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MassFLOW-3D™: A New Tool for the Petroleum Industry’s Toolbox

Sedimentary successions of ancient gravity-flow deposits
Sedimentary successions of ancient
gravity-flow deposits host hydrocarbon resources
in many parts of the world.

Predicting how successive ancient flood events laid down sedimentary gravity flow deposits (turbidite successions) is an important determinant of whether such deposits host hydrocarbon resources. In this regard, sub-marine mass flow processes are of great interest to the petroleum industry. Combining deterministic process models with modern 3D seismic data can offer important insights into the spatial and temporal development of hydrocarbon-hosting turbidite sucessions. By developing a method to simulate depositional processes and their controlling factors, geologists better understand the petroleum reservoirs created by turbidite successions.

Turbidity currents transport sand in deep-water.
Turbidity currents transport sand in deep-water.

The hydrodynamics of turbidity currents are difficult and expensive to study in their natural environments. Laboratory experiments are limited to small-scale, shallow-water flows carrying very fine-grained sediment. In either case, the monitoring of the current is limited to a few isolated locations and measurable parameters such as, flow thickness, downflow velocity component, sediment volumetric concentration and gouged sediment samples. To overcome these shortcomings, members of the petroleum industry have backed a group of Norwegian engineers working with FLOW-3D  to numerically simulate turbidity currents, including their internal hydraulic characteristics and the erosion, transport and deposition of sediment.

Recently, Flow Science announced an agreement with Complex Flow Design AS, of Trondheim, Norway, for the development and distribution of MassFLOW-3D™, which combines a specialized user interface with the FLOW-3D solver as the engine for the numerical simulations. The user interface is designed to be easy to understand for the typical geologist or geophysicist, who has little or no understanding of CFD.

MassFLOW-3D™ has an intuitive graphical user interface, both for pre- and post-processing of data and offers a very easy way to create paleo-bathymetries from text files. The software models mechanisms of sediment gravity flows and the formation of hydrocarbon reservoirs in deep marine environments. This allows geologists to gain better insight into deep-water sedimentary systems as well helping them reduce risks in making prospect evaluations.

MassFLOW-3D™ software platform for integrated modeling and simulations of sediment gravity flows.

™ software platform for integrated modeling and simulations of sediment gravity flows.

Complex Flow Design has worked on gravity flow projects for large international oil companies for several years. Presentations have been given at FLOW-3D user’s conferences and in industry seminars. Their work proves the methodologies and demonstrates results that can be obtained using MassFLOW-3D. For example, the MassFLOW-3D model approach was used to simulate turbidite deposition in the Ormen Lange field, located offshore of Norway. The basin-floor topography used was the basal surface of the reservoir’s Egga Unit, derived from 3D seismic data combined with back-stripping and decompaction. The aim of the study was to assess the influence of basin-floor topography on the spatial pattern of sediment dispersal by turbidity currents in the Ormen Lange area, assuming a point-source scenario developed by previous researchers. Numerous identical large-scale turbidity currents were run over the topographic surface to monitor their changing velocity fields and sediment dispersal patterns. The results show that turbidity currents are highly sensitive to subtle variations in the seafloor topography and confirm the notion that the Ormen Lange sub-basin was supplied with sediment from a single main source in the southeast (see figure below).   

Realistic deposition of sand in the Ormen Lange sub-basin.
Realistic deposition of sand in the Ormen Lange sub-basin.

Complex Flow Design recently presented and demonstrated MassFLOW-3D™ at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ Annual Convention and Exhibition in Long Beach, CA, from April 22-25, 2012. The product is now available for purchase or lease from Complex Flow Design. Visit their website at www.cfd.no or contact them via email at post@cfd.no.

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