disorganization, but rather unpredictability of future states of the system,
because of the amplification of small perturbations. Nature exhibits chaotic systems
almost everywhere. The classical illustration is that of a butterfly causing a "seed" of
turbulence that eventually could develop into a hurricane. By analogy, in sedimentary
systems, the position of a single grain of sand could determine, a few thousand years
later, whether a river meander bends in one direction rather than another.
The cross section of the 3-D model in Figure 1 shows complex sand-shale
interfingering, even though sea level, flow, and sediment supply were steady. Chaotic

0 0

1 .
80 8
2 __

I ~

3~ 3~
-1000 " -1000 II
-10oom -l000m

4~ 4~

5~ 5~

6~ 6~
7~ 7~
8~ 8~
9TI/ 9~
10~ 10~

Figure 2. Chaotic behavior evidenced by fluvial simulation program in two separate runs that differ slightly
from each other in input conditions. Each time step corresponds to 100 years of simulated time, for total of 1000

behavior is evidenced by the alternating deposits, in a pattern that is not cyclic (it never
repeats itself exactly), but is not totally disorganized either. Another illustration of
chaotic behavior is given by a simple program named RIVER, that simulates meandering
and braided streams (Tetzlaff, 1991). This module was incorporated into STRATSIM for
certain fluvial simulations. Figure 2 shows two runs of this model that differ slightly in
input conditions. The behavior of the model is initially similar in both examples. After a
longer simulation however, the state of the system starts to differ significantly between
the two runs. However, the final overall "pattern" of behavior (as for example average
meander wavelength,sinuosity, etc.) is similar in both situations.
Chaotic behavior may be unwelcome by modelers eager to adjust input conditions
carefully in order to match a given data set. It makes it impossible to use inversion
techniques to adjust a model. However, it is an unavoidable property of many natural
systems, and of numerical systems that closely imitate them. It also is the root cause of

much of the variability that we see in sedimentary deposits, particularly at the subbasin
scale. Thus, chaotic behavior of a model ultimately should not be seen as a hindrance to
useful practical applications.


Although practical applications of geologic process models have been slow to

materialize, we now can say confidently that this group of techniques is finally gaining
terrain outside the realm of academia and into applications in industry. Part of the
difficulty in accepting sedimentary process modeling as a standard technique in industry
stems from a lack of familiarity with the usage of modeling in general. Hard data, such as
well logs and seismic data, have been (and will continue to be) the main source of
information for delineating the characteristics of hydrocarbon reservoirs. Data are
processed and interpreted in a decidedly "forward" fashion: raw data go into a processing
module, and better, processed data come out. Interpretation of the geologic features
observed in these data usually is considered the realm of intuition.
Sedimentary process modeling (and geologic process modeling in general) in fact
can be done intuitively but it becomes more powerful and quantitative with the assistance
of a process simulation model. The model places constraints based on physical and
geological knowledge on the simulated sedimentary deposits. For example, given certain
sea-level variations, paleoclimate, and paleogeographic conditions, only certain types,
sizes, and geometries of fluvial deposits, deltas, or turbidites are possible.
An ideal geologic process model is used much as a reservoir simulator. In a reservoir
simulator we first estimate many reservoir parameters (porosity, permeability,
saturations, etc.). We run the simulator forward, and try to match well-production
histories and then iteratively adjust the reservoir parameters to perfect the match. When
satisfied, the simulator may be used to predict future production in existing or proposed
wells. Similarly, in a geologic process model, we have a prior idea of the
paleogeographic conditions (basin size and shape, sediment influx rate, paleoclimate,
tectonics). We turn the model forward and iteratively adjust the boundary conditions until
we approximately match observations (well logs and seismic). We then may use the
outcome of the model to predict the geology between and beyond data.
Sedimentary process models are more difficult to condition to observations than
geostatistical models. Also, geologic processes taking place through long periods of time
are complex and difficult to represent accurately with a mathematical system.
Nevertheless, they may offer an improvement over geostatistics in that they incorporate
geologic knowledge. They also offer an improvement over purely conceptual and
intuitive modeling because they are quantitative.
The results of sedimentary process models can be used to generate geostatistical
spatial variability information (variograms or other measures of variability) in situations
in which data density is low but paleoenvironment and geologic history are known or can
be inferred (Tetzlaff, 1991). This can be of great help to geostatistical methods when data
are so sparse as to hinder variogram estimation. Conversely, geostatistical methods
complement geologic process models in providing better method of conditioning the
outcomes to observations.


This section describes two case histories that illustrate the application of the program
STRATSIM to real problems in the oil industry. STRATSIM was developed at Texaco,
and is based on the same physical principles as SEDSIM. However, it adds algorithms for
sediment diffusion and carbonate growth.

Fluvial Environment Example

The study area comprises a square 5 km on each side. The unit of interest consists of
a set of fluvial and deltaic deposits. Five wells penetrate the sequence. The exact location
and depth of the unit of interest are not being disclosed in this article, but are not
necessary to understand the procedure and results. A 3-D seismic survey yielded
reasonably good quality data, but vertical resolution is limited to about 100 ft. Core facies
descriptions and palynologic data on both this formation as well as nearby equivalent
permit a fairly good reconstruction of the environmental setting, despite the overall data
sparsity. Paleogeographic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions, although providing a
useful conceptual desciption of likely lithofacies, do not normally provide great detail on
the distribution of petrophysical properties
The main objective of this modeling was to establish the likely three-dimensional
geometry of reservoir sands at a scale beyond seismic resolution, utilizing available
seismic and well data, as well as inferred paleogeographic and paleoclimatic conditions.
Only the primary depositional geometry and composition have been modeled by this


The initial input requires the geometry of the surface that represents the base of the
sequence. This was obtained by flattening an unconformity at the top of the sequence.
The magnitude of the dip of the underlying beds, however (more than 20 m per km),
seemed to be excessive for the alluvial plain environment recorded on the cores.
Therefore, it is likely that syndepositional movement may have occurred. In the study
area, incipient withdrawal of salt as a result of loading (without diapirism) may have
increased the original slope, by causing subsidence of the areas of thickest deposition.
Logs and core descriptions provided detailed vertical data at well locations. Core
facies interpretations were important in adjusting the model to reproduce the observed
environments. Logs were not honored exactly by the simulated model, but they were
honored in overall characteristics such as number and thickness of sand beds within each
major layer.
Thin sections from the core samples were analyzed with the purpose of establishing
sediment characteristics. The samples showed moderately sorted, fine- to medium-
grained sandstones composed of muscovite-bearing quartz framework grains with quartz
and carbonate cements, and diagenetic kaolinite. Quartz composes about 90% of the clast
volume and is present as subangular grains. The predominant grain sizes clustered around
0.2 and 0.1 mm in diameter. These values were used as particle diameters for the coarse
fraction. No shale samples were available. Although most clay particles have similar
transportability properties, they can differ widely in their cohesion after deposition.

Therefore, for lack of better data, two types of clays have been assumed: clay A, which
was assumed to have high cohesion after deposition, and clay B, with low cohesion.
The known geographic distribution of land masses at the time of deposition was used
to determine the initial configuration of the basin and its surroundings. Climatic
variations are of primary importance in controlling deposition. The combination of
models of cyclicity induced by changes in the Earth's orbital parameters with conceptual
models of atmospheric circulation in the past, termed cyclostratigraphy (Perlmutter and
Matthews, 1992) is an essential tool to help estimate climatic parameters for sedimentary
process simulations. A cyclostratigraphic study for the area of interest indicates climatic
maxima in which the climate probably was temperate/dry year round, and climatic
minima in which the summer climate was temperate/subhumid, and the winter climate
was temperate/humid. The climate probably oscillated between these extremes in cycles
whose dominant frequency was 100,000 years, with higher frequency component of
about 20,000 years. Precipitation and runoff predicted by cyclostratigraphy are
summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Precipitation and runoff assumed for STRATSIM clastic example run.

Annual Precipitation Annual Evaporation Annual Runnoff

Climate (mm) (mm) (mm)
Temperate I Dry 200 - 800 200-700 20-50
Temperate I Subhumid 800 - 1,200 400-600 200 - 500
Temperate I Humid 1,200 - 1,600 600 - 1,000 500 - 600

Runoff and drainage basin size determine the hydrologic regime. Drainage basin size
was uncertain in this example because paleotopographic details were not known. In
general, a maximum basin size based can be estimated on paleogeographic knowledge.
The variation in hydrologic regime based on the variation in precipitation and runoff,
however, can be estimated.
Sea-level variations are another important input to the model. The long-term eustatic
trend during the deposition of the unit of interest was probably rising, at about 5 m per
million years. Superimposed on this trend were short-term fluctuations with a period of 1
to 3 million years, and amplitudes of a few meters. The timing as depicted in Figure 3 is
not reliable, but was adjusted iteratively while running the model. Higher frequency
Milankovich cycles also were superimposed on this trend. These short cycles probably
had their most significant frequency components at 40,000 yr with higher frequency
components of 100,000 yr and 20,000 yr. Their amplitude and phase (timing) are not
known reliably for this period, and were adjusted until the model yielded results
comparable to data. Some uncertainty remained in the higher frequency oscillations, but
it only affected individual beds and not the overall deposit geometry and connectivity.
Further complicating the sea-level picture were tectonic movements. Fortunately,
fluvial systems seem to be more sensitive to climate and source variations than to sea-
level changes (Schumm, 1993). Tectonics also had several components. These
components were not cyclic as was climate and sea level. The major component is an
overall subsidence. Locally in the area of interest, nearby faulting suggests that the
subsidence was higher than regional. Superimposed on this subsiding trend there may
have been additional subsidence because of salt withdrawal. This may have caused the
area to subside earlier where loading first began (in the west), causing the salt to be
extruded toward the east and northeast.

Sea level (m above

arbitrary datum)
250 200 150 100 50 0

\. 10

i 15 before

~ ____________ ~ __________ ~25

Figure 3. Sea-level variation assumed for STRATSIM run. Ages are relative to arbitrary datum. Absolute ages
are not shown.

In view of the analysis described, the following modeling assumptions were made:
(1) Four sediment types were used: subangular sand 0.2 mm in diameter, subangular
sand 0.1 mm in diameter, and two types of clay that differ in their cohesion after
(2) Initial topography was assumed to be a plane gently sloping toward the northeast
at approximately 2 m per km.
(3) Two major scenarios were assumed for flow and sediment input. The mean
values for water and sediment flow are shown in Table 2.
Given these precise values for highly unknown variables, it is fair to ask how do we
know that these were the exact figures for conditions prevalent millions of years ago?
The answer is that we do not know these values precisely. We use them as initial guesses
because they are consistent with current knowledge. Then we adjust them so that the
model's outcome best fits observations. At the end of the process, we will have a model
that is consistent with known geology and honors overall properties of the data.

In order to avoid artifacts caused near the simulated area boundaries and incorporate
the effect of nearby areas, the simulation area was made twice the linear size of the area

Table 2a. Sediment input assumed for clastic example run, Case I.

Position in Water .2mmsand .1 mmsand Clay A ClayB

Climate cycle ( (kgls) (kgls) (kgls) (kgls)
Minimum 3,000 400 700 1,200 1,200
Intermediate 7,000 1,000 1,500 2,400 2,400
Maximum 16,000 1,500 2,700 3,600 3,600

Table 2b. Sediment input assumed for clastic example run, Case 2.

Position in Water .2mmsand .1 mm sand Clay A ClayB

Climate cycle ( (kgls) (kgls) (kgls) (kgls)
Minimum 1,000 400 700 500 500
In termediate 4,000 1,600 2,000 1,800 1,800
Maximum 8,000 3,000 3,000 2,000 2,000

of interest. The additional boundary areas then were cut off for display. The modeling
grid contained 100xlOO square cells, each of which was 100 m on a side (a total area of
10 km by 10 km). Initial model adjustment was performed by using the mean flow and
sediment input values modulated in cycles of 100,000 years and 20,000 years. Cycle
amplitudes were adjusted through time in trying to match the local sequence
characteristics. Two final runs were obtained, one for each of the two major examples.
Major time steps were selected to be 2,000 years. Because the complete interval to
be simulated was 13 million years this would have involved 6,500 major time steps, a
prohibitive span for computer simulation, given that each major time step contains
several thousand minor time steps in which flow and sediment transport calculations are
made. Therefore, initial tests were made with 200 time steps, showing that, of the 200
deposits, 2 or 3 were preserved, while the remaining ones were eroded by subsequent
events. Therefore, a modeling procedure was used that simulated only the preserved
layers, improving run times by a factor of almost 100.


The results of the simulation for cases 1 and 2 are shown in Figures 4 and 5,
respectively. The resulting deposits deformed by applying the compaction and structural
deformation known to have happened after deposition. Figure 6 shows the entire
simulated sequence after deformation. Figure 7 shows a detailed portion of the sequence.
In general, the results show a predominance of (but not exclusively) of meandering
rivers in case I, and braided rivers in case 2. Case 2 also tends to show better sand
connectivity than case 1. These should not be regarded as extreme-case scenarios. They
simply represent the expected range of uncertainty.
Several important considerations apply when viewing the results:
(1) The results should never be interpreted as showing reality bed-by-bed. At best,
they reproduce the overall characteristics of the sequence in terms of sand
connectivity, thickness, and lateral extent.


Figure 4. Upper part of clastic sequence, case I. Units of vertical scale on edges of block are in meters
above arbitrary datum.


Braided river
Sources deposits



Figure 5. Upper part of clastic sequence, case 2. Units of vertical scale on edges of block are in meters
above arbitrary datum.


Figure 6. Full simulated sedimentary sequence after deformation (case I).

West East

Figure 7. Detail of sedimentary sequence shown in Figure 6.

(2) All four sediment types are present in the results. In a gray-scale picture, lighter
colors represent higher average grain sizes. When color pictures are used,
however, it is possible to unequivocally define every sediment mixture with a
single color by assigning relative content of three additive primary colors (red,
green, and blue) to three components, and black to the fourth component.
(3) The lowest surface of the simulation is an arbitrary stratigraphic sequence,
selected because it is the lowest horizon for which well control is available.
(4) Given the cell size, horizontal resolution is limited to 100 ffi.
(5) Vertical resolution is 2,000 years of geologic time,. but layers may be arbitrarily


(1) The results indicate that most sands probably are discontinuous within the study area,
extending laterally only a few hundred meters.
(2) The highest likelihood of continuity is near the top and center of the A layer, and
near the bottom of the C layer, where sands could be continuous for many
kilometers. The main direction of continuity is probably NE-SW to E-W.
(3) The best sand quality may be encountered eastward of the study area in the upper
layers (A through D).
(4) In spite of sparse well data for Layers E and P, the modeling results strongly suggest
that sands in these layers are laterally discontinuous, they may lack seals, and may
have poor reservoir quality, making them poor hydrocarbon targets.
(5) No comparison was made between predictions and information that may have later
become available. However, the model's output provided the only three-dimensional
stratigraphy compatible with observations and geologic principles, and was used in
future development decisions.

Carbonate Growth Example

The focus area of this study was a set of Tertiary carbonate reefs. This analysis
attempted to assess broadly the stratigraphic framework of the study area using the
STRATSIM model. The objectives were to confirm the areas of hydrocarbon accumulation,
to understand the geologic reasons for these accumulations, and to evaluate the reservoir
performance under differing operational scenarios using a reservoir flow simulator. The
conditions favorable to recovery in this area included high vertical relief allowing good
vertical conformance as the water column advances. Also, high permeability allowed the
rapid redistribution of advancing water, and a large pore structure contributed to a low
nonwetting phase residual (gas and water).
Although the system was heterogeneous, this heterogeneity was so pervasive and
differing over such small distances that the flow was expected to perform as in a
homogenous reservoir. A 13x 20-km area was selected for modeling to minimize turnaround
time and optimize grid resolution. The studied area presented an opportunity to apply
sequence stratigraphy in a quantitative Way through use of three-dimensional stratigraphic


The process used in this analysis was as follows: review and categorize known data;
reconstruct sequences of interest; perform geologic simulation runs until acceptable data
match is obtained; impose post-depositional structure; and port the interpretation to an
engineering simulator and test the impact of different operational scenarios.
A data set representing the evolution and present-day state of the sequence of interest
was obtained. The data set is displayable in three dimensions on an SGI machine or two
dimensions on a PC. Mapped horizons were developed from wellbore picks and were used
in the construction of gross isopachs. Volumes derived from the isopachs were used to
determine total sediment supply and subsidence rates, and for inferring general source
location. A total of five wells were used in the preparation of these data.

Figure 8 shows the wells present in the area, superimposed on the contours of the
surface assumed to represent the initial topography before reef growth. The grid was
oriented to minimize the impact of STRATSIM boundary conditions {'no-flow' across the
boundary} and to minimize the number of cells required while optimizing resolution. When
using the current grid array of 23x31, it takes about 90 minutes to complete the 23.4 million
years modeled using an SGI-Octane workstation. This was a relatively coarse grid, but
sufficient for the purpose of the study.

- B


13 km
• 0 0



20 km
Figure 8. Initial configuration of simulated area and location of five control wells (A through E). Contours
represent structural elevation of basin floor at start of simulation in meters above arbitrary datum.

Several key assumptions were fundamental to performing the runs to achieve a

preliminary match of the available information. For all situations, the grid dimensions
were 20x13 kilometers with 23x31 nodes (22x30 grid cells). The cell dimensions were
565x645 meters. All runs had the same initial surface, assumed to be a gently sloping
surface as shown in Figure 8. The timing of the simulations involved a total of 23.4
million years. A single sediment source type was run at different rates for individual time
spans. Additionally, average (constant) subsidence rates also were assumed. The
location of the sources was fixed for the full time modeled. Grain transport relationships
were computed according to grain settling velocity with grain size as the changing
variable (shape factor and other grain transport parameters were assumed to be constant).
STRATSIM uses 'compacted' sediment input as the input volumes; thus the subsidence
(with compaction) rates were computed from the measured well thickness. These
volumes then were used to estimate sediment "supply" rates (corresponding to carbonate
The selection of sediment source locations is premised on the assumption that the local
reef highs were the center of the biologic growth. Their positions were adjusted until the
well thickness was matched. A constant combination of grain sizes resulting from reef
erosion was assumed. The grain sizes are shown in Table 3. For this initial analysis a
differing coarse to fine percentage was assumed, although the average was maintained at
50% coarse.

Table 3. Assumed grain sizes (in milimeters) yielded by carbonate erosion. Sizes 1 and 2
constitute "Coarse" fraction.
Grain Size I Grain Size 2 Grain Size 3 Grain Size 4
.221 (fsand) .100 (vfsand) .00391 (clay) .0239 (silt)

The most useful technique for establishing grain sizes would involve the use of actual
core material and should rely heavily on petrographic analysis to infer depositional
environment and measured grain sizes and percentages. However, because of the lack of
cores, in this example a negative, linear relationship of coarse fraction to sea level was
assumed (Fig. 9). Basically, as sea level rises, the coarse percentage decreases. One
additional constraint is that the average coarse percentage, 50% for the optimum situations,
did not change, but as mentioned, the instantaneous percentage varied according to sea level.

100% r--------------------~){h


Coarse % Sea Level (m)

0% r---------
-50 -40 -30 -20 -10 o ! - - Sea Levell
! 1

Time (million years) '-- - - Coarse

Figure 9. Coarse fraction (percentage scale on left) and sea level (scale on right, in meters above arbitrary
datum) as function of time. In this example, coarse fraction is assumed to follow negative linear relationship
with sea level.

The technique within STRATSIM for generating porosity and permeability can be
described briefly as follows: a porosity weighting based on grain size percentage adjusted to
depth, and a log permeability based on the median grain size were used. The porosity values
are compaction adjusted pure-component values simply added together. No normalization or
comparison with actual values was made, because of the lack of core data. A future analysis
would include the development of reasonable correlation parameters to effect an acceptable
match of the porosity and permeability values obtained in log and core analysis.
The selection of the correct time interval is of primary interest because much of the
remaining data is keyed to this information. Sea-level curves in particular, were set after the
beginning and ending time intervals were determined. Standardized sea-level values from
Haq curves (Haq, Hardenbol, and Vail, 1987) are the default values used by STRATSIM.
However, these values can be edited to customize the curves if deemed appropriate. Figure 9

shows sea-level values used in this analysis superimposed with the grain-size information. A
constant subsidence rate of 35 m per million years was applied. This value was obtained by
adjusting the model to match the well isopachous values. Other researchers working on this
area have assumed subsidence rates of 10 to 50 m per million years.
The procedure used to compare various situations typically is unique to a given type
of problem, because of the type, quality and amount of data available to constrain the
model. These constraints are important, because they represent what we know factually
about the area and must be honored in a way that is consistent with the physical processes


Figure 10 shows a 3-D view of a sector of the simulated deposits. The STRATSIM
computed stratigraphic variations are illustrated in the cross section in Figure 11. This
figure presents the calculated stratigraphy in its present-day position. In these figures the
light colors represent coarse-grained material, whereas the dark colors are the fine-grained
STRATSIM offers several interpretation tools to aid in assessing the overall
stratigraphy. One option allows the generation of 'net' sand maps based on criteria defined
by the user. Because STRATSIM transports and stores material based on grain size, it is
possible to interrogate each cell to determine if it meets defined criteria. For example, if
fractional components representing sand size or larger exceed a certain fraction (0.75) then
count the zone's footage as meeting the criteria. In summary, if Fl+F2+F3 >0.75 or the
fractional components of grain sizes I, 2 , and 3 exceed 0.75, then count the interval. In this

Figure 10. 3·0 block diagram of northwest quarter of simulated deposits.


North South

100m L
1 km

Figure 11. North-south section through simulated deposit.

manner, a net "pay" sand map based on the selected time intervals is compiled (or net "sand"
map, as only the lithologies and not the fluids are being considered). Figures 12 and 13
show the computed net "pay" and net-to-gross ratio derived for this analysis.
The results of incorporating this stratigraphic interpretation into the "Merlin" reservoir
simulator are summarized in Figures 14 and 15. The aquifer assumptions and their impact
on recovery are illustrated in Figure 14. In summary, an active aquifer system could result in
as much as a 12% reduction in recovery in a comparable depletion recovery. Figure 15
illustrates the flow modeled cross-section. This position also is comparable to the 3-D cross-
section shown in Figure 11.

Figure 12. Net "pay" map of simulated deposits.


Figure 13. Net-to-gross ratio of simulated deposit.

Recovery vs Pressure Support

1.02 -,----------,
Recovery Fraction 1 +-~"t---------1
Of Initial Depletion 0.98 +-- -"<"._----1 I-+-SerieS1
Recovery 0.96 +--------"."..,
___- - - 1
0.94 +------"''''''......
0.92 -t---r-----,.---~
o 2000 4000 6000
Final Pressure Support (psi)

Figure 14. Recovery fraction function of final pressure support.


(l) The stratigraphy of this area is characterized by a reef system that seems to have a
point source growth system. STRATSIM is used to provide information regarding
lithology distribution and porosity and permeability prediction.
(2) The area is characterized by passive margin subsidence patterns for the studied
interval. The rate of subsidence remained constant through the modeled time.

(3) The influence of water influx on gas recovery is nominal. A reduction of as much as
12% of the ultimate gas depletion recovery is forecast for an infinite, immediate
influx (constant pressure boundary at the oil/water contact). The current
interpretation is that this is a limited aquifer and will have a more moderate impact
(6% or less).
(4) Although comparisons between the reservoir simulator predictions and actual
reservoir conditions were not available, STRATSIM provided the only method to
obtain parameters to run the simulator in this example.
(5) STRATSIM can assist in developing a sequence stratigraphic framework from which
refinements in correlation and lithology estimates can be made. Future work would
include high-frequency sea-level curves, improved lithology estimates by matching
known lithologies and petrophysical values, and development of synthetic seismic from
the computed stratigraphy.

North South

01 0"'
Figure 15. Reservoir simulator section corresponding to STRATSIM section shown in Figure 11. X and Y
axes represent spatial coordinates of section, which extends 12 km horizontally and 400 m vertically. Gray scale
at bottom indicates oil saturation values for oil-bearing cells.


Since the early days of simulating sedimentation, we always have desired more
computer power and hoped that it would lead to more powerful models integrating a large
variety of processes. Although computer power did increase at a rate well beyond initial
expectations, it seems that the power of sedimentation models has increased at a slower
pace. Most of the newly available computer power has been used for graphics. Although
the early programs of he 1960's and 1970's relied on line printer characters to produce a
cross section, modern computers allow animated perspectives and full interaction with
sedimentary volumes that evolve through time. Graphics are important, but it also may be
worth rethinking the physical processes of sedimentation and the numerical methods
involved in representing them. The need to improve model detail by increasing the
number of cells as well as improving the flexibility of cell sizes and shapes also is

Individual programs exist for a huge variety of geologic processes. In this article we
have focused on sedimentation. However, mature software exists for simulating structural
deformation (folding and faulting), compaction, diagenesis, heat flow, oil maturation and
migration, salt dome formation, and many other processes of interest to geologists. The
value of integration lies not only in the possibility of showing several processes in a
single system, but rather in studying how these processes interact in nature. For example,
salt extrusion resulting from sediment loading may increase the accommodation space for
new sedimentary deposits, which in turn may affect further the flow of underlying salt.
An integrated model could predict the presence of salt domes away from observations,
and could help find sedimentary structures favorable for hydrocarbon accumulation.
A common difficulty with forward models applied to the geologic past is that they
require a lengthy iterative process to establish the initial and boundary conditions that
control their operation. The past topographic, geologic, and climatic conditions required
to simulate a sedimentary sequence can be known only approximately. Therefore, it is
necessary to run the models forward several times, progressively adjusting the input
variables so that the models' predictions match observations (such as seismic, well-log,
and outcrop data). When a good match is obtained, the models provide insight into the
geologic past and their predictions can be used (with caution) for interpolation and
extrapolation between and beyond observations. Automatic inversion techniques have
been tested on sedimentary process models, but generally have not been successful when
the models were complex enough to be useful. Models that show chaotic behavior may
well be impossible to invert, because a small change in input to achieve the desired match
with observations may have a large impact on the outcome, thereby making it impossible
to decrease the error function. Approaches other than optimization may be needed.
Optimal control may be a preferable alternative to match conditions that change through
time and constantly affect the deposits being formed. Better integration with geostatistical
techniques may provide a way to honor data exactly without sacrificing geologic
plausibility of the simulated deposits.
John Harbaugh has taken an interest in the study of nonlinear dynamic systems
(Harbaugh, 1999). If the results of his efforts are as successful in promoting the interest
of researchers as they were in promoting sedimentary process models, we can hope that
the subject will receive thorough attention and a vast array of new techniques for
understanding and predicting reservoir geometries will emerge in the next few years.


(1) Process models that simulate physical principles of sedimentation require substantial
simplifications and "time-extrapolation" techniques to be useful for simulating
periods of geologic time.
(2) Sedimentary process modeling can be useful in both clastic and carbonate reservoirs
to understand the origin of stratigraphic features and to estimate parameters needed
for reservoir simulation.
(3) Vast amounts of computer power are needed for simulating sedimentary processes.
As more computer power becomes available, programs should be modified to use it
toward the following goals:

• to enable simulation of a greater variety of physical processes (for example

wind action, underwater currents, slumping, etc.)
• to improve model detail by incrementing the number of cells, and possibly
the flexibility of cell shapes and sizes
• to improve interpretation by providing better animated three-dimensional
(4) The need to adjust model input by iteration and the lack of automatic inversion
techniques is a drawback to the widespread application of sedimentary process
models. However, the same problem affects other forward modeling techniques in
the earth sciences, including reservoir simulation.
(5) Sedimentary process modeling will probably be used more extensively in the oil
industry as a way to quantify geologic thought, but always will work in conjunction
with other interpretation techniques.


Haq, B. U., Hardenbol, H., and Vail, P.R., 1987, Chronology of fluctuating sea levels since the Triassic: Science, v.
Harbaugh, J.W., 1999, Stanford's Geomath Program: Intern. Assoc. Math. Geology, Newsletters nos. 58 and
Harbaugh, J. W., and Bonham-Carter, G.F., 1970, Computer simulation in geology: John Wiley Interscience,
New York, 575 p.
Hockney, R. W., and Eastwood, J. W., 1981, Computer simulation using particles: McGraw-Hili Book Co.,
New York, 523 p.
Perlmutter, M. A., and Matthews, M. D., 1992, Global cyclostratigraphy, in Niereberg, W. A., ed.,
Encyclopedia of Earth Systems Science, v. 2: Academic Press, Inc., San Diego, California, p. 379-393.
Schumm, S.A., 1993, River response to base level change: implications to sequence stratigraphy: Jour.
Geology, v. 101, no. 2, p. 279-294.
Slingerland, R., 1989, Predictability and chaos in quantitative dynamic stratigraphy, in Cross T. A., ed.,
Quantitative dynamic stratigraphy: Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, p. 45-53.
Tetzlaff, D. M., and Harbaugh, J.W., 1989, Simulating clastic sedimentation: Van Nostrand Reinhold, New
York, 202 p.
Tetzlaff, D. M., 1991, The combined use of sedimentary process modeling and statistical simulation in reservoir
characterization: SPE Paper 22759, p. 937-942.

Sx vertical exaggerat ion

• medium sand
o fine sand
o very fine sand
coarse silt

Figure 3. Kendrew Trough initial bathymetry and location of sediment sources. Bathymetry shown here was de-
rived from seismic "JO/MU" surface (Jablonski, 1997).

Figure 4. A, Inner Browse Basin initial conditions. Rivers from Kimberley Block provided sediment to area
throughout Mesozoic time. Wave directions are derived from paleoclimate studies by Moore and others (1992).
B, Inner Browse Basin simulation results after 5 Ma----displayed as compositional fences.

Figure 5. Yampi Shelf initial conditions at 110 Ma.


Grain-size legend
• Medium sand
Fine sand
Very fine sand
• Sill to mud


Pseudo-seismic legend IS4.SI11

20 ka simulation period
• next 20 ka simulalion period 139111

Grain-size legend
• Medium sand
Fine sand
Very fine sand
• Silttomud

Figure 7. Barrow Delta initial conditions. Location of seismic line c-c' is shown in white.


0 100 200 300 400 500



0 100 200 300 400 500


~ 500
0 100 200 300 400 500


0 100 200 300 400 500
Distance (kin)
Figure 1. Basin filling using Sedflux, showing grain-size variations (phi units) from model runs I through 7.
Run I: quiet ocean, sediment surface plumes and bedload dumping. Run 2: river dispersal of
sediment in ocean with storms. Run 3: run 2 plus sediment failures and gravity flow transport by debris
flows. Run 4: run 2 plus sediment failures and gravity flow transport by turbidity currents. Run 5: run 2 plus
sediment failures and gravity flow transport by debris flows and turbidity currents. Run 6: run 5 plus sea-
level fluctuations. Run 7: run 6 plus isostatic subsidence. Duration of runs is 2 Myr for runs I through 5, and
4 Myr for runs 6 and 7. See text for details.


0 100 200 300 400 500



. c 1000
~ a 100 200 300 400 500

Vert. Exag.


0 100 200 300
Distance (km)
Figure I. (Continued)

-. 0
.c 200
c.. 0

0 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700
Distance (km)
Sand Silt Clay

3 4 5 6 7 8
Grain Size (phi)
Figure 4. Basin filling using Sedtlux; showing grain size cross-section of run 8 (Table I) in adjustment pe-
riod before equilibrium profile was attained. Note preferential accumulation at base of continental slope and
zone of erosion and bypass on midslope.

o 200 400
o o
1000 1000

..§, 2000
Ci. Initial
~ 3000 Profile 3000

4000 L..-_ _ _~ 4000

024 6 8
Sea floor
3 4 567 8 Gradient
Grain Size (phi)

Figure 5. Run 8 cross-section with initial and final slope vs. depth profiles.

Figure 9. Entire Zenith oil field as fence diagram (view to NE).


100 mi A
100 km

11 00

Figure 4. (A) Measured depth from surface to top of Mississippian; (8) measured depth to top of Cambro-Or-
dovician Arbuckle Group. Note: Structure is generalized but major structural features are outlined. Data con-
trol for both maps is shown on Figure 2. CI = 100 m. Pattern shows areas where units are missing.









100 mi A
100 km
Figure 6. A, Map of uncorrected BHTs for Mississippian based on 5028 data points; B, map of corrected
BHTs for Mississippian.
N 60








100 mi C
100 km

Figure 6. C, Map of uncorrected BHTs for Arbuckle Group based on 4268 data points; D, map of corrected
BHTs for Arbuckle Group. CI = soc. Data control for both maps is shown on Figure 2. Note higher tempera-
tures in south-central Kansas (Sedgwick Basin) and deeper part of Hugoton Embayment in southwestern

Cedric M. Griffiths, CSIRO Division of Petroleum Resources, Australia,

Chris Dyt, CSIRO Division of Petroleum Resources, Australia, Evelina
Paraschivoiu, The University of Adelaide, South Australia, Keyu Liu,
CSIRO Division of Petroleum Resources, Australia


Since 1994 SEDSIM has been applied to hydrocarbon exploration and production
problems in Australia under contract to various oil companies, including Woodside
Petroleum Ltd., Mobil Exploration & Producing Australia Pty, Ltd., Texaco Inc., and
Shell Development Australia Pty, Ltd. The NW Shelf of Australia is an active, frontier,
hydrocarbon exploration area. From the Middle Jurassic to the Tertiary the sedimentation
was predominantly siliciclastic on a variable bathymetry that generally was subsiding
thermally but subject to local higher amplitude tectonic movement. The paleotopography
is determined relatively easily from adequate seismic coverage, and the sediment supply
was dominated by large rivers with channels that are active today. Combined
stratigraphic/structural plays have been proven along the shelf and the future challenge
is to identify potential stratigraphic plays which have little or no seismic expression.
Stratigraphic forward modeling can contribute to the development of play concepts in
such circumstances. Two case studies from the Neocomian (Barrow and Browse), one
from the Aptian (Yampi Shelf), and one from the Oxfordian (Kendrew) are given.
The comment may be made by company personnel that "we do not have enough data
to run a SEDSIM model." We show here that, as a company must build a conceptual
model anyway based on whatever limited seismic and well data are available, a SEDSIM
model can help to crystallize that conceptual model and allow explorationists to
experiment objectively with alternatives. Every subsequent well drilled or seismic line
shot adds an objective test of the model--and will lead to improvements in the quantitative
predictions made by SEDSIM and in the conceptual model.

Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems

Edited by D.F. Merriam and J.C. Davis, Kluwer AcademicIPlenum Publishers, 2001 71


As discussed by Tetzlaff and Priddy (this volume), SEDSIM has had a long gestation
period, developing as it did with the support of several major oil companies for more than
a decade from the early 1980's. One of the questions usually asked by oil companies is
"where are the practical hydrocarbon exploration and development applications?" There
have been few such applications published in the literature, partly for reasons of
Since 1994 a team in Adelaide has been modifying the SEDSIM code and applying
it to hydrocarbon exploration and production problems under contract to various oil
companies, including Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Mobil Exploration & Producing
Australia Pty, Ltd., Texaco Inc., and Shell Development Australia Pty, Ltd. Experience
with developing these practical models from exploration data sets paralleled the
modification and development of the code. Neither could have been pursued as effectively
in isolation. The variation in slopes, tectonic regimes, sediment supply rates, etc. tested the
models on a daily basis. Run times varied from a couple of days to several weeks. Most
of the simulation runs were executed on the SGI Power Challenge at the University of
Adelaide Centre for Advanced Computing. SGI Power Indig02's were used for code
development and testing. Simulation results were converted into full color true-scale map
form using Noesys Transform and Deneba Canvas. Report figures were prepared as
overhead transparencies using PowerPoint, a feature particularly appreciated by the
company operations geoscientists who could simply take figures from the reports to
illustrate an oral presentation about a lead or prospect without wasting any time. SGI
Snapshot and Graphic Converter were used to prepare QuickTime movies of the
simulation results using successive screen dumps. An OpenGL version of SedView has
been run on SGI, Sun, and Windows machines.
The SEDSIM team moved to CSIRO (Australia'S Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organisation) in early 2000 and code development is continuing with
turbidite, carbonate, and organic modules. Application and development are being
supported by both the Australian Government and industry.
Subsequent sections illustrate some of the applications of SEDSIM in hydrocarbon
exploration from 1994 to 2000. For each model the nature of the input data is discussed
together with problems specific to that model. The input data and the simulation results are
presented and the section ends with a consideration of lessons learned. Hopefully this will
encourage the realistic application of three-dimensional forward stratigraphic modeling
using the latest SEDSIM code.


During the late Paleozoic what became the NW Shelf of Australia (Fig. 1) was a rifted
intracratonic area subjected to extension. Sag phase sedimentation dominated during the
Permian and Triassic with some localized uplift and volcanism. Faulting, uplift, erosion,
and extension in the Early Jurassic was followed by break-up and the development of an


Indian Ocean

oebuck Basin
<§>o ,6~
8S , ~ :v
Barrow Delta Model
p . ub-basin

Western Australia
ZMWLiH'·' •

IY__ , I
• exploration well
Camarvo 100km

112£ " E

Figure 1. Location of modeled areas on Australian NW Shelf. Bathymetric contours are present-day depths
below mean sea level.

oceanic margin by the Middle Jurassic. From the Middle Jurassic to the Tertiary the
sedimentation was predominantly siliciclastic on a variable bathymetry that generally was
subsiding thermally but subject to local higher amplitude tectonic movement. Carbonate
sedimentation (Fig. 2) dominated the Tertiary of much of the NW Shelf as Australia
moved into warmer latitudes. The Neocomian of the NW Shelf offers an interesting
challenge to hydrocarbon exploration. The paleotopography is determined relatively easily
from adequate seismic coverage, and the sediment supply was dominated by large rivers
with channels that are active today. Hydrocarbon migration from deeper source areas is
proven, and much of the area is shallow enough to provide high-resolution seismic
sequence stratigraphic interpretation. Combined stratigraphic/structural plays have been
proven along the shelf and the challenge is to identify potential stratigraphic plays which
have little or no seismic expression. Stratigraphic forward modeling can make a
worthwhile contribution to the development of play concepts in such circumstances. In
the following sections we will show some case studies from the area. Two from the

Neocomian (Barrow and Browse), one from the Aptian (Yampi Shelf), and one from the
Oxfordian (Kendrew).

Eustatic curve local

(metr.. r.latJv. to ",osent) dinoflagellate
Ma 250 200 150 100 50 zones lUGS stages IGradstein stages Ma
95 95

100 100
P.ludbrooJdM Albian
105 Albian 105
.u. tetntc.nIhI






140 140

145 145




Figure 2. NW Shelf stratigraphic column. Sea-level curve is taken from Haq, Hardenbol, and Vail (1987).


With this simulation we were interested in predicting content, location, and geometry
of Oxfordian apron and basin-floor fans on the Parker Terrace and Kendrew Trough side
of the Rankin Trend, NW Shelf, Australia. Deliverables consisted of 1: 100000 scale
isochore, topography, and sand thickness maps, together with high-resolution models of
fan development along the Rankin High, Kendrew Trough, and Madeleine Trend from the
Goodwyn to the Angel fields (Fig. 3) from 156.7 Ma to 154.7 Ma as defined by seismic
horizons and biostratigraphy.

FIg ure 3a

Sx vertocal exaggeratIOn

• medium sand
o fine sand
o very fine sand
• coarse sUt

F,gure 3b

FIgure 3c

Figure 3. Kendrew Trough initial bathymetry and location of sediment sources. Bathymetry shown here was
derived from seismic "JO/MU" surface (Jablonski, 1997). [Color version of figure can be found between
pages 70 and 71.]


The Dampier Subbasin existed between Oxfordian and Aptian time. It trends
east-northeast and lies between the Rankin Trend and Enderby Trend. The Rankin Trend
is a structural high formed in the Early Jurassic marking the northwestern limit of the
Dampier Subbasin. The Parker Terrace forms the flank and break of slope to the east of
the Rankin Trend, bordering the Kendrew Trough. The Kendrew Trough refers to the
trough between the Rankin and Madeleine Trends. The JO/MU surface is the Early
Oxfordian (156.7 Ma) composite major unconformity surface formed by a combination
of tectonic rifting and eustatic sea-level fall, it also is known as the J-WSSI5 (JO/MU)
sequence boundary in the Dampier Subbasin (Jablonski, 1997). The JK surface (Fig. 2)
is the Latest Oxfordian (154.8 Ma) surface, also known as the J-WCS5 sequence
boundary. The margins of the basin are delineated by major normal faults to the northwest
and southeast dividing the Rankin Platform and the Enderby Platform respectively (Wuff,
1992; Woodside Offshore Petroleum, 1988; Miller and Smith, 1996).
Paleogeography derived from 3-D seismic and limited drilling in the region reveal that
during the Early Oxfordian the Rankin Trend area was exposed to subaerial erosion
because of combined tectonic reactivation and relative sea-level fall. A high
erosion/denudation rate of up to 0.25 m1ka has been estimated for this period (Dariusz
Jablonski, pers. comm. 1996). Slope and basin-floor fans possibly were developed
widely along the Rankin Trend, in particular on the Kendrew Trough side, in response to
the drastic paleotopographic changes. The change in paleoclimate and paleooceanography
also may have influenced the development and distribution of these depositional systems.
By developing a 3-D depositional model over a 100 km x 40 km area from the Goodwyn
to Lambert blocks, we could examine some of the potential sediment erosion, transport,
and deposition associated with the Searipple Graben (Fig. 3). Such an area is suited ideally
to SEDSIM modeling, and the availability of 3-D seismic enabled detailed
paleotopographic maps to be produced.

Initial Simulation Conditions

The input data were either based on geological interpretation from 3-D seismic, well
logs, and core data, or derived from modern analogues and empirical studies. The initial
conditions are shown in Figure 3 and in Table 1.


During the test and calibration stages, we repeatedly adjusted parameters such as:
basement hardness, position of sediment source, flow velocity and direction, sediment
concentration at sources, tectonic subsidence rate and style, wave base, sediment transport
parameters, flow time step, sampling interval, and display interval to bring SEDSIM's
response into accord with known geological information. Many simulation runs with
durations from 10000 years to 0.5 million years were carried out. SEDSIM simulations
were sensitive particularly to the paleotopography, flow velocity, sediment concentration

at source, wave direction, and sea-level fluctuation. The rate and style of tectonic
subsidence also exert some influence on the simulation results. The simulation is less
sensitive to the

Table 1. SEDSIM input parameters for Kendrew Trough simulation

TIME from 156.7 to 154.7 Ma
GRID 100 by 40 with a grid spacing of 1000 m
DENSITIES flow density-I 0 13 kg/ml, sea water density-1027 kg/ml
SEDIMENTS 10% coarse (1-2 0), 35% medium (2-3 0), 20% fine (3-4 0),35% finest (>4 0)
Density of sediment, 2650 kg/m1
CONSTANT 5 point sources on the Rankin Trend (Fig. 3)
SOURCES discharge rate, 150ml!sec; sediment concentration 0.07 kg/ml; flow directions as in
Figure 3.
SLOPE maximum slopes for the four grain sizes above and below sea-level
0.05 (2.9°), 0.03 (1.7°), 0.02 (1.1 °),0.01 (0.57°) minimum slope, 0.0001 (0.0057°)
WAVE (RATE) wave from present day southwest (210°); transport rate, 0.01 ml!sec
Wave base, 10 m; depth of mobile bed, 10 cm; wave calling daily
SEA-LEVEL Oxfordian high-resolution sea-level curve for the base case, and an alternative low-
resolution curve (Fig. 2)
WAVE berm height, 0.5 m, minimum mobile bed thickness, 0.1 mm, residual
PARAMETERS thickness for deficit of erosion, 0.1 mm, amplitude of local sea-level fluctuation, 0.5

depth of wave base, and flow sampling variation. The simulation was least sensitive to the
display and simulation intervals.
The SEDSIM simulations reconstructed reasonably well the stratigraphic framework
and the depositional system for the Oxfordian in the western Dampier Subbasin. The
simulated sediment isochore map between 156.7 Ma (JO) and 154.7 Ma (near JK)
resembles the JO-JK isochore map derived from 3-D seismic data, although a quantitative
comparison was not possible because of the difference in area, and the effects of
post-Oxfordian compaction. The depocenters in the Kendrew Trough area on both maps
correlated well. Thick sand-prone sediments were deposited in the depocenters along the
Kendrew Trough, whereas little sedimentation occurred on the Rankin and Madeleine
Trends. By the end of the simulation at 154.7 Mapart of the Rankin Trend remained as a
paleotopographic high, while the Madeleine Trend was completely submerged. Deposition
occurred primarily on the Kendrew Trough side, although minor sedimentation also
occurred on the Rankin Platform to the northwest of the Rankin Trend highs. Some of the
sediments may have been deposited into the Victoria Syncline to the northwest of the
simulation area. In contrast with the isochore map derived from the seismic data, the
simulation shows that only moderate amounts of sediment passed through the Madeleine
Trend high to be deposited in the northeastern part of the Lewis Trough. The thick
sediments observed on the seismic in the southwestern part of the Madeleine Trend
probably were sourced by sediments from the Legendre Trend, which was not modeled in
this study.

Lessons Learned

The study showed that a regional-scale 3-D depositional simulation is possible for a
100 kIn x 40 kIn grid at 1 kIn spatial resolution for a 2 Ma interval at 5 ka temporal
resolution. 1995 was the first time such a model had been attempted. On the basis of the
simulation six Oxfordian leads were identified, of which two were related to an existing
"Greater Planaire" lead (Woodside Offshore Petroleum, 1995). The simulation assumed
wave direction from the southwest, erosion of a subarially exposed Rankin Trend, and a
given depth-converted JO surface. Should one or all of these assumptions be shown to be
invalid on the basis of subsequent information, then some aspects of the sediment
distribution patterns shown here will be invalid. The sensitivity to wave direction, erosion
source location, and initial topography is known to be high but is difficult to quantify. At
this stage it is valid to state that we took the best estimates of these parameters available
to Woodside and partners at the time, and examined the depositional consequences. We
developed a bracketing approach to a range of simulation outcomes (scenario matching)
while building this model. With the state of the code in 1997 it was necessary also to
define simulation parameters that would not give numerical overflows.


Willis (1988) concluded that in the offshore Browse Basin, NW Australia: "Many
potential traps remain to be tested, particularly in the relatively unexplored central basin
area.... The chance of further hydrocarbons being encountered in this area is rated as
moderate but it is doubtful that many discoveries will be of economic significance, largely
due to poor reservoir development...."
Discoveries at Cornea and Gwydion (Fig. 1) demonstrated the potential for
long-distance migration of oil and gas from the deeper parts of the Browse Basin into
shallower, more proximal, sands. To date the successful traps at least seem to be modified
structurally, but there may be shelfal or deeper marine sands that have stratigraphic
closure. Spry and Ward (1997) discuss what they have termed the "EchucaiSwan-Bathurst
Island Group/Shelfal Play Fairway" defined by the combination of Callovian-Valanginian
source rocks, with Late Aptian to Cenomanian reservoirs and seals. While a transgressive
sand package was deposited at the Gwydion-1 location during S. tabulata
(ValanginianlHauterivian), farther west, and to the west of the "Basin Margin Fault
System," shoreface sands could be expected to be deposited as early as P. iehiense
(Berriasian). However, they recognized no "significant elongate or linear ridges" farther
west. The possibility that coarse clastics could be moved westwards across the
base-Cretaceous shelf into a deeper shelfal environment earlier than early M. australis
(Hauterivian/Aptian) seemed to be worth investigating, as well as the possible geometry
of shelfal sands along the Neocomian coastline. One possibility was that linear shelfal
sands existed, but below seismic resolution. As a contribution to exploration in this area,
therefore, we modeled clastic sedimentation in the Central and Inner Browse Basin using
SEDSIM over a 305 kIn by 215 kIn area.


The Browse Basin is a northeast-southwest-trending offshore basin, bounded by the

Kimberley Block to the east, the Scott Plateau to the west, the Ashmore Platform to the
north, and the Leveque Platform to the south. Geological aspects and hydrocarbon
potential of the basin have been discussed by Halse and Hayes (1971), Allen and others
(1978), Barter and others (1982), Willis (1988), Haston and Farrelly (1993), Maung and
others (1994), Stephenson and Cadman (1994), Spry and Ward (1997), and Symonds and
others (1994), among others. The main structural element of the modeled area is the
Central Browse Basin, bounded to the east by the Prudhoe Terrace and the Yampi Shelf,
southward by the Leveque Shelf and westward by the Scott Reef Trend. The Yampi Shelf
and the Leveque Shelf are the highest features of the basin. The Scott Reef Trend forms
a structural high at the northwestern boundary of the modeled area. According to Willis
(1988) the basin existed as a discrete entity between Upper Triassic and Late Cretaceous
time, after which it was covered by the prograding Tertiary shelf carbonates.
As Spry and Ward (1997) point out, the low relief on the Yampi Shelf during the Late
Jurassic and Early Cretaceous, and the gentle tilting to the northwest, meant that relatively
small changes in relative sea level (RSL) had a large effect on the location of the
shoreface. The lowermost Gwydion oil-bearing reservoir consists of two
upward-shallowing, proximal neritic, Hauterivian to Barremian parasequences (Spry and
Ward, 1997) lying directly on eroded, possibly Precambrian strata. Tithonian sediments
(about 15 Ma earlier) farther west may be expected to have a similar proximal-neritic
depositional environment but have a greater chance of being sealed up-dip by marine muds
deposited across a broad, shallow, shelf during a high-frequency RSL rise. The modeled
period of time was dominated by a series of low amplitude RSL movements, superimposed
on a short-term regression within a general transgressive trend. The final phase of
post-breakup subsidence caused a general relative sea-level rise and widespread deposition
in the Early Cretaceous.

Initial Simulation Conditions

Studies based on 2-D seismic, and limited drilling in the region, suggest that during
the Late Jurassic-Early Neocomian, the environment across most of the central Browse
Basin was shallow marine, ranging from marginal marine to inner and middle shelf
(Stephenson and Cadman, 1994). The orientation of the coastline and Neocomian
paleolatitude are shown in Figure 4A. The sea-level rise at the end of the Tithonian
drowned the islands and highs along the Scott Reef Trend, producing a series of shoals.
Parts of the Yampi and Leveque Shelves changed from deltaic to marginal marine or
estuarine. The conceptual model, therefore, for the Neocomian of the Browse Basin is of
a long, embayed coastline trending east-west during the Neocomian at a latitude of 45°S.
Gradual slopes led to a water depth of 120 m being reached 120 km offshore. The Scott
Reef Trend area (Fig. 4A) formed either a shallow shoal or a low island, providing little
sediment supply but protecting the mainland coast from northwest storm waves.
Paleoclimate modeling by Moore and others (1992a, 1992b) suggests that the main wind

Figure 4a

Figure 4b

Figure 4c
Figure 4. A, Inner Browse Basin initial conditions. Rivers from Kimberley Block provided sediment to area
throughout Mesozoic time. Wave directions are derived from paleoclimate studies by Moore and others
(1992). B, Inner Browse Basin simulation results after 5 Ma--displayed as compositional fences. [Color ver-
sion of figure can be found between pages 70 and 71.]

and wave influence was likely to have been from the present-day west-southwest,
Regional tectonic movement during the Neocomian was limited to northwesterly
(basin ward) subsidence, but local loading produced subsidence in the Central Basin
between Adele Island and Brecknock. The amount of subsidence must have been
sufficient to maintain water depths in the Central Browse Basin throughout the
Neocomian, while accommodating the 200+ m ofNeocomian sediment that was deposited
during this time period. Spry and Ward (1997) consider that, at the time of the early M.
australis sequence boundary, Yampi-l and Yampi-2 were located in a mid-neritic setting.
The location of the shoreline therefore was constrained by the need to maintain the
mid-neritic setting ofYampi-l and Yampi-2, and the proximal neritic setting ofGwydion-l.
Sediment seems to have been input to the system from the southeast, from several
well-developed river systems draining the Kimberley Block. The early Middle Jurassic
deltas marked by Willis (1988) and the Tithonian-Hauterivian rivers noted by Stephenson
and Cadman (1994) are assumed to provide most of the clastic sediment to the basin
throughout the Neocomian. Spry and Ward (1997) considered that lower shoreface to
transition zone sedimentation was present over much of the Adele Island to Leveque area.
Storms and high-frequency relative sea-level changes move sand westward into
progressively deeper water. Current reworking is possible in a predominantly low-energy
environment with restricted circulation. The input values for the simulation are shown in
Table 2.


After several calibration runs to test the sensitivity of the simulated depositional
system to changes of bathymetric gradient, location of source, grid size, input flow rates
and concentrations, and degree of erosion of the underlying sediment, the results were as
shown in Figure 4. There are several features of the system that are of interest from an
exploration point of view. It was considered initially (after Spry and Ward, 1997) that the
sediments at Yampi-l and Yampi-2 could indicate a more widespread existence of
Neocomian fans on the shelf at the distal end of the main palaeochannels identified by
Stephenson and Cadman (1994). It was anticipated initially that the simulation would
show both shelfal and basin-floor fans in the Central Browse Basin. The fans, however,
did not appear during the simulation, supporting the interpretation by K.K. Reimann
(Woodside Offshore Petroleum, pers. comm., 1997). In fact the long-shore current action,
driven by the west-southwest waves, in conjunction with high-frequency relative sea-level
changes, produced a series of linear shelfal sand ridges parallel to the shoreline, as can be
seen clearly in Figure 4B. The simulation suggests that, under the variety of assumptions
tested here, reservoir potential exists as a series of sand ridges sealed updip by
intraformational muds. The sands would be located in approximately the position (or
somewhat to the southeast) of the Middle Jurassic shoreface sands proposed by Willis
(1988, p. 267).
The character of deposition remained stable despite changes to source location. The
over-riding influence of the wave direction and energy should prompt a review of the

Table 2. SEDSIM input parameters for Browse Basin simulation

TIME from 144.5 to 139 Ma
GRID 62 by 44 with a grid spacing of 5000 m
FLUID DENSITIES flow density-lOl3 kg/m3
SEDIMENTS 5% coarse (0.3 mm), 25% medium (0.15 mm), 35% fine (0.07 mm), 35%
finest (0.004 mm), density of sediment, 2650 kg/m3• Basement
composition same as sediment supply
CONSTANT 3 point sources on the Yampi and Leveque Shelves (Fig. 4A). Discharge
SOURCES rate, 250 m3/sec; sediment concentration 0.5 kg/m3
SLOPE maximum slopes for the four grain sizes below sea-level: 0.003 (0.2°)
0.0015 (0.09°) 0.0009 (0.05°) 0.0006 (0.03°), minimum slope, 0.0001
SEA-LEVEL Milankovich modulated Haq curve was used (Fig. 2)
WAVE angle of incidence, 210°, transport rate 0.005 m 3/s, wave base 5.0 m, depth
of mobile bed 5 em
SEDIMENT maximum depth of fluid elements, 10.0 m
TRANSPORT minimum velocity of fluid elements, 0.01 mls
PARAMETERS minimum ratio sediment-Ioad-flow-element and sediment-load at source,

paleoclimatology of the Neocornian, but there seems to be consensus at present on the

latitude, geometry, and direction of storm tracks for this section of the coast during the
Early Cretaceous.
Although the results presented here are no more than a model, they represent the sum
of our current knowledge concerning not only depositional and stratigraphic processes in
general (as encapsulated in the SEDSIM computer program), but those specific processes
and parameters controlling sedimentation on the coastal margins of the Kimberley Block
in the Early Cretaceous. The model has been run for only part of the Neocornian section,
but it predicted the existence of stratigraphic plays additional to the one suggested by Spry
and Ward (1997) farther east.

Lessons Learned

This model emphasized the necessity of integrating biostratigraphic data, and lithology
from cuttings and core (where available), into a paleobathymetric model. Reconciling the
depths, energy of deposition, and preserved decompacted thickness gave us a defendable
water depth profile throughout the simulation.


The problem to be addressed by this SEDSIM simulation was that of sand location
and quality in the area around the islands that existed from the Aptian to Albian on the
Australian NW Shelf. We were interested in the sediment budget, nature and location of
the sediment supply, role of wave and wind in generating shelf sands on the D. davidii

concentrating the sands, effect of tectonic subsidence, and balance between sandbody and
seal development throughout the modeled area.


The modeling area is located in the northeastern part of the Browse Basin. The main
structural element of the modeled area (Figs. 1 and S) is the Yampi Shelf, bounded
westward by the Prudhoe Terrace and the Central Browse Basin, southward by the
Leveque Shelf, and eastward by the Kimberley Block. The Yampi Shelf and the Leveque
Shelf are the highest features of the basin. Prudhoe Terrace lies immediately to the west
and is separated from the Central Basin by a northeast-southwest oriented fault system.
West from the modeling area, the Inner Basin Arch separates the Inner Browse Basin from
the Caswell subbasin (Griffiths and Paraschivoiu, 1998; Barter and others, 1982; Spry and
Ward, 1997; Stein and others, 1998).

Initial Simulation Conditions

The main considerations, derived from discussion with Shell geologists and
geophysicists, were as follows:

• The dominant environment was shallow marine (nearshore --inner shelf--middle shelf)
(Shell documentation)
The paleo-coastline followed the trend of the Yampi marginal fault (Fig. SA). The
actual shoreline was difficult to establish, and was based eventually on the
relationship between the bathymetric slope and the estimate of water depth at the well
• The local relative sea level, in conjunction with the local subsidence history, had to
provide a dominant overall transgressive trend, with minor regressive episodes. For
lack of any more detailed coastal onlap data, the published sea-level curve of Haq,
Hardenbol, and Vail (1987) was used as the basis for sea-level fluctuations with
tectonic subsidence. The published curve was modulated with the high-frequency
oxygen isotope curve for the Quaternary. The reason for this is that the oxygen
isotope curve shows the phase relationships between the orbital forcing frequencies.
It is an assumption that the same phase relationships held in the Cretaceous, but at
present we have little other information.
• The irregular "basement" topography around the islands that existed during M.
tetracantha time (the so-called "Tetracanthalslands" around the Cornea-l b well (Fig.
SA) was taken from the Shell-generated seismic surface derived from a 3-D seismic
survey. The area of this survey was limited and it was necessary to supplement this
information with an additional interpretation of 12000 km of 2-D regional seismic
• The lack of evidence for a significant local source of sediment close to the
"Tetracantha Islands" led to the belief that longshore drift from the south and
southwest played a major role in supplying sediment to the area of the "Tetracantha

Figure Sa

Figure Sb

Figure 5. Yampi Shelf initial conditions at 110 Ma. [Color version of figure can be found between pages 70
and 71.]

Islands." One of the simulation aims thus was to investigate the role of longshore
drift in moving sediment into and through the area, with a view to better
understanding the local distribution of reservoir quality sands.
• The topographic gradient to the west of the "Tetracantha Islands" controlled the
residence time of sediments on the slope. The topographic gradient to the east
controlled the rate of transgression over the "basement" to the east of the area. We
used different rates of subsidence and sediment supply to match the observed rate of
sediment accumulation, and the most successful simulations used a gradient of around
0.02°. The subsidence history varied through time, and was adjusted to match the
preserved sediment at different well locations.
• As with the subsidence history, there is borehole evidence for sediment input variation
with time. The main source was considered to be the "Paleo-Roe" river (Fig. 5A), the
paleochannels for which can be seen on potential field data sets. Additional sources
fed into the area of the Yampi-l well, and between Gwydion and the Paleo-Roe.

Initial simulation conditions for the Yampi Shelf at 110 Ma (base D. davidii - Aptian)
are shown in Figure 5 and in Table 3. The sediment supply locations, wave direction, and
shore line are marked. Sediment from the Paleo-Roe River and other sources to the
southwest is seen to be moved towards the "Tetracantha Islands" by long-shore drift. At

Table 3. SEDSIM input parameters for Yampi Shelf simulation

TIME from 110 Ma to 98 Ma
GRID 59 by 39 with a grid spacing of 4000 m, 43° rotated
DENSITIES flow density-1013 kg/m\ sea water density-1027 kg/m1
SEDIMENTS 5% coarse (1-2 0),25% medium (2-30),35% fine (3-4 0), 35% finest (8 0)
density of sediment, 2650 kg/m1
Basement composition same as sediment supply
CONSTANT 5 point sources on the Yampi Shelf (Fig. 7)
SOURCES discharge rate, 300-700 m1/sec; sediment concentration 0.5 - 1.5 kg/m3
Sediment composition as basement; flow direction (Fig. 5)
SLOPE maximum slopes for the four grain sizes above and below sea-level
0.0045,0.004,0.0035,0.0035 - minimum slope, 0.001
WAVE (RATE) from present day SW (110°), transport £lite, 0.005 m 3/sec wave base, 3 m;
depth of mobile bed, 0.1 m
SEA-LEVEL high-frequency modulated Haq sea-level curve (Fig. 2)
TECTONICS varying subsidence rates over 12 Ma.
SEDIMENT maximum depth of fluid elements, 0.5 m
TRANSPORT minimum velocity of fluid elements, O. I mlsec
PARAMETERS maximum thickness to average sediment properties of surface layer, 1.0 m
SEDIMENT Sedimentation time step factor, 1. Ox I ()-1
DESPOSITION minimum thickness to create sediment grid cell, 0.1 mm
PARAMETERS maximum thickness to average sediment properties of surface layer, 1.0 m
WAVE berm height, 0.5 m
PARAMETERS minimum mobile bed thickness, 0.01 m
Residual thickness for deficit of erosion, 0.1 mm
amplitude of local sea-level fluctuation, 0.5 m

this stage the topographylbathymetry and water depths seem to match well the known
depositional environment in the wells.


The Albian depositional system is dominated by the longshore drift generated by a

wave impact direction from the west. Sediment from the main Paleo-Roe river source is
seen moving gradually from the southwest of Rob Roy-l to the "Tetracantha Islands"
(Fig. SA and SB). The northeast drift of the sediment was accompanied by a transgression
driven by a combination of tectonic subsidence and an assumed eustatic rise. Of interest
as far as raw sediment volumes are concerned is the difficulty of moving sediment north
of the Londonderry location. The seismic sections show that coastal onlap occurred well
to the east of the "Tetracantha Islands" and there is little evidence of reflection truncation
within the Albian at the Rob Roy-l and Cornea-l b locations. This suggests that in order
to build the observed sediment thickness at Heywood-l (700 m) and Rob Roy-l (4S0 m)
while preserving little at Cornea (80 m), there was a significant hingeline operating along
a line from Heywood to just north of Rob Roy. This hingeline acted as a trap for sand and
silt moving northwards and funnelled sediment down towards Heywood. The simulation
has captured the approximate observed sediment thicknesses in the control wells in
addition to the seismic geometry.
After 2.5 Ma (top D. davidii) a significant amount of sediment can be seen to reach
the "Tetracantha Islands" (Fig. SB and SC). A thin layer of mud is followed by
medium-grained sand. The build-up of sand towards Heywood already is visible.
Although a hundred meters of sediment are deposited to the southwest of Rob Roy-I, the
sands are concentrated in the thinner lower shoreface apart from the zone from Rob Roy
to Heywood where the sands are deeper marine.
After S Ma (near top M. tetracantha - Mid Albian), thin sands now surround the
"TetracanthaIslands" and significant amounts of sand are being directed northwest by the
hingeline that develops to the south of Heywood. The transgression has brought the coast
line to the eastern edge of the area, and the whole of this part of the basin now is
experiencing marine deposition. The thickest area of sedimentation is northeast of
Gwydion-l, although the sand is concentrated from Yampi-l to Rob Roy-I. Sand also is
concentrated along the Paleo-Roe estuary to the southeast of Rob Roy-l although less
than 100 m of sediment seems to have been deposited in the drowned valley. The
pseudoseismic after SMa (Fig. 6) can be compared with seismic line sa69_32S (marked
a-a' on Fig. S) which extends through the Cornea location.
The character of the initial deposition can be seen to match that on the seismic line.
Seismic line BBHRI7S_1O (marked b-b' on Fig. SB) extends through the Rob Roy-l
location and here the chronosomes have a more parallel character. The simulation has
captured the difference between the two areas. The difference in volume for the same time
interval also is notable and relates to the difference in proximity to the source material and
also to the slopes and bathymetric variation at the two locations. At top C. denticulata
(Mid Albian) (after 8 Ma), flooding back onto the shelf dominates the depositional pattern.
This is apparent on the seismic sections, which show little evidence of truncation in the

Cornea and Rob Roy areas. The depositional consequences are that there is significant
coarse sediment trapped high on the shelf, with long-shore drift filling in the depressions
to the east and southeast of Cornea. There is a channelling of coarser sand towards

a Cornea-1 a'

fo r location of lines see Figure 5B

b Rob Roy-1 b'



2.2 ~~
for location of lines see Figure 5B

Figure 6. A, Yampi Shelf simulation "pseudo-seismic" after 5 Ma simulation compared to seismic line a-a'
which passes through Cornea-l b well. Base surface/horizon is represented by solid white line and top C.
denticulata surface by broken white line. B, Yampi Shelf simulation "pseudo-seismic" after 5 Ma simulation
compared to seismic line b-b'which passes through Rob Roy-l well. Base surface/horizon is represented by solid
white line and top C. denticulata surface by broken white line.

Figure 7a

Grain-size legend
• Medium sand
Fine sand
Very fine sand
Silt to mud

Figure 7b

Pseudo-seismic legend
20 ka simulation period
• next 20 ka simulation period

Grain-size legend
Medium sand
Fine sand
Very fine sand
Solt to mud

Figure 7c

Figure 7. Barrow Delta initial conditions. Location of seismic line c-c' is shown in white. [Color version of
figure can be found between pages 70 and 71.]

Heywood along the hingeline. The subsequent depositional pattern remains the same as
during C. denticulata time but moved farther up the Yampi Shelf so that the main
depocentre now is to the east of Gwydion-l (reaching about 80 m in thickness) and the
main sand concentration is north of Gwydion-l. Comparing the pseudoseismic with
observed seismic shows that after 7.5 Ma the seismic at the Cornea location matches well,
whereas to the south the chronosome onlap pattern is starting to be influenced by modeled
wave-base, giving a more flat-lying geometry than those observed on seismic line
BBHR175_l0. After 12 Ma (top P. ludbrookiae--Late Albian), the major transgression
seen on seismic data continues and more sediment is trapped higher on the shelf. Sediment
supply must increase to allow for continued fill of the more distal parts of the basin (about
600 m at Heywood). Although some sediment continues to move eastwards into the
Cornea area, in the SEDSIM simulation much of the coarser sand is bypassed towards the
Heywood-Buccaneer area or trapped up on the shelf. Changes in the depositional slope
indicate that there are two depocenters developed, one proximal and one distal with the
sands concentrated in relatively thin beds between Gwydion-l and Rob Roy-I.
Comparison with observed seismic shows that there is significant sediment proximal to
the Cornea region. This is not matched on the observed seismic, where there seems to be
proximal truncation. This suggests that a Cenomanian-or-Iaterregression may have eroded
the P. ludbrookiae sediments. The regression may have been earlier (during early P.
ludbrookiae time) leading to the shallow-water sand deposition at Rob Roy above the
muds. Alternatively, the Rob Roy Late Albian sands actually may be transported into deep
water. After 12 Ma the chronosome pattern in the upper part of the succession matches
the observations less well. The top-lap pattern in the observed seismic suggests a
shallower topographic gradient than we have used in the simulation. The subsidence rate
that was used in the simulation was calculated to preserve the suggested water depths of
deposition at Heywood, Rob Roy, and Cornea. If, however, they were shallower than
estimated by Shell, then the top-lap pattern would provide a better match to seismic and
the bathymetric gradient would be shallower. The chronosome pattern matches well in the
more distal section and this again suggests that the bathymetric slope and shoreline
location may need revision for future simulations.
The location of the sand~rich sediments match drilling results in the control wells in
addition to predicting a sand-rich zone between Rob Roy-l and Heywood-I. When
compaction is taken into account it may be that the simulation has underestimated the
sediment input.

Lessons Learned

The importance of decompaction and proper backstripping prior to building a forward

model based on seismic and well data was emphasized during this simulation. The effort
put into backstripping is rewarded by much more stable slopes and faster computation
times. The effects of post-depositional erosion on preserved sediment volume are difficult
to estimate and suggest that a simulation window from unconformity or flooding surface
to preserved flooding surface should be selected.


Published studies have shown that potential plays in the area from the outer Exmouth
Plateau to the Rankin Trend (Investigator-l to North Rankin-Ion Fig. 1) on the
Australian NW Shelf include: Ladinian to Carnian fluvio-deltaic and marine sands;
Norian marine sands; Portlandian to Kimmeridgian transgressive sands; and Neocornian
fluvio-deltaic and mass-flow sands associated with the Barrow Delta (Barber, 1988). Of
these, only the latter have been proven to trap significant volumes of hydrocarbons. There
exists the possibility of other thick(?), deep-marine mass-flow deposits of the type
encountered in the Scarborough-l well associated with proximal-to-distal ramp deposits
of the Barrow Deltabottomsets. We were asked by Mobil and Texaco to model the
development of the Barrow complex, including the bottomset ramps, using the SEDSIM
3-D forward modeling program.
A 280 km by 280 km area over the Exmouth Plateau was modeled at a spatial
resolution of 5.6 km. In order to model correctly the distribution of sediment before it
enters the area of interest an additional 168 km of coastal plain have been modeled
proximal to the project area. The initial simulation bathymetry is based on a modified K.
wisemaniae (Late Berriasian) maximum flooding surface derived from a consideration of
the clinoform heights, slopes, sediment types at well locations, and the rate of
accumulation of sediment at Scarborough-l and -2. The simulation was run for 6.5 Ma
at a resolution of 20000 ka. Well control within the modeled area was provided by ten
exploration wells. The project aimed to examine the likelihood, and extent, of possible
deep marine sand bodies of Neocornian age in some of the sparsely explored parts of the


The Barrow Delta complex prograded to the north-northeast from the area of the Cape
Range fault zone (Barber, 1988). The sediment source was from the south, but the precise
nature of the entry points is uncertain, probably lying along a broad front near, and to the
west of, Zeepard-l. The paleogeography may be compared to the Brent Delta in the North
Sea with numerous contemporaneous distributaries across a 300-400 km front. The delta
complex was bounded to the east by fault systems onto which the deltaic sediments
onlapped. The nature of the western boundary is uncertain. Sediment supply probably
varied across the front as a function of differential subsidence for the life of the delta, as
well as tectonic activity affecting the cratonic areas to the southeast. Water depths seem
to increase markedly to the north, possibly reaching 400 m at a distance of 80 km from the
shoreface. The stratigraphic framework is shown in Figure 2. Several authors have
commented on the importance of the base-Neocornian bathymetry in controlling sediment
distribution. The main potential reservoirs would seem to be the shoreface sands and the
mass-flow sands of the prodelta.

Initial Simulation Conditions

Paleogeography (Fig. 7A) derived from 2D seismic, and limited drilling in the region,
suggest that during the Early Neocomian, the environment across the Barrow embayment
varied from fluvial, through shallow marine, outer shelf, to bathyal. The paleolatitude is
thought to have been approximately 35°S. The orientation of the paleocoastline was
approximately west-northwest--east-west-east. The Barrow Delta defined the northwestern
limit of the Perth and Cuvier Rifts, with (probably) a series of distributaries disgorging
large volumes of sediment onto and across a relatively narrow shelf to the Swan and
Montebello Canyons, which received sediment almost without break from the Neocomian
to the Neogene (Gradstein and Ludden, 1988). The bathymetry is difficult to estimate,
although clinoforrn heights from K. wisemaniae to S. areolata (Late Valanginian) differ
from 200 to 400 ms TWT, giving approximate water depths of 200 to 400 m at the delta
front (Fig. 7C). The initial bathymetry considered at the time of the K. wisemaniae flood
is shown in Figure 7A. The shape of the K. wisemaniae surface also can be seen in the
seismic line that is shown flattened on top S. areolata (Fig. 7C). Major Berriasian flooding
events periodically drowned the delta top-sets, but the amplitude of the relative sea-level
change has not yet been determined accurately in this area. A first approximation therefore
used the published Haq, Hardenbol, and Vail (1987) curve which, for the Neocomian, was
derived partly from the Exmouth Plateau area. This base curve has been modulated using
the published high-resolution DNAG sea-level curve derived from Pleistocene oxygen
isotope variations. Work on the chronosome volumetrics suggests that the sediment supply
increased gradually from 139 Ma to 133.5 Ma. The program was modified to allow this
to be modeled. Paleoclimate modeling by Moore and others (1992a) suggested that the
main Neocomian wave influence likely was to have been from the west-southwest, and
the Barrow Delta probably was protected from wave action from this direction.
The Neocomian subsidence history of the Exmouth PlateaulBarrow Delta is difficult
to determine because of the extent of post-Neocomian tectonics and inversion, especially
in the Scarborough area. The subsidence history that was used for the simulation was
based on two major assumptions. The first is that the proximal coastal plain sediments
south ofInvestigator-l maintained a position close to sea level throughout the Neocomian,
despite the accumulation of about 400 m of compacted sediment in the proximal section.
The second is that preexisting distal areas of subsidence continued to subside during the
Neocomian--for example the Scarborough depression and the Kangaroo Syncline.
Regional tectonic movement during the Neocomian was limited to northwesterly
(basin ward) subsidence, but local loading produced proximal subsidence. The amount of
subsidence must have been sufficient to maintain water depths in the outer shelf area
throughout the Neocomian while accommodating the 700+ m of Neocomian sediment
(before compaction) that was deposited during this time period.
Major sea-level falls occurred at 138 Ma (upper C. delicata), 136 Ma (upper B.
reticulatum), and 134.7 Ma (S. areolata). The effect on the delta front seems to have been
localized, with relatively small volumes of mass-flow deposits being captured by the
simulation. The trapping of sand on the coastal plain even during major sea-level falls
relates to the rate of subsidence of the coastal plain. The change in slope of the delta-front

Table 4. SEDSIM input parameters for Barrow Delta simulation

TIME from 140 Ma to 133.5 Ma
GRID 82 by 51 with a grid spacing of 5600 m
FLUID DENSITIES flow density-1015 kg m'\ sea water density-I 027 kg m·l
SEDIMENTS 25% coarse (0.375 mm), 40% medium (0.1875 mm), 15% fine (0.0957
mm), 20% finest (0.032 mm), density of sediment, 2650 kg m·l .
SOURCES 6 point sources on the southern margin (Fig. 7 A). Total discharge rate,
-7000 ml sec"; sediment concentration O. 4 to 1.0 kg m·l , flow rate 0.5 to
0.6 ms·'.
SLOPE initial maximum slopes for the four grain sizes below sea-level: 0.04 (2.3°)
0.025 (1.4°) 0.0 I (0.6°) 0.00 I (0.06°), minimum slope, 0.000 I (0.0057°)
SEA-LEVEL Modulated Haq curve was used (Fig. 2)
WAVE 100° incidence, 5 m wave base, 5 cm mobile bed
SEDIMENT maximum depth of fluid elements, 1.0 m
TRANSPORT minimum velocity of fluid elements, 0.1 mls

during B. reticulatum time suggests a major slumping and instability event. The major
input values can be seen in Table 4.


The results are shown in Figure 7B and 7C. The Zeepaard-I well, which was in a
prodelta location during K. wisemaniae, shows frequent pulses of fine to medium sand
during this period in an otherwise silty background sedimentation. Sediment is released
from the delta-front in both the Scarborough and Kangaroo Syncline directions, but the
predominant sand output is in the Zeepaard-I and Kangaroo Syncline direction. The main
sediment thickness lies between Sirius-I and Zeepaard-I and consists mainly of foresets
and the progradational front of the delta.
From 139 Ma to 138 Ma (c. delicata) sedimentation is concentrated in the
Scarborough direction (Fig. 8). The main sand concentration is north of Zeewulf-l and
a maximum of 280 m of sediment is deposited to the east of Investigator-I. The major
sea-level fall at 138 Ma and the subsequent low-stand sedimentation and transgressive
systems tract produced prodelta lobes extending beyond Mercury-l to the east and as far
as Jupiter-I in the Scarborough depression to the west (Fig. 7). Rapid subsidence during
this interval led to thicker topsets and less of a concentration of sediment in the foresets.
The highest prodelta fan net:gross predicted by this simulation is to the west. A
comparison between the simulated seismic geometry and the observed seismic line
X78A-33R (Fig. 7C) shows that there are low-stand delta-toe ramp sands associated with
the C. delicata fall, but that a significant amount of sand is trapped in the topsets.
The B. reticulatum deposition predominantly is high-stand from 137 Ma to 136 Ma,
but the simulation shows major lobe-switching leading to prodelta deposition in the
Scarborough depression and to the far west of the model. The prodelta fan to the west of
Scarborough-I is predicted to be sand-dominated. Immediately after the B. ret. sea-level
fall there are fine-sand mass-flow deposits in both the Scarborough region and the

Modeled offlap
break at 133.5 Ma


Resolution-1 0

o 200 400 600

Sediment thickness (m)

Seismic location of offJap break

- - 133.5 Ma S. areolata

136 Ma B. reticulata

_ • 138 Ma C. delicata

140 Ma K. wisemaniae

Figure 8. Barrow Delta simulation results at 133.5 Ma (after 6.5 Ma) displayed as isopachous map. Figure
shows successive offlap-breaks identified from seismic interpretation as well as final modeled offlap break.

Kangaroo Syncline. Deposition during the B. reticulatum low-stand (from 135.7 Ma) and
the subsequent E. torynum transgression and high-stand (135 Ma) shows a slowing down
of subsidence in the proximal delta region and consequent thin topsets except for some
infill to the west of Sirius-l and south of Zeepaard-l. The Scarborough depression
continues to subside and receives up to 100 m of mass-flow sediment during this time. The
consequences of the S. areolata sea-level fall, low-stand and subsequent transgression
(134.6 Ma to 133.5 Ma) is masked to a certain extent by a falling off of sediment supply
and a slowing of subsidence in the proximal region. Topset deposition is thin and silty with
medium sand restricted to the topsets and a small concentration around Zeepaard-l.
Looking at the total Neocomian sediment deposition from 140 Ma to 133.5 Ma (Fig.
8), the Barrow Delta front is seen to have prograded about 50 km in 6.5 Ma, resulting in
a sediment concentration in foresets between Sirius-l and Zeepaard-l. The net gross in
most of the foresets is about 0.5 whereas the topsets generally have about 0.7 netgross.
The Scarborough depression accumulates about 500 m of sediment with an average
net gross of around 0.2. It is important to remember that the net gross reported here refers
to the complete Neocomian sediment package, and there will be zones within the package
with higher net:gross [for example the E. torynum (Mid Valanginian) deposition in the
Scarborough depression shows about 0.4 netgross].

Lessons Learned

The total sediment budget in the simulations was below that preserved in the observed
section, and any further work probably should look at increasing the proximal subsidence
rate and including a greater range of grain sizes (up to very coarse sand). A new version
of SEDSIM with six grain sizes was developed to cope with this problem. The importance
of backs tripping again was made apparent and much time was used to select an appropriate
horizon on which to flatten. It may be impossible to defend any flattening and an artificial
"mud gradient" is used as a pseudohorizon. We also determined that, in the absence of a
definable incised river valley on seismic, the precise locating of the river sources was not
that critical as the water flow rapidly established its own path as a function of the overall


The biostratigraphic zones here are the locally used Australian dinoflagellate zones
and may differ from the zonations as published by Haq, Hardenbol, and Vail (1987). The
relationship between biostratigraphic zonation, radiometric ages, local sea-level curves,
local tectonic subsidence, and the eustatic signal is complex and can be a major cause of
mistiming of depositional events. In three out of the four simulations presented here the
oil company had not carried out a local coastal-onlap study based on seismic sections. In
three out of the four cases there was no internally discussed justification of the time scale
to use, for example, for the base Neocomian there is up to a 16 Ma disagreement between
the lUGS (2000), Gradstein and Ogg (1996), and Harland and others (1989) ages. The

Haq, Hardenbol, and Vail (1987) eustatic sea-level curve uses (roughly) the lUGS (2000)
ages for stage boundaries. We have not taken sides in the time-chart discussion but have
used the ages preferred by the companies supporting the simulations. There is obviously
potential for improvement in this area.
Determining the sediment supply rates from preserved volumes is a complex practical
issue. The methodology described in Griffiths and Hadler-Jacobsen (1993) can be used
once a three-dimensional chronostratigraphy has been determined. Unfortunately, few
companies put the effort into deriving quantitative three-dimensional Wheeler diagrams.
Forward stratigraphic modeling is not, and probably never will be, a matter of pressing
a button on a black box. The process of deriving the input parameters from a complex set
of exploration data will be demanding of time and effort, either by the companies or
consultants. The quality of the data used to build the model is paramount. Inadequate
biostratigraphic interpretation; inadequate sedimentological interpretation of wireline logs,
cuttings, or core; or inadequate seismic interpretation, inevitably will lead to an inadequate
model. However, perhaps the overiding message from the years we have spent developing
these practical applications is that the process of bringing together the diverse data needed
and discussing the input parameters with company personnel enhances the company's
understanding of the system and can lead to insights. The actual model runs then
encapsulate that knowledge and provide a focus for interdiSciplinary discussion within the
The comment is heard by company personnel is that "'we do not have enough data to
run a SEDSIM model." Our response to that is that you must build a conceptual model
anyway--based on whatever limited seismic and well data are available. A SEDSIM model
can help to crystallize that conceptual model and allows an objective experiment with
alternatives. Every subsequent well drilled or seismic line shot adds an objective test of
the model and will lead to improvements in the quantitative predictions made by SEDSIM.


Through the support of companies operating in Australia we have carried out

SEDSIM simulations of several hydrocarbon plays on the NW Shelf and some of them
have been discussed here. We now are in a position to carry out a SEDSIM simulation of
the complete NW Shelf Neocomian depositional system (about 1500 km long by 500 km
wide), and to make predictions concerning the reservoir and intraformational seal
distribution within this proven fairway.
Because of space limitations, we have not shown any of the reservoir-scale models
that have been developed during the past five years. A discussion of the use of SEDSIM
for heterogeneity upscaling is being published elsewhere (Paraschivoiu and others, 2000).
The use of SEDSIM in hydrocarbon exploration has reached an exciting period of
development and application as we move to include carbonates and other organic material
and integrate the program with structural and seismic interpretation packages. As the
search for subtle stratigraphic traps intensifies, the next decade will see the increasing use

of this technology as a part of the explorationist's toolkit in many depositional



The simulations presented here would not have been possible without the pioneering
work of Prof. John Harbaugh and the group at Stanford University, in particular Dan
Tetzlaff, Johannes Wendebourg, ChristofRamshorn, Paul Martinez, Michael Alvers, and
Shao-ou Chin among others. The support at various times ofBP, Statoil, Woodside, Shell,
Mobil, and Texaco helped significantly in the development of this approach. In Australia
the enthusiasm and vision of Keith Spence (Woodside) and Larry Wakefield (Shell) was
an important factor in arranging support for the first simulations.


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systems in the Dampier Sub·basin: APPEA Jour., v. 36, no. I, p. 369-384
Moore, G. T., Hayashida, D. N., Ross, C. A, and Jacobson, S. R., I 992a, Palaeoclimate of the
KimmeridgianlTithonian (Late Jurassic) world: I Result using a general circulation model:
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeooceanography, v. 93, no. 1·2, p. 113·150.
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KimmeridgianlTithonian (Late Jurassic) world: II Sensitivity tests comparing three different
palaeotopographic settings: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeooceanography, v. 95, no. 3·4, p.
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and Purcell, R.R., eds., The sedimentary basins of Western Australia: Proc., West Australian Basins Symp.
(Perth, W.A.), p. 497·507.
Paraschivoiu, E., Griffiths, C. M., Dyt, C., and Carter, S., 2000, The use of three·dimensional nested forward
stratigraphic simulations to provide variable·resolution heterogeneity models: submitted to Transport in
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Australia: Proc. West Australian Basins Symp. (Perth, W.A.), p. 435·448.
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Press, Cambridge, 99 p.
Spry, T.B., and Ward,!., 1997, The Gwydion discovery: A new play fairway in the Browse Basin: APPEA Jour.,
v. 37, no.l, p. 87·102.
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of the Cornea discovery, Browse Basin, Western Australia, in Purcell, P.G., and R.R.,eds, The sedimentary
basins of Western Australia 2. Proc. West Australian Basins Symp. (Perth, W.A), p. 421·431.
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Geosciences, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 202 p.
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(Perth, W.A.), p. 259·272 [NI][N2J.
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Australia: Proc. Petroleum Exploration Soc. Australia Symp. (Perth, W.A.), p. 115·128.
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DamianB. O'Grady and James P.M. Syvitski, Institute of Arctic and
Alpine Research, Department of Geological Sciences, University of
Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado USA


Physics-based numerical models can simulate sedimentation on continental margins.

They provide for an ideal platform to examine the response of morphology to changing
sedimentary and geological conditions. Numerical experiments were conducted with the
multiprocess, basin-fill model SedFlux, to evaluate the evolution of the two-dimensional
shape of siliciclastic continental slopes. The SedFlux experiments were able to isolate the
effect of river plumes, shelf energy, sediment failure, gravity flows, subsidence, and sea-
level fluctuations on the shape of the slope profile.
Simulation results show that hemipelagic sedimentation along with shelf storms
produce simple clinoforms of differing geometry. Oblique clinoforms are formed in
association with low-energy conditions and sigmoid geometries associated with more
energetic wave conditions. Simulated slope failure steepens the upper continental slope
and creates a more textured profile. Topographic smoothing induced by bottom boundary-
layer transport enhances the stability of the upper continental slope. Different styles of
sediment gravity flows (turbidity currents, debris flows) affect the profile geometry
differently. Debris flows accumulate along the base of the continental slope, leading to
slope progradation. Turbidite deposition principally occurs on the basin floor and the
continental slope remains a zone of erosion and sediment bypass. Sea level and flexural
subsidence surprisingly show smaller impacts on profile shape. Initial basin steepness and
water depth have a profound influence on the steepness of the eqUilibrium profile. When
compared to the morphology of modem passive margins, most of the eqUilibrium profiles
compare best with margins under the influence of relatively high sediment input.

Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems

Edited by D.F. Merriam and J.C. Davis. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. 2001 99


In most sedimentary systems, the morphology and geometry of landforms are shaped
by the interaction of several influential and often competing processes. The shape of
deltas (Wright and Coleman, 1973; Orton and Reading, 1993), or river channels (Leopold
and Maddock, 1972; Richards, 1987), or bed forms (Allen, 1983), usually can be attributed
to the interaction among a few governing parameters (e.g. sediment supply, grain size,
wave energy, flow velocity). The shape of the continental slope, particularly in passive
settings, also responds to the deposition of sediment. However, direct associations
between slope geomorphology and sedimentary processes are not defined as clearly as they
are for the environments previously mentioned (O'Grady and others, 2000). The agents
controlling sedimentation on margins generally are numerous and interact on a variety of
scales; from geologic-scale processes, such as thermal and isostatic subsidence, to event-
scale phenomena such as underwater landslides (Hampton, Lee, and Locat, 1996). Thus,
the intricacies of process interaction are nonintuitive.
The recent proliferation of high-quality bathymetric data has allowed marine
geologists to analyze the morphologies exhibited by modern continental margins and
begin to attribute their variability to the formative sedimentary environment (Prats on and
Haxby, 1996; O'Grady and others, 2000). Another tool that will aid our rudimentary
understanding of sedimentary process-form relations on continental margins is the
numerical model.
Numerical experiments have been used extensively for examining the formation of
sedimentary sequences on continental margins (Jervey, 1988; Kendall and others, 1991;
Lawrence, 1993; Skene, Mulder, and Syvitski, 1997; Steckler, 1999). These studies usually
are focused on the response of certain geomorphic features, (e.g. the shoreline or shelf
break) to changes in sea level, tectonics, and sediment supply. However, there are few
numerical experiments that examine the shape and geomorphic evolution of the continental
slope (Ross and others, 1994; Pratson and Coakley, 1996). Stratigraphic models just now
are reaching a level of sophistication whereby the myriad sedimentary processes that occur
on continental margins and slopes can be modeled realistically and efficiently using
numerical schemes. This new ability rests with advancements in computing power, and our
physical understanding of important marine sedimentary processes (Garcia and Parker,
1987; Morehead and Syvitski, 1999; Morehead, Syvitski, and Hutton, in press).


According to the model classification scheme suggested by Watney, Rankey, and

Harbaugh (1999), SedFlux (Syvitski, Pratson, and O'Grady, 1999) is a two-dimensional,
forward-running, deterministic, stratigraphic simulation model. Paola (2000) describes
Sedflux as a comprehensive and coupled, dynamic model, able to simulate marine
stratigraphy and architecture. SedFlux' s underlying philosophy is to simulate sedimentary
processes (see Tetzlaff and Harbaugh, 1989, Tetzlaff, 1986; Bitzer and Harbaugh, 1987
for other examples), which causes sediment to be laid down according to algorithms that

reflect the physics of water and sediment motion. Physics-based models start from the
principle of continuity, including governing equations of volume, mass, momentum, and
energy (Parker, Fukushima, and Pantin, 1986; Syvitski, 1989; Pratson and others, in press).
These attributes make physics-based models useful for the study of how different margin
processes influence the long-term morphology of continental margins. This is unique
compared to other approaches that are more computationally efficient, but use nonphysical
sedimentation rules (e.g. Bowman and Vail, 1999), or lump many processes into a single
governing equation (e.g. Rivenaes, 1997).
SedFlux is comprised of component models, most of which stem from a physical
derivation of a specific sedimentary or geological process. The component processes
include: sediment discharge (Syvitski, Morehead, and Nicholson, 1998; Syvitski and
Morehead, 1999); deltaic plain sedimentation and erosion (Syvitski and Hutton, in press-
a); bedload dumping on a tidal flat (Syvitski and Hutton, in press-a); fallout from river-
mouth plumes, both hyperpycnal and hypopycnal (Skene, Mulder, and Syvitski, 1997;
Syvitski and others, 1998; Morehead and Syvitski, 1999); stormresuspension and transport
(Syvitski and Hutton, in press-a); sediment stability and failure (Janbu, 1969, Syvitski and
Hutton, in press-b); erosion and deposition by turbidity currents (Skene, Mulder, and
Syvitski, 1997); sedimentation from debris flows (Prats on and others, 2000); flexural
subsidence (Steckler, 1999; Angevine, Heller, and Paola, 1990); tectonic motion, and
faulting (Syvitski and Hutton, in press-a); sediment compaction (Bahr and Syvitski, 1998;
Bahr and others, in press); and sea-level fluctuations (Skene and others, 1998).
2-D SedFlux predicts basin stratigraphy in the horizontal and vertical direction. The
initial basin geometry defines the initial bathymetry, at a user-specified horizontal
resolution (-10 to 100m). The vertical resolution is user specified (-1 to SOcm), within
which deposited sediment have their characteristics (bulk density, porosity, permeability,
age) averaged. The grain-size frequency distribution is tracked in each cell. Each
component process has a unique resolution (temporal and spatial) independent of the
SedFlux architecture. The time step for the SedFlux architecture can be changed, but the
model is designed to simulate sedimentary processes at a daily step in order to capture
discrete events. The component processes interact through the evolving characteristics of
the seafloor.


A series of experiments were conducted wherein hypothetical passive margins were

built on top of a simple initial bathymetric profile (Fig. 1). The experiments were
designed to examine how continental slopes evolve their shape through time, under
differing environmental conditions (Table 1). In each simulation, the input conditions
were modified by switching certain processes on or off. This was done stepwise, by
having only essential processes active initially, and then enabling additional processes in
subsequent runs. Experiments began with a sediment feed by river plumes that flowed into
a quiet simulated ocean. Next, the ocean was allowed to be energized with shelf storms.
Then, seafloor stability was enabled and any failed masses moved as turbidity currents, or


0 100 200 300 400 500


0 100 200 300 400 500

'-' 0

0 100 200 300 400 500


0 100 200 300 400 500
Distance (km)
Figure I. Basin filling using Sedflux, showing grain-size variations (phi units) from model runs I through 7.
Run I: quiet ocean, sediment dispersal as surface plumes and bedload dumping. Run 2: river dispersal of
sediment in ocean with storms. Run 3: run 2 plus sediment failures and gravity flow transport by debris
flows. Run 4: run 2 plus sediment failures and gravity flow transport by turbidity currents. Run 5: run 2 plus
sediment failures and gravity flow transport by debris flows and turbidity currents. Run 6: run 5 plus sea-
level fluctuations. Run 7: run 6 plus isostatic subsidence. Duration of runs is 2 Myr for runs I through 5, and
4 Myr for runs 6 and 7. See text for details. [Color version of figure can be found between pages 70 and 71.]


0 100 200 300 400 500

", 0

5 500


400 500
0 100 200 300
Vert. Exag. ~
500 - 100X 1\\ "'" A "


Grain Size
1000 sand . i It clay

4 5 6 7 8
0 100 200 300 400
(phi units)
Distance (km)
Figure 1 (Continued). [Color version of figure can be found between pages 70 and 71 .]

Table 1. Enabled process algorithms for model simulations

Run I Run 2 Run 3 Run4 Run 5 Run 6* Run 7* Run 8*

"- " ""

River mouth plumes ..J ..J ..J ..J ..J
~ave diffusion - ..J ..J ..J ..J ..J ..J
~eafloor failures - ..J ..J ..J ..J ..J ..J
iDebris flows - - - ..J ..J ..J ..J ..J
trurbidity currents - - ..J - ..J ..J ..J ..J
~ea Level fluctuations - - - - - ..J ..J ..J
sostatic subsidence - - - - - - ..J -
*All runs simulate 2M years except for 6,7 (4M) and 8 (6M)

as debris flows, or some combination of these flows depending on the characteristics of

the failed sediment mass. Sea level then was allowed to fluctuate. Finally, isostacy was
enabled allowing the weight of the accumulated sediment to warp and subside the margin.
In each situation, the shape of the seafloor was tracked throughout each experiment by
measuring the seafloor gradient along the margin profiles at regular time intervals.
The initial model basin was 600 km long, with a maximum water depth of 1000 m.
The initial bathymetry resembles that of a small continental margin with a gently dipping
shelf 0.01°, a continental slope of approximately 1°, and a gentle sloping basin floor
0.001°. Most of 2D-SedFlux' s component models require a pseudo third dimension. This
dimension, the basin width along the strike of the margin, was set at 15 km. Each run
simulated deposition for 2 Myr, except where noted (e.g. some runs were for 8 Myr).
Sediment deposition was tracked at time steps of 1000 yr. The computer time required to
run each simulation (using a 433 MHz processor and 256Mb RAM) was between 1 and
48 hours, depending on the number of sedimentary processes enabled and model domain
Each simulation was run to a point where the evolving bathymetric profile reached a
steady-state or "equilibrium" shape. At such a point, the profile shape ceased to change
considerably through time given that the input and boundary conditions also remained
constant. For most of our experiments, this condition was generally true--sediment influx,
ocean energy, and sediment properties, were roughly constant in time.
For the purposes of comparing Sedflux results with data on the morphology of
continental margins (O'Grady and others, 2000), we employed cross plots of water depth
versus gradient of the seafloor (Fig. 2). Such plots are useful in distinguishing margin
types from each other (O'Grady and others, 2000). The plots usually show one or more
peaks in the gradient of the seafloor seaward of the shelf break, typically on the upper
continental slope (Fig. 2).

Run 1 - Hemipelagic Sedimentation from River Plumes

In the first simulation, all processes were disabled except for two river-mouth
processes: buoyant suspended-sediment plumes and bedload (medium sand) dumping
across a 1O-m tidal range (Table 1, Fig. 1). The input parameters allowed suspended load
to enter the basin from the river with a flat-size distribution, that is, with equal weight of
clay, fine silt, medium silt, coarse silt, and fine sand fractions. Simulated river plumes and
bedload dumping then dispersed the sediment into the basin. A minor amount of the
sediment « 5%) was deposited subaerially, and no sources of eolian or pelagic sediment
were modeled. The modeled river discharge, sediment load, and sediment concentration,
were intended to simulate the Mississippi River, USA (Mulder and Syvitski, 1996).

Profile Geometry

In SedFlux, the pattern of accumulation that results from the dispersal of sediment
out from a river mouth is exponential. This depositional pattern is a product of the rapid
decrease in sedimentation with distance seaward of the river mouth. The repetitive

0 Run 1 0 Run 2 Run 3

500 500 500

. __J
1000 1000 1000
0 O· 1 2 0'

'-' 0 0
v 500 500 500

1000 1000
0' 1
. .


0' 1 2
Seafloor gradient
Figure 2. Seafloor gradient versus depth for the last 200,000 years of simulations. See Table I and Figure I for

accumulation and progradation of this pattern (Fig. 1) produced the "clinoform" shape
observed in longitudinal delta and margin profiles (Mitchum, Vail, and Sangree, 1977) and
2-D deltaic models (Kenyon and Turcotte 1985; Syvitski and Daughney, 1992; Pirmez,
Pratson, and Steckler, 1998). Clinoforms produced in our simulation reached an
equilibrium shape (Fig. 2 - Run 1) by about 1 Myr into the run (Fig. 2). The maximum
slope of the equilibrium profile approaches 1.5°. The basic clinoform shape is oblique,
with a sharp decrease in gradient towards the base of the slope (Sangree and Widmier,
The significance of clinoform geometry was discussed by Pirmez, Pratson, and
Steckler (1998). They showed that grain-size settling rate, basin depth, and bathymetric
slope are primary controls on clinoform gradient. In SedFlux, plume sedimentation is
controlled by the removal rate (scavenging rate) for each grain size (see Bursik, 1995).
When these constants are changed, the clinoform gradient changes systematically. Higher
seafloor gradients (approaching 2.5") are achieved with larger scavenging rates (Fig. 3A)
or a coarser input of sediment. An equilibrium clinoform shape is reached when a river
mouth has prograded past the base of the continental slope of the initial bathymetry (i.e.

the 200-kIn location on Fig. 1). Prior to reaching that location, seafloor gradients steepen
in response to the progradation of a sediment into an ever-deepening water column
(Pirmez, Pratson, and Steckler, 1998).
The depth of the receiving basin has a large influence on the maximum gradient of the
clinoform and margin as a whole (Fig. 3B). If basin depth remains constant throughout
the model run, an equilibrium clinoform shape is established with respect to the depth of
the basin. The relationship is systematic; shallow basins achieve lower gradients than do
deeper basins (Fig. 2). Our simulations also show that regardless of the slope of the initial
continental slope (1,3,5, and 10 degree slopes were tested), the siliciclastic clinoform
eventually will adjust to an equilibrium shape that corresponds to the depth of the basin.
Therefore, basins with similar basal depths and input conditions should achieve the same
clinoform shape despite the underlying topography when the basin has prograded
sufficiently to an "equilibrium" state. This is an important result because it suggests that
first-order continental slope gradient on prograding margins may be controlled by the
present depth of the ocean and less so by buried topography.

Run 2 - Diffusive Wave Transport

Wave resuspension and transport are modeled in SedFlux (version l.IC) by an advanced
diffusion algorithm (Syvitski, Pratson, and O'Grady, 1999). The algorithm assumes that
wave-induced sedimenUransport is a function of (i) storm energy, (ii) duration of storm,
(iii) water depth, (iv) particle size of the seafloor sediment, and (v) local gradient of the
seafloor. Diffusion, in this sense, smoothes the seafloor by moving sediment into deeper
water at a rate that corresponds to an ocean energy level. Smaller particle sizes are easier
to transport and are transported farther than larger particles that may be left behind as lag.
The ocean energy is water-depth dependent and decreases exponentially with depth,
simulating the diminishing orbital velocity of waves as a function of water depth (Komar
and Miller, 1973; Nittrouer and Wright, 1994). This generates an "energetic" upper water
column that transports sediment offshore and into deeper water. Storms and wave
variability are simulated by stochastically varying the depth dependency and magnitude of
the energy coefficient, so that infrequent events can move sediment farther and to greater
depths. The average energy coefficient used in Run 2 is 20 m2day"'.

Profile Geometry

With ocean energy added to the ambient basin, the simulated seafloor profiles exhibit
an equilibrium shape markedly different from the "plume only" runs (Figs. 1 and 2). In
shallow water the algorithm effectively created a small (10-kIn wide) shelf in front of the
river mouth. The "rollover," or the sharpest change in gradient on the clinoform, is located
farther away from the shoreline and in deeper water than in the plume-only runs (Run 1).
Sedimentation increased on the upper continental slope (> 100 m depth), causing seafloor
gradients to steepen in response. The maximum gradient of the bathymetric profiles of this
experiment is slightly steeper than the maximum gradients of the plume-only run (Fig. 2).

In response to simulated wave energy, the margin profile takes on a shape that is more
sigmoid in nature than in the quiet ocean-plume experiments. Modern delta clinoforms in
energetic environments usually are closer to this type of shape as opposed to the oblique
shape of Run 1 (Kuehl, Hariu, and Moore, 1989; Nittrouer and DeMaster, 1996). This is
somewhat opposite to interpretation by Sangree and Widmier (1977), who suggest that
oblique clinoforms represent higher energy environments. Additional experiments suggest
that with increasing ocean energy, seafloor gradients can become even higher, exceeding
5° (Fig. 3C). Beneath the depth where simulated wave turbulence was effective, gradients
return to values similar to the plume-only runs (Fig. 2).

Runs 3, 4, & 5 - Sediment Slope Failure, Turbidity Currents, and Debris Flows

The algorithm for analyzing slope stability in SedFlux is based on a finite-slope

factor-of-safety analysis (Janbu, 1969). In this method, the stability of sediment above an
elliptical failure plane is estimated by considering parameters such as seafloor gradient,
sediment cohesion, and excess pore pressures. In SedFlux, sediments on shallow gradients
can fail if deposition rates are high and sediment cohesion low. Similarly, steep slopes can
remain stable with low sediment input and high cohesion.
In SedFlux, the failed sediment mass transforms into one of two types of mass
movement after it fails: a turbidity current, or a debris flow (Hampton, Lee, and Locat,
1996; Pratson and others, in press). In SedFlux, the type of gravity flow depends on the
properties of the deposit (Syvitski and Hutton, in press-b). If the failed material is clayey
(user-defined clay %), then the sediment mass is transported down-slope as a debris flow.
A sufficiently high clay content ensures low hydraulic conductivity and low permeability,
and a viscoplastic (Bingham) rheology (Mohrig, Elverhoi, and Parker, 1999; Elverhoi and
others, in press). Our modeled dynamics do not allow debris flows to erode the seafloor.
Thus the grain size of the final deposit is equal to the homogenized grain size of the initial
failed sediment mass.
If the failed material is sandy or silty, with little clay, then the sediment mass is
transported down-slope as a turbidity current. Here flow accelerations may cause erosion
of the seafloor and this entrained sediment may change the grain properties of the gravity
flow compared to the initial sediment mass. Deposition of sand and silt along the flow
path may result in the turbidity current transporting primarily clay in the distal reaches
along the flow path (Skene, Mulder, and Syvitski, 1997).
To control type of gravity flow in our experiments we controlled the fraction of clay
needed to generate a debris flow. For a margin to be dominated by turbidity currents (Run
4), the clay threshold for debris flows was set high (80% clay). For a debris flow-
dominated margin (Run 3), the clay threshold was set to 5%. To achieve a relatively equal
proportion of the two styles of gravity flow we selected a clay threshold at 10%.

Profile Geometry

Most failures in our simulations occurred on the upper to midcontinental slope. This
unstable region corresponds to the clinoform rollover, where the sharpest increases in

gradients were present and high rates of sedimentation occurred. The size of the failures
differed but converged towards a consistent size in response to constant rates of deposition
throughout the simulation. Drop heights ranged from 50 to 150 m, and failure planes from
3 to 15 kIn in length. The simulated failure scars created a varied and textured morphology
on the slope profile when compared to profiles without slope failure (Fig. 2). Local
seafloor gradients differ greatly over depths from this textured profile morphology (Fig.
2-Run 3).
Experiments also demonstrate that the number of failures is reduced when the ocean
energy coefficient is increased (Fig. 3D). The reduction of local slope gradients with
larger ocean storms, along with the concomitant reduction in excess pore pressures
associated with fewer zones of high-sediment accumulation, reduces the likelihood of
failures. These results suggest that higher energy margins are more stable than low fetch
margins. These ideas are exemplified by the Eel River Margin in Northern California,
where high sediment input is highly dispersed by ocean storms, and although earthquakes
occur, slope failures are extremely rare (Sommerfield and Nittrouer, 1999; Alexander and
Simoneau, 1999; Lee and others, 1999).
Most simulated debris flows were deposited on the continental slope with run-out
distances of less than 150 kIn (Fig. 1 - Run 3). Turbidity currents traveled much farther
having run-out distances of several hundred kilometers (Fig. 2 - Run 4). In debris flow-
dominated simulation, the continental slope is built up by successive deposition of flows.
As a consequence, gradients on the lower continental slope are low (Fig. 2 - Run 3). In
contrast, simulated turbidites accumulated on the basin floor in front of the advancing
margin and bypassed the slope. These turbidity flows also eroded the upper continental
slope contributing to steep upper-slope gradients (Fig. 2 - Run 4). When both turbidity
currents and debris flows are activated, a hybrid slope geometry is achieved (Fig. 2 - Run
Both types of mass flows have initial parameters that can be manipulated to affect
flow and deposition characteristics. For debris flows, the kinematic viscosity and yield
strength have a range of realistic values that can noticeably change the resulting deposit
(e.g. making the flows soupier and farther traveling, or blockier with little translation
distance). Similarly, users may adjust the drag coefficient or energy kernel of the model
turbidity currents, to make them behave and deposit differently (Skene, Mulder, and
Syvitski, 1997; Prats on and others, 2000, in press).

Runs 6 & 7 - Sea level and Isostacy

Sea-level fluctuations and flexural isostatic subsidence contribute to changes in

accommodation space. Such changes in accommodation influence the delivery rate of
sediment to the continental slope and contribute to changes in slope morphology (Schlager,
1993; Posamentier and Allen, 1993). In these next simulations the experimental run time
was increased to 4 My to allow for proper evaluation of the effect of these geological
processes. Simulated sea-level fluctuations were small (<100 m) and of high frequency
(- 400kyr/cycle; Fig. 1 - Run 6). Flexural isostacy was enabled with a flexural rigidity
value of 1.63x 1023Nm (Fig. 1 - Run 7).

s'-' 400
to 600
1000~------~~---' 2000 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
o 1 2 3
Seafloor gradient (degrees) Seafloor gradient (degrees)
6-r-----------, 140 . . . - - - - - - - - - - - - ,
• •
'ii'5 •
120 •

100 \ ••
• .(;j Run 3 ••

~ 3
t:o 80 •
:e • -Run2 :u 60
~ 1 ~
1Z 40
• •
O.f--.f--.f--+--+---; 0+--+---+---1---1----1
o 50 100 150 200 250 10 102 103 104 105
Diffusion Constant Diffusion Constant
Figure 3. A, Seafloor gradient vs. depth of equilibrium profiles of five different Run 1 (quiet ocean - river
discharge only) experiments, each with different scavenging (grain settling) rates; and B, basin depths. Bold line
marks run 1 shown in Figure 1; C, maximum seafloor gradient of six equilibrium profiles with different ocean
energy coefficients; D, number of seafloor failures for eight runs having different ocean energy coefficients.

Profile Geometry

The small sea-level cycles have little effect on overall equilibrium slope morphology
(Fig. 2 - Run 6), although the cycles certainly control the width of the shelf at any given
time (Fig. 1 - Run 6). Within each sea-level cycle, the depo-centers relocate and track
with the fluctuating sea level. When sea-level rise outpaces the input of sediment, the river
mouth moves landward, that is, developing a transgressive systems tract (Posamentier and
Vail, 1988). During transgression, a concomitant reduction in sedimentation rates on the
continental slope reduces the number of upper-slope failures. The rates of failure and thus
deepwater sedimentation increase either during a highstand progradation, or with
subsequent lowering of sea level. This pattern validates the traditional sequence

stratigraphic model in which most deep-water deposition occurs during sea-levellowstands

and progradational high stands (Posamentier and Vail, 1988; Christie-Blick and Driscoll,
In Run 7, the modeled basin subsides under the accumulating sediment mass, but the
water depth of the ocean basin increases by only 200 m. Basinal sedimentation is high
enough in this simulation to keep up with subsidence in front of the margin. Profile
geometry at the end of the simulation shows a maximum gradient of 2.5" and are the
highest observed for Runs 1 - 7 (Fig. 2 - Run 7). The added accommodation space
allows aggradation of the continental shelf thus reducing deposition on and progradation
of the continental slope. The lack of large changes in seafloor morphology reflects the
near equality in our feed rate of sediment and increasing accommodation space (Paola,
2000). If either were independently greater, it would have a profound effect on profile
morphology (Paola, 2000).

Run 8 - Effect of Pre-existing Morphology

Throughout experiments 1 to 7 (Table 1), only modest changes in slope morphology

were identified in response to differing combinations of sedimentary processes. A likely
reason that the equilibrium morphologies are so alike (Fig. 2), is they may be related to the
shape and scale of the initial receiving basin. All seven initial runs filled a relatively
shallow and gently sloping basin. Because the initial boundary conditions were identical,
it is reasonable to assume that different basin shapes would magnify the effect of different
Run 8 examines the influence of a deeper and steeper initial bathymetric profile, on
the overall pattern of accumulation and evolution of equilibrium morphology (Fig. 5). The
initial bathymetric profile was 4 km deep with a maximum slope gradient of 5 degrees.
The simulation is for 8 Myr, with a steady-state equilibrium profile reached after'" 4 Myr.
Prior to reaching the steady-state profile, the morphology went through a period of
adjustment whereby sediment preferentially accumulated at the base of the continental
slope (Fig. 4). This base of slope accumulation persisted until the margin could prograde
and reach an equilibrium geometry. Slope readjustment of this sort has been noted in
several natural systems (Dailly, 1982; Ross and others, 1994), as a response to topographic
conditions that are not stable for a prograding system. Such conditions can be brought on
by the presence of carbonates or bedrock (Dailly, 1982; Ross and others, 1994; Schlager
and Camber, 1986; O'Grady and others, 2000), or faults (Ross and others, 1994).
In Run 8 slope readjustment was not necessarily the result of over-steep bathymetric
conditions as suggested by Dailly (1982). In fact, when the initial slope profile and final
slope profiles are compared, the final profiles are steeper than the initial at some depths
and less steep at others (Fig. 5). The final profile shape is similar to those in the first 7
runs but with steeper overall slopes (compare Figs. 2 and 5). We suggest that the overall
equilibrium shape of all of the simulations in this paper are a function of the fact that all
are prograding systems. The difference in steepness is likely a function of the depth of the
basin (Le. deeper basins yield higher gradients), and whether a margin has indeed reached
an equilibrium shape. The later point becomes critical to margins where the flux of


....... 2000


o 100 200 300 400 500 600 700
Di tanee (km)
Sand Sill Clay
... • '7- -... -
-'- '-~..;) u..:..~_ __

3 4 5 6 7

Grain Size (phi)

Figure 4. Basin filling using Sedflux, showing grain size cross-section of run 8 (Table I) in adjustment pe-
riod before equilibrium profile was attained. Note preferential accumulation at base of continental slope and
zone of erosion and bypass on midslope. [Color version of figure can be found between pages 70 and 71.]

Distance (km)
0 200 400
0 ()

i5. 2000
3000 Profile [3000

4000 L -_ _ _---J 4000

3 .:I 6 7 Gradient
Grain Sizc (ph i)
Figure 5. Run 8 cross-section with initial and final slope vs. depth profiles. [Color version of figure can be
found between pages 70 and 71.]

sediment changes at a rate faster than the time required to achieve an equilibrium slope


Global analyses of passive-margin geometries have shown that several different

profile shapes can occur on modern margins (Schlager and Camber, 1986; Adams,
Schlager, and Wattel, 1998; Adams and Schlager, 2000; O'Grady and others, 2000). In
one study, O'Grady and others (2000) divided modern passive margins into five distinct
shape categories based on submarine slope patterns (Fig. 6). When compared to these
patterns, our model runs mostly resemble one type of margin in their classification; the
Type 2 margin. The resemblance in shape rests in the fact that, similar to our simulations,
these types of margins are characterized by high rates of sediment input which leads to
long-term progradation of the continental slope (O'Grady and others, 2000). Simple
siliciclastic progradation of a margin, therefore, seems to give rise to a predictable profile
pattern in both natural and simulated basins.
Type 2 margins have fairly low maximum gradients, ranging between 2"- 4", and have
a well-defined peak in gradient on the upper slope, similar to Runs 1 - 7 (cf. Fig. 6 with
Fig. 2). In Run 8 the gradients are steeper. The bathymetry initially resembled a Type 5
margin by having two peaks in slope (Fig. 5). During the course of the run, as slopes
readjusted, the profile evolved into something between a Type 3 or a steep Type 2
morphology. Our simulations (Figs. 2 and 5) have not reproduced profile morphologies
resembling Types 1 or 4 in the O'Grady and others (2000) classification (Fig. 6). These
styles of margins were associated with either nonprograding slopes, or processes that were
not modeled in SedFlux. For example, Type 1 margins are associated with unstable and
mobile substrates resulting from salt or mud diapirs, and Type 4 margins have little
unlithified sediment cover (O'Grady and others, 2000).
Future experiments will involve more complicated boundary conditions where
sediment flux and other parameters are allowed to vary greatly over geologic time, in order
to produce the more complicated profile geometries observed in nature.


Numerical models are tools that can provide insight into the tendencies and
interrelations of complex systems. The simulations presented here are intended to help
understand the sedimentary mechanics behind creating continental slope geomorphology,
rather than to simulate a particular continental margin. This study uses SedFlux, a physics-
based, mUltiprocess stratigraphic model to investigate slope geometry from a genetic
The simulations determine that in the formation of siliciclastic margins, hemipelagic
sedimentation is the foundation for overall margin shape and evolution. Simulated

Niger New
Delta Ganges Jersey Argentina
1 2 3 UI..._ _SA
0 5° 10° 0 5° 100 0 5° 100 0 50 100 o 5° 10°

~pe 2 Margins
0 0 0

-3 000 -2500 B
0 1 2 3 4 0 I 2 3 0 1 23 4 0 2
Figure 6. A. Slope gradient versus depth data from modem passive margins modified from O'Grady and others
(2000). Type I: supply dominated, unstable substrate, few modem canyons. Type 2: supply dominated, stable
substrate, few modem canyons. Type 3: low-sediment supply, erosive slopes, many canyons. Type 4: low-
sediment supply, exposed slopes, many canyons. Type 5: moderate sediment supply, erosive slopes, unstable,
compound history; B, shape of equilibrium profiles of most model runs in this study compare best to Type 2 (see
Fig. 2).

hydrodynamic energy, slope failure, mass movement, relative sea level, and isostacy, alter
slope geometry in predictable and testable ways. Overall these processes combine to
produce a prograding siliciclastic margin that attains an equilibrium geometry dependent
upon the depth of the adjacent basin. This geometry is similar to that of some modern
passive margins and probably represents a common geometry maintained by prograding
In these experiments, a feedback mechanism was observed such that out-of-
equilibrium profiles will experience irregular sedimentation patterns (such as enhanced
base of slope deposition). Such patterns will occur until the equilibrium shape is attained.


The authors would like to thank Eric Hutton for his code development and expertise
with SedFlux and Andrew Taylor for his assistance with the simulations. This research
was funded by Office of Naval Research as part of the STRATAFORM-slope project. We
thank Joseph Kravitz (ONR), Charles Nittrouer (UW), and Rick Sarg (Exxon-Mobil) for
their encouragement with these experiments.

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Ruth A.J. Robinson, School of Geography & Geosciences, University of
St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland, Rudy L. Slingerland, Department of
Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park,
Pennsylvania USA, and Jeremy M. Walsh, National Institute of Water &
Atmospheric Research, Christ Church, New Zealand


Sedimentation upstream of the Roxburgh Dam in central Otago, New Zealand, has
created a delta of -50 x 106 m3 since commissioning of the dam in 1956. Growth of the
delta has decreased hydroelectric capacity and possibly aggravated flooding in the town
of Alexandra at the upstream end of the lake. One mitigation strategy is to drop water
levels in Lake Roxburgh during flood events and erode the delta, but it is difficult to know
a priori how the system will behave under these conditions. Here, a coupled waterl
sediment routing model is proposed for heterogeneous size-density sediments (MIDAS)
that predicts reasonably well temporal changes in bed elevations of up to 10m and grain-
size coarsening of almost an order of magnitude for a 33-year interval of delta growth and
flushing. Model-data comparison also shows that the rate of downstream fining of the delta
increases during aggradation, corroborating the suggestion of others that fining rates in
ancient alluvial deposits reflect basin subsidence rates as well as distance to source terrain.


Many of the world's reservoirs constructed during the middle of this century now are
experiencing sedimentation problems. A notable example is Lake Roxburgh in central

Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems

Edited by D.P. Merriam and J.C. Davis, K1uwer AcademicIPlenum Publishers, 2001 119

Otago, South Island, New Zealand, formed in 1956 with the commissioning of the
Roxburgh Dam (Fig. 1). The lake is a narrow hydroreservoir, approximately 150 m wide
and 35 Ian long, confined within the steep Roxburgh gorge of the Clutha River. From 1961
to 1994, Lake Roxburgh trapped approximately 2.3 - 2.5 Mt/yr (equal to 106 metric tons)
of sediment transported by the Clutha, thereby reducing its storage in 33 years almost by
half from 101 x 106m3 to 52 x 106m 3•
Associated with a reduction in capacity at Roxburgh has been a rise in stage within
the middle and upper reaches of the reservoir because of the growth of a reservoir-head
delta. This sedimentation has placed the town of Alexandra, 28 Ian upstream of the

New Zealand

• lowns

~ lakes

... dams

'- Lake Roxburgh reach

a 20 40 60 80 100

Clutha River Drainage Basin

Figure 1. Lake Roxburgh catchment. Area of study is noted as thicker line above Roxburgh Dam (modified from
Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996).

Roxburgh dam (Fig. 1), under increasing risk of flooding. For example, in January 1994,
a flood event in the Clutha and Manuherikia rivers (Fig. 1) caused flooding in Alexandra
township that significantly affected the water supply and sewage treatment facilities. An
equivalent flow event in 1978 resulted in peak flood levels that were -1.6 m lower than
the 1994 event, attesting to the increasing risk (Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996).
What should be done in these situations? At Roxburgh, local authorities considered
flushing the reservoir of sediment, or at least lowering the subaqueous delta surface,
thereby reducing flood stage at Alexandra. But drawing down a reservoir to flush
sediments is not without risk, especially during high discharge events when sediment
transport capacities are high. Furthermore, it usually is not known a priori at what
discharge or by how much a pool elevation should be lowered to best effect flushing. The
purpose of this paper is to show how these questions can be answered using predictive
sediment transport modeling. In particular, we hope to show that our present understanding
of coupled water/sediment routing is sufficient to predict the morphodynamics of the Lake
Roxburgh delta in response to various flushing scenarios. We see this as a first and
necessary step in developing sediment routing models capable of accurately predicting
sediment delivery to basins at geologic time scales.

Designing a Mitigation Strategy Using Sediment Transport Models

In order to investigate various drawdown strategies for mitigating flood risk at

Alexandria, a feasibility study was first conducted by Webby, Walsh, and Goring (1996),
using an uncoupled, uniform sediment transport model [MIKE 11 from the Danish
Hydraulic Institute and the Ackers and White (1973) sediment transport algorithm]. The
model was calibrated using sediment movement monitored for a period of six days in
January 1994, during which time the reservoir level was drawn down by approximately 4.5
m. A flood drawdown strategy was designed from the modeling exercise and consisted of
lowering the reservoir level by 4.5-6.5 m below normal operating levels during flood
discharges exceeding 850 m3/s (the long term mean flow for the Clutha River at Roxburgh
is 530 m3/s). The aim was to promote erosion of the delta with redeposition into deeper
water (Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996).
Sediment flushing first was attempted during a November 1994 flood event with a
peak discharge of 1300 m3/s. During this event, a volume of 3.2 xl06m3 was transported.
A comparison of observed pre- and post-flood water levels indicated a reduction of 0.3 m
at Alexandra for discharges between 1000-1300 m3/s (Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996).
However, the volume of flushed sediment was twice the amount predicted in a hindcast
simulation using the Mike 111 Ackers model (Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996) and the
resulting delta morphology was poorly predicted. What went wrong? The most likely
explanation for the mismatch in volumes and form is that the Mike ll1Ackers model
applies a total mean bed shear stress to a single representative grain-size at each model
section without accounting for: (1) instantaneous turbulent fluctuations around a mean
value; (2) nonuniform size effects, such as hiding and the mutual interference of different
particle sizes; and (3) an active layer along which surface coarsening evolves during low
flow events.

We have incorporated these concepts in MIDAS, a model that simulates

heterogeneous bed- and suspended-load transport over an evolving bed (van Ni~kerk and
others, 1992; Vogel and others, 1992) and conducted an additional series of numerical
experiments using the Roxburgh dataset. The goals of the exercise are to: (1) model the
transport of multiple grain sizes within Lake Roxburgh and simulate the shape and volume
of the deposits; (2) compute an observed surface armoring after sediment feed was reduced
by upstream dam construction; (3) simulate the movement of sediment during the 1994
flushing experiment; and (4) analyze which discharge events most control downstream
fining and have the highest probability of being recorded in the deposit. We present a
comparison of predicted and observed behavior of the deposit and sediment transport in
Lake Roxburgh and the evolution (and significance) of surface armor. We think the results
and methodologies are of general applicability to reservoirs elsewhere and to geologists
interested in the downstream fining of ancient fluvialflacustrine deposits.

Geologic and Hydrologic Background

The Clutha River at Roxburgh has a drainage area of approximately 15,857 km2, 83%
of which comprises the catchments of lakes Hawea, Wanaka, and Wakatipu (Webby,
Walsh, and Goring, 1996; Fig. 1). Although most of the flow originates from these lakes,
88% of the sediment load enters the Clutha via the Kawarau River and is derived from the
Shotover River subcatchment (Fig. 1).
The dataset available for this sediment transport study includes:
(1) a 34-year record of lake inflows and head water levels at Roxburgh Dam;
(2) six bed elevation surveys along 59 transects, between 1961 and 1994;
(3)a 21-month record of suspended sediment inflow and outflow concentrations
deri ved from daily sampling between September 1977 and June 1979 (Jowett and
Hicks, 1981); and
(4) particle-size data from two bed sampling campaigns, one in 1974 (core samples)
and one in 1994 (grab samples) (Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996).
The bed sampling campaigns established a downstream fining trend for two bed
profiles. These will be used to test model predictions. A total grain-size distribution of the
sediment feed entering Lake Roxburgh and the relationship between sediment load and
water discharge were estimated from the suspended-load and bed-sampling studies.
Previous work (Jowett and Hicks, 1981; Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996) constrained
the decrease in capacity of the reservoir through time from bed and water-surface elevation
profiles. Walsh and Hicks (1995) performed a mass balance of sediment through Lake
Roxburgh from the suspended load data, and subsequently derived the trap efficiency of
the reservoir as a function of discharge, lake surface area, and sediment fall velocity. We
utilize these results and combine them with the sediment load datasets to calculate the
temporal evolution of sediment feed rate and the average grain-size distribution of the
sediment load.


Model Description

MIDAS is an uncoupled fluid flow and sediment transport model incorporating

multiple sizes and densities of sediment (van Niekerk and others, 1992; Vogel and others,
1992). A gradually varied flow equation, with reduced hydraulic radius (R') to account for
form drag (Einstein and Barbarossa, 1952), computes velocity and depth for each reach
using a standard step method (Henderson, 1966). Reduced mean bed shear stress is
calculated from-r' 0= pgR' Sr, where p is water density, gis gravitational acceleration, and
Sr is the energy slope, and bed shear stress is log-normally distributed in time to simulate
turbulence (van Niekerk and others, 1992). Bedload transport is calculated with a
modified-Bagnold equation and total bedload transport is the sum of the transport of each
size fraction whose critical bed shear stress is less than the fluctuating mean bed shear
stress weighted by that size fraction's proportion in the active layer (van Niekerk and
others, 1992). Sediment entrainment is calculated with a Komar equation (Komar, 1987)
and incorporates hiding effects. Suspended-load is calculated as the product of sediment
concentration as predicted by the Rouse equation times flow velocity summed over five
water depth layers. The important assumptions are: (1) flow resistance of unsteady flow
is well-described by a steady, gradually varied flow equation if velocity and head level
changes are small; (2) the energy loss is because of channel width change is small; and (3)
flow velocity and sediment concentration are uniform in a cross-stream direction. During
the simulations, flow always is subcritical and therefore the standard step method of
solution for the gradually varied flow equation is valid. The reader is referred to
van Niekerk and others (1992) for more details on MIDAS.

Boundary Conditions

The 1961 bed profile is the initial bed topography used in all simulations (Fig. 2). The
original bed profile and channel width data are interpolated to fit a regular-spaced grid
system for input into MIDAS. Channel widths were smoothed using a 3-point smoothing
algorithm to reduce rapid changes between reaches. Initial sediment feed rates were
calculated from the deposited volumes between bed surveys; bulk density was calculated
as 1270 kg/m3 (Thompson, 1977). A total sediment load grain-size distribution was
calculated from the suspended-load and bedload sampling campaigns (Jowett and Hicks,
1981; Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996). Flow and water-surface elevation boundary
conditions are daily averages that will not reflect cycling of flow for the generation of
hydroelectric power. A Manning's n value was calculated from backwater studies as 0.039
(Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996) and is assumed constant through time. A sediment-
discharge rating curve was established from the suspended-load sampling campaign (Table
1) and is used as input to MIDAS. All of the sediment enters the simulation reach as
bedload and fine"grained material becomes suspended based on the flow conditions.
Consequently, the sediment-discharge rating curve characterizes both bedload and
suspended load. Sediment feed rate is presented as Mt (equal to 106 metric tons) (Table 1).

Actual channel widths
3-point smoothed widths
..c 20


..¥: 10

en 1994
~ 120

~ 1961
Q) Alexandra

Distance upstream from Roxburgh Dam (km)

Figure 2. Channel width and bed elevation data for Clutha River and Lake Roxburgh. Channel widths are shown
as actual and 3-point smoothed values. Bed profiles are 3-point smoothed. Data are from Webby. Walsh, and
Goring (1996), courtesy of Contact Energy Ltd.

Table 1. Input parameters to MIDAS for Lake Roxburgb simulation

Parameters Value

Manning's n 0.039
Hiding factor 0.85
Active layer thickness (m) 0.10
Grain·size distribution
Total sediment feed for time slice:
1961-1974 28.1 Mt
1974-1978 7.75Mt
1978-1979 5.3 Mt
1979-1989 36.2 Mt
1989-1992 7.4Mt
Water discharge rate: Sediment feed rate:
0-250 mlls 6 kgls
251-500 mlls 24 kgls
501-750 mlls 96 kgls
751-1000 mls 128 kgls
1001-1250 mls 475 kgls
1251-1500 mlls 550 kgls
>1500 mlls 2500 kgls


'(j) 60
;: 40
E 20

7 5 3 1 -1 -3 -5
grain-size (phi scale)

Figure 3. Grain-size distribution of sediment used in simulations.


Model Calibration for Lake Roxburgh Study

Two methods were used to calibrate MIDAS. Starting with the 1961 bed profile, a
smoothed channel width profile (Fig. 2) and an estimate of the input sediment grain-size
distribution, a total sediment load of 28.1 Mt was fed to the upper end of the model reach
to simulate deposition for the period 1961-1974. Although the grain-size distribution is
assumed to be independent of discharge, sediment load differs as a function of discharge
magnitude and time (see Table 1). The model was calibrated by adjusting the sediment
feed rates until the preserved and observed sediment volumes matched. With these initial
conditions, the calculated 1974 bed elevations were higher than those observed at the
upstream end during the 1974 survey. To reconcile this discrepancy, we attempted a more
detailed calibration of the input grain-size distribution as a function of flow from the
estimated suspended sediment trap efficiency. Trap efficiency studies for three constant
discharges (Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996) were determined using an empirical
relationship for trap efficiency derived from the 1977-1979 daily sampling dataset (Walsh
and Hicks, 1995):

TE = [l-(1+m(wAIQ»'I/m]xlOO% (1)

where w is sediment settling velocity, A is reservoir surface area downstream of the topset-
foreset transition of the delta, Qis discharge, and m is a performance parameter calculated
as 1.2 for this study. Using the 1978 bed profile, the modeled trap efficiency was
calculated as the percentage of sediment remaining in the reservoir for a particular flow
event. This was compared to the observed data calculated from Equation (1), which
includes an estimate of the suspended load input for each flow. The input grain-size
distribution was calibrated until it matched the estimated values of trap efficiency from the
suspended-load data for three constant flow events of 550 m 3/s, 1000 m 3/s, and 2400 m 3/s.
This calibrated grain-size distribution is -80% finer than 0.3 mm (Fig. 3) and within the
estimated bedload contribution of 10-30% of the total sediment load (Thompson, 1977;
Jowett and Hicks, 1981). Following calibration, sediment build-up was simulated for the
full period of 1961 to 1994, including the November 1994 flood event that served as a test
of the flood drawdown flushing strategy.


Bed Profiles

The predicted shape of the deposit at each time step generally reproduces the observed
elevations at the upstream end but diverges for the downstream reaches (Fig. 4). This is
mainly the result of the fact that the channel width changes abruptly in the downstream
end, whereas the widths used in the simulation were smoothed. However, the 1974
simulated profile is a good match at both the upstream and downstream ends and diverges
in the middle reaches. The subsequent simulated profiles capture the foreset slope of the

delta but have lower elevations at the downstream reaches. Partial explanation for this may
be an under-representation of fine-grained material in the input size distribution. An
additional explanation for the disparity is that the sediment-discharge rating curve is not
supplying the right balance of sediment feed and water discharge. Nevertheless, the final
1994 profile matches the observed deposit in the upstream reaches fairly wel1 and the
overal1 similarity in shape between the computed and observed prograding deltas and
slopes of the delta front are strikingly similar (Fig. 4).
We also used the results of the trial flushing exercise during the November 1994 flood
event to test how wel1 MIDAS simulates mobilization and redistribution of sediment.
During the flood event, the head level at Roxburgh Dam was reduced gradual1y to -127
m and maintained at that level for 3 weeks to flush sediment from the upstream reaches
towards the dam. From bed elevation data of the February 1994 and January 1995 surveys,
it was calculated that 3.2 x 106m 3 of sediment had been redistributed within the reservoir,
thereby reducing water-surface elevations at Alexandra by 0.3 m for flows in the range of
1000-l300 m 3/s (Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996). Our MIDAS simulations mobilized
- 2.6 xl 06m 3 of sediment. Although less than the actual volume mobilized, this represents
81 % of the observed volume moved (Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996).

a; 130
Qi 110

Distance upstream from Roxburgh Dam (km)

Figure 4. Computed (solid black lines) and observed (dashed gray lines) bed profiles for Lake Roxburgh deposit
through time.

Downstream Fining Trends

The simulations enabled us to test how well MIDAS predicts downstream textural
trends. The downstream fining records of 1974 and 1994, compiled from the sampling
surveys, were compared with the simulation results. Figure 5 shows the predicted grain
sizes for the 1974 and 1994 bed profiles with the regression equations from the core and
grab sampling studies (Webby, Walsh, and Goring, 1996). The similar slopes of the
regression lines and simulated grain-size trends illustrate the good agreement between
observed and computed grain-size trends for both profiles. Two results are worthy of
particular note. Aggradation causes overall coarsening of grain size, yet the fining rates
(slope of the regression line) are similar for both the observed and calculated 1974 and
1994 profiles (Fig. 5); the increase in grain sizes in the 1994 profile is partially a result of
bed armoring after a new hydroelectric dam began to trap sedimt(nt upstream on the Clutha
River. There is no increase in fining rate between 1974 and 1994 because aggradation is
so low in the upstream reaches. Thus, these results demonstrate that MIDAS captures the
observed 1994 grain-size trends and bed profile, particularly for the upstream reaches.

t:,. 1994 simulated D50

+ 1974 simulated D50

E 10.0
1994 survey
E logD50Jo9(O.029)=O.09x

1974 survey

Distance upstream from Roxburgh Dam (km)

Figure 5. Computed and observed grain-size trends for 1974 and 1994. Observed grain-size regression lines from
Webby, Walsh, and Goring (1996).

Downstream Fining and Aggradation

Many geologic studies have used the rate of downstream fining in ancient alluvial
deposits to infer distances to their source terrains (cf., Robinson and Slingerland, 1998a,
1998b). Theoretical considerations however, indicate that the rate of fining also should be
a function of aggradation rate. To explore this dependency selected segments of the
discharge record (from 1968, 1993, and 1994) were simulated. As in the earlier
experiments, sediment feed rate was related to water discharge. Because the experiment
is designed to test the relationship of downstream fining and aggradation for selected
discharge events, the sediment-discharge rating curve is used for each discharge period and
sediment reduction after the filling of Lake Dunstan (post 1992) is ignored for the 1993
and 1994 records. Fining rate is calculated for each day of the discharge event by fitting
an exponential curve to the grain-size trends. The slope of that curve is used to calculate
a fining rate from a first-order rate law:

k = xln(DIDo) (2)

where D and Do are the median grain sizes in the active layer at a distance x downstream
and at x = 0, respectively, and k is the fining coefficient (km- I ).
Figure 6 illustrates how fining rate increases as bed aggradation and bed winnowing
occurs during lower discharges and decreases when a flood event mobilizes a wider range
of sizes and deposits more coarse material downstream. This is particularly obvious in the
February 1994 discharge event. Eventually, once the flood wave passes, sediment begins
to accumulate and fining rates begin to increase again. Figure 7 shows the fining rates and
aggradation for the II-month period leading up to the February 1994 event. This record
shows clearly the positive relationship between accumulation and fining rate. Note that the
February 1994 discharge event mobilizes 0.4 xl 06m3of sediment. This predicted volume
is not realistic for the February event because sediment feed is added in this experiment
and therefore the capacity of the flow to erode more sediment is reduced. The hypothetical
February 1994 event removes previously deposited material and the record of fining that
those deposits record; the remaining deposits are representative of the mean annual
discharge (530 m3/s). Although speculative, this result suggests that the fining rates for
deposits from floods having a magnitude approximating the mean annual discharge have
the best potential for preservation in the stratigraphic record, keeping in mind that the
fining rate for similar magnitude events differ according to the sequence of antecedent
events (Fig. 7).


This study of sediment transport in Lake Roxburgh has successfully demonstrated that
the evolution of bed textures under temporally varying flows and reduced sediment feed
rate can be predicted well by a coupled water and sediment routing model that incorporates
heterogeneous sizes and accounts for grain hiding, turbulent shear stress fluctuations, and

1968 discharge event

2~r\_ -:~--- ---~-__ ,' - _ _ 5Sl;:~:~


E::f~= - : 3
() -1.oX1o1llo----2~0---4-0----6~0----8~0---1-00---...:J120

number of days simulated

February 1994 discharge event

k 1.5x10-4
o~E 2000 "... ... I .......
1.0x10-4 =i;1;
I "
, .... - - _... .... '
- -~ - - , -,' .... - ........ ., -'


ie~~ 2'OX109~ ~
• 1
~ 0.5x109
o o~------~--------~--~

00 00~ 100 ~
number of days simulated

Figure 6. Computed bed textures during two short discharge events in 1968 and January-February, 1994. Top
two curves in each example are fining rote (k) and discharge (Q), and lower curve is cumulative mass
deposited over entire reach.

an evolving active layer. Even better predictions could be obtained if roughness

(Manning's n) and the active layer thickness varied as a function of bed texture and/or
discharge, and excess shear stress, respectively.


MIDAS simulates the shape and final bed elevations of the Roxburgh deposits and
accounts for 87% the grain-size trends and bed armoring computed during 35 years of
delta growth in Lake Roxburgh. The model mobilizes 2.6 x 106m3 (81 %) of sediment
during the drawdown flushing experiment of 1994, compared to the observed volume of

1993-1994 discharge events


1.0x10-4 7<"

- -- ,
" 5.0x10-5

}~ :~;il :.-~====-=-i_=---,-
.... _
. . . ~~~~~---:c·~--=-'l
100 150
- -·
- ·:·:

. :-:-··

250 300 350

number of days simulated

Figure 7. Computed bed textures for interval 1993-1994. Top two curves are fining rate (k) and discharge (Q)
and lower curve is cumulative mass deposited over entire reach. Dotted line illustrates amount of mass removed
by February 1994 event and which fining rate will remain in bed after that erosion has occurred.

3.2 X 1Q6m\ and is therefore an improvement on previous modeling attempts. It is

suggested that the inclusion of heterogeneous grain sizes, an active layer, and temporally
distributed bed shear stresses (turbulence approximation) affects sediment entrainment and
therefore the ability to mobilize material during large discharge events. Downstream fining
rate correlates positively with aggradation and negatively with flooding events that
mobilize a wider range of grain sizes or blanket the bed with fine-grained material.


The authors are grateful to Contact Energy Ltd., New Zealand, who own Roxburgh
Dam, for allowing the Roxburgh dataset to be used in this study and the Geodynamics
Computing Laboratory at Penn State. This work has been partially funded under contract
C01614 from the Foundation for Research, Science, and Technology (New Zealand).


Ackers, P., and White, W.R., 1973, Sediment transport: new approach to and analysis: Proc. Am. Soc. Civil
Engineers, v. 99, no. HYlI, p. 2041-2060
Einstein, H.A., and Barbarossa, N.L., 1952, River channel roughness: Trans. Am. Soc. Civil Engineers, v. 117,
Henderson, F.M., 1966, Open channel flow: Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New lersey, 521 p.
lowett, 1.0., and Hicks, D.M., 1981, Surface, suspended and bedload sediment; Clutha River system, New
Zealand: lour. Hydrology, v. 20, no. 2, p. 121-130.

Komar, P.O., 1987, Selective entrainment by a current from a bed of mixed sizes - a reanalysis: Jour. Sed. Pet.,
v. 57, no. 2, p. 203-211.
Robinson, R.AJ., and Slingerland, R.L., 1998a, Origin of fluvial grain-size trends in a foreland basin: the
Pocono Formation of the Central Appalachian Basin: Jour. Sed. Res., v. A68, no. 3, p. 473-486.
Robinson, R.AJ., and Slingerland, R.L., 1998b, Orain-size trends and basin subsidence in the Campanian
Castlegate Sandstone and equivalent conglomerates of central Utah: Basin Research, v. 10, no. I, p. 109-
Thompson, S.M., 1977, Siltation of the hydro-electric lakes: Appendix, Clyde Power Project - Environmental
Impact Report on Design and Construction Proposals, Ministry of Works and Development, New Zealand.
van Niekerk, A., Vogel, K.R., Slingerland, R.L., and Bridge, J.S., 1992, Routing of heterogeneous sediments
over movable bed: model development: Jour. Hydraulic Engineering, ASCE, v. 118, no. 2, p. 246-262.
Vogel, K.R., van Niekerk, A., Slingerland, R.L., and Bridge, J.S., 1992, Routing of heterogeneous sediments
over movable bed: model verification and testing: Jour. Hydraulic Engineering, ASCE, v. 118, no. 2, p.
Walsh, J.M., and Hicks, D.M., 1995, Interim Study of Dam Effects on the Clutha Suspended Sediment Regime.
NIWA Christ Church, New Zealand: Rept. prepared for the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand Ltd.
Webby, M.O., Walsh, J.M., and Goring, D.O., 1996, Sediment redistribution in Lake Roxburgh, New Zealand:
Proc.lntern. Conf. Reservoir Sedimentation (Fort Collins, Colorado), v. 3, p. 1867-1881.

Johannes Wendebourg, Nathalie Bordas-Le Floch, and Francine

Benard, Institut Franrais du Perrole, Rueil-Malmaison, France


Geologic process models are deterministic forward models of processes that

occur through geologic time and space scales. Uncertainties exist concerning the
geologic concept behind a model, the model assumptions and its parameters.
Therefore outcomes of geologic models should be expressed in a probabilistic form
rather than a single-valued form. Monte Carlo methods are not appropriate because
they need many realizations which is not feasible for multidimensional nonlinear
geologic process models because of long computing times. Methods of experimental
design and response surface modeling are more appropriate because they sample the
parameter space in an optimal manner and allow to constrain it by observations. In
addition, parameter sensitivities can be quantified and unimportant parameters
discarded. Sensitivities depend on the processes modeled, on the application of the
model and on the objective of the application.
As an example, a thermal model was applied to quartz cementation of the
Mirador Sandstone at Cusiana in the Andes foothills of Colombia. The temperature
window of quartz cementation, determined from fluid-inclusion analysis and thermal
modeling, was used to determine the time-temperature evolution of the Mirador
Sandstone at Cusiana. From these data, the uncertainty of the timing of cementation
has been calculated based on input parameters that are sensitive to the cementation
temperature window and that have been constrained by temperature and maturity
data. The results can be used, in conjunction with petroleum generation modeling, to
determine whether porosity had been destroyed before petroleum expulsion and
migration occurred.

Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems

Edited by D.P. Merriam and J.C. Davis. Kluwer AcademicIPlenum Publishers. 2001 133


Geologic process models are concerned with the physical, chemical, and
biological processes that lead to the observed stratigraphic sequences and the syn-
and postdepositional phenomena induced by moving pore fluids and external and
internal tectonic forces. Geologic process models are used in all areas of applied
geology such as in structural geology (e.g., Roure and Sassi, 1995), in hydrogeology
(e.g., Person and Garven, 1992), in stratigraphy and sedimentology (e.g., Lawrence,
Doyle, and Aigner, 1990), and in petroleum geology (e.g., Wendebourg and
Harbaugh, 1997). A peculiarity of geologic process models that distinguishes them
from models in physics or engineering that operate at laboratory and human time
scale is that processes need to be described at a geologic time and space scale of
thousands to millions of years and hundreds of meters to hundreds of kilometers.
Examples include the large-scale diffusion equation for sediment transport derived
from a bed-load dominated Navier-Stokes equation of flow and transport of clastic
sediment (Granjeon and Joseph, 1999), Darcy's law to describe the averaged flow of
pore fluids through a heterogeneous rock matrix (de Marsily, 1986), or the porosity
reduction by mechanical and chemical compaction during the slow subsidence of
unconsolidated sediments for millions of years (Schneider and others, 1996). Because
these processes occur forward in time starting at some given time in the geologic past,
models representing these processes also are forward models.
The great majority of geologic process models is deterministic with a complexity
increasing because of nonlinear interactions of processes. Among these, basin models
represent some of the most complex models because they couple the geometric and
petrophysical evolution of the rocks within a sedimentary basin with the thermal
stress field and flow of basin fluids including water, oil, and gas (Ungerer and others,
The main motivation of these models is to understand better the coupling effects
of geologic processes and to give them a quantitative framework (Tetzlaff and
Harbaugh, 1989). But geologic process models are used increasingly to predict
quantities such as favorable reservoir or aquifer lithologies by sedimentologic-
stratigraphic models (e.g., Tuttle and Wendebourg, 1999), rock properties such as
porosities by diagenetic models (e.g., Ondrak, 1996), or directly measurable
quantities such as temperatures and pressures by basin models (e.g., Burrus and
others, 1991). The question then arises how viable such predictions are given that
geologic process models may need a multitude of input parameters, that spatial and
temporal boundary conditions are difficult to determine at geologic space and time
scales, and that the model may not be sufficiently general because it is itself derived
from limited observations.


It is important to identify the uncertainties of input quantities of geologic process

models if these models are to be used in a predictive manner (Lerche, 1997).

Uncertainties are present at various levels (Fig. 1): the geologic concept maybe
uncertain; for example, ambiguity between climatic and tectonic signals in a fluvial-
alluvial clastic sequence (Koltermann and Gorelick, 1992); the model may have
important simplifications and assumption, for example, petroleum fluids migrate
predominantly by gravity along steepest topographic gradients (Syita, 1991); and
model parameters and boundary conditions may not be known sufficiently accurately,
for example, conductivities and basement heat flux in thermal modeling (Vik and
Hermanrud, 1993). This article focuses on the latter uncertainty level, assuming that
the geologic problem has been conceptualized correctly and that the selected model

formulation is appropriate.


Geological Concept

,. (Numerical)

..... II· .......... ... ..,

Model Assumptions


Model • /
...... Parameters
.... . "
0:.: • WoO ...., .....
~ ~

Figure 1. Propagation of uncertainties in geologic models: geological concepts represent an abstraction of

nature and the numerical model represents simplification of geological concept whose parameters must be

Two different types of data usually are used in geologic process models;
parameters need to be quantified and outcomes need to be compared with
observations. Only when parameters are within a justified range of values (either
supported by measurements or by some type of geologic reasoning) and the
difference between model outcomes and observations (within their proper range of
uncertainty) is minimized sufficiently, then a geologic model can be considered
predictive. However, there is no guarantee that model oOtcomes are unique in this
situation and · therefore they should be expressed in a probabilistic rather than in a
single-valued manner. Such a probabilistic answer then would contain the cumulative
uncertainty of all input data used in the model. This procedure is important
particularly for geologic process models because they usually have many input
parameters that are only little known. In addition, model outcomes can be compared
only to observations at present and little or no information is available to constrain
the geologic past, with some exceptions (see Koltermann and Gorelick, 1992, for an
interesting time-space transformation to constrain input data of the geologic past).


How can deterministic geologic modeling results be expressed in a probabilistic

manner? The most straightforward way is to define distributions for each input
parameter, to draw a set of parameters randomly from these distributions and to
perform model runs for each set of parameters (the so-called "Monte Carlo" method).
This results in a distribution of outcomes that represent the total uncertainty of all
parameters (Lerche, 1997). Difficulties arise because input parameter distributions
have to be known and outcome distributions usually have to be constrained by
observations. But the main disadvantage is that Monte Carlo methods require many
repeated model runs in order to yield a statistically meaningful outcome distribution
which is not feasible for multidimensional nonlinear geologic process models because
they may require substantial computing time.
In order to reduce the number of model runs, Thomsen and Lerche (1997) use
cumulative probability methods to calculate distributions from parameters with three
levels that are themselves determined from basin modeling. Minimum and maximum
parameter values then are to quantify sensitivities. When interactions between
parameters, however, are not taken into account, outcomes may not be in concert with
observed data anymore. In this paper, we propose a technique that determines form
and size of outcome distributions that are based on only those parameters and/or
parameter interactions that have a significant influence on the outcome and that are
constrained by observations, and also minimize the number of necessary model runs.


Methods of experimental design and response surface modeling are suited

particularly for this purpose (Myers and Montgomery, 1995). These methods allow
the determination of the influence of parameters and parameter combinations that are
tested in an optimal manner. Experimental design methods have been applied
successfully in reservoir engineering applications (Damsleth, Hage, and Volden,
1991; Dejean and Blanc, 1999)
A linear experimental design, also termed factorial design, tests two levels of
parameters, a minimum and a maximum value. For example, eight parameters yield 28
= 256 model runs. To reduce the number of runs, fractional factorial designs may be
used that allow screening of the same eight parameters with a minimum of only 16
model runs, thereby reducing the number of runs by 94%. However, this reduction in
the number of model runs requires that parameter interactions be neglected (they are
confounded with the main effects), and therefore they cannot be determined with such
a design. If interactions are to be taken into account or higher order designs are
necessary, more sophisticated designs are available such as face-centered cube (CCF)
designs obtained by adding center points to linear designs, or so-called D-optimal
designs obtained through candidate points that are selected to optimize the form of
the design matrix (Myers and Montgomery, 1995). Such designs allow a significant
reduction of the potentially large number of model runs. For example, a second-order

D-optimal design that tests three levels per parameter yields only 26 model runs with
5 parameters instead of 35 =243 runs.


Each geologic model run results in one or several outcomes, so-called responses.
An example is pressure calculated from flow parameters in a basin model or grain
size distributions from sedimentological models. The value of a response variable
differs when parameters are changed. This behavior can be transformed into a
polynomial response function by multiple linear or nonlinear regression. Such a
regression function represents the response surface in the parameter space and can be
considered an approximation of the actual outcome of the geologic model. The
quality of the regression model is indicated by the coefficient of determination, R2,
which provides a measure of how well the regression model can reproduce the actual
outcome. An additional coefficient, Q2, can be calculated that allows quantification of
the prediction power of the regression model based on the PRESS (Prediction Error
Sum of Squares) residuals (Myers and Montgomery, 1995). This is an important
coefficient because it yields a measure of how well the regression model will allow
prediction of a response outside the data used to generate the regression function.


Experimental design can be considered a particular type of sensitivity analysis.

Sensitivities in geologic models depend on the processes represented in the models,
the case to be studied (the application of the model), and the objective of the study
(Fig. 2). We can apply the same model to different situations and we can have
different objectives when applying a model to a particular situation. If any of these
items--theprocesses, the case study or the objective of the study--is changed,
sensitivities will change and a new experimental design needs to be set up .. The
regression analysis allows performance of a variance analysis (ANDVA) to determine
whether there is any linear relationship between the parameters (Davis, 1986). In
addition, the relative significance of each individual parameter can be quantified and
important parameters can be identified. Although geologic models require many
parameters, general~y only a few of them are important. This is the so-called sparsity
of effect principle (Myers and Montgomery,1995). It is the combined effect of the
application to a particular situation, a particular modeling objective and constraining
of observations that allow us to reduce the number of important or effective
parameters significantly.
Calibration is an important step in geologic modeling and allows constraint of the
range of parameter values by observations, and in many instances reduces
uncertainty. It is important to define the uncertainty of these observations. The higher
the uncertainty of the data, the lower will be their potential to constrain the parameter
ranges and subsequently to reduce the uncertainty of the response variable.

Once the important parameters and their valid ranges have been identified, then a
second higher order response surface can be created through the valid parameter
subspace. This regression function then can be exploited as if it were the original
geologic model, for example to perform predictions or to determine uncertainties of
outcomes. And, this can be done much faster than by using the original model.

2 ~ modeled processes I
r--- ""--1 with all pertinent parameters I
r - - -
I 1
,- - - -
I toapplication of model I
particular case 2
,1;0 :~::
:r;;\ (3 '. .ff----+-I objective 1 of case study 2 I
II - -- ~

,V '~ i'---
________ J

L _ _ _ _ _~=======!.......Jr--.- Parameter
Figure 2. Sensitivities of parameters in geologic models change with differing processes and process
interactions, application of model, and objective of application. This synthetic example has 10 parameters
of which all are sensitive with respect to modeled processes. However, for application I, only parameters
1.4,8,9, and 10 are sensitive, whereas for application 2, only parameters 3.4,5,6,7, and 8 are sensitive.
Within application 2, for objective I, parameters 3.4,5, and 6 are sensitive, whereas for objective 2, only
parameters 6 and 7 are sensitive.


To demonstrate the use of experimental design to determine sensitivity and

uncertainty in geologic models, an example will now be given from petroleum
geology. The objective of this study is to quantify the uncertainties on timing and
duration of quartz cementation in the Mirador Sandstone reservoir (Eocene) at
Cusiana (Cazier and others, 1995), a petroleum field located in the Llanos foothills of
the Andes in Colombia (Figs. 3, 4). The timing of quartz cementation in sandstone
reservoirs is important to know because if it predates petroleum migration, it may
destroy porosity necessary for a petroleum accumulation to occur and therefore
condemn a prospect.
The history of the Llanos can be subdivided into two main episodes with (a)
passive margin evolution during the Cretaceous and (b) pre-Andean and Andean
deformation from Paleocene to Present (Fig. 5). In the Cusiana area, main tectonic
movement started during Upper Miocene and extended throughout Pliocene and

Quaternary time. Cementation occurred in the lower thrust within a given temperature
window (Bordas-Le Floch, 1999). Temperatures at beginning and end of cementation
are deduced from microthermometric studies on fluid inclusions that indicate
cementation took place at temperatures between 95 and 133°C (Fig. 6) .

.u c:
!!:: CO
U Q)
a.. o

Figure 3. Location map of study area (after Cooper and others, 1995). Main structural elements of
Colombian Cordillera are shown and location of cross section of Figure 4 through Eastern Cordillera and
Llanos foothills and foreland basin.

Well Data

Stratigraphy and lithologies are deduced from well logs, seismic data, and
literature. Vitrinite reflectance and present-day temperatures are available in a

elstem CordlJler'8 Llal'\Os Footttitls Uanos BaSIn

'" 10
ill ... i' io 20 10
NW St--.

/f -<_
- I


Figure 4. NW-SE cross section through Cusiana field, Colombia (after Toro and others, 1997). Location
is indicated in Figure 3. Section of about 90-km length reaches from thrusted Mesozoic Eastern
Cordillera, via Uanos foothills where Cusiana is located, to Uanos foreland basin to east. Cusiana wells
penetrate folded flexural sequence that is doubled by Yopal thrust fault.

Eastern Cordillera Llanos

Flo<esta Easlem
Masslf FlOrIO

r E,O$ioI't!
"'F ~


- 23

h I
jl 00g0. '!
~ 35
~ • " .. ', : .' : -I ;F;cacho",: .", .. ~ , ;-~

~ Reservoir


• Sandstone
I' Congoom.

- SIloIe•.
- Mans

_ Inlrusiva

Figure 5. Chronostratigraphic chart of study area (from Bordas-Le Floch, 1999). Clastic Mirador
reservoir formation is located at base of flexural sequence on erosional unconformity.

neighboring well drilled in the Cusiana structure (Fig. 7). Surface temperatures were
deduced from literature. Thermal properties of each formation (conductivity, heat
capacity, etc.) are calculated as a function of lithology and porosity. Temperature

versus time curves have been computed for the reservoir using IFP's GENEX
software and its tectonics extension which handles thrust tectonics (Fig. 8).

>- 20
(IJ 15
~ 10
95 105 115 125 135
Homogenization Temperature ("C)

o easier and others, 1995

• Bordas-Le Floch, 1999

Figure 6. Trapping temperature histogram from fluid inclusion measurements in quartz overgrowths in
Mirador Formation (from Bordas-Le Floch, 1999).

® ® Guayabo

{. Leon

3 • Cartlonera



ua alupe

6 Cambrian

0.0 02 0.4 06 O.B 1 .0 1.2 1.4 20 40 60 BO 100 1 0140 160 180 200
Ro (%) Temperalure ee)

Figure 7. A, Temperature and vitrinite reflectance profile; B, at present time for well at Cusiana (from
Bordas-l..e Floch, 1999). Example of model result shown does not represent best fit of data.

;o;election of Parameters

Given the many parameters that are needed for the basin model. a limited number
of parameters that are assumed to have a major effect on the timing of cementation
must be selected. The selection of these parameters is based mainly on the experience
of previous model calculations in the basin and on geological considerations. In our
example, the following parameters were selected (Table I):

• constant heat flow at base of section (HF)

• amount of erosion (missing section) after thrust emplacement (ERO)
• age of erosion (AGS)
• age of emplacement of thrust assuming that it is geologically instantaneous

Table 1. Parameter ranges used in experimental designs

Parameter Initial range Final range

Heat flow HF (mW/m2) 15 - 20 18 - 22
Amount of erosion ERG (m) 1000 - 2000 1000 - 1500
Age of thrust emplacement AGN (MaBP) 7.0 - 3.0 7.0 - 3.0
Age of erosion AGS (MaBP) 1.0 - 3.6 1.0 - 3.6

Minimum and maximum values for each parameter have been selected according
to previous GENEX runs and experience from other wells in the basin (Table 1). The
heat flow (HF) ranges between 10 and 20 mW/m2, the amount of missing section
(ERO) ranges between 1-2 km, the age of thrust emplacement (AGN) between 3 and
7 million years before present (MaBP) and the age of erosion (AGS) between 1 and
3.6 MaBP. GENEX runs are performed (Fig. 8) to determine the onset and the end of
cementation (CS, CE) given the temperature window for cementation mentioned
above. Well temperatures at two different depth levels and vitrinite reflectance values
at three depth levels are used to calibrate the modeling results (Table 2). Table 2 is
based on the observed data shown in Figure 7. Note that the model results shown in
Figure 7 do not represent a model fit but an example of an optimistic heat-flow
history where model results are within the uncertainties of the data.

Table 2. Well data used as constraints and their uncertainties

Parameter Depth (m KB) Measured value Minimum Maximum

Vitrinite reflectance 2438 0.50 0.45 0.55
Vitrinite reflectance 2989 0.50 0.40 0.60
Vitrinite reflectance 3840 0.76 0.56 0.96
Temperature (OC) 4431 133 123 143
Temperature (0C) 4811 137 127 147

Experimental Design

With this set of four parameters and their ranges of VarIatIOn, a linear
experimental design was set up. Its goal is to scan the given parameter space and to
evaluate the validity of the parameter space in the light of the given temperature and
maturity constraints and to determine those parameters that have major effects on CS
and CEo A two-level full factorial design with center point was chosen yielding (24+ 1)
= 17 runs. This design includes the following main and interaction terms: HF, AGS,

This yields 11 coefficients in the regression model and 6 degrees of freedom. All runs
were executed with GENEX. Table 3 shows the set of experiments and their results.
A response surface based on mUltiple linear regression was determined from
these results. The model fit for CS and CE and the other response variables such as
temperature and vitrinite reflectance are acceptable (R2: 0.97-0.99; Q2: 0.85-0.99).
Sensitivity of the parameters is shown on Figure 9. The timing of cementation is
sensitive mainly to heat flow (HF) but also to the age of thrusting (AGN) and the
interaction of both. All responses are sensitive to heat flow (HF) and to the amount of
missing section (ERO), particularly the vitrinite values. Temperatures also are
sensitive to the age of erosion (AGS). In general, interactions playa lesser role for
these responses.




Quartz cementation


6000 4-rr~~~rr~~~~~~~~rr~~~rrr++O~rrl
40 36 32 28 24 20 16 12 8 4 o
Age (Ma)

Fig... Modeled temperature history and quartz cementation dating in Mirador Formation (from
Bordas-l..e Aoch \999).

There are only two experiments that fit all data and five with onemisfit(Table 3)
which indicates that the initial range of variation was set too high for heat flow and
Table 3. Linear experimental design. Shaded cells correspond to values that do not match observations.
Note that there are only 2 experiments that fit all data and 5 with a single misfit.

Experiment Age of Amount of HeatFlow Age of Vitrinite Vitrinite Vitrinite Temperature Temperature Cementation Cementation
number Thrusting Erosion erosion @2989m @ 2438m @ 3840m @ 4431m @4811m Start age End age
(MaBP) (m) (mW/m2) (MaBP) (OC) (0C) (MaBP) (MaBP)
1 -7 1000 10 -3.6 0.50 0.45 0.57 106.5 112.0 6.46 0
2 -3 1000 10 -3.6 0.45 0.41 0.46 93.0 98.7 6.25 0
3 -7 2000 10 -3.6 0 5. 4 0.49 0.61 108.3 113.5 7.40 0
4 -3 2000 10 -3.6 0.53 0.49 0.58 106.9 . 112.3 5.71 0
5 -7 1000 20 -3.6 0 .59 0.53 0.72 129.5 136.5 9. 10 4.29
6 -3 1000 20 -3.6 0.59 0.52 0.68 128.0 135.0 9.07 3.10
7 -7 2000 20 -3.6 0.66 0.58 0.80 131.8 139.0 9 .7 0 4.90
8 -3 2000 20 -3.6 0.65 0.58 0.76 130.1 137.0 9 .60 3.77
9 -7 1000 10 -1.0 0.51 0.47 0.58 111 .9 117.0 6.40 0
10 -3 1000 10 - 1.0 0.50 0.46 0.56 110.5 115.5 5. 11 0
II -7 2000 10 -1.0 0.56 0.52 0.64 118.0 123.4 6.58 0
12 -3 2000 10 - 1.0 0.55 0 .51 0.62 116.6 121.8 5.53 0
13 -7 1000 20 -1.0 0.61 0.55 0.75 136.6 143.7 9. 10 3.93
14 -3 1000 20 -1.0 0.61 0.54 073 135.0 141.8 9.10 2.80
15 -7 2000 20 -1.0 0.71 0.62 0.86 144.4 151.5 9.80 4.70
16 -3 2000 20 -1.0 0.69 0.61 0.83 142.4 149.5 9.60 3.20
17 -5 1500 15 -2.3 0.57 0.52 0.67 121.0 127.2 6.92 1.79

amount of missing section when compared with measured temperatures and vitrinite
reflectances (Table 2). Parameters must be restricted to the region where calculated
values are within the error interval of the observations (Table 1). With a heat flow of
15 mW/m2, present-day temperatures are too low, but with 20 mW/m2 temperatures
are well within the constraints. Heat flow could even be a little higher. Therefore, the
modified range is between 18-22 mW/m2. The 2 kIn of missing section yields
temperatures too high with heat flow of 20 mW/m2 and therefore the maximum
missing section was reduced to 1.5 kIn.





d I lrL .... tL n• n.
I ~ •I I •- I •
beg end PR1 PR2 PR3 T1 T2

Figure 9. Parameter sensitivities of seven response variables based on experimental design shown in
Table 3. Response variables are: age of start of cementation (beg), age of end of cementation (end),
vitrinite reflectance values given in rows 1-3 of Table 2 (PRI-3), and temperature values given in rows 4-
5 of Table 2 (TI-2). Parameters are indicated by 10 vertical bars whose height indicates their relative
sensitivity. They are for each response from left to right: (I) age of thrust emplacement (AGN), (2)
amount of erosion (ERO), (3) heat flow at base of sediments (HF), (4) age of erosion (1\GS), (5)
interaction between AGN and ERO, (6) interaction between AGN and HF, (7) interaction between AGN
and AGS, (8) interaction between ERO and HF, (9) interaction between ERO and AGS, (10) interaction
between HF and AGS.

Response Surface

The goal of the response surface calculation is to improve the model of the main
responses CS and CE ina smaller but valid parameter subspace. Using the reduced
variation ranges of the different parameters (Table 1), the constraints imposed by
observations are respected.

The start of cementation depends mainly on heat flow. Therefore AGN and AGS
are 8M to constant values (5 MaBPand 3.6 MaBP ) and a quadratic response surface
was built with two parameters yielding 32 9 runs. The model contains 5 terms
(constant, HF, ERG, HF*HF, ERO*ERO) and 9 runs were computed with GENEX
yielding 4 degrees of freedom (Table 4); Equation (1) is the regression equation for
CS which is shown as the response surface in Figure lOA.

CS =-6.694 - 0.00036 (ERO) + 0.857(HF) - 0.0033 (HF*HF) +

0.000000426 (ERO*ERO) (1)

The main and only important parameter is heat flow (Fig. 11A). Q2 (prediction
coefficient) 0.99 is almost perfect. The response surface indicates ages between 8
and 10 MaBP.
In contrast to cementation start which predates thrust emplacement and erosion
(Tables 3 and 4), the end of cementation may coincide with the timing of thrust
emplacement or erosion. Therefore a separate design was selected for the timing. of
the end of cementation keeping heat flow (HF) at a constant value of 20 mW/m2
which calibrates temperatures and maturity sufficiently well. A full factorial design
with three parameters was used yielding 23 = 8 experiments. The following
parameters were used: ERO, AGN, AGS, ERO*AGN, ERO*AGS, AGN*AGS + a
constant term yielding 1 degree of freedom. Table 5 shows the experiments and the
results of the GENEX runs of which 4 could be reused from the original screening
design (Table 3). Equation (2) is the regression equation for CE which is also shown
as response surface in Figure lOB.

CE =1.467 + 0.00034 (ERO) + 0.201 (AGN) + 0.156 (AGS) + 0.000085

(ERO*AGN) - 0.000038 (ERO*AGS) + 0.0019 (AGN*AGS) (2)

The main effects stem from timing of thrust emplacement and erosion (Fig. lIB).
The predictability of the estimated surface response was tested with a few additional
GENEX runs (Table 6). Age values are best when age of thrust emplacement and age
of erosion coincide, which is geologically reasonable because erosion occurs once
thrusting and subsequent topography build-up starts.

Probability Distributions

From a random sampling of triangular parameter distributions of ERO, HF, AGS,

and AGN and subsequent solving of the two response surface equations [(Eq. (1) and
(2)], two probability distributions for the beginning and end of cementation have been
computed that represent the uncertainty of timing of cementation. Given these
distributions, the most probable start of cementation is at 9.25 MaBP with an earliest
start at 10.4 MaBP, but at latest 7.8 MaBP (Fig. 12A); the most probable end of
cementation is at 3.75 MaBP with earliest end at 4.35 MaBP, and latest at 3.15 MaBP
(Fig. 12B). These ages indicate an uncertainty of the start of cementation of about 3

Table 4. Second-order experimental design for age of start of cementation (CS) with
constant age of thrust emplacement 5 MaBP and constant erosion age 3.6 MaBP =
Amount of erosion ERO (m) Heat Flow HF Age of start of cementation
(mW/m2) (MaBP)
1000 18 7.75
1500 18 8.00
1000 22 10.67
1500 22 10.95
1500 20 9.60
1250 18 7.98
1250 22 10,70
1250 20 9.35
1000 20 9.07

Table 5. Second-order experimental design for age of end of cementation (CE) with
constant heat flow = 20 mW1m2

Amount of erosion Age of thrust emplacement Age of erosion Age of end of

ERO(m) (MaBP) (MaBP) cementation
1000 7 3.6 4.29
1500 7 3.6 4.67
1000 3 3.6 3.10
1500 3 3.6 3.35
1000 7 1.0 3.93
1500 7 1.0 4.40
1000 3 1.0 2.80
1500 3 1.0 3.06

Table 6. GENEX model results and response surface prediction for age of end of

Amount of Age of thrust Age of Age of end of Age of end of Latest end of Earliest end
erosion emplacement erosion cementation cementation cementation of
ERO withGENEX with regression cementation
(m) (MaBP) (MaBP) (MaBP) (MaBP) (MaBP) (MaBP)
1100 3 3.0 3.04 3.08 2.85 3.32
1200 4 2.5 3.78 3.47 3.31 3.62
1350 6 1.5 4.02 3.87 3.70 4.05

million years and of the end of cementation of only about 1 million years. Thus
cementation began at about 100a e and is reached slowly while the end of
cementation at about 130a e is encountered more rapidly because of rapid young
subsidence (Fig. 8). When combined with petroleum generation calculation, these
uncertainties may allow a rather accurate reconstruction of the relative evolution of
hydrocarbon generation and reservoir quality degradation.

Heat flow

1000 110 1200 1300 1400 1500

Eroded thickness (m)

Age of thrust
Emplacement 5

1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500

Eroded Thickness (m)

Figure 10. A, Response surface of age of start of cementation (contour lines are in MaBP) represented by
Equation (I). Parameters are: heat flow at base of sediments (HF) and amount of erosion (ERO). B,
Response surface of age at end of cementation (contour lines are in MaBP) represented by Equation (2).
Parameters are: age of thrust emplacement (AGN), amount of erosion (ERO). Age of erosion (AGS) = 2.3


Figure 11. A, Parameter sensitivities of age of start of cementation based on experimental design shown
in Table 4. Parameters are: heat flow at base of sediments (HF) and amount of erosion (ERO). B,
Parameter sensitivities of age at end of cementation based on experimental design shown in Table 5.
Parameters are: age of thrust emplacement (AGN), amount of erosion (ERO), and age of erosion (AGS).


(percent) 50
... ... '""! '" <0 r- r- <Xl
r- '"
oo ci
0 ":
0> '"

Age (MaBP)

(percent) 50
'""?co M'"'" ...M M... ;": ... co
t- O>
.j ... '"
"? .j

Age (MaBP)

Figure 12. Uncertainty distribution of age at start A and end B of cementation in MaBP. Distributions
are shown in cumulative and noncumulative form; frequency is given in percent.


Geologic process models are deterministic forward models of processes that

occur through geologic time and space. Uncertainties exist concerning the geologic
concept behind a model, the model assumptions and its parameters. Therefore
outcomes of geologic models should be expressed in a probabilistic form rather than
a single-valued form. This can be achieved by methods of experimental design that
sample the parameter space in an optimal manner and allow it to be constrained by
observations. In addition, parameter sensitivities are quantified and unimportant
parameters are discarded. Sensitivities depend on the processes modeled, on the
application of the model and on the objective of the application.
The example application of thermal modeling to quartz cementation timing in the
Mirador Sandstone at Cusiana, Colombia, shows that experimental design methods
allow determination of sensitivity parameters that are different for the beginning and
the end of cementation depending on the thermal and burial history in a thrusted area.
It is important to know the uncertainties of cementation timing because porosity in the
reservoir formation may have been lost for potential accumulations if petroleum
expulsion and migration postdates quartz cementation.


Using quantitative methods such as numerical modeling is at the heart of modern

applied geology and geologic process modeling is an integral part of it. The senior
author would like to express his gratitude to John W. Harbaugh, his teacher and
mentor at Stanford University whose contributions to geologic modeling for nearly
four decades have laid the ground for the success that geologic process modeling
enjoys today in academia and industry alike.
The authors also would like to thank the IFP industrial research consortia QUBS
and SUB TRAP for results presented here and for the data used in the Cusiana case
study. The paper has been improved thanks to two anonymous reviewers.


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for sedimentary basins simulators: Tectonophysics,v. 263, no. 1-4, p. 307-317.
Sylta, 0., 1991, Modelling of secondary migration and entrapment of a multicomponent hydrocarbon
mixture using equation of state and ray-tracing modeling techniques, in England, W. A., and Fleet,
A. J., eds., Petroleum migration: Geo!. Soc. London Spec. Pub!. 59, p. 111-121.
Tetzlaff, D. M., and Harbaugh, J. W., 1989, Simulating clastic sedimentation: Van Nostrand Reinhold,
New York, 202 p.
Thomsen, R.O., and Lerche, I., 1997, Relative contributions to uncertainties in reserve estimates: Marine
and Petroleum Geology, v. 14, no. I, p. 65-74
Toro, J., Bordas-Le Floch, N., LeComec-Lance, S., Roure, F., Benard, F., Lafargue, E., Sassi, W., Robion,
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William W. Hay, GEOMAR, Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel,
Germany, Christopher N. Wold, Platte River Associates, Boulder,
Colorado USA, Emanuel Soding, and Sascha Floegel,' GEOMAR,
Christian-Albrechts- University, Kiel, Germany


Knowledge of the rates of geological processes is an important aspect of basin

modeling. Much of the surficial geology of the Earth is the result of erosion and deposition
of sediment. Inspection of the inventory of sediments and sedimentary rocks existing today
indicates that the global rates of these processes have changed markedly during the
The mass-age distribution of Phanerozoic sediments and sedimentary rocks existing
on Earth today has the general form of an exponential decay curve, reflecting the fact that
new sediments are formed mostly from the erosion of older sediments. The dissolved salt
in the ocean and in pore waters constitutes a special reservoir of the sedimentary system,
representing part of the soluble matter derived from weathering. Additions to the total
sedimentary system--sediments plus dissolved salts--come from the weathering of igneous
and metamorphic rocks and from extraterrestrial sources but are relatively small in
comparison with the overall rate of sediment cycling. Losses to the sedimentary system
result from metamorphism and subduction but again are small in comparison with the
overall rate of cycling of sedimentary materials. About a fourth of the total mass of
sedimentary material has been subducted and replaced by new sedimentary material
produced from the weathering of igneous and high-grade metamorphic rocks during the
Phanerozoic. Sedimentary flux rates have changed by a factor of five through the
Phanerozoic. It is most likely that these variations reflect changes in continental relief, but
the high rates in the Early Paleozoic also were a function of the lack of plant cover to bind
the soil and retard erosion. Because sedimentary strata accumulate in thin, widespread
layers, erosion of sedimentary materials must proceed in such a way that young
unconsolidated sediments are more likely to be eroded than older rocks. Although some

Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems

Edited by D.F. Merriam and J.C. Davis, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001 153
soluble rocks may be dissolved as they enter the active near-surface groundwater system,
the amount of selective recycling of different lithologies is slight. There is little evidence
for evolution of sedimentary materials on the continental blocks. Quartz sand has become
less abundant in the later Phanerozoic, and since the mid Cretaceous the site of deposition
of carbonates has shifted from the continental blocks to the deep sea. From the inventory
of existing evaporites it is possible to use principles of sedimentary cycling to reconstruct
the salinity of the ocean during the past. We conclude that average ocean salinities were
almost 50%0 in the Paleozoic and declined during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic to finally
reach its modern value of 34.7%0.


An important aspect of basin modeling is knowledge of process rates. For

reconstruction of the geologic history of a region it is especially important to know the
rates of erosion of source areas and rates of sediment accumulation in the basins (Hay,
Shaw, and Wold, 1989). It might be expected that local conditions completely dominate
the history of a particular area, but there is strong evidence that there have been global
changes in sedimentary process rates through the Phanerozoic. The first person to realize
this was Ronov (1961), who, in the course of compiling volumes of sedimentary rocks on
the continental blocks, discovered that there were synchronous changes in
erosion/sedimentation rates on the different continents. He concluded that this global
phenomenon was one of the major rules governing behavior of the sedimentary system.
Ronov's interpretations of the volumes and masses of sedimentary rocks through time
neglected to consider recycling of older sedimentary rocks to form young sediment. The
purpose of this paper is to review how the original fluxes of sedimentary materials,
including salts stored in the ocean, can be reconstructed, to investigate the validity of the
assumptions involved, and to explore the possible causes of fluctuations in sedimentary
process rates.


The maSs-age distribution of Phanerozoic sediments existing on Earth today has the
general form of an exponential decay curve. Guilluly (1969) was first to realize that the
decline of the amount of sediment with age reflects the cannibalistic behavior of the
system. New sediments are formed mostly from the erosion of older sediments. Wold and
Hay (1990) proposed that the general decline of sediment mass with age resulting from
recycling of older sediment to become younger sediment is approximated by a simple
exponential decay function

y = A e -ht (1)

where y is the remnant of the original sediment flux at time t, that survives today after t
m.y. of recycling assuming a constant rate of erosional recycling b, and a constant rate of
deposition, A, throughout geologic time. However, there are Significant variations of the
existing mass of sediment above and below the simple exponential decay curve. Wold and
Hay (1990) suggested that these variations reflect changes in the original fluxes of
sediment, that is, changes in the rates of erosion and deposition. They also proposed that
the original flux was proportional to the excess or deficit of sediment of a given age
existing today compared with the value of the decay curve for that age. The original flux
then can be reconstructed by mUltiplying y by the proportion that the mass of sedimentary
material surviving today exceeds or is less than y. In the text below this algorithm for
reconstructing the original sediment flux will be referred to as the proportionality method.
Figure 1 shows the global mass age distribution of Phanerozoic sediment based on the
compilations of Ronov (1993) and Hay (1994). It also shows two exponential decays fit
to the data, one for the entire Phanerozoic, Neo- and Mesoproterozoic data set (0-1600 Ma,
curve C), and one fit to the Phanerozoic data only (0-545 Ma, curve D). It also shows a
reconstruction of the original sediment fluxes using the proportionality method.


25 ,.
>: 20

~ " t\
15 1" I I
I , I

i 10
I \
...~ ' "
I "

0 100 200 300 400 500 600

Age (Ma)

Figure 1. Mass-age distriblltion of surviving Phanerozoic global sediment masses (solid curve, A), sediment
masses on continental blocks since 180 Ma (short-dashed curve, B), e~ponential decay curve fit. to Phanerozoic,
Neo- and Meso-Proterozoic data (thin solid ,<urve, C), exponential decay curve fit to only the Phanerozoic data
(thin solid curve D) and estimate of original sediment fluxes for Phanerozoic reconstructed using proportionality
method of Wold and Hay (1990) (long-dashed curved, E). Area between curves B and A is mass of sediment
presently on ocean crust which ultimately will be subducted or accreted onto active continental margins. Time
scale used in this and other figures is that of Gradstein and Ogg (1996), except as noted.

Ronov's (1993) compilation included surviving Cambrian-Pliocene sediments at the

Epoch (Series) level. He indicated a total mass of 2122 x 1018 kg, but did not include
sediments on or in the margins of the Antarctic continent. Hay (1994) made a compilation

to estimate the global mass of Quaternary sediment to be about 42 x 10 18 kg. Ronov

(1993) also had compiled the mass of Late Precambrian Vendian and Riphean sediment,
which he estimated to be 285 x 10 18 kg. The amounts of older Proterozoic and Archaean
sediment preserved as sediment are small. From these we determine the total solid
sediment mass existing on Earth today (excluding Antarctica) to be 2449 x 1018 kg. If the
total of sediment associated by Ronov (1993) with the continents is increased
proportionally to the area of the Antarctic to account for the unknown sediment mass there,
the global solid sediment mass becomes 2638 x 10 18 kg. The mass of salt dissolved in the
ocean is 49 x 10 18kg, and the mass in the pore space of sediment is probably about 10%
of that in the ocean, or 5 x 10 18 kg. Adding these, the total of all sedimentary materials then
is about 2692 x 10 18 kg. A special peculiarity of the mass-age distribution is the sediment
that is on ocean crust. Because of seafloor spreading and subduction, there is no ocean
crust older than 180 Ma. The dotted line (curve B) in Figure 1 represents the mass of
sediment less than 180 million years old surviving on the continental blocks. The amount
between curve B and A is the surviving sediment on ocean crust.
Using the entire Phanerozoic, Neo-, and Meso-Proterozoic mass-age distribution, we
determined the average Phanerozoic_zero-age flux rate (A) to be 5.98 x 10 18 kg / my. and
the average rate of sediment recycling (b) to be -0.00280 / m.y. This is the lower
exponential decay curve (C) shown as a line in Figure 1. It is obvious that for the
Phanerozoic (shown in Fig. 1), more sediment mass lies above the curve than mass
deficiencies below it, the opposite is true for the Precambrian, not shown here, but
illustrated in Hay (1999). A fit to the Phanerozoic data alone is represented by the upper
exponential decay curve (D) in Figure 1. For this curve, A =6.47 X 10 18 kg / m.y. and b =
-0.00206. A reconstruction of the original fluxes based on the proportionality method of
Wold and Hay (1990) is shown as a dashed curve (D).
Wold and Hay (1993) made a detailed analysis of the past sediment fluxes calculated
using the widely available compilation of Ronov (1980), which differs from the later
compilation particularly in that it did not divide the Ordovician and Silurian into epochs.
They determined that the mass represented by the area under the exponential decay curve
is not exactly equal to the mass of sediment observed, and successive reconstructions of
past mass-age distributions based on the proportionality method, described previously,
yield a (slightly) differing total mass of sediment. However, the area under the decay
curve can be forced to equal the mass of the reconstructed sediment distribution by holding
the total sedimentary mass (TSM) constant. They noted that variations from the average
rate of erosion and deposition require linked changes of the rate of deposition A, and the
rate of decay b, with time.
During the length of the Phanerozoic, Vendian, and Riphean (1600 my) A and b are
related to TSM by the definite integral

J Aeb1dt
TSM = (2)
where time (t) is given in millions of years. The solution to Equation (2) is

TSM = A (ebl600_1) (3)


It is evident that in this context A and b are not constants, but are variables that depend on
the total sediment mass (TSM) and on each other, so that
A = bTSM
e bl600 - 1
Using this method and assuming a constant TSM, Wold and Hay (1993) determined that,
except for the Middle and Late Cambrian and Devonian, the reconstructed fluxes always
were higher than those calculated by the proportionality method. Using the more complete
Ronov (1993) and Hay (1994) data, these differences have largely disappeared, as shown
in Figure 2.


E 20

0 15

::IE 10

0 100 200 300 400 500 600

Age (Ma)
Figure 2. Mass-age distribution of surviving sediment masses (solid curve, A) and three reconstructions of
original sediment fluxes. Thin solid curve, B, is based on assumption of linear growth of TSM from 0 at 3800
Ma to its present size today. Dotted curve, C, is based on proportionality method of Wold and Hay (1990).
Dashed curve, D, is based on assumption of constant TSM since 1600 Ma. Curve based on assumption oflinear
growth (B) so closely approximates that using proportionality method (C) that they are almost indistinguishable..

Every change in the flux in the past resulted from a change in the erosion rate at
which older materials were attacked. Because the total amount of salt dissolved in the
ocean is only 2% of the mass of solid sediment, and because variations in its amount have
been less than 30% during the Phanerozoic, the rate of deposition of sediment through·
time always must approximate closely the rate of erosion. When the deposition rate
increases, the erosion rate increases, but the younger sediment, most of which is
unconsolidated and spread over a large area, is destroyed more rapidly than are the older
sedimentary rocks.
Figure 2 shows three reconstructions of the sediment fluxes during the Phanerozoic,
based on different assumptions. The solid heavy line, curve A, is the sediment existing

today. The thin solid line, curve B, estimates the sediment fluxes of the past based on the
assumption of linear growth of the TSM starting from 0 at 3800 Ma (after Hay, 1999). The
heavy short-dashed line, curve D, is the reconstruction of past sediment fluxes assuming
a constant TSM since 1600 Ma.
Thereconstructed sediment flux shown as a thin dashed curve (C) in Figure 2 is based
on the proportionality method. This curved so closely coincides with B that they may be
indistinguishable. If it were possible to know from independent information how the TSM
has changed through time, that information could be incorporated into this reconstruction


Five questions arise concerning the history of sediment fluxes:

(1) How good is the assumption that the TSM has remained approximately constant
during the Phanerozoic?
(2) What is the cause of the fluctuations in sediment fluxes through time?
(3) Can some lithologies be susceptible particularly to erosion so that they can cycle
at a faster rate?
(4) Have the relative proportions of major sediment types changed during the
(5) Has the salinity of the ocean changed with time?

(1) How good is the assumption that the TSM has remained approximately constant during
the Phanerozoic?
The assumption that the total global sediment mass and the mass of salt in the ocean
have remained approximately constant during the Phanerozoic is reasonable because most
younger sediments are derived from cannibalization of older sediments through erosion.
The gains to the total sediment mass from the weathering and erosion of igneous and
crystalline metamorphic rocks are offset by losses to subduction and metamorphism.
Hay (1999) produced two extreme models of the fluxes of sediment with time, one
based on the assumption that the total sedimentary mass has remained constant since 1600
Ma, and the other on the assumption that the total sedimentary mass has grown linearly
since the time of formation of the oldest preserved sediments, 3800 Ma. These two models
are illustrated in Figure 2. The real situation probably lies between these extremes. Hay
(1999) showed that for both of these assumptions the Phanerozoic sedimentary mass
remains almost constant. It is interesting that the reconstruction based on the
proportionality method and the reconstruction assuming linear growth of the TSM since
3800 Ma so closely coincide that the lines can be distinguished in only a few places.
There are several independent estimates of rates of "continental growth," volcanism,
and subduction. Howell and Murray (1986) estimated the rate of continental accretion
from addition of both terranes and igneous material to be of the order of 3.0 km3/yr, and
the rate of "continental growth" to be of the order of 1.35 km3/yr (;:::3.4 x 10 lR kg/my).
Their "continental growth" is the rate at which igneous material is added to increase the

volume of the continental blocks, by both lateral and vertical addition. On the basis of the
mass of sediments on the ocean floor, Hay, Sloan, and Wold (1988) estimated the long-
term (last 180 my) global rate of sediment subduction to be ofthe order of 1 x 101H kg/my.
Von Huene and Scholl (1991), on the basis of estimates of material presently entering
subduction zones, calculated the global rate of subduction of sediment during the past 30
my to be 0.7 km3 (solid) per year. This is about 1.9 x 10 1H kg/my, almost two times higher
that the long-term average proposed by Hay, Sloan, and Wold (1988). The difference
between these two estimates mainly is the result that material entering the trenches comes
both from the ocean floor and from erosion of the accretionary wedge adjacent to the
trench. The accretionary wedge usually is thought to be a site of rapid cycling, where
young sediment scraped off the subducting slab is uplifted, eroded, and redeposited in the
trench. In considering the long-term rates, it also should be noted that during the Late
Cenozoic erosion and deposition has proceeded at rates that are generally about twice as
high as those of the Early Cenozoic and Mesozoic (Hay, 1994). The amount of material
eroded from the accretionary wedges probably has increased correspondingly.
If these rates have remained approximately constant, a mass of about 8500 x 10 1H kg
has been added to the continental blocks since the Archaean. The mass of the continental
blocks presently is about 17,500 x 10 18 kg (calculated after Southam and Hay, 1981).
Probably somewhat more than 2500 x 101H kg of sedimentary material, essentially
equivalent to the entire existing sedimentary mass, has been subducted since the Archaean.
If the total sedimentary mass has remained nearly constant during the Phanerozoic, and the
rate of subduction has averaged about I x 10 1H kg/my, it implies that almost 114 of the
sediment existing today has been produced by the weathering of igneous silicate rocks
during the Phanerozoic.

(2) What is the cause of the fluctuations in sediment fluxes through time?
Wold and Hay (1990) proposed that the fluctuations in sediment fluxes primarily are
related to global topographic relief, although the climate also must playa role. The idea
that the major factor controlling erosion is relief has long been evident from many analyses
of the characteristics of drainage basins (Pinet and Souriau, 1988) .. Hay, Shaw, and Wold
(1989) have shown how the mass of eroded sediment could be used to reconstruct
paleotopography. They argued that the relation between elevation and amount of detrital
sediment eroded is essentially a linear function, so that a doubling of the erosion .rate
implies a doubling of the elevatiori. If this were true, the reconstructed flux of detrital
sediment would be an index to continental elevations through the Phanerozoic.
Sr isotopic ratios (H7Srf6Sr) have been proposed as an independent measure of
paleotopography. The H7Srf6Sr from the weathering of continental rocks is more positive
than that from weathering of submarine basalts, so that a positive trend is interpreted as
a time of greater weathering of continental material. as a result of greater relief. McArthur,
Howarth, and Bailey (2001) have made a compilation of H7Srf6Sr through the Phanerozoic,
and compared it with the Phanerozoic sediment flux constructed byFloegel, Wold. and
Hay (2000) using the method described previously. Although the sediment fluxes lag the
87Srf6Srratios by 10 to 20 m.y., the correlation between them is remarkably good (Fig. 3).
This relationship lends credence to the interpretation of the changes in sediment flux as

an indic,ator of topographic relief, but suggests that sediments require some time to come
to their final resting place. There are only two discrepancies: the first is that the sediment
fluxes show a major decrease in the Early Ordovician whereas the 87SrfR6Sr ratios remain
high during this time; the second is that the sediment fluxes decline during the Late
Paleozoic whereas the 87SrfR6Sr ratios show another positive peak in the Carboniferous.

0.7100 r----:----,....---....,-------:----,-----,
n §
.0.7090 .................. f................... ,..........•••••••··' ••••·· ••• ·· ••• ·•••• ' •••••• ·.·/1 ••.11 . . . . . . . . 20

'iV v,t
: :, I I: I

~r 0.7070 \ '
v---.:; _--····1
: i\ :
i \.\.:/ : \ 10
0.7060 ·····f\ciJv····L···········lt= :.: ::

. 0

o 100 200 300 400 500 600

Age (Me)
Figure 3. Comparison of variations in 17Srr"Sr ratio (solid line) and reconstructed original sediment fluxes based
on assuming constant TSM (dotted line). K7Srr"Sr curve is based on LOWESS Version 3 best-fit to marine Sr
isotope data (McArthur, Howarth, and Bailey, 200 I). Two curves are based on slightly different time scales: that
of McArthur, Howarth, and Bailey uses time scales of Shackleton and others (1995) for 0-6.4 Ma, Berggren and
others (1995) for 6.4 - 70 Ma, Obradovich (1993) for 70 - 98.5 Ma, Gradstein and others (1995) for 98.6 - 206
Ma, and Young and Laurie (1996) for 206 - 509 Ma. Sediment flux curve is based in time scale of Gradstein and

There is another factor that has had a major impact on sediment fluxes, the rise and
spread of vascular land plants. Berner (1998) has noted that vascular plants have a major
impact on weathering, increasing the acidity and moisture retaining capabilities of soils.
However, as they spread over the land, they become important at binding the soil and
protecting it from erosion. Deep-rooted plants have been documented from the Early
Devonian (Elick, Driese, and Mora,1998). Lichens and other surficial plants may have
been present on land before the spread of vascular plants (Wright, 1985). They would have
been less effective in promoting weathering, but might have made the soilless prone to
erosion. It is possible that the large fluxes of sediment during the earlier Paleozoic shown
in Figure 1 are the result in part of the lack of land plant cover, and may not be primarily
a function of paleotopography.

(3) Can some lithologies be particularly susceptible to erosion so that they can cycle at a
faster rate?

Garrels and Mackenzie (1971) suggested that different lithologies, particularly

evaporites, might have different erosion rates and hence cycling rates might be lithology~
dependent. Land (1995) has argued that evaporites may be dissolved before they reach the
surface. In part his argument is based on an estimate of the amount of salt (NaCl)
dissolved in pore waters of sediment, which he concluded is about 2-3 times as much as
is present in evaporite deposits. However his estimate was based on extreme assumptions,
the Garrels and Mackenzie (1971) value for the mass of pore water (330 x 10 18 kg) and an
average pore water salinity of about 170 %0 (5 times modern seawater).
Wold and Hay (1993) demonstrated that large-scale selective erosion of particular
lithologies cannot occur on regional or global scales. Although some sedimentary rocks
are more resistant to erosion than others, superposition of the thin tabular bodies that are
sedimentary rock requires that erosion must ultimately attack the layers sequentially. Some
highly soluble minerals, such as halite, can be dissolved "before their time" as they enter
the near-surface region of active groundwater flow. However, at the coarse time resolution
available for sediment flux studies, this is probably a negligible complication.
If there is essentially no lithologic control on sedimentary cycling, it implies that it
should be possible to reconstruct not only the mass-age distributions of sedimentary
materials for past ages, but also the masses of rocks of different lithology that have existed
in the past. This technique has been applied to carbonate occurring as sediments and rocks
(limestone, dolostone, chalk, etc.) by Hay (1999) and to reconstruction of the salinity of
the ocean in the past (Hay and Wold, 1997; Floegel, Wold, and Hay, 2000).
Veizer and Jansen (1985) noted that rocks do recycle at different rates in different
types of tectonic province, such as cratons, orogenic belts, etc. Using the data of Ronov
(1993) for particular tectonic environments, we have calculated values of A and b to be
1.064 and -0.00213 for Platforms, 2.444 and -0.00250 for "Geosynclines" (= foreland
basins), and 0.706 and -0.00527 for "Orogenic Regions" (= mountain belts). The values
for A are related to the mass of sediment in the province, but the values for bare recycling
rates and can be directly compared. "Orogenic regions" such as accretionary complexes
recycle at a rate double that of the rest of the continental blocks. Because the "orogenic
regions" not only recycle rapidly but also have a relatively small sediment mass, they
usually lack any significant proportion of older sediments.
The situation for sediment on the ocean floor is more complex. The mass-age
distribution of sediments on ocean crust is a steep exponential decay approaching 0 at 180
m.y. Hay, Sloan, and Wold (1988) calculated that for sediment onthe ocean floor A =
11.02 and b = -0.0355. This apparently extremely rapid decay has less to do with recycling
of sediments in the deep sea that it does with the subduction of ocean crust with time.
Surprisingly, the loss of ocean crust to subduction is not an exponential decay, but is an
almost linear function of age.

(4) Have the relative proportions of major sediment types changed during the Phanerozoic?
Figure 4 shows the proportions of different major types of sediment on the continental
blocks and in the tectonic environments recognized by Ronov (1993). The lithologic terms
have been simplified here: "chert" = siliceous sediments whether indurated or not, "shale"
includes all detrital sediments other than quartz sand. There is remarkably little change in

the proportions of different types of sediment on the continental blocks as a whole during
the entire Phanerozoic, buta few trends can be seen in Figure 4A. The proportion of quartz:
sand decreases in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, and there is a sharp drop in the amount of
carbonates in the Neogene. On the platforms (Fig. 4B) the pattern is somewhat more
differentiated, clearly reflecting the major episodes of transgression and regression. The
"geosynclines" (Fig. 4C) show a similar pattern of differentiation, and also show a major
decline in the amount of quartz sand with time. The "orogenic regions" (Fig. 4D) present
the most distinctive pattern. Carbonates and quartz sands make up a significant proportion
of the total sediment in the Paleozoic but are almost absent in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic.






100 200 300 400 soc '00 200 300 400 500 600
AliiJlI (M iI) Ago (Mol

A. Total continents (Platforms, Geosynclines, Orogenic Zones) B. Platforms





100 300 400 500

Age (Ma)

D. Orogenic ZOIIft

Figure 4. Comparison of relative proportions of "shale" (= mostly fine-grained detrital sediments other than
quartz sand). quartz sand. chert and related rocks. carbonates. and evaporites on total continents (A). platforms
(B). "geosynclines" (= foreland basins. C). and "orogenic regions" (= mountain belts. D).

The major site of carbonate deposition has shifted from the continental blocks to the
deep sea (Sibley and Wilband, 1981; Southam and Hay, 1981). This is a result of the
development and spread of calcareous plankton, chiefly coccolithophores and planktonic
foraminifera. This transfer began in the mid Cretaceous and accelerated during the

(5) Has the salinity of the ocean changed with time?

Holser and others (1980) made a first attempt to track ocean salinity back through
time, taking salt extractions into account. They came to the unexpected conclusion that
the Cambrian ocean probably had a salinity of about 48%0 and that the ocean has been
getting less saline throughout the Phanerozoic. Knauth (1998), incorporating Land's
(1995) estimate of salt in sedimentary pore water, concluded that the salinity of the oceans
must have been more than 60 %0 until late in the Proterozoic. Neither presented a detailed
history of salinity because there was no good idea of how to reconstruct river delivery of
salt to the ocean in the past. One could only guess that it was somehow related to the
erosion of previously buried evaporites and saline pore waters. It is easy to estimate the
effect of young evaporite extractions on lowering the salinity of the ocean, but the problem
of estimating the rate of their return to the ocean prevented evaluation of the history of
ocean salinity itself. Sedimentary cycling provides the answer to this problem.
The mean salinity of the ocean is a function of how much water and salt are in the
ocean. Most studies have assumed that the ocean always has had a mean salinity equal to
that of the present-day (34.73%0). Making the correction for an ice-free world by adding
the water in the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets into the ocean results in an estimated
average salinity of 33%0. However, this low salinity was never reached because salt
extractions into the Red Sea, Mediterranean, and other areas occurred during the Late
Neogene, after growth of the Antarctic ice sheet (Hay and Wold, 1997).
Using a compilation of the existing masses of evaporites prepared by Bill Holser and
Chris Wold, Hay and Wold (1997) reconstructed the masses of evaporites that existed in
the past. This provides the basis for evaluating the effect of salt extractions from the ocean.
Using the rates of global sedimentary cycling calculated from the Ronov (1993) data, they
computed the masses of NaCl and CaS04 eroded and delivered to the ocean for 10 m.y.
intervals since the end of the Paleozoic, accounting for the time-varying rate of supply of
these salts to the ocean. Floegel, Wold, and Hay (2000) extended this back to the
beginning of the Phanerozoic. Both of these works neglected the salt in sedimentary pore
waters, assuming that it is essentially seawater stored in sediment on a long-term basis.
Because both the water and the salt were removed from the ocean. their return has a
negligible effect on ocean salinity. The resulting estimate of the average salinity of the
ocean is shown in Figure 5.
The ocean salinity reconstruction has important implications for the evolution of life
and climate. It suggests that Paleozoic and Triassic marine life was adapted to higher
salinities and that the evolution of modern fauna and flora may have been driven by
salinity changes. Southam and Hay (1981) already had speculated that the rise of
calcareous plankton and their spread into the open ocean in the mid Cretaceous was related
to the lowering of salinity in response to the salt extractions in the Gulf of Mexico and

South Atlantic. The implications for climate evolution are equally profound. At today's
salinities the density increase as water is chilled to the freezing point (-2.05°C for seawater
with a salinity of 35.5%0) is slight (0.08 kg m,3 from O°C to the freezing point); the density
increase required to induce deep water formation in the polar regions proceeds mostly
through the intermediate step of sea-ice formation. When sea-ice forms it has a salinity of
only about 7%0, the excess salt is expelled into the surrounding sea water, making it denser
and allowing it to sink. Freezing 1 m3 of water with a salinity 35.5%0 would increase the
salinity of the surrounding 1 m3 of seawater to 35.8%0, and the density of the adjacent
water would increase by 1.64 kgm'3. Sea-ice formation involves release of significant
amounts of latent heat (335,000 J kg'I), which ultimately is exchanged with the
atmosphere. Today this phase change, required for the large-scale production of high-
latitude deep water, acts as a governor on the rate of thermohali~e circulation in the ocean.
At the higher salinities in the Paleozoic the seawater at high latitudes would continue to
become denser as it approached the freezing point (- _2.8° C; at a salinity of 50%0 the
density increase from 0° C to the freezing point is - 0.25 kg m'3), a more energy efficient
process (- 4180 J kg'l °CI). The latent heat control on deep waterformation through sea-
ice would not exist and as a result the thermohaline circulation may have been significantly
enhanced. The competing mechanism for dense water formation at low latitudes
throughout the Phanerozoic is salinization through evaporation, a highly energy inefficient
process (-25,000,000 J kg'l water vaporized). Because deep water formation requires
differentiation of a denser water mass, it occurs only where there are restrictions to the
exchange of surface waters. Hence the relative importance of each of these processes
depends on the paleogeography of the polar regions and arid zones as well as on the mean
salinity of the ocean.



ti'ii 30



0 100 200 300 400 500 600

Age (Ma)

Figure 5. Reconstructed mean salinity of ocean during Phanerozoic based on reconstructed salt fluxes (after Hay
and Wold, 1997 and Floegel, Wold, and Hay, 2000). Major falls are extractions into young ocean basins or
marginal seas. Rise of salinity in Late Paleozoic is result of Gondwanan glaciation.


Ancient sediment fluxes can be estimated from the present mass-age distribution of
sediments and sedimentary rocks using a simple algorithm. Although the total mass of
sediment probably has not changed greatly during the Phanerozoic, about a fourth of the
mass has been subducted and replaced by new sedimentary material produced from the
weathering of igneous and high-grade metamorphic rocks. The flux rates have changed by
a factor of five through the Phanerozoic. It is most likely that these variations reflect
changes in continental relief, but the high flux rates of the Early Paleozoic also were a
function of the lack of plant cover to bind the soil and retard erosion. Because of the thin
tabular nature of sedimentary layers, selective removal of specific lithologies cannot occur
of any large scale. Highly soluble evaporites, such as halite, can be dissolved before they
can be exhumed at the surface, but at the coarse (10 m.y.) resolution of the sedimentary
mass-age data, this probably has a negligible effect on the reconstruction of fluxes. There
is little evolution of sedimentary materials evident in the record on the continental blocks.
Quartz sand has become less abundant in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. The site of
deposition of carbonates has shifted from the continental blocks to the deep sea,
particularly in the Neogene. Sedimentary cycling offers a key to evaluating ocean salinity
changes in the past. Reconstructions indicate that ocean salinities in the Paleozoic were
about 30% higher than they are today, declining to modern values during the Mesozoic and
Cenozoic. The long-term changes in salinity may be a major factor in the evolution of
marine organisms. Because of its role in influencing the mode of operation of the
thermohaline circulation, the salinity decline during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic also may
be a critical factor in the evolution of Earth's climate.


This work has been supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgernienschaft. The authors
have benefitted from stimulating discussions with Robert A. Berner, Heinrich D. Holland,
L. Paul Knauth and John A. McArthur. Strontium isotope data were kindly provided by
John A. McArthur.


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Klaus Bitzer, Department of Geology, Faculty of Biology, Chemistry
and Geosciences, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany, and
Ramon Salas, Department of Geochemistry, Petrology and Geological
Prospection, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain


Carbonate and mixed carbonate clastic sedimentation create a variety of facies

types which reflect the population dynamics of carbonate-producing organisms and
environmental conditions, under which carbonate sedimentation takes place. In this
contribution a simulation model of carbonate and mixed carbonate-clastic
sedimentation is presented that considers the population dynamics of the carbonate
producing organisms and defines their evolution by simple ecological systems. These
systems are represented mathematically by predator-prey models and include a variety
of effects such as poisoning of carbonate-producing organisms under the presence of
lime mud or clastic sediments and depth-dependent growth functions. In order to test
the conceptual model, we apply data from the Lower Cretaceous Mola de Xert
carbonate platform (Province Castellon, Spain). The simulated facies succession shows
a good fit with the observed facies and demonstrates that predator-prey models can be
adapted and calibrated to natural carbonate sequences. The model then is extended to
two dimensions in space and tested for effects of sea-level changes on the geometrical
and facial evolution of a carbonate deposit, applying data from the Mola de Xert
carbonate platform.


Carbonate rocks constitute extensive rocks masses with highly diverse facies types
and complex geometries. In many situations they host important natural resources such

Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems

Edited by D.F. Merriam and J.C. Davis, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001 169

as ores, hydrocarbons, and groundwater or are used for construction purposes.

Prospecting for these resources usually involves a limited number of field observations
and rock samples which are interpreted and extrapolated to carbonate sedimentation
models based on facies interpretation and comparison to recent carbonate
environments. The principal objective of such analysis is to predict the geometry of a
carbonate rock and the spatial distribution of its petrophysical parameters or
sedimentary facies. Such prediction is based to a large extent on experience and
intuition and provides a mainly qualitative model. Qualitative prediction in many
situations is successful, however, it may be necessary to obtain a quantitative model of
a carbonate rock or even a quantitative model of the dynamic evolution of the
sedimentary rock. As an example, hydrodynamic basin simulation modeling (e.g.,
Person and Garven, 1994; Bitzer, 1996, 1999) involves the transient evolution of fluid
flow and solute and heat transport in a basin, which is subject to changes in geometry
and petrographic properties during its evolution. Such a computer model needs to
incorporate all data defining the geometrical, facial, and structural evolution of a basin.
Thus, a hydrodynamic basin simulation model requires data on changing geometry and
facies of the evolving basin to be provided continuously during the simulation.
Obviously, this may involve an enormous amount of data, which is difficult to prepare
as "hand-made" input data files, especially for 2-D or 3-D modeling. A sedimentation
simulation model therefore is a more suitable method to provide data on the geometric
and facial evolution of a deposit, as it considerably simplifies the data supply to such
hydrodynamic basin simulation models.
Simulation models of carbonate, clastic, and evaporite sedimentation based on the
simulation of sedimentary processes have been developed since the late 1960's, for
example, carbonate sedimentation based on ecology of carbonate-producing organisms
(Harbaugh, 1966; Harbaugh and Wahlstedt, 1967), simulation of evaporite
sedimentation (Briggs and Pollack, 1967), deltaic deposition at river mouths (Bonham-
Carter and Sutherland, 1968), and clastic sedimentation in sedimentary basins
(Harbaugh and Bonham-Carter, 1970). Some of these early approaches were translated
later into computer codes for desktop computers for classroom instruction (Bitzer and
Harbaugh, 1987) and some have been extended by including physically more rigorous
concepts, such as the SEDSIM code by Tetzlaff and Harbaugh (1989). Additional
geologic processes such as wave action, which contributes to sediment erosion,
transport, and deposition, have been incorporated as well (Martinez and Harbaugh,
1993). Sedimentation modeling is being used for simulating consolidational fluid flow
at basin scale (Bitzer, 1996). Wendebourg and Harbaugh (1997) used the SEDSIM
code to create a digital model of sedimentary facies in a reservoir in order to simulate
multiphase flow within. Whereas many of these approaches were based on a more or
less simplified representation of interacting geologic processes, other models such as
the STRATA code (Flemings and Jordan, 1989; Flemings, Grotzinger, and Morris,
1996) principally aim at stratigraphic purposes which did not necessarily require a
dynamic geologic process simulation and do not consider sedimentary processes.
Many quantitative models of carbonate sedimentation, which were developed
during the 1980's and 1990's, were principally geometric models and focused on
modeling of cyclic sequences in carbonate sedimentation. The basic idea was to assume
specific carbonate production rates (e.g., Read and others, 1986; Goldhammer, Dunn,
and Hardy, 1987; Lerche and others, 1987; Bosence and Waltham, 1990; Bice, 1991)
and to test them against variations of sea level. Several problems, however, remained
unresolved by those models, as for example the observation of shoaling-upward cycles,

which indicate a lag between sea-level changes and onset of carbonate sedimentation.
Tipper (1997) proposed a cellular automata process model capable of reproducing such
patterns as an effect of population dynamics. In his review of carbonate simulation
models he pointed out that modeling of such processes by introducing artificial
parameters such as "lag factors" in order to reproduce shoaling upward cycles is
unsatisfactory, as "parameters are just ways to make models give realistic results" and
such parameters become identified with the phenomenon itself. This point is a strong
argument for developing process simulation models which refer to the natural
processes. One of the objectives of this contribution is to present a process-based
quantitative model of carbonate and mixed carbonate-clastic sedimentation based on
predator-prey models that can be interpreted in terms of the ecological processes of
carbonate-producing organisms involved.
Whereas clastic sedimentation involves a sediment source and a transport
mechanism, carbonate sedimentation is to a large extent an in-situ process where
transport mechanisms may playa role only when. the carbonate sediment is moved by
the force of flowing water. In simulating carbonate sedimentation, importance lies
therefore on the carbonate-producing processes, that is in simulating the sediment
source term, whereas in clastic sedimentation the transport processes are of principal
importance. As both clastic and carbonate sediments may be deposited synchronously
and at the same location, it is necessary to couple both within one dynamic process
model. This contribution focuses on simulating the source term by applying a carbonate
sedimentation model based on the simulation of population dynamics of carbonate-
producing organisms. This model is coupled with a simple diffusion based clastic
sedimentation model. The conceptual model is applied to a section of the Lower
Cretaceous carbonate platform at Mola de Xert (Province Caste1l6n, Spain). It then is
extended to two dimensions in space in order to test its capability in generating
complex geometries and facies patterns in response to changes in sea level.


Carbonate sedimentation is related closely to the biological activity of various

organisms which generally are summarized as "carbonate producers." These organisms
control the evolution of facies and the geometric evolution of a carbonate rock. Shallow
areas with warm waters and high light transmission are the preferential sites where
carbonate is fixed by various organisms or where carbonate may be deposited as
sediment grains. In the first instance, enormous masses of rigid calcareous skeletons
and extensive reef buildings (framework reefs) are created by organisms such as corals.
Calcareous plants (green and red algae) and animals (molluscs, foraminifers, sponges,
echinoderms) with calcareous skeletons also contribute directly to the grain component
of the carbonate sediment and may be reworked as carbonate sands. Carbonate
production and sedimentation is most rapid at depths less than 15 m in shallow marine
environments, which usually is termed the "carbonate factory." Other organisms may
include carbonate precipitation through metabolic processes, however, this process
seems to be of importance only in nonmarine environments. Carbonate sediments can
be modified after deposition by other organisms which destroy or alter the original
sediment structure, texture, and fabric. Such organisms are microsponges, algae, and
burrowing organisms. Other organisms such as some algae, cyanobacteria, and sea

grasses are important in trapping and binding carbonate sediment (Wright and
Burchette, 1996; Jones and Desrochers, 1992).
Carbonate grains can be subdivided into skeletal and nonskeletal grains.
Nonskeletal grains are not derived from the skeletal material of organisms and are
distinguished into four main types (Folk, 1959): coated grains, peloids, aggregates, and
clasts. In addition matrix and cement compose two different components which can be
observed in carbonate rocks. The matrix is formed by dense, fine-grained calcite
crystals usually referred to as micrite or lime mud with crystal size usually less than
4J.lm (Tucker and Wright, 1990). After deposition, diagenetic processes modify the
carbonate sediment. The principal diagenetic processes taking place are cementation
and neomorphism (Bathurst, 1975). Neomorphism describes the processes of
replacement and recrystallization in combination with a mineralogical change
(Folk,1965). Carbonate cements precipitate in intertidal, shallow subtidal, deeper
water, meteoric, and burial environments (Longman, 1980; Choquette .and James,
The principal controls on carbonate sedimentation are the geotectonic evolution
and the climate, as both of them have an important impact on the sea level (Tucker and
Wright, 1990). The geotectonic evolution controls the availablity of clastic sediments,
which affects carbonate production. It also determines the types of developing
carbonate platforms: shelf, ramp, epeiric platform, isolated platform, and drowned
platform, each of them with characteristic associations of facies and geometry. Eustatic
sea-level changes and local tectonic processes or simply the popUlation dynamics of the
carbonate-producing organisms affect carbonate sedimentation as well.
Sea-level changes are of primordial importance in carbonate sedimentation. Thick
successions of carbonate sediment have been deposited during periods of global sea-
level highstand during the Mesozoic. Five different types of sea-level changes with
magnitudes between 108 - 104 years have been observed. Third-order cycles (106 years)
usually are attributed to eustatic changes (Vail, Mitchum, and Thompson, 1977; Haq,
Hardenbol, and Vail, 1987) and strongly influence formation of carbonate platforms.
Fourth and fifth-order cycles (105 - 104 years) control the evolution of shallowing
upwards cycles on a meter scale, which is characteristic for many platform carbonates.
Climate and tectonic evolution strongly control surface-water circulation, water
temperature, salinity and nutrient supply, wave action, water turbulence, and
thunderstorms; especially salinity and temperature affect shallow-marine carbonate
sedimentation. Lees and Buller (1972) distinguish three important associations of
skeleton building components: clorozoan, formaol, and chloralgal. At low latitudes, it is
mainly the chlorozoan association (hermatype corals and calcareous green algae),
which contributes to skeleton-based carbonates. At elevated salinities, corals die
whereas green algae survive, creating the chloroalgal association. At lower
temperatures (15° C or. less) the foramol association develops, based on benthonic
foraminifers and molluscs, echinoderms, bryozoa, red calcareous algae, and ostracodes.
Many organisms do not tolerate changes or fluctuation in salinity or temperature and
react with a reduction of species diversity and increasing population size of the
surviving species, an observation in protected lagoons and tidal flats.



In this contribution the carbonate sedimentation is calculated through the

simulation of population dynamics of carbonate-producing organisms applying
predator-prey models. Such models date back to the work by Lotka (1924) and
Volterra (1931), who analyzed increasing predator fish population in the Adrian sea as
a result of reduced fishing activities during World War I. The initial idea of such
models was to describe the growth of prey and predator populations by considering the
interaction between both populations through a set of ordinary differential equations,
which incorporate various terms referring to specific processes affecting the size of
populations. In its most simple form, the equation for the prey [Eq.(1)] involves a birth
term (ax) and a term (-bxy) which refers to the reduction of the prey population because
of encounters between prey and predator:

dxldt =ax - bxy (1)

Parameter a controls the prey population growth, and b may be thought of as a

parameter which expresses the efficiency of the predator in catching the prey, or
reversely, the efficiency of the prey in defending itself or in escaping. The equation of
the predator population [Eq. (2)] involves a death term (-cy) and a growth term (dxy),
which refers to the food supply from encounters between predator and prey:

dy/dt = - cy + dxy (2)

Parameter c describes the mortality of the predator species and d describes the
efficiency of predator reproduction in function of food supply. The behavior of
predator and prey is cyclic and the amplitude of fluctuations of population size depends
on the initial conditions. If for example the prey population is set to x = c!d and the
predator population is set to y = alb, no fluctuations occur, as this initial condition
defines an eqUilibrium situation where dxldt = dy/dt = O.
This type of predator-prey model, however, is the most simple one, and numerous
more complex models have been developed since then. An important improvement can
be obtained if growth is defined in terms of internal competition or limited resources. In
Equation (1), growth of the prey popUlation in the absence of a predator would be
unlimited exponential Malthusian growth. However, natural systems usually have
limited resources and do not exhibit unlimited growth. Equation (1) is only applicable
if population size is low and in the presence of a controlling predator popUlation. A
more realistic way to define growth is to introduce a limiting term that describes the
effect of internal competition. In a growing population the individual organisms are
increasingly becoming competitors for food and space and act as predators among
themselves. The maximum population size thereby is limited. This process is
represented by including the additional terms (ex2 ) and If/) in Equations (1) and (2),
dxldt = ax - bxy - ex2 (3)

dy/dt = - cy + dxy - Ii (4)

The quadratic terms limit growth and tend to dampen out the fluctuations in population
size. This type of equation is termed "logistic growth function." The system of
equations can be extended in many ways, for example by introducing effects of
increased self defense in large prey populations (May, 1973), providing complicated
system behavior with instable equilibria (limit cycles) for specific conditions.
Predator-prey models do not necessarily need to incorporate two species. Complex
ecological systems with many different interacting species have been described,
applying one equation for every species. The same type of model also can be applied to
various cooperating or symbiotic species or just a single species. Other processes such
as clastic sedimentation can be coupled as well to this type of model as will be shown
later. A comprehensive introduction into various types of predator-prey models and an
introduction to numerical solution of such systems of equations using a step-size
adaptive Runge-Kutta method is given by Danby (1985).


An earlier approach of simulating carbonate and mixed carbonate-clastic

sedimentation based on a predator-prey model has been presented by Bitzer (1999).
The model presented here explores and refines his simple initial model by
incorporating various carbonate producing species and by incorporating depth
dependent growth functions. It includes production of carbonate mud and allows
inclusion of complex interaction between carbonate-producing processes.
For the purpose of adapting and testing predator-prey systems to simulation of
carbonate sedimenation, a single carbonate-producing species with a limiting logistic
growth term is considered first [Eq. (5)].

dxldt = ax - br (5)

The maximum population size is defined by the ratio alb, such that the population can
be scaled by setting a = b. Now assume that the carbonate-production rate (dy/dt) is a
function of the population of carbonate-producing organisms [Eq. (6)]

dy/dt =ex (6)

with e constant. The change in water depth is expressed as a function of carbonate

production [Eq. (7)]:

d'l/dt =y (7)
This system of three first-order ordinary differential equations incorporating population
size, carbonate-production rate, and depth change is the most simple model of
carbonate sedimentation and will be refined in the following sections. In order to solve
this and the following systems of equations, the Fehlberg IV method, described by
Danby (1985), is applied; it has the advantage of being a high-order method with
automatic time stepping. For further details the reader is referred to the highly
recommendable original textbook by Danby (1985) which also includes a sample
FORTRAN code demonstrating the Fehlberg IV method.

The numerical solution depends on initial conditions for the carbonate population
and water depth. In the sample experiment riven in Figure 1, we set both the birth
factor a and the mortality factor b to 0.01 i . A simulation time span of 100000 y is
used. The initial water depth is set to 100 m with an initial population size of 0.0001
(corresponding to 0.01 % of the maximum possible population size). The maximum
carbonate production (if population size is at its maximum) is set to 1m/1000 y. Figure
1 shows the change of water depth resulting from carbonate sedimentation. In this
example, the maximum population size is reached almost immediately because a birth
factor a = 0.01 it and the mortality factor b = 0.01 it represents a rapid responding
population. The maximum population size remains constant until the end of the
experiment because of the absence of growth limiting effects (except for internal
competition). As a maximum carbonate sedimentation rate of 1m/1000 y is assumed,
water depth is reduced linearly (except for the initial time steps) from 100 m to a m
within the simulation time span of 100000 y. Obviously, this model is overly simplistic,
because carbonate production should increase with decreasing depth resulting from
improved living conditions for most carbonate-producing organisms at shallower depth.
This effect can be introduced by defining growth factors which depend on water depth.
Therefore a depth-dependent growth factor a(z) is incorporated by defining


providing a growth rate which is decreasing with depth, a(O) as the maximum growth
rate at a m. Figure 2 shows the change of water depth resulting from carbonate
sedimentation. In this experiment, the same parameters are used as before, however, the
simulation time span is increased to 1000000 y, as carbonate production initially is
slower because of incorporation of Equation (8). Figure 2 shows the nonlinear
reduction of water depth resulting from increasing carbonate production, representing a
self-reinforcing system response: the shallower the depth becomes, the faster carbonate-
producing organisms grow, and depth decreases even more rapidly because of
sedimentation. When all accommodation space is consumed, the population finally dies
and carbonate sedimentation stops. Figure 3 shows the nonlinear increase of carbonate
production with depth, reaching a maximum value of 1m/1000 y at 0 m.
The evolution of the sediment column and carbonate sedimentation rates become
more complicated if changes in sea level are incorporated. Depending on amplitude,
frequency, and growth rates, carbonate-production rates behave differently. Figure 4
shows a sample experiment with a sinuosidal sea-level change with an amplitude of 8 m
and a frequency of 50000 years. The initial water depth is set to 30 m and the initial
carbonate-producing population is set to 0.3. The population reaches its maximum after
60000 years when water depth approaches zero. During the following sea-level rise,
carbonate production slowly recovers. The delayed response of carbonate-production to
sea-level changes becomes visible in the depth versus carbonate production diagram
(Fig. 5), showing a complex system response of carbonate production during different
periods of sea-level change.
The system response is different if birth and mortality factors are increased. In this
example, the delay of carbonate production to sea-level changes is reduced, and the
carbonate-producing organisms are able to catch up with the sea-level rise after 60000
y (Fig. 6). The simulation shows episodic carbonate sedimentation during 5 cycles of
different duration, when carbonate production restarts after dying out when

accommodation space is consumed. These short-termed carbonate-production events

are visible in Figure 7.
If the amplitude is doubled to 16 m, the response of carbonate production is
different, and carbonate-producing organisms are no longer able to keep up filling the
accommodation space (Fig. 8), although carbonate production rapidly recovers during
sea-level rise. Because of the fast system response, delay effects are reduced and the
carbonate production versus depth curves are close to the equilibrium curve (Fig. 9).
Increasing the amplitude of sea-level change to 25 m, the frequency to 100000
years, and reducing the birth and mortality factors (thereby increasing delay in the
system response) reduces the overall carbonate production (Fig. 10). The carbonate
production versus depth diagram shows an increased delay in carbonate production in
response to sea-level change (Fig. II).



The model presented so far [Eqs. (5-8)] considers carbonate sedimentation as a

result of a single carbonate-producing species. The system described by these equations
is self-reinforcing because of increased growth rates at shallower depths, and
sedimentation stops suddenly when the accommodation space is consumed. Natural
carbonate environments, however, exhibit more complicated evolution patterns. Some
of these patterns are related to the presence of different carbonate-producing species,
with specific characteristics and interaction between them. Species may live in
symbiosis or may be competitors for food or space. Additionally, clastic sedimentation
may have an impact on carbonate sedimentation, primarily through reduction of water
depth, thereby changing environmental conditions for the carbonate-producing species.
Presence of clastic sediment in the water column and lime mud also may inhibit
carbonate production through various factors, for example by reducing light
transmission in the water column. In order to include such processes, the system of
equations needs to be extended. The following variables are incorporated in the
extended model:
Xl population of species 1
X2 population of species 2
X3 population of species 3
X4 carbonate production rate
X5 amount of carbonate mud deposited
X6 water depth
X7 amount of clastic sediment deposited
In order to represent the interaction between carbonate-producing species, we consider
three species with different characteristics. Each of these popUlations die out if sea
level is reduced to values below sediment surface, that is during emersion. Similar to
the previous example, we consider growth factors for all three species as depth-
dependent variables. Every species has its critical value of water depth, when growth
stops, if water depth is reduced below this value. The equation used for growth factors
is [Eq. (9)]

constant sea level,constant growth factor





; 40


0 -------,--------r-------,---.-------,-----~

0 20000 40000 60000 80000 100000

time (y)

Figure 1. Linear change of water depth as a result of constant growth rate for carbonate-producing species.

constant sea level, depth variable growth rate



! 60+-----------~~--------------------

40 -------~-.--------.---..-.

20 .------------~

o 200000 400000 600000 800000 100000C
time (y)

Figure 2. Accelerating reduction of water depth as result of depth-dependent growth rates for carbonate-
producing species.

carbonate production vera us depth


100 ---~--.---

t. 60

40 +----~'"----------------------------------------------~


0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9

carbonate production (m/100Oy)

Figure 3. Increasing carbonate production with decreasing water depth.

sealevel change (50000 y)

40 -------------------.-------.---------------.---------- -------.-- -..---- ---- -.---- ._._. - -..-..




carbonate production
/(ml1000 Y)


population dies out populetion recovering

o 20000 40000 60000 80000 100000
time (y)

Figure 4. Evolution of water depth as result of sinuosidal sea-level change (amplitude of 8 m, frequency
50000 y) and carbonate sedimentation (black line), and evolution of carbonate production (gray line) with
slowly adapting population.

carbonate production versus depth

initial population (0.3) at t=o
and initial water depth (30 m)

30 ~
population decrease
during sea level rise

g 20+-------------------~~~----------------------------------------~

population increase
during sea level rise
"0 10

o -1-----------------.::::::::::~!!!!111=--.---------­
\ population dies during emersion


o 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8

carbonate production (m/1000 V))

Figure 5. Water depth--carbonate production diagram. Diagram shows delay effect in adaption of carbonate-
producing species to changing water depth.

sealevel change (50000 y)




carbonate production
;(m/1000 Y)


population dies out

o 20000 40000 60000 80000 100000
time (y)

Figure 6. Evolution of water depth as result of sinuosidal sea-level change (amplitude of 8 m, frequency
50000 y) and carbonate sedimentation (black line), and evolution of carbonate production (gray line) with
rapidly adapting population. Note episodic carbonate production between 60000 and 90000y.

carbonate production versus depth


population decrease due to sea
. - - - - - level rise and subsequent
20 -------------------------------------------j
• 10

~ short termed carbonate production events during
shallow water events during sea level rise

0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.2
carbonate production (m/1000 y)

Figure 7. Water depth-carbonate production diagram. Diagram shows almost immediate response of popula-
tion in adaption to changing water depth.

sealevel change (50000 y)



population dies out
as seafloor is
above sea level
10 -------~~-~~

\ population recovers due

to rising sea level
o 20000 40000 60000 80000 100000

Figure 8. Evolution of water depth as result of sinuosidal sea-level change (amplitude of 16 m, frequency
50000 y) and carbonate sedimentation (black line), and evolution of carbonate production (gray line) with
rapidly adapting population. Carbonate production between 70000 and IOOOOOy does not keep up with crea-
tion of accommodation space caused by sea-level change.

carbonate production versus depth



_ 20+-------------------~~--------------------------------------~
~ 10+---------------------------------~. .~--------------------------------_1
population increase due to sea level

population dies during emersion
o 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8
carbonate production (m/1000 y)

Figure 9. Water depth-carbonate production diagram. Increased amplitude causes slightly larger delay in re-
sponse to changing water depth than in previous example (Figure 7).

sealevel change (100000 y)




carbonate production
/<m/1000 Y)


population recovers

o 10000 20000 30000 40000 50000 60000 70000 80000 90000 100000
time (y)
Figure 10. Evolution of water depth resulting from sinuosidal sea-level change (amplitude of 25 m, fre-
quency 100000 y) and carbonate sedimentation (black line), and evolution of carbonate production (gray
line) with rapidly adapting population. Because of increased amplitude and frequency of sea-level changes,
carbonate-producing population does not keep up and decreases during sea-level highstand.

carbonate production versus depth


population recovers
during sea level fall

initial population (0.2) at
population decreases during
sea level high stand
t=O and initial water
depth (30 m)

~ population recovers
during sea level rise

population dies
_10L-____- ,______- r_ _ _ _ _ _~----~------_,---d~u~ri~ng~e~m~e~rs~io~n~------_,----~
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9
carbonate production (m/1000 m)

Figure 11. Water depth-earbonate production diagram. Increased amplitude and frequency causes strong de-
lay in response to changing water depth.

with Zmax = maximum water depth and Z the current water depth. Mortality factors are
taken as constant. Growth factors for water depth below Zmax are set to zero. These
values are defined for every carbonate-producing species.
Population growth is limited by the logistic quadratic growth term as before.
Additional terms are incorporated to represent competition or cooperation between
various species. The model assumes that every species produces a carbonate sediment
type which is specific for the organism (e.g., reef rocks). Each species may create a
certain amount of carbonate mud. Both are defined by individual maximum production
factors. The presence of mud may affect the living conditions, which is expressed by a
specific mud poisoning factor for each species. Poisoning from clastic sedimentation is
incorporated by an additional clastic sediment poisoning term. The population
equations [Eqs. (10-12)] for the three species are:

Species 1: (10)
dxjldt = ajXj - bjXj 2 - (logistic growth)
!I2X\X2 - fiY'jX3 - (competition or cooperation)
gj xjdxsldt - hi x l dx71dt (poisoning because of mud
and clastic sediments)

Term fi2 in this equation defines how the presence of species 2 may affect species
(the indices of the following competition parameters are to be read accordingly). A
positive value reduces growth of species I, which could be considered as an effect of
competition between both species. A negative value would increase growth of species
I, which could be interpreted as an effect of cooperation or symbiosis. dxsfdt is the rate
of lime mud being produced. A positive value of g2 would reduce growth of the species
in the presence of lime mud, whereas a negative value would increase growth and might

be interpreted as a nutrition term. The same applies to dx7ldt, which is the clastic
sedimention rate. The corresponding equations for species 2 and 3 are:

Species 2: (11)
dx 21dt = a2x2 - b2x22 - (logistic growth)
/ztX2Xt -/z:YC2X3 - (competition or cooperation)
g2X2dxsidt - hz x 2dx71dt (poisoning because of mud and
clastic sediments)

Species 3: (12)
dx31dt = a:YC3 - b:YC3 2 - (logistic growth)
!J2X:YC2 -!Jtx:YCt - (competition or cooperation)
g3 x 3dx sldt - h3 x3dx71dt (poisoning due to mud and
clastic sediments)

Carbonate production is calculated as the sum of carbonate produced by all three

species. The rate of carbonate production [Eq. (13)] is


Note that the carbonate production factors Ct.3 correspond to the defined maximum
production rates, when population size is at its maximum. Maximum population size is
scaled to I by setting a = b as explained before.

A similar equation is employed to calculate the rate of production of carbonate mud

(xs) with parameters d t .3 as maximum mud production rates [Eq. (14)]:


Water depth (X6) is reduced by deposition of carbonate sediment, carbonate mud and
clastic sediment. The rate of change of water depth [Eq. (15)] is accordingly

dxJdt = - dxJdt (depth reduction from carbonate sedimentation)

- dxsldt (depth reduction from mud sedimentation)
- dx71dt (depth reduction from clastic sedimentation)
- u (subsidence rate)
- v (rate of sea-level change) (15)

Clastic sedimentation is incorporated in this one-dimensional model in a simplified

way. We assume that clastic sediment is dispersed isotropically in the water column.
This concentration of clastic sediment (s) within the water column is considered to be
constant. A certain portion of the dispersed sediment is being deposited, expressed by
constant (k). As water depth is decreased during sedimentation, it is assumed that
energy conditions change and the settling rate of clastic sediment is reduced by shear
forces acting on the grains by wave action or other water movement, keeping them in
suspension. If water depth z is reduced below a critical value Zmin, the settlement factor
(n) is calculated [Eq. (16)] as

n=ZIZmin (16)

With decreasing water depth, settlement is inhibited, finally reaching zero when all
accommodation space is consumed. At water depth above Zmin, n is set to 1. Clastic
sedimentation rate is calculated as [Eq. (17)]

dx7ldt= s k n (17)

Although this relation is simple, it allows incorporation of some effects of clastic

sedimentation and its impact on the carbonate producing species. Other algorithms for
clastic sedimentation might be applied as well.



In order to test this system of equations we set up two sample experiments with
simple interaction between the three carbonate-producing species, without considering
mud production and clastic sedimentation. Experiment 1 considers a constant sea level,
experiment 2 applies a sinusoidal change. The following species are considered:
• species 1 is in competition with species 2 and 3 and grows at depth less than
50 m. Its maximum carbonate production rate (in the absence of any
competitors and optimum environmental conditions) is Im1lOoo y.
• species 2 is in competition with 1 und 3, and grows at depths less than 30 m.
Its maximum carbonate production rate is Im1lOoo y.
• species 3 has no competitors and grows at depth less than 10 m. Its maximum
carbonate production rate is 3m1lOoo y.
The parameters are given in Table 1. The impact of species 3 on species 1 is ten
times stronger than the impact of species 2. The impact of species 3 on species 2 is
double on species 1. Growths and mortality rates of species 3 are more than double that
those of species 1, causing a more rapid response of population 3 to population 1. The
experiment involves an initial water depth of 30 m. The initial population of species 1
is set to 0.4 which corresponds to the equilibrium situation, whereas species 2 and 3 are
set to 0.001 % of the maximum population size as both species have a zero growth rate
at depth below 30 m by definition. Figure 12 shows the evolution of the population
curves for the three species, starting with 0.4 for species 1 at t O. Population density
of species 1 increases until 29000 years and decreases when species 2 appears, because
of reduced water depth after that time, improving living conditions and increasing
growth rates for species 2. After 37000 years, species 3 appears and grows rapidly,
mainly as a result of the decreasing water depth and thereby increasing growth factors.
At the same time, species 1 and 2 are affected from competition with species 3 and die
out. After 42000 years, accommodation space is consumed and sedimentation stops.
Figure 13 shows the evolution of the carbonate production rate through time, summing
up production rates of all three species. At t =0 species 3 starts with 0.4 mllooo y and
increases almost linearly until 30000 years, when species 2 occurs. After 38000 years,
species 3 increases carbonate production to 3.2 mlI000 years during the final moments
of the population. Note that a minor amount of the final carbonate-production rate is
because of the final survivors of species 2. Figure 14 shows the evolution of water
depth during time. Because of the increasing carbonate production with time, the
decrease of water depth accelerates with time.

As geologists are rather used to interpreting lithologic columns instead of

population/time diagrams. it is useful to show the distribution of production rates within
the evolving sedimentary column (Fig. IS). In the lower IS m. only species 1 occurs.

Table 1. Parameters for one-dimensional carbonate model including competition

between three species.
number of equations ~
tolerance value fehlbergIV 0.00001
initial timestep size 0.05
total time 60000
initial values species 1 0.4
initial values species 2 0.0001
initial values species 1 0.0001
initial water depth 30
amplitude sea level change 0.0
frequence sea level change 20000
predator-prey factors
f12 0.001
f13 0.01
f21 0.001
f23 0.002
f32 0
f31 0
clastic sediment concentration 0
species 1 species2 species3

mini'mum population density 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001

birth rate 0.002 0.003 0.005
mortality factor 0.002 0.003 0.005
max. water depth (m) 50 30 10
max. carbonate production rate (m11000y) 0.001 0.001 0.003
poison factor mud 0 0 0
clastpoisoning factir clastic sediment 0 0 0
maximum mud production 0 0 0

From IS m to 7 m. species 2 increases and 3 decreases slightly. From 4 m to the top.

species 3 clearly dominates. and at 2 m from the top. species 1 disappears.
Although conceptually simple. the system response already is complex because of
the competition between species. Especially the appearance of species 3 affects both
species and causes extinction of species 1. The system response becomes more
complex if sea-level changes are included in the experiment. Using the same
parameters as before. we include a sinusoidal sea-level change with an amplitude of
about S m and a frequency of 20000 years. Figure 16 shows the evolution of population
of species 1-3. Sea-level changes affect the population size of species 1-3 during the
initial 41000 years. Because of emersion between 41000 and 46000 years all species
die out. In the following period from 46000 to 48000 years sea level rises and all
species recover slowly. filling the accommodation space created by the sea-level rise.
Note that species 3 is responding fastest. wherea~ species 2 is slower. Species 1
recovers little. as species 2 and 3 are successful competitors. Another episode of
carbonate production takes piace from 50000 to 55000 years and a final short moment

constant sealevel

species 3

0.8 +---------------- ~ :'

species 1
~ ""
accommodation space

o 10000 20000 30000 40000 50000 60000 70000

Figure 12. Evolution of three interacting carbonate-producing populations through time with constant sea

con.tent ... level

4 ,--..._--.. _... __ ....... -- ....---.._-_._ ... - ........... _..... _- ....- ..

§ 3t-----------------~-------------

~g 2t--------------------~~-----------------~;,

o 10000 20000 30000 40000 50000 60000 700(

Figure 13. Evolution of carbonate production rates for three-species model with fixed sea level.

constant ssalevel


30 ~-----------------------


o 10000 20000 30000 40000 50000 60000 70000

Figure 14. Evolution of water depth for three-species model with fixed sea level.

carbonate production rate

o 0.5 1.5 2 2.5 3


species 3



-30 .-_._ ...


Figure 15. Distribution of carbonate production rates in sediment column (fixed sea level).

sealevel change

species 1 ,"
,"" , ,,
,I :
J ,
( ,

10000 20000 30000 40000 50000 60000 70000


Figure 16. Evolution of population densities for three-species model with sinusoidal sea level (amplitude 8
m, frequency 20000 y). Note periods of episodic carbonate production between 45000 y and 55000 y.

of carbonate production at 57000 years occurs. Although the sea-level change is steady
and continuous, the simulated carbonate production shows a stuttering pattern with
episodic carbonate production and periods where carbonate production does not keep
up with sea-level rise. Such situations are observed in natural carbonate environments.
Within the simulation model, they are a result of the population evolution of carbonate-
producing species. The time lag between creation of accommodation space and
carbonate production is an effect of recovering time required by the carbonate-
producing species to respond to changing environmental conditions, similar to the
cellular automata model proposed by Tipper (1997).
Figure 17 shows the change of water depth as a result of carbonate deposition and
sinusoidal sea-level change. The initial sea-level fall favors the rapid evolution of
species I, reducing water depth. During sea-level rise, population is decreased because
of reduced growth factors at greater depth. At 41000 years, water depth is zero and the
following evolution of water depth is controlled by episodic carbonate deposition. The
distribution of carbonate production rates in the sedimentary column is shown in Figure
18. Unconformities are visible through the breaks in production rates.


In order to test the applicability of the conceptual model to a natural carbonate

environment, we take the Lower Cretaceous Mola de Xert carbonate platform located at
the southeastern section of the Maestrat Basin (Iberian Chain) as an example.
The Maestrat Basin is located in the southeastern part of the Iberian Basin (Fig.
19) that developed during inversion of Mesozoic rifts in the Paleogene. The Iberian
Basin was formed in the late Permian-Triassic rifting cycle when Tethys and Arctic-
North Atlantic rift systems propagated westwards and southwards, respectively. During

sealevel change



carbonate production not keeping up

! 20
with sea level rise

; 10

0 10000 20000 30000 40000 50000 60000 70000

FiglJre 17. Evolution of water depth resulting from sinuosidal sea-level change (ampliture 8 m, frequency
20000 y) and carbonate sedimentation. Note that in final section water depth is controlled by carbonate pro-

sealevel changes



!c unconfonnity

"8~ ~~~~~~~~~~----------------~~~-~-~--~--~----~-~--~-~-~--~--~~-~-------~--~-=-~~~---i

I 20

10 species 2

species 1

o 0.5 1.5 2 2.5 3
carbonate production rate (ml1000 y)

Figure 18. Distribution of carbonate production rates in sediment column. Note that major part of sediment
column is deposited in short time span between 45000 y and 55000 y.

early and middle Jurassic, the evolution of the Iberian Basin was controlled by post-rift
thermal subsidence. Rifting resumed during late Oxfordian and persisted until early late

Albian time. This rifting cycle controlled the evolution of the Maestrat and several
other basins on the Iberian Peninsula. The second rifting cycle coincides with rifting in
the North Atlantic domain. During late Albian to Maastrichtian time the Iberian Basin
subsided as a result of post-rift thermal reequilibration of the lithosphere (Salas and
others, 2000).







Figure 19. Simplified geologic map of study area. MX, La Mola de Xert; B, Barcelona; Bu, Bunol; CP,
Caste1l6 de la Plana; Mo, Montalban; Pr, Portalrubio; V, Valencia; Vande1l6s.

The late Jurassic-early Cretaceous rift is characterized by an extensional system

with listric faults which divide the Maestrat Basin into four separate blocks or
subbasins (Salas and Guimera, 1997). The Salzedella subbasin is located in the central
part of the Maestrat Basin and consists of a north-tilted block of about 50xlO0 km
extension, controlled by an elongated fracture zone (Turmell fault zone) which
involved the basement faulting (Salas and Guimera, 1996). The Mola de Xert carbonate
platform developed in the Salzedella subbasin during the early Aptian and is controlled
by the evolution of this fault (Fig. 20).
Late Jurassic to early Cretaceous syn-rift depositional sediments in the Maestrat
Basin, up to 5.5 km in thickness, are dominated by shallow-marine carbonates. During

:': ~'....:': 1
[ [ ] HTS
0 .5 .




* Measured sections (1,11,111)

Figure 20.Geologic and sequence stratigraphic map of Mola de Xert area. Three measured sections (I, II,
and III) are located in rudist lagoonal floatstone facies of late highstand systems tract.

the earliest Aptian and Albian, deltaic clastic deposits develop occasionally (Salas,
1989; Salas and others, 1995). The onset of rifting coincides with a significant rise in
sea level. Rapid subsidence of an array of tilted blocks causes a rapid drowning of up to
50-m thick, shallow-water Oxfordian sponge-rich carbonate ramp (J 8) and
accumulation of up to 800-m thick Kimmeridgian deep ramp limestones with 300-m
anoxic basinal marls (Ascla Formation) in the evolving hanging-wall basins. Laterally,
these grade into thin-bedded lime-mudstones and sponge build-ups capping the crests
of fault blocks (J9). The Tithonian to Berriasian sequence (11 0) is composed of
assorted platform carbonates, characterized by tidal flats and fringing oolitic-bioclastic
shoals, which grade basin ward into hemipelagic Calpionella limestones up to 1000 m
in thickness. The Valanginian to Barremian sequences (K1.1-K1.7) are up to 1500 m
thick. They are characterized along the basin margins by estuarine shallow-water
carbonate platforms (large freshwater discharges) where carbonate production was
dominated by molluscs and calcareous algae. Marginal oolitic-bioclastic shoals and
coral gal boundstones are abundant. The earliest Aptian (lower part of K1.8) consists of
an up to 100-m thick tidally dominated lowstand delta complex, the upper delta plain
deposits of which are rich in dinosaur fossils (Morella Formation). During the Aptian
(K1.8-K1.9 sequences) marine conditions prevail again and up to llOO-m thick
shallow-water carbonate platforms develop, characterized by orbitolines, calcareous
algae, and rudists (Salas and Casas, 1993; Malchus and others, 1995). The early to
middle .Albian sequence (Kl.lO) consists of an extensive tidally influenced delta
system, up to 500 m thick, which contains thick coal layers (Escucha Formation;
Querol and others, 1992).
In the Mola de Xert carbonate platform, the lower Aptian depositional sequence
(K1.8) has a thickness of about 400 m. It is composed of three systems tracts. The
lowstand systems tract (LST) is formed by an up to 100-m thick tidally dominated
lowstand delta complex (Morella and Cervera Formations). The transgressive systems
tract (TST) consists of a set of marl-limestone aggrading and retrograding

parasequences (up to 160 m). The highstand systems tract is composed of 130-m thick
aggrading and prograding units deposited on two different ramp stages (Fig. 21). The
lower stage corresponds to the early highstand systems tract and is formed by an
orbitoline lime-mud-rich ramp 40 m thick. The upper stage reaches a thickness up to 90
m and represents the late highstand systems tract, corresponding to a shoal-barrier
homoc1inal ramp system. It is formed by two main barrier shoals and rudist lagoonal
facies. The depositional model is shown in Figure 21.


Simulated column


119.02 Ma LOWER RAMP


h:::c:;::! Bock ramp

t:::I::::::I Lagoonal Rudist lacie.
8E3 Shallow ramp
B. mer skeletal
shoal complex
~ Deep ramp
EI:ZI Thin bedded limestones

~ Orb'totine wakes tones

[=1 Slump'
(Fore.1I Fm)
:.',:".:" snd mudston"s facies

Figure 21. Mola de Xert depositional model. Lower ramp corresponds to early highstand systems tract.
Upper ramp constitutes late highstand systems tract.

The principal component of barrier shoal facies are skeletal grainstones and
rudstones debris showing medium- to large-scale cross-stratification. These contain
some coral boundstones with depth zonation from plate-like to massive shapes of
corals. The rudist lagoonal facies is composed of decametric shallowing-upwards
parasequences which are bounded by flooding surfaces and comprise two members
(Fig. 22; Fig. 23). The basal member generally is thin and consists of nodular orbitoline
wackestones which record the initial transgression over the preexisting deposits in some
instances with karst and other features of subaerial exposure. These basal members may
correspond to higher energy deposits of the rudist lagoonal facies. The upper member
of the parasequence consists of rudist floats tones which also may contain chondrodonts,
nerieids, and corals. These rudist facies pass laterally to the barrier shoal and deeper
facies seaward. Deep ramp facies are poorly preserved or eroded.
The early and late highstand systems tract stages reflect different rates of
accommodation and associated water depth conditions. The early highstand system
tract is characterized by increased water depth and low-carbonate productivity. Later,
as relative sea level begins to fall during the late highstand systems tract,
accommodation space is controlled principally by subsidence.


We use sedimentologial and stratigraphic data from the Mola de Xert carbonate
platform in order to test the conceptual model of interacting carbonate-producing
species and to calibrate the mathematical model. We take the sedimentary column
beginning with marls and shales at the upper part of the Morella la Vella Mb (Forcall
Formation) (Fig. 22) which ends in the upper part of the ViUaroya Formation. The
column has a thickness of 142 m and has been studied by Salas and Martin-Closas
(1991). The identification of several time markers in the stratigraphic column allows us
to constrain and calibrate the simulation model. The column begins with a section of
15-m basinal marls and shales and is followed by 35 m of mudstones and wackestones
with predominantly orbitolines and green algae. The following 10m of boundstones are
created by corals, starting with planar corals, then continuing with branching and
massive corals. The reef is formed by skeletal rudstones and bioclastic grainstones. The
first rudist fragments occur within the reef. The reef succession shows a clear depth
zonation. It is followed by 30-m layer of rudist floatstones with high proportions of
lime mud. The final part of the section consists of four cycles followed by a 30-m layer
of rudist floatstones up to 52 m in thickness. The cycles are separated by thin layers of
nodular orbitoline packstones. The rudist floatstone section represents a shallow-water
Sedimentological analysis shows that the lower 70 m of the column can be
interpreted as a continuous filling of the accommodation space initially available,
leading to a progressive shallowing of water depth. The upper 72 m are the result of
sea-level rise or subsidence, and accommodate layered rudist limestones (Toucasia,
Requenia, Horiopleura) with elevated portions of lime mud probably generated by
green algae. Paleontological data indicate that the lower section with 15 m of basinal
marls and shales has been deposited between 119.02 and 118.05 Ma (Deshayesi zone)
giving a sedimentation rate of about 1.5 cmllOoo y. The following 127 m of carbonate
sediment have been deposited within a time span of approximately 900000 y, giving an
average sedimentation rate of about 14 cmllOOO y. The top of the column has been
dated as 117.07 m.y. by correlating regional sequence boundaries (Salas and Martin-
Closas; 1991).
Three principal carbonate-producing communities can be identified in the column.
Carbonate sedimentation starts with orbitoline and green algae limestones, which are
replaced abruptly by corals, leaving a 5-lO-m thick section of coral boundstones. The
finai section is built up of rudist and green algae limestones. The parameters defining
those communities for the simulation model are given in Table 2.
The simulation experiment assumes an initial water depth of 70 m and a duration
of 1.9 m.y., according to the stratigraphic data of the column. Carbonate-producing
species 1 is characterized by green algae and orbitolines, which occur at a water depth
of 55 m and with a maximum carbonate-production rate of 1 mlI000 y plus 0.2 mlI000
y lime mud, when population density is at its maximum. Species 1 is competing with
species 2 and 3 for food and space. Species 2 represents the coral community, which
starts to grow at a water depth of less than 25 m and which has carbonate production
rates of 5 mlI000 y and 0.2 mlloo0 y lime mud at its maximum popUlation density.
Species 2 is competing with species 3 and is affected additionally by the presence of
lime mud and clastic sediment. Species 3 represents the rudist and green algae
population, which starts to grow at a depth less than 15 m and which has maximum

1§i~:E~ -- 117.07 M.

.¥. A . fIIS. .
A· = F.
120 0 -

.. . k • 4
<{ ,i . 1> .
D! A.
>- 100
,."'" k·
• ••= F. 3
C ~f~
<{ ~ ~ 2
~ ~~~
;~~~ k· • •
£! A· =F.

~ 80
/f- . -

I 1:1 -
60 ~-l!i. - y-

0 . .... - $ -
, .s,.A • .¥-
A -
<{ .s,
...a: H
£_ .A- - .- ~-
C 40
, ,
<i, - "'-
:J: ,
C) .Il -
...J N-
<{ N_
20 & - N· •

_ _ 118.05M.

~ ii
.. - ri - e• ~.

::= - 1 1 9 .02M.

Figure 22. Stratigraphic section of Mola de Xert Carbonate platform. Lower part corresponds to early high-
stand systems tract and is formed by orbitoline lime-mud rich ramp. Upper part represents late highstand sys-
tems tract, corresponding to shoal-barrier homoclinal ramp system. Numbers 1-5 indicate five shallowing
upward parasequences formed by orbitoline nodular wackestones and rudist floatstone facies.

~ Ll5:::,. Echinoids

f7 Monopleura ® Echinoids reg.

ftJ Caprinid @ Ammonites

,... Toucasia @ Pelecipods, pelagic

~ Requienia £ Pelecipods

( Chondrodonta l};, Oysters

~ Nerieid
~ Macrofossils, undifferentiated

n&fl. M_~ }
\T' Brachiopods

\\( Branching Corals 0

Corals, undifferentiated

- v - Planar @ Microforaminifera, bentonic

II Algae §. Orbitolinids

m Worm tubes ~H Bioturbation

~ Gastropods # Pyrite

Figure 23. Explanation for Figure 22.

Table 2. Model parameters for three competing communities in a one-dimensional simulation

number of equations 8
tolerance value feblbergIV 0.00001
initial timestep size 0.05
total time 1300000
initial values species I 0.000001
initial values species 2 0.000001
initial values species I 0.000001
initial water depth 70
amplitude sea level change 0.0
frequence sea level change 0
predator-prey factors
fl2 0.1
fl3 0.5
f21 0.001
f23 0.1
1'32 0
1'31 0
clastic sediment concentration 0.000017

species I species2 species3

minimum population density 0.001 0.001 0.001

birth rate 0.02 0.01 0.01
mortality factor 0.02 0.01 0.01
max. water depth (m) 55 25 15
max. carbonate production rate (mil 000y) 0.001 0.005 0.003
poison factor mud 0 0.1 0
clastpoisoning factir clastic sediment 0 0 0
maximum mud production 0.0002 0.0002 0.006

carbonate production rates of 3 mllOOO y and 7 mllOOO y of lime mud. It is not

affected by the presence of both of the other species.
The clastic sedimentation rate is set to 1.7 cmllOOO y in accordance with the
stratigraphic data. The lower 70 m of the sediment column represent a filling up of
initially available accommodation space. The following 72 m are deposited by filling
accommodation space created by subsidence or sea-level rise. Taking sea level as
constant, the simulation experiment assumes an average subsidence of about 0.1
mllOOO y during the final 700000 years of the simulated time span. The experiment
considers a fixed 'sea level. Data on carbonate production rates, water depth, and the
factors defining the interaction between the carbonate producing species have been
obtained through an iterative trial and error procedure to determine the best fit between
the simulated and the observed column.
The principal objective in the simulation experiment is to reproduce the
sedimentary column as a consequence of interacting carbonate-producing species and
corresponding carbonate-production rates. Figure 24 shows the simulated distribution
of sediment types in the column for the parameters given in Table 2. As with the
observed column, the lower section of the simulated section starts with clastic
sediments. The orbitoline and green algae population then occurs and approaches a
mixture of 80% carbonate fragments and 20% lime mud. Because of increasing
carbonate sedimentation rates, the percentage of clastic sediments is rapidly decreasing
in the column. At 59 m, a change occurs because of the sudden growth of the coral
population, which creates a 7-m section with dominating coral carbonate sediments.
The simulation experiment indicates that this episode may have happened rapidly
within a 3000 y time interval, as shown on the time scale located on the right side of
Figure 24. Coral growth stops rapidly because of the occurrence of species 3, the rudist
and green algae, which are defined as competitors for food and space, and which
additionally produce an elevated amount of lime mud. The coral population is defined
as sensitive to the presence of lime mud and dies out as a result of competition with
species 3 and lime mud produced by species 3. The final section of the simulation
represents the creation of accommodation space by continuous subsidence and filling
with species 3, creating a sediment mixture of 33% rudist and green algae fragments
and 66% lime mud.
An important aspect of this experiment is that the simulated section is not forced
by arbitrary external factors to produce the succession of species, which coincides well
with the observed evolution of the facies. The different sections are a result of
interacting processes between carbonate-producing species as defined in the predator-
prey model presented before.


We extend the one-dimensional model to two dimensions in space in order to

simulate carbonate and mixed carbonate-clastic sedimentation along vertical cross
sections through a sedimentary basin, defined by an initial topography and changes in
sea level and subsidence rates. The two-dimensional code is based on the one-
dimensional model, however layers are represented by discrete time intervals, and
sediment production is integrated during these time intervals in each segment of the
simulated section. The program uses the same output formats as the basin simulation

Mola de Xert 1D

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• - 1.9


'\ Rudists and
lime mud

green algae

E 80
------ I- 1.219
Sc 60 ,- -_":::>
I- 1.216
E Orbitolines and
• \
:sCD green algae Corals time

40 lime mud

~ ....
I- 1.1

dastic sediment -

O+-------r-----~-------r------~------~----~ 0
o 20 40 60 80 100 120
Sediment type (%)
Figure 24. One-dimensional simulation of Mola de Xert carbonate platform. Simulated section reproduces
principal characteristics of observed facies succession.

model by Bitzer (1999), allowing the same 2-D visualization programs (animate,
basinview, and airview) to be applied.
Because the stratigraphy, geometry, and facies distribution at the Mola de Xert
outcrop is simple, we used it to test the conceptual model and to quantify parameters
which define hypothetic interaction between carbonate-producing species. A two-
dimensional simulation applied to the Mola de Xert platform, however, would repeat
mainly the result of the one-dimensional model and therefore is of little interest. We
apply the data from the one-dimensional Mola de Xert model to the two-dimensional
model in order to test hypothetical effects of a sinuosidal sea-level change on the
geometry and facies distribution of an evolving carbonate deposit. The simulated
geometry and distribution of facies is similar to those which can be observed in the
carbonate platforms in the lower Cretaceous of the Iberian Basin. The initial geometry
of the simulated section is defined as a slightly inclined surface with a 50-m water
depth at the left boundary to 70 m at the right boundary along a 2-km distance (Fig.
25). Sea-level changes are defined by a sinusoidal curve with an amplitude of 10 m and
a frequence of 27000 y (Fig. 26).

initial configuration



- initial sediment surface

-'\ -\ -+ -r- -t -t 'j-. 1- -\ -t-+--\-+-\;T
-t---\ x 'j-.
-+ 1- -\ -'\' T -t -'\ -'\ x -r--f
-f-\' -+ -r- )0; , >: -f 1- -'\ i- i- T 1--\ +
1- -'\ -\

2000 m
Figure 25. Initial configuration of surface and sea level for two-dimensional simulation experiment.

sea level changes

10 m

-10 m

Figure 26. Assumed sea-level change (amplitude 10m, frequency 27000 y) for two-dimensional simulation

The simulated geometry and stratigraphy reflect the changing sea level through
corresponding systems tracts (Fig. 27). Transgressive systems tracts are visible by
layers, onlapping on the unconformities created during the lowstand systems tracts. In
the middle part of the section, a pinnacle reef-like structure is formed as a result of
rapid growth of the coral population, which keeps up with the sea-level rise. The
distribution of carbonate rock types shows a complex distribution of rock types (Fig.
28). Gray scales correspond to the percentage of each sediment type in the deposit.
Clastic sediments are deposited mainly during lowstand systems tracts, when

"Pinnacle" Reef



~ ~ x ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ - -,\-r,\Xi--1-
-1- -t -r 1- t-.><. -1- 1- ~ r t-1--t 1--"1-"1

2000 m

Figure 27. Simulated geometry and stratigraphic architecture of simulated carbonate-clastic deposit. Note
"pinnacle-reef-like" structure in middle of section, which is formed during transgression because of
increased growth of coral population.

carbonate-producing organisms die out or are affected by the changing environmental

conditions. Carbonate mudstones are formed mainly by a rudist/green algae population
which prefers shallow-water depths. These sediment types are deposited preferentially
during transgression of systems tracts in the protected landward zone, a typical feature
of many Lower Cretaceous rudist carbonate platforms. On the other hand, coral

t= 50000 Y t= 90000 Y
Clashe sed,"'''''1 Clasue sediment


.~ --.::::

Carbon.le mudSlOne Carbonate mudstone

"- ....,.

011>toll08 limestone Orb< tohoe ~meSlOne

~-'2.~:..::'''n ~

Rudisll Greeoal'l"e lI~one RudISt I Gr nalgae ilfneslooe


Colal limestone Coral IIm~looe

~; •. - ~

o 10 20 30 CO 50 60 70 80 90 100 10 20 30 <0 50 60 70 80 90 100
( % rock type) ( rod pel
Figure 28. Distribution of different rock types simulated in two-dimensional experiment. Gray scale indi-
cates percentage of each sediment type. Note progradation of coral reefs and deposition of mudstones and
rudist limestones in protected lagoons.

limestones are deposited mainly at the seaward side of the platform, showing a
progression towards open sea. During transgressive systems tracts, the corals tend to
form reef-like build-ups, contributing to the formation of lagoons, which are
synchronously filled by rudist/green algae limestone and carbonate mud. Orbitoline
limestones are deposited in the deeper part of the basin.


The predator-prey model allows incorporation of various carbonate-producing

species and allows us to define functional relationships between them. It permits the
incorporation of biological or geological processes and parameters such as maximum
water depth, growth rates,· carbonate production rates, and poisoning effects. As a
result, simulation experiments provide the facies succession of a growing carbonate
sediment pile, or in the situation of two-dimensional simulations, the geometry of a
sedimentary deposit with complex facies patterns. A significant feature is the
autocyclicity which can be generated by the model. An important advantage of the
model is that no arbitrary external factors are required, and all factors incorporated in
the model are measurable biological or geological parameters. The simulated one-
dimensional section of the Mola de Xert platform shows a good agreement with the
observed column and the two-dimensional extension of the model demonstrates its
applicability to complex situations with sea-level changes and subsidence.
The individual processes represented in the model affect population evolution and
the resulting carbonate facies in different ways. The growth and mortality factors
principally define the velocity (or delay) at which a population responds to changes in
environmental conditions. Lag between creation of accommodation space and onset of
carbonate sedimentation is controlled by these two parameters. The competition or
"prey" terms control the occurrence or the disappearance of individual species, as for
example the episodic occurrence of corals in the one-dimensional simulation of the
Mola de Xert platform. The poisoning factors act in a similar manner, and lime mud as
well as clastic sediment could be considered as separate "species." Whereas all these
factors together control carbonate sedimentation, it is the growth and mortality term
which controls the autocyclicity that is a characteristic pattern of this model, and is
observed in natural environments.
Limitation to three carbonate-producing species may seem to be an unnecessary
simplification. However, these three species should not be taken literally as biological
species but as living communities, each community made up of organisms which
behave in similar modes. Incorporation of further species is possible by extending the
set of equations, however, the interaction between them then becomes increasingly
complex to define.
Obviously, transport of carbonate sediments may be an important process
especially in high-energy depositional environments, which are not included in this
model. The principal objective of this contribution, however, is to apply predator-prey
models for determining the carbonate-production source term. This model could be
coupled to other sediment transport simulation models, as for example the model
presented by Bitzer (1999).
Definition of carbonate facies in terms of carbonate-producing organisms might be
considered as an unsatisfactory procedure, especially if the spatial distribution of
petrophysical properties in a carbonate rock is the principal objective of a simulation

experiment. In such situations it might be more adequate to work with carbonate facies
in terms of petrographic classification schemes. This might be achieved by extending
the model described here.
Many of the biological data of ancient carbonate-producing species required for a
simulation experiment are unknown, and it may be impossible to ever get all necessary
data of carbonate-producing species which have long been extinguished in geological
time. However, the simulation of population dynamics helps to understand cyclic and
nonlinear patterns in carbonate sedimentation. As with many models, this model should
be considered as a tool to learn about processes in the first place. An interesting point
in this context is the question, to what extent does this model explain the driving
processes and not just mimick them? As a general rule, a conceptual model is
considered to represent the controlling processes of a natural system, if the processes
represented in the model have been identified in the natural system, and if the modeling
results show a reasonable fit with a natural system and if the model correctly predicts
the state of a system in space and time. We think that in spite of its simplifications, the
conceptual model represents some basic processes of carbonate sedimentation and
helps to understand some of the the dynamics of carbonate sedimentation. In these
terms we think that the model does more than just to "mimick" and does represent some
driving processes of carbonate sedimentation.
Some of the early work on computer simulation of sedimentary processes
(Harbaugh, 1966) started with applying concepts of ecological modeling and we think
that these concepts deserve further attention in sedimentary-process modeling. We are
sure that carbonate and mixed carbonate-clastic sedimentation simulation based on
ecological predator-prey models has a strong potential for further applications and
extensions, as it is closely tied to conceptual models of the biological and geological
processes involved.


We are grateful to Francesc Cal vet and Jose Maria Carmona (Departament de
Geoqufmica, Petrologfa i Prospecci6 Geologica, Facultat de Geologia, Universitat de
Barcelona), Luis Pomar (Universitat de les Illes Balears), and Carlos Ayora (Institut
"Jaume Almera", CSIC) for continuous support and helpful discussions. We also thank
both referees for helpful suggestions. Christiana Scharfenberg and Professor Kiko
Kikolini (Fundaci6n Tierra Muerta, La Cierva) gave advice and provided rock samples.
This work is part of project IGCP369 and project PB98-1260-C02-01, "Modelos
sedimentarios, estructurales y corti cales integrados de las cuencas de rift mesozoicas de
la Cadena Iberica."


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Watney, G.c. Bohling, l.R. Doveton, R.A. Olea, and K.D. Newell,
Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence, Kansas USA

Two-dimensional regionalization can be extended to three dimensions by regarding
a sedimentary basin fill as a stack of stratigraphically correlated layers, each of which is
treated as a two-dimensional unit. The result is a subdivision of three-dimensional space
into homogeneous three-dimensional subunits. Petrophysical parameters can be assigned
to each homogeneous unit, producing a generalized layered model of the basin fill that can
be used for backs tripping to reconstruct the geological history of the basin.
These general modeling procedures can be applied to stratigraphic entities such as
a petroleum reservoir. The resulting three-dimensional regionalization yields an initial
model of reservoir geometry that can be used as input to a reservoir fluid-flow simulator.
The model produced by three-dimensional regionalization will conform to the known strati-
graphic relationships within the reservoir, and the number and shape of the three-dimensional
homogeneous subunits will reflect the available information. Thus, reservoir heterogeneity
can be modeled without resorting to speculations about sedimentary genesis and diagenetic
or structural evolution. The concept is applied to the Zenith oil field in central Kansas and
proves the practical value of the method.


Computer simulations of large dynamic earth systems, such as the flow of heat and
fluids within sedimentary basins or the movement of masses of liquids through aquifers and
petroleum reservoirs traditionally require that three-dimensional space be discretized into
regular cells that can be represented as numerical arrays. petroleum reservoirs traditionally

Geological Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentllry Systems

Edited by D.F. Merriam and J.C. Davis. Kluwer AcademicIPlenum Publishers. 2001 205

require that three-dimensionalspace be discretized into regular cells that can be represented
as numerical arrays. A series of such arrays are necessary to represent successive increments
of time. Resolution becomes a major problem with this approach, because studies must either
be restricted to small volumes of space and time, or the dimensions of the simulation must
be discretized into coarse steps. Constraints imposed by the available computer memory
restrict simulation studies even when using supercomputers, and are critical when using
lesser machines. Ironically, geological simulations usually are based on limited data, so
most of the cells in a simulation are filled with extrapolated values. In a real sense, most
computer simulations of earth systems are severely overdetermined.
Harff and Davis (1990) have proposed to simplify the starting point for dynamic mod-
eling by "regionalizing" the models into a relatively small number of homogeneous units,
appropriate for the amount of data available. Regionalization is a statistical process that
attempts to subdivide a volume of space into regions that are as uniform as possible in
their properties, while also being as contiguous and compact as possible in space. It then
is possible to treat each volume as an individual entity, inserting the average value for the
properties into each cell. Regionalization is a hierarchical and iterative process; Harff and
Davis (1990) published the statistical background for the process, with a two-dimensional
application to basin modeling.
In a dynamic simulation of heat or fluid flow through a basin, aquifer, or petroleum
reservoir, deterministic equations are used to model transfers from node to node within a
regular three-dimensional array, using conventional finite difference methods. The structure
of the array does not conform with the natural configuration of the geologic body, which
is determined in the vertical dimensions by bedding and in the horizontal dimensions by
lithofacies variation, all of which are modified by subsequent structural deformation. We
propose that a model first be subdivided by regionalization. After regionalization has been
performed, the nodes within an interval can be represented by regional averages, because
the regions are homogeneous in their properties. The advantage for geological modeling
consists of a data model which reflects the natural variability of input data and a smaller
number of parameters that must be specified initially. In effect, this new approach will yield
model resolutions that are appropriate for the complexities of the process and the number
of observations available to provide inputs. It will not be necessary to synthesize inputs in
order to satisfy the symmetry requirements of traditional modeling approaches.
Regionalization procedures first were applied to the North German Basin (Harff and
others, 1990) using a personal computer implementation (Springer, Lewerenz, and Harff,
1990). Subsequently, the methodology was formalized and applied in two dimensions to
the Western Kansas Shelf area (Harff and others, 1989; Harff and Davis, 1990; Davis,
Harff, and Watney, 1990). Continued collaborations between the Kansas Geological Sur-
vey, the former Central Institute for Physics of the Earth, Potsdam (ZIPE) and the Baltic
Sea Research Institute Warnemiinde focused on the problems of implementing regional-
ization in three dimensions in a manner that reflects the influence of stratigraphy, and on
incorporating petrophysical variables from wireline logs to express lithology. The resulting
three-dimensional model is to be displayed on a graphics workstation.

We can model a subunit of the Earth's crust under investigation using a random field
X(r) = m(r) + Y(r), Vr E R
where X denotes an n-dimensional random function, m denotes the expected value vector
function, Y denotes the n-dimensional fluctuation, and r stands for the vector of coordinates
within the lithosome under investigation, R. We assume that the space R is subdivided into
subunits ri E ~jl i E I, i E Jil Rji C R, each regarded as homogeneous in the sense
that the expected value vector, m(ri), and the covariance matrix, E(ri). are constant within
each area ~j:

E(ri) = E [(X(ri) - mil (X(ri) - m i)'] = E i .
Given a random variable vector, X(r), the squared Mahalanobis' metric
d~(r) = (X(r) - mi)'E;l(X(r) - mil I

which can be treated as a random field, expresses the distance between random vector X(r)
and expected value vector mi.


The procedure requires a random sample of geological bodies representing an area of
b(rj) E B, rj E R, i E N, N = {l, ... ,n}.
The random sample is described by a matrix of measuring data x(rj), Vi E N. The
first step--typification-is the application of a classifier (e.g., cluster analysis) which
agglomerates the elements of B, generating natural classes represented by the division
D = {Ki} liE 1*. Using the observed data, expected value vectors and covariance
matrices for each class can be estimated, generating a type model Ki : {mi I Si} I Vi E 1*
describing the classes.
In the regionalization step, the classification (typification) of the elements of the ran-
dom sample is extended to the space of investigation using an interpolator. Mahalanobis'
distances (rj) can be calculated for each sampling site i E N and interpolated to nodes
re E RA of a three-dimensional array, RA C R, by geostatistical methods (e.g., kriging)
(Harff, Davis, and Olea, 1991),
4(re) =E Aj4(rj).
These Mahalanobis' distances at each grid node can be transformed into class membership
probabilities p(i IX(re)) for classes i E 1* using Bayes' theorem.
Applying the concepts of discriminant analysis at each grid (array) node, r e , the most
probable class can be selected and marked by an element i E 1*
D(re) = {i E 1* : p (i IX(re)) = m~p (j IX(re))}, "Ire E RA.

The probabilities
PD(r e ) = na;:- p(j IX(re))
yield an estimate of the reliability of regionalization.


For three-dimensional modeling of sedimentary basin-fill architecture, a hierarchical
procedure is recommended. In the first step, only the linear sequences of data vectors (e.g.,
wireline logs) within individual wells are taken into consideration, limiting the physical co-
ordinate space to R = Rl. Depth-constrained cluster analysis (Rodionov, 1981; Gill, Shom-
rony, and Fligelman, 1993) of a master well and a subsequent lithostratigraphic correlation
onto neighboring wells (Olea, 1994) provide the method to subdivide the sedimentary se-
quences penetrated by the wells into zones b(ri' Tt) E B, ri E R2, Tt E Rl, i E N, t E T.
Here t marks the subsurface elevation of the top of a zone t. Each zone is described by
"blocked" data (averaged within a zone) stored in the matrix ('x(rj, Tt)). The correlated
zones within each well represent layers t which can be treated by two-dimensional region-
alization. Thus for each layer t, a regionalization model, Ml (see next), can be developed.
In this situation it holds that R t = Rf and B refers to "blocked" data ('x(rj, Tt)). For each
layer, a classifier distinguishes between rock types as reservoirs and seals. By interpolation
the classification procedure is extended to the entire grid R~t. The result is a regionalization
model Ml = {Dt(r e ), PDt (re)} , Vre E R~t which can be visualized using GIS tools.
For each zone, Ml can be combined with a digital model of the subsurface, created by
geostatistical interpolation procedures,
DEMt = {Tte E R2 : Tte = E >'jTtj};

T te stands here for a depth of the top of a layer t at grid node r e E R~t. A stack of
regionalization and elevation models for each layer form a "three-dimensional" data model
M 3 = {M;, DEMt} , tET.

Steps in the regionalization of the Zenith field were carried out using the statistical
package SPSS™ and the mapping package SURFACE III, both running on a Data General
MV20000. The geological visualization package SGM (from Stratamodel, Inc.) running
on a Silicon Graphics workstation was used to display the resulting model of the Zenith
"Typification," or definition of classes was based on a hierarchical cluster analysis of
the measurements of the classifying variables (gamma-ray intensity, density, and neutron
density) at the wells. Each variable first was standardized to zero mean and unit variance
and the cluster analysis then was carried out using the SPSS™ "cluster" procedure. The
Ward method with squared Euclidean distances between observations (in variable space)
was used as the distance measure.

The probability of membership of each observation in each identified group or cluster

was calculated using the SPSS™ "discriminant" procedure. The grouping variable for
discriminant analysis was the group membership predicted by cluster analysis. The original
(rather than standardized) variables were used for discrimination.
Probabilities of membership in a specific group were interpolated from the wellioca-
tions to a regular grid covering the study area, producing a map of probability of membership
in the specified group. The interpolation was performed using the SURFACE m package.
A scaled-inverse-distance squared weighting of probabilities at nearby wells was used to
estimate the probability at each grid point. The grid points were separated by approximately
0.16 mile in each direction, producing a 28 x 28 grid over the study area. Grids were cal-
culated for the probability of membership. This procedure was repeated for each of the 11
stratigraphic intervals in the Zenith field. In addition, SURFACE m was used to produce
maps of the structural elevations of the layer.
The structural layer maps together with the regions within each stratigraphic interval
and the estimated mean porosity and permeability associated with these regions can be
considered to form a three-dimensional model of the Zenith field. The SURFACE m grids
describing the structural elevations and classification results were transferred to a Silicon
Graphics Personal Iris and loaded into the geological visualization package, SGM. In SGM
terminology, the grids of structural elevations define "events" and stratigraphic intervals
(each bounded above and below by an event) define "sequences." Each sequence can be
divided into a number of layers consisting of grids of three-dimensional cells. Each cell
can be assigned a set of attributes, either by interpolation from values at wells or, as in
this study, by reading in a grid of attribute values for each layer. (One layer per sequence
is used, so each layer in the SGM model corresponds directly to one of the stratigra.phic
intervals.) SGM then can be used to create a three-dimensional display of the classification
results for the entire Zenith field. In addition, SGM "model operations" are used to assign
an estimated mean permeability and mean porosity for each class to those cells assigned
to that class. The resulting three-dimensional model of reservoir parameters (porosity and
permeability) can be used as input into a reservoir simulator.


Although this introduction has been expressed in terms of modeling a geological basin,
the same approach can be applied to any spatially contiguous lithosome. The steps in
modeling will be demonstrated here by an application to a petroleum reservoir, the Zenith
field in central Kansas (Fig. 1). This case study was selected because a well-organized set
of data exists for the Zenith field and an extensive conventional geological analysis was
completed. This provides the opportunity to compare the geologic model produced by
regionalization with a model created by more conventional methods.
The Zenith field was discovered in 1937; its original reserves in place have been
estimated at 100 million barrels of oil, and it has yielded about 24 million barrels of oil, or
approximately one-fourth of the original reserves in place, which puts the primary recovery
below the 33% global average reported for all oil fields in Kansas. Three attempts to
revitalize production through water flooding during the last 35 years have added only 1
million barrels to the cumulative production.

Figure I. Location of Zenith field.

Production in the Zenith field comes from five different reservoirs: Misener sandstone
and limestone (both Upper Devonian-Lower Mississippian), Maquoketa dolomite (Upper
Ordovician), and three Viola Limestone reservoirs (Upper Ordovician). Geologists have a
clear understanding of correlations and the geology of the Viola, but the stratigraphy of the
Misener and Maquoketa is subject of debate. Figure 2 provides a diagrammatic column of
the interval of interest.
Hallwood Petroleum Company (Denver, Colorado), the Kansas Geological Survey
(KGS), and the Tertiary Oil Recovery Project of the University of Kansas (TORP) agreed
to join efforts to study the possibility for improved recovery in the Zenith field. A final


c ·-
. - Q.
~ Misener


Viola Limestone

Figure 2. Generalized stratigraphic column

M,ddle Orn . Simpson Group of interval of interest.

feasibility report was released by the Kansas Geological Survey and Tertiary Oil Recovery
Project (1991). Since 1997, Castle Resources has been operating the field.
The Mathematical Geology Section of the Kansas Geological Survey, the former Cen-
tral Institute for Physics of the Earth (ZIPE) at Potsdam, and the Baltic Sea Research Institute
Warnemiinde (Germany) have been actively working on the formulation of a methodology
for the regional partition of a geologic body into volumes as homogeneous as possible in
terms of mineral resources. The accumulation of information generated by the Zenith field
project has made its central Kansas area attractive for a pilot test to test and refine further
this classification method and apply the results to the fluid flow modeling. The work was
organized in three stages:
(1) The stratigraphy of the reservoir was defined using CORRELATOR (Olea, 1988, 1994)
to trace all the markers of interest. The result is the breakdown of the reservoir into
(2) Regionalization was used to subdivide further each layer into homogeneous regions
interpreted in terms of reservoir characteristic.
(3) Derivation of a porosity/permeability model as input for a fluid-flow simulator.


The Zenith oil field is a stratigraphic trap developed on a broad anticline plunging
to the south-southwest off the Central Kansas Uplift. This field was discovered in 1937
and now covers approximately 10,500 acres. Five main pay zones are present in the field.

Two zones of cherty porous dolomite in the Middle Ordovician Viola Limestone (upper
and lower Viola reservoirs, also referred to as the Viola 1 and Viola 2, respectively) are the
most laterally extensive reservoirs in the pool. A minor pay zone, the Upper Ordovician
Maquoketa dolomite, locally overlies the Viola Limestone. The Devonian/Mississippian
Misener Sandstone and a superjacent carbonate-chert reservoir rock, the Misener limestone,
overlie the Ordovician carbonate reservoirs and are in direct contact with the Maquoketa
dolomite in some places.
The Viola consists on average of 115 ft of lime mudstone, crinoidal wackestone, and
grainstone. The upper 15 to 20 ft of the Viola generally is a bed of dense, coarsely crystalline
wackestone or grainstone locally referred to as the Fernvale. Porosity in the Viola is entirely
secondary and includes vuggy, intercrystalline, and minor moldic porosity where fossils
are present. Production comes from three different zones: from top to bottom, the Viola 1,
Viola 2, and Viola 3. The top two zones have been particularly prolific.
The Maquoketa is present in the north-central part of the field. Limited cuttings and
core descriptions indicate that the Maquoketa may be a zone of diagenetic alteration of
mudstone or wackestone at the top of the Viola. It has a maximum thickness of 17 ft in the
study area.
The Misener is a widely but erratically distributed unit present on both sides of the
Kansas-Oklahoma state line. The Misener is a transgressive basal sandstone of the Chat-
tanooga (Woodford) Shale and was deposited on a shallow shelf (KGS and TORP, 1991).
Minor limestone facies are present in the unit. The Misener is less than 30 ft thick in wells
analyzed for this study.
Zenith field produced about 23 million barrels of 40 API gravity oil by primary pro-
duction through 1966. A waterftood implemented in 1966 added another one-half million
barrels of oil. In 1983, another waterftood was implemented, but again only one-half million
barrels of oil were produced. The field was developed initially on 10- to 20-acre spacing
and approximately 350 wells have had some production history.
Zenith field is a truncation-type stratigraphic trap in which Lower Paleozoic sandstone
and carbonate reservoirs dip southward and pinch out unconformably in the north beneath
impermeable shales and conglomerates at the base of the Pennsylvanian System (lmbt,
1941; Paddleford, 1941). To the east, the reservoirs terminate against the downthrown side
of a near-vertical fault along the north-northeast-trending Peace Creek fault system. The oil
accumulation is limited on the west either by stratigraphic pinchout or decreasing porosity
in the reservoir units.
The northern part of the field is dominated by a narrow, east-southeast plunging anticline
approximately half mile wide. Local culminations at Viola and other levels are present on
this anticline. The southern part of the field is dominated by a homocline with minor
anticlinal noses. The general rate of dip of the homocline is about 65 ft per mile, or less
than 1 degree.
Most of the present-day structure of the field was formed prior to Early Pennsylvanian
time but subsequent to Late Devonian to Early Mississippian time, when the Chattanooga
Shale and its associated Misener members were deposited. Formation of the structure
probably relates to an episode of structural deformation that affected the entire southern
Midcontinent region in Late Mississippian to Early Pennsylvanian time (Merriam, 1963).
The basal Pennsylvanian unconformity that truncates the Chattanooga Shale also is folded,

so some structural deformation occurred during or shortly after deposition of Middle Penn-
sylvanian strata.
Published reports on the Zenith field (Imbt, 1941; Paddleford, 1941) note that all
reservoirs in the field have a common oiVwater contact (-2019 ft subsea), indicating they are
in hydraulic continuity. Stratigraphic correlations (Kansas Geological Survey and Tertiary
Oil Recovery Project, 1991) suggest that fluids can be transferred circuitously between
reservoirs because of their stratigraphic juxtaposition. Fractures may facilitate more direct
transfer of fluids vertically through several reservoirs. Some vertical fractures are reported
in core descriptions, but the severity of fracturing is difficult to determine. Similarly, the
possible volume of fluid movement through old well bores is difficult to determine from
available data.

Data for the Zenith field study were derived from different sources. Well-log mea-
surements, including gamma-ray (IGR), porosity (PORW), corrected neutron-porosity
(Ncarr), density-porosity (Dcarr) and Vshale for the Misener and Viola reservoirs in 40
wells were provided by K.D. Newell. The analog wireline log paper records were digitized
at a sampling rate of two readings per foot. The data were used for typification of lithologies
and for discrimination.
Zonation was performed on wireline logs of 38 wells digitized and the IGR-curve
and N carr-log were recorded every 0.5 ft. Relationships between permeability, porosity,
and wireline log properties were based on core-sample analyses from three wells: Braden-
Zenith ZU I, Braden-Zenith 2W2, and Braden-Zenith ZU 3.

Ordovician carbonates and Devonian-Mississippian siliciclastics were zoned and cor-
related separately. For carbonates, wells were zoned based on porosity logs if the tops of
the zones coincided with a change of the vertical succession of classes derived from cluster
analysis. If a change in class succession did not match the zonation, the zonation was
For the Misener and Chattanooga sequence, CORRELATOR, an interactive system
for lithostratigraphic correlation of geophysical well logs, was applied (Olea, 1988, 1994).
Table 1 lists the sequence of stratigraphic layers identified in the study area.
Uncertainties in correlation can be resolved more easily by expanding the interval
studied to include other stratigraphic units that have better lateral continuity. In the Zenith
field, the Pennsylvanian units of the Kansas City Group, which lies unconformably above
the monotonous Chattanooga Shale, have high continuity. Because the Viola is the deepest
target in the area, no log information for deeper intervals is available. In fact, most wells
do not even penetrate through the entire Viola. Because of erratic drilling below the Viola
I, this study is limited to the top of the Viola 1. Regionalization of the Viola 2 and Viola 3
is based on manual correlations, as the units were not considered in the present study.
Figure 3 shows the locations of 38 wells and 12 profiles used to model the stratigraphy
of the Zenith field. Ten of the profiles are closed traverses, which have the advantage of
allowing the checking of closure errors. The approxil:nately north-south profile in Figure 4

Table 1. Sequence of stratigraphic layers identified in the study area

Petrographic Stratigraphic
Layer Description Code
Chattanooga Shale 1
Misener I (upper Misener) Sandstone/LimestonelChert 2
Misener II . ShalelLimestone/"Hard Streak" 3
Misener III (lower Misener) Sandstone 4
Misener IV Shale 5
Maquekota Dolomite 6
Femvale Limestone 7
Viola 1 LimestoneIDolomite 8
"Hard Streak" Limestone 9
Viola 2 Limestone 10
Viola 3 Limestone 11

roughly follows the regional dip. The total number of wells in the Zenith field is 502, but
only the 38 wells shown in Figure 3 have both a gamma-ray and a neutron log, the most
common pair of shalelnonshale logs from the area.
Correlation files were used to produce lithostratigraphic cross-sections which display
the lateral continuity of selected markers defined at certain wells. The maximum closure
error along the closed traverses is 1 ft, a remarkably low value. Maximum discrepancy
between markers defined at wells on crossing traverses was 1.5 ft. Complete are given in
Olea, Newell, and HartT (1991).


The regionalization process requires the prior development of a typification model.
Because the reservoir consists of a lower carbonate and an upper clastic unit which are
not directly comparable, typification was conducted separately for the carbonates and the
clastics. Hierarchical cluster analyses were used to define lithotypes (HartT and Davis, 1990)
using three wireline log variables for classification:
gamma-ray intensity (JGR)
corrected neutron porosity (Ncorr)
corrected density porosity (Dcorr)
The classification of 1385 observations of carbonate from the Viola 3 to the Maquoketa
dolomite are shown in Figure 5, which also provides a crossplot of porosity versus lithology
based on (Ncorr) and (Dcorr) (Schlumberger, 1998).
In the crossplot, the classes are represented by the (Ncorr) and (Dcorr) centroids or
expected values. Also given are the means for J GRand porosity calculated from wireline log
data, although porosity was not used in the numerical classification. A dendrogram (Fig. 5)
shows the relation between classes resulting from clustering using Ward's algorithm as

R 11 W RlOW

2 24



o L -__ ~ ____ ~ ____ ~ __ ~~~~ ____L -_ _ ~ __ ~~ ____ ~ __ ~

o 2 3 4 5

Figure 3. Location of traverses used in this study. Label above well symbol is abbreviated well name; label
underneath is sequential number.

implemented in the SPSS™ package. Classes 1 and 6 were combined into a single class, as
class 6 contains only 36 observations. This combined class represents limestones having the
largest average porosity and the best reservoir characteristics. Class 4 contains dolomites
and class 2 includes somewhat cherty dolomites that have lower average porosities. Classes
3 and 5 represent low-porosity carbonates which seal the reservoirs.
For typification of the clastics, 321 observations from the stratigraphic units Misener
IV through Misener I were clustered. Results are displayed in Figure 6. The clastics can be
partitioned into four classes numbered 7 through 10. Class 7 includes shales, classes 9 and
10 include the Misener sandstones, with class 10 distinguished by greater average values of
PORW and IGR values.
High gamma-ray values in the sandstones may result from the presence of apatite.
Class 8 is the "Misener limestone." For interpretation it must be taken into account that the
porous representatives of the "Misener limestone" in the southwestern part of the Zenith field
have not been considered in the analysis because of lack of data. The rocks represented by
class 8 are located in the south-central part of the field and are characterized by low average

Figure 4. Lithology for traverse along regional dip. There is vertical exaggeration of 50 times. Shading is
proportional to amount of shale. Darkest shading denotes percent shale above 60%, while lightest shading denotes
less than 20% of shale. Blank areas indicate no correlation.
2.1 35
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25 .£'
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20 ~0
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15 .ts::0')
2.5 v
~ 10 0
o:l b0
:c 2.6 5 (,)
2.7 0 e
2.8 -5

2.9 -10
0 10 20 30 40
<l>Ncorr' Neutron Porosity Index

Figure S. Typification of Ordovician carbonates within Zenith field. Dots represent centroids of classes. Numbers
in circles indicate class number. For instance class I: Average IGR =22.9. Average porosity =0.143. See text for
discussion of classes.

2.1 35
2.2 30 .€
2.3 25 0....

2.4 20 .g

15 Cl
.€ 2.5 b0
'"s::: .05 (j) 10 <J
.:.: 2.6
.0 2.7 0

2.8 -5

2.9 -10
0 10 20 30 40
Cl>Ncorr' Neutron Porosity Index
Figure 6. Typification of DevonianlMississippian siliciclastics within Zenith field. Dots represent centroids of
classes. Numbers in circles indicate class number. For instance, class 7: JGR =88.98. Average porosity =0.027.
See text for discussion of classes.


Discrimination was carried out by allocating the zones within each well, using the
type data model of classes determined by cluster analysis. The discrimination required two
separate steps.
Applying the discriminant analysis options in SPSS™ to each zone in the wells,
the probability of class membership was allocated to form regionalization models Ml,
t{l, 2, ... ,11}. Interpolation within each layer was done using an inverse distance weight-
ing (lOW) method. For each of the stratigraphic layers from the Viola 3 up to the Chattanooga
Shale, a regular array of 29 x 29 cell grids was obtained. The maximum probability and
allocation to a class was estimated for each cell.
The regionalization scheme for Viola 3, the lowermost layer, is characterized in the
center and in the south by homogeneous units representing the low-porosity limestones of
class 5. To the northwest and northeast, the layer consists of areas of class 2. These results
confirm the poor reservoir characteristics of the Viola 3 layer.
The Viola 2 layer is dominated by a homogeneous east-west-striking area belonging
to class 4, which contains dolomites. Subareas in the south and north belong to class 1.
The regionalization coincides with the favorable reservoir character of the Viola 2 reservoir.

The regionalization of the "Hard Streak" confirms its properties as a seal between Viola
2 and Viola 1; all of its subunits belong to classes 3 and 5.
The Viola 1 has the most favorable reservoir properties, with a homogeneous area
belonging to class 1 in the south and adjacent subareas belonging to class 4 (dolomite). The
northwest consists of class 2.
The Femvale acts as a seal within the reservoir. It consists of class 3 and, to a lesser
extent, of class 5 between the Viola 1 and the Maquoketa. The characterization of the
Maquoketa as a dolomitic reservoir is confirmed by the regionaiization.
The Misener IV layer is represented mostly by shale of class 7. The "lowest Misener"
shows a northwest-southeast area that sequentially consists of class 7, to class 8, to class 9,
to class 10. Thking into account the paleogeographical uplift that occurred within the basin,
this succession may be interpreted as a sequence of coastal mudstone to nearshore carbonates
and chert to marine shallow-water sandstones. The Misener II occurs as a shale only in
some isolated areas. This layer is not a reservoir unit. The Misener I ("upper Misener")
layer has a regionalization similar to the "lower Misener." The "Misener limestone" (class
8) increases regionally to the east. This coincides with onlapping in the geological model
developed by Newell and others (1991).
The Chattanooga Shale is represented mostly by class 7, which represents shales. The
small subregion belonging to class lOis caused by sandy beds within the Chattanooga
interval. These beds were assigned by Newell and others (1991) to the Misener Sandstone.
Depth data of the stratigraphic subsurfaces were added to the regionalization models as
described creating DE M t , t E {I, 2, ... , II}. Stacking them, a "three-dimensional" data
model M3 of the Zenith field was designed. Three-dimensional displays of the data model
M3 of the Zenith field are given separately for the Ordovician carbonate and Mississippian
siliciclastic sequences in Figures 7 and 8. Figure 9 shows the entire oil field as a fence


The aim of parameter modeling is to derive permeability k from wireline logs. In the
Zenith field study, predictive models for permeability were based on the following variables.

Permeability: k (in md)

Neutron porosity (corrected): ~Ncorr = ~N - [(>;'4';" * 0.3 * Yah]
Density porosity (corrected): ~Dcorr = ~D - [(>;~;v * 0.3 * Yah]
Porosity determined from wireline logs: PORW = J(>~Ggrr2~tbGgrr ,
where GAM is intensity of natural gamma radiation.

Vah is not involved in the analysis, but is used for calculating Dcarr and N carr. Yah
is defined by
Vah = 0.33 [2(2*IGR) - 1.0] .

The equations were taken from Asquith and Gibson (1982).


Figure 7. Three-dimensional display of Zenith oil field: Mississippian siliciclastics (view to NW).

Figure 8. Three-dimensional display of Zenith oil field: Ordovician carbonate sequences (view to NW).

Data from three wells (ZU 1, ZU 3, ZU 2W2) were used in a separate analysis for
the clastics (layers 2-4) and the carbonates (layers 6-10). Permeability was expressed
in logarithmic units as LOGk, -because raw permeability measurements tend to follow a
positive skewed distribution which may be lognormal. An additional variable was defined,
L = ~Ncorr - ~Dcorr ,

which is a useful measure of either shaliness or reservoir framework mineralogy, as will be

discussed in connection with the regression prediction models for permeability. For both
carbonate and clastic samples, the multivariate linear regression model
LOGk = ao + a1PORW + a2L+ a3IGR
was applied to the samples separately. Because of petrographic and petrophysical differences
between clastics and carbonates, the physical significance of these variables also differs. In


Figure 9. Entire Zenith oil field as fence diagram (view to NE). [Color version of figure can be found be-
tween pages 70 and 71.)

both samples, the volumetric porosity PORW is expected to be correlated positively with
permeability. However, the association will be affected by the relative homogeneity of pore
types and the dominant pore geometry, which will determine both the degree of correlation
and the slope coefficient within the regression equation.
The quantity L is the difference between the neutron and density porosity measurements
as recorded on an apparent limestone porosity scale. Within clastics, L is expected to be
primarily a measure of clay-mineral content, expressed by higher positive values of L. If
clay minerals playa significant role in permeability reduction in the "Misener" clastics,
this variable may make a useful contribution to permeability prediction. In shale-free
carbonates, L provides a crude measure of dominant matrix mineralogy. The expected
value for L is zero in pure limestone zones. Increasingly larger positive values of L reflect
higher levels of dolomitization. Negative values of L are caused by "silica," either as quartz
sand or chert nodules. If L is a significant variable in predicting permeability, the most
likely explanation is that the variable has picked up significant differences in pore geometry
linked with petrographic facies types.
The variable JGR is a measure of natural gamma radiation from potassium and the
thorium and uranium families of isotopes. Within clastics, the major source of radioactivity

is clay minerals. However, other radioactive minerals such as feldspars, micas, and zircons
also may contribute. It should be possible to distinguish between radioactivity attributable to
clays and to other sources in this regression model, because the variable L is also sensitive to
clay minerals. Shale-free carbonates generally have low levels of radioactivity. Exceptions
have been observed where uranium concentrations precipitated by fluids migrating through
fractures have caused radioactive zones.
Exploratory mUltiple regression analysis of permeability, LOGk, as a function of these
log variables shows that L makes no significant contribution to prediction in either clastics or
carbonates. In the situation of the "Misener" clastics, this suggests that clay-mineral content
is not a major control on permeability, although its deleterious effects cannot be discounted
entirely. For the carbonates, the lack of significance for L indicates that differences in
reservoir matrix mineralogy cannot be construed as a major factor in textural controls of
permeability. However, this does not imply that there are no differences in pore volume in
different lithofacies; relationships between permeability and porosity should be reflected in
the PORW variable.
With elimination of the lithology variable, L, the models for both clastics and carbon-
ates are reduced to regressions of permeability on porosity and gamma-radiation intensity.
Coefficients for the regression functions are given in Table 2. In both classes, there is a pos-
itive relationship between porosity and permeability, and the difference in loading reflects
distinctions between clastics and carbonate pore morphology.
In addition, there is a positive correlation between LOGk and JGR in both clastics
and carbonates. Initially, this positive link of permeability with gamma-ray readings in
the "Misener" clastics seemed contrary to the expectation that J G R reflects clay-mineral
content, and should be negatively correlated with permeability. However, the elimination of
the lithology variable, L, from the regression model indicates that shale is not a significant
factor. Instead, the relationship can be explained by the occurrence of significant quanti-
ties of apatite within the "Misener sandstone." Uranium associated with apatite accounts
for the increase in gamma-ray values within these zones and their positive relation with
Within the carbonates, there also is a positive contribution of the gamma-ray log reading
to permeability prediction. As with the clastics, the lack of significance of the lithology
variable L tends to discount shale as a potential control of permeability. This association
probably is caused by uranium mineralization introduced by the migration of fluids through
fracture systems. These fracture zones may be marked by enhance permeabilities.
The small sample size (16 observations) available for permeability prediction in "Mis-
ener" clastics precludes a statistically significant result. The multiple regression accounts
for only 21 % of the total variance and shows that predictions of permeability at I-ft depth
increments have high associated error. However, the adverse implications are reduced signif-
icantly because predictions are made only at the much coarser level of average permeabilities
for the different lithotypes.
Within the carbonates, the multiple regression model accounts for only 21 % of the total
variability. However, because of the larger sample size (46 observations), the analysis of
variance is highly significant. These results imply that a systematic link has been determined
between permeability and both porosity and gamma-ray response, but that there are large

Table 2. Results of regression analysis and analysis of variance for (a) Ordovician carbonates
and (b) Devonian ("Misener") clastics of the Zenith field


Dep. Var.: LOGk Squared Multiple R: 0.213

N:46 Adjusted Squared Multiple R: 0.176
Multiple R: 0.461 Standard Error of Estimate: 0.972

Variable Coeff. Std. Error Std. Coeff. Thlerance t P

Constant -1.403 0.503 0.000 -2.791 0.008
PORW 8.375 3.580 0.321 0.975 2.339 0.024
IGR 0.054 0.026 0.285 0.975 2.078 0.044

Source Sum-of-Squares DF Mean Square F-Ratio P

Regression 10.967 2 5.484 5.807 0.006

Residual 40.604 43 0.944

Dep. Var.: WGk Squared Multiple R: 0.208

N: 16 Adjusted Squared Multiple R: 0.086
Multiple R: 0.456 Standard Error of Estimate: 0.699

Variable Coeff. Std. Error Std. Coeff. Thlerance t P

Constant 0.937 0.716 0.000 -1.309 0.213
PORW 7.168 5.806 0.328 0.865 1.235 0.239
IGR 0.030 0.017 0.459 0.865 1.729 0.107

Source Sum-of-Squares DF Mean Square F-Ratio P

Regression 1.666 2 0.833 1.703 0.220

Residual 6.359 13 0.489

error bounds around estimates of permeabilities at small depth increments. Again, the use
of average permeabilities for regionalization reduces these error ranges substantially.
The regression functions were used to determine "mean" permeabilities for the litho-
types represented by classes 1-10 shown on Figures 5 and 6. The mean values of I G R
and PORW for the classes were used to estimate the corresponding permeabilities. Table
3 gives the results. The mean values were assigned to the cells in the three-dimensional
generalized data model of Zenith field (Figs. 10-11).

Table 3. Experimental means for porosity (PORW), natural gamma

radiation (fGR), and permeability (k) estimated by regression
functions for lithotypes (classes) in the Zenith field

Class No. PORW IGR k

fraction 0-1 API units md
10 0.130 49.84 30.89
Misener/ 9 0.112 31.24 6.35
Chattanooga 8 0.069 17.12 1.17
7 0.027 88.98 0.0
5 0.060 20.28 1.56
Maquekota/ 4 0.107 19.26 3.41
Viola 3 0.025 15.76 0.45
2 0.087 20.51 2.71
0.153 21.55 11.02

0.14 - 0.1
0.04 - 0.09
0.00 - 0.04

Figure 10. Porosities assigned to classes in three-dimensional model of Zenith field, displayed using SOM
software (N-S section).

Figure 11. Permeabilities (md) assigned to classes in three-dimensional model of Zenith field, displayed us-
ing SOM software (N-S section).

Regionalization is a statistically based procedure for subdividing a collection of spa-
tially distributed multivariate observations into classes so that the classes lie within spatially
contiguous subareas. As a consequence, these define "regions" that are as homogeneous
as possible and distinct from other regions. Regionalization is derived from classification
concepts expressed by Voronin (1967) and Rodionov (1981), combined with the spatial con-
cepts propounded by Matheron (1962). Harff and Davis (1990) provide a two-dimensional
fonnulation of regionalization.
The motivation behind this development of regionalization is to construct a three-
dimensional geometric framework that can describe the structural configuration and lithofa-
cies relationships within the sedimentary fill of a basin. The framework derived by region-
alization should be a parsimonious description whose complexity reflects the availability of
observations. It would be objective in the sense that it would not depend upon a presumed
genetic history of the basin, as do conventional basin models. A regionalized model of a
sedimentary basin would provide the starting point for dynamic modeling of compaction,
heat flow, and fluid movement.
The general procedure for three-dimensional modeling of a sedimentary basin, using
data from well logs as the primary source of data, involves a succession of steps. The first
zonation subdivides the basin fill into correlative layers. Then, typification is performed on
each layer, followed by discrimination and interpolation of the classification probabilities to
the nodes of a regular grid. The regionalization models received for each layer are stacked
according to the stratigraphic sequence. The result is a layered "three-dimensional" data
model, which can be used for backstripping to reconstruct the geological history of the

basin. The generalized data model also provides the framework for deterministic modeling
of heat and fluid flow during the subsidence and filling of the basin.
It is apparent that the procedure for three-dimensional regionalization may be useful in
other contexts, such as reservoir simulation. Although the spatial dimensions of a reservoir
are smaller than those of a sedimentary basin, the stratigraphic, structural, and lithologic
interrelationships may be equally complex. In current petroleum engineering practice,
multiphase fluid flow simulations are run to predict the future behavior of a reservoir during
exploitation. The simulations are deterministic calculations of a fluid movement, based on
the known history of pressure changes and fluid input and removal, and a model of initial
physical conditions (porosities, permeabilities, fluid saturations, etc.) at points on a regular
three-dimensional grid covering a reservoir. A major problem in reservoir simulation is to
create the initial three-dimensional static model, using only data from the scattered wells that
have been drilled and cored or logged. Petroleum engineers rely on geologists to provide the
initial model, and the geologists usually develop their models from genetic interpretations.
1}rpically, the initial characterizations require extensive, arbitrary adjustments in order to
obtain adequate history matches, a failing that has been a serious source of contention
between engineers and geologists for many years.
Production comes from five different reservoirs in the Zenith field: the Misener Sand-
stone, Misener "limestone" (Upper Devonian-Lower Mississippian), Maquoketa dolomite
(Upper Ordovician), and three Viola Limestone reservoirs (Upper Ordovician). The lower
carbonate reservoirs in the field (Maquoketa dolomite and Viola 1, 2, and 3) and the Mis-
ener sequence were typified separately by cluster analysis, using three wireline-Iog variables:
gamma-ray intensity, corrected neutron porosity, and corrected density porosity. Five rock
types for the carbonates and four rock types for the Misener sequence were determined.
Anomalous petrophysical properties of the Misener clastics were investigated by laboratory
mineralogical determinations.
The stratigraphic interval was correlated and zoned using the CORRELATOR program,
based on gamma-ray and neutron porosity logs from 38 wells. Within each stratigraphic
zone, wells were assigned to rock types (classes) by discriminant analysis, and the probabil-
ities of class membership were interpolated to the nodes of a regular grid. This procedure
subdivides each layer into homogeneous regions, each characterized by the class mean val-
ues of the petrophysical variables. Additional variables, such as porosity (PORW), were
determined using deterministic models based on wireline log responses which then were
averaged within the classes.
Permeabilities (k) were calculated from a regression between core permeabilities and
wireline log responses for the equivalent intervals. The regression was used to estimate a
class mean permeability from the means of I GRand PO RW. The structural configurations
of the individual layers were mapped using SURFACE III, creating a stack of grids that could
be displayed using SGM, a modeling and display program running on a Silicon Graphics
workstation. The results of regionalization of the lithologic or fluid-flow variables are
displayed within this structural framework.
The next phases of research in the frame of local studies will evolve in three distinct

(1) The discrete programs now used for the research must be linked to form an easily usable
software tool for constructing the generalized layered model and providing input to
three-dimensional display programs such as SGM.
(2) Further mineralogical and petrophysical investigations of logs and cores are needed
to resolve remaining ambiguities in log interpretation and to specify parameters for
interpretation in the Zenith field.
(3) A fluid-flow simulation of the Zenith field should be run as an example, based on input
specified by regionalization. Results of this simulation should be compared to those
obtained from the conventionally interpreted model of the field.

Following completion of local studies, cooperative research should be refocused on

basin-wide modeling and interpretation. The objectives should be to refine the earlier study
of the North German Basin using the newly developed modeling tools and to extend work
also in younger basins such as the Baltic Sea in order to improve the generalized methodol-
ogy. Petrophysical modeling of strategic locations and stratigraphic intervals where digital
wireline log data eventually will become available, such as the Hugoton Embayment, will
provide a significant tool to decipher remaining hydrocarbon accumulations and identifica-
tion of lithotopes and correlation to geologic features in the embayment.

The authors thank the Kansas Geological Survey and its former director, Lee Gerhard,
for the promotion of the research. The German Science Foundation (DFG) deserves thanks
for financing the project. Stefanie Maack, University of Rostock; Anke Barthel, Univer-
sity of Greifswald, Germany; and Jo Anne DeGraffenreid, KGS, have provided technical
assistance during preparation of the manuscript.

Asquith, G.B., and Gibson, c.R., 1982, Basic well log analysis for geologists: methods in exploration series: Am.
Assoc. Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 216 p.
Davis, J .C., Harff, 1., and Watney, W.L., 1990, Determination of homogeneous components of a sedimentary basin,
in Pflug, R., and Bitzer, K., eds., Three-dimensional computer graphics in modeling geologic structures
and simulating geologic processes: Freiburger