The characterization and modelling of carbonate reservoirs can still be significantly improved to account for complex property and fracture network heterogeneities at scales difficult to resolve in the subsurface. The objective of this research is to develop and establish workflows for high fidelity geological modelling and characterization using modern and ancient carbonate outcrop analogues.
As a first step, we carefully selected high quality modern and ancient analogues to create comprehensive data sets on depositional heterogeneities. Advanced instrumentation and techniques were used such as 3D drone surveys, high-resolution surface geophysical surveys (50 MHz-100 MHz, and seismic), chirp sub-bottom profiler and high-resolution bathymetry mapping. These high-end techniques are paired with tried and tested standard geological techniques of measuring stratigraphic sections anchored by outcrop spectral gamma ray logs, analysis of sediment samples (texture, grain size, mineralogy, geochemistry) and fracture/fault surveys all integrated with full cores drilled in the outcrops. Using these, data models can be created for depositional and fracture heterogeneities at different scales and populated with ranges of property data like those found in actual reservoirs. The outcome will be a series of models for various carbonate reservoir settings and well location patterns with the goal of supporting drilling/exploration operations and reducing future development costs.
The project is based on two large-scale research projects of Jurassic carbonates outcropping in central KSA and a large modern carbonate platform in the Red Sea. Jurassic outcrops were analyzed using a unique dataset of measured sections including spectral gamma ray logs (300 vertical m), drone photogrammetry data (4×4 km2 overflight and several km's of vertical cliffs), seismic data (2 km), and GPR data (8 km). Data expose lateral heterogeneities, facies dimensions, and fracture networks at different scales. The modern carbonate outcrops are an ideal laboratory to investigate lateral facies heterogeneities and their relation to environmental factors influencing sediment distribution (prevailing winds versus storms, climate and nutrients). Around 800 km of hydroacoustic data, 50 sediment cores and 200 sea-floor samples were collected exposing significant and complex heterogeneities.
The outcome of these research projects significantly increases our understanding of property heterogeneity, facies distribution, fracture networks, and architecture of complex carbonate reservoirs. Resulting multi-scale modelling approaches and associated facies templates will improve the prediction of spatial heterogeneities of facies in subsurface reservoirs of similar settings. In addition, these datasets can be used as input for static analogue models and dynamic simulations to test sensitivities and determine optimum development scenarios for improving ultimate recovery.