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Seminar Speaker: Dr. Brad Prather
March 3 @ 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
University of Kansas
Title: “Sediment Partitioning Across Continental Slopes and Basin Floors: Quantification of the Sink in Continental Source-to-Sink Systems”
Abstract: Slope and base-of-slope systems have been actively explored by the oil and gas industry for more than two decades. Studies of shallow analogues, physical experiments and outcrop studies, integrated with a variety of computer simulations provide a complementary process understanding of deep-water deposition. But to what extent can we use this growing knowledge of depositional processes to understand how entire slope systems, over large time scales, act to partition sediment as they transit the slope to the ultimate sink on the basin floor? Answering this question is particularly important as our understanding of stratigraphy is moving towards more regionally integrated approaches, such as that represented by recent source-to-sink (S2S) studies.
Creating numerical S2S models to test allogenic and autogenic controls on stratigraphic successions is critical to the future of S2S research – not only to better understand complex physical processes today but also to improve the linkage between present and past.
Depositional process-based understanding encoded in 3D stratigraphic forward models (SFM) can simulate these controls at basin scale and over large time steps (>100’s of thousands of years) and SFM enables the S2S approach as a predictive tool in regions where little data exist, but also as a means to test regional depositional process models where some data are present. Significant advances in this predictive capability requires physical and numerical modeling of fluxes and feedbacks based on data from integrated field studies, but significantly more (published) empirical data to both calibrate and validate these models is needed. As James Syvitski states ‘the physics of the problem is contained within a database of global observations, with the Earth having run the experiment in hundreds of locations under a wide range of environmental settings’.
To this end a global database consisting of >700 km of drilled section provides empirical rock data – the type of data typically lacking from most S2S studies, to underpin interpretations of deposition processes at basin scale and serve as a means to validate stratigraphic forward models used to create maps of gross depositional environments (GDE). The challenge for the oil and gas industry lies with judging the validity of either these human or computer-generated GDE maps. But by what standard is validity judged? Understanding the role slope topography plays in partitioning sediment on siliciclastic continental slope and base-of-slope systems helps exploration in two significant ways: (1) models for setting reservoir expectations in frontier areas poorly constrained by wells and seismic, and (2) validation of numerical basin-scale stratigraphic forward models used to test and deploy source-to-sink (S2S) concepts.