LAB 3 CONTOUR MAPPING

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1 LAB 3 CONTOUR MAPPING Objective Background To learn how to construct contour maps with and without faults. Fundamentals Oil and gas accumulations occur under favorable structural and/or stratigraphic conditions. It is therefore of value to be able to use existing data points to map the structure and hence indicate the potential location for hydrocarbon accumulation. In Figure 1 are just a few examples of oil or gas traps. Figure 1a. Oil accumulated in Domal structure 1

2 Figure 1b. Structural trap resulting from faulting. Figure 1c. Oil accumulation under an unconformity. Figure 1d. Oil accumulation in the vicinity of a piercement-type salt dome. A structure contour is a line of equal elevation drawn on a structural surface; such contours are used to depict the form of the surface. In the simplest case, a structure contour drawn on a planar surface is a straight line and is synonymous with line of strike. On curviplanar surfaces, they appear as curved lines which are everywhere tangent to the strike (See Figure 1a). As an imaginary line connecting points of equal elevation structure contours are partially analogous to topographic contours. The visualization of the features portrayed by both types of contours follows the same rules. In addition, however, structure contours have several unique properties: the surface represented by the contours may overhang, or it may be broken by faults. In certain circumstances it may also be 2

3 useful to use an inclined rather than horizontal datum plane. Structure contours are particularly important in showing the structures where the dip angles are small, and for showing the structure of large areas. The available factual information concerning the configuration of a structural surface usually takes the form of a series of points of known elevation. The construction of a structure contour map from this raw data involves two general steps: interpolation and interpretation. Interpolation The choice of the contour interval depends on the amount of relief present on the surface, the map scale, and on the spacing of the data points and the accuracy of their location and elevation. Intermediate elevation points are then established which correspond to this chosen interval, and tentative contours drawn through them. The location of these intermediate points may be found by eye, especially if only a very few contours must be interpreted, with special devices, or by simple construction. The procedures to contour a map can be taken as follows: 1. Connect three adjacent elevation points with straight lines (for example, points A, B, and C of Figure 2 (a), which are taken from the map of Figure 3 (a). 2. By assuming that these three points define a planar portion of the surface, the location of the intermediate points can be found easily (Figure 2 (b)). Figure 2 Interpolation of intermediate elevation points. a. Draw a line perpendicular to AB, through point B; this established two sides of a right triangle. b. The elevation difference between points A and B is 21 m (= ). Using any convenient scale, draw the hypotenuse of this triangle 21 units long. c. Along this hypotenuse count off the vertical distances to even multiples of the contour Interval. Here the interval is 10 m, so that points 3 and 13 units 3

4 along this line represents 300 and 310 m contours. The location of these points are found by dropping perpendiculars back to line AB. d. Repeat for the two other sides of the triangle ABC, and draw in the tentative contours as straight lines (Figure 2 (a)). These intermediate points and tentative contour segments are only a first approximation of the form of the structural surface. For a curviplanar surface, curvilinear contours must, of course, be used. The next step is to draw these lines. An examination of the map may reveal advantageous places to start drawing, for example, in areas where close spacing of data points gives greater control, or where the steep slopes require a number of contours to be interpolated, or in areas of the highest or lowest elevations. Working in bands curved lines are drawn which agree with the known elevations. In the absence of other information, the contours should be as smooth as possible, and with a spacing which is as nearly equal as possible. In general this will require that the contours do not pass exactly through the interpolated elevations, but this is understandable since the assumption which determined their location is false. The contour patterns should progressively evolve during the work. It will be found that altering the position of one contour line requires that several adjacent ones must also be shifted. The final pattern of this stage of objective contouring is the one which technically accounts for the known elevations, but introduces no features not demanded by them. The map will be easier to read if certain contours are shown with a heavy line, such as every fifth one, and if some or perhaps all are labeled with their value (Figure 3 (b)). Figure 3 Method of contouring. (a) A map showing the elevation data. (b) The contoured equivalent. 4

5 Interpretation A map can be contoured so that all of the technical requirements just described are fully satisfied, yet fail to convey the probable structural conditions. Such a map is shown in A of Figure 4. There are no technical errors in the contouring of this map, but it fails to give a consistent picture of the structure. On the west side of the map, the strike is east and west, but the dip varies from very low in the north to steep in the central portion and back to low in the south. In the central part of the area there is no consistency in the structural features in that contours are pinched together in some places and widely spaced at others. The east side shows a constantly changing dip and strike. Although it is quite possible for such structural conditions to exist, it is not probable. In Figure 4, B shows the same control points contoured in a manner that reveals two plunging anticlinal noses, two synclines, and a well-defined terrace. This sheet was contoured, not to tie the widely separated control points together in the simplest manner, but rather to develop the forms of any geologic structures that might be suggested in the variations in the rate of dip or changes in strike. In other words, this map bears the unmistakable marks of geologic interpretation of the data. A knowledge of the general character and form of structures in the region aids greatly in correctly interpreting the subsurface structure where the well control is sparse. When the character of folding is known, an attempt should be made to contour the scattered points so that the features shown bear out the regional trends or tendencies. Often the subsurface geologist is called upon to construct structure maps where little is known about the regional trends. However, there are usually some clues in the datum elevations themselves. A common but often erroneous assumption is that most of the higher wells are on the highest parts of local structures, and most of the lower ones are on the lowest points of the structures. When starting to contour the subsurface map, it is better not to be too strictly constrained by the few scattered elevations on the sheet. In some places the actual structural elevations probably exceed those of the highest wells and at others are less than those of the lowest wells. As long as the technical requirements of contouring are adhered to, the geologist has considerable license, and he should endeavor to present a consistent and feasible picture. Figure 4, C illustrates the method by which the map, B, in the figure was constructed. A cursory inspection of the datum values of the wells shows that the regional strike is roughly east and west over most of the area. A high rate of dip is shown between elevation 1,500 and 2,100 feet on the west side and 1,650 and 2,040 feet on the east. It is assumed that at these two localities the pairs of wells are aligned somewhere near the direction of full dip, and that from these wells to other nearby ones, where a much lower rate of dip is suggested, the directions are along components of the true dip. Therefore, the contours are drawn in such a way that a consistent rate of dip is maintained. By assuming a northwesterly strike through points 2,100 and 1,500, the points 2,415 and 980 are contoured with negligible variation in either dip or strike. A similar procedure is followed for each locality where the distribution and relative datum elevations of the wells provide the best control on the rate of the dip and the local direction of the strike. These areas are then joined by extending certain contours with values nearest those of 5

6 scattered datum points located between the detailed" areas, as shown by the dashed lines in the figure. These lines form the skeleton of the map, and it is a simple matter to fill in the remaining contours. Figure 4 Comparison of careless (A) and orderly (B) methods of contouring. Contouring Procedures The step-by-step procedure to contouring is given below. 1) Plot and post well data on the location map. 2) Convert all depths to elevations with respect to the chosen datum. 6

7 Datum The datum is the reference point chosen to indicate the subsurface geologic feature of interest. A structural datum uses a constant elevation, typically mean sea level (MSL) as the reference point. This datum is chosen to reflect structural changes in the formation. A stratigraphic datum follows the top of a formation and is selected to illustrate changes in thickness in underlying beds. A schematic of a structural datum is shown in Figure 5. KB DF GL 0 MSL 1000 Figure 5 Schematic of structural datum The subsea depth to a given point is the difference between the measuring point elevation and the measured depth (MD). The measuring point elevation can be from ground level (GL), the derrick floor (DF) or the Kelly bushing (KB). The logging company will indicate on the log header which reference was used for the well. For example, if the KB elevation is 500 ft and the total measured depth is 1000 ft., then the subsea depth is 500 ft. In this first example, the measured depth was equivalent to the true vertical depth (TVD) of the well. However in many cases, either by design or not, the MD is not equal to the TVD. Figure 6 illustrates the problem. A directional survey is required to convert the measured depth to true vertical depth. KB DF GL MSL TVD MD Figure 6 Schematic of a deviated well 7

8 3) Locate the high point (on structure contour maps) or the thickest part of the reservoir (on net pay or isopach maps), block it in, and use that as a reference. 4) From the highest point, draw rays (very lightly and in pencil) from the high point wells to a lower elevation well that is nearby on the flank of the structure (rays should NEVER cross the high part of the structure). 5) Measure the map distance between the two wells and using the difference in elevation between those two points, calculate a map contour factor by dividing the distance into the difference in elevation. You then divide the map factor into the elevation difference between the high point well and the next contour value to locate that contour. 6) Repeat this procedure until the contours are blocked out and you have some idea as to the form of the structure. 7) Sketch in the contours so they are symmetrical about the structure and are smooth. 8) Finally label the contours clearly, erase any stray marks and darken the lines so they are clear and sharp. 8

9 Exercises Well locations and their corresponding elevations are shown in the above map. Contour the map using a 100 ft interval. 9

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