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Basin-fill simulation techniques provide scientists in both research and exploration with an important new tool. The researcher obtains a tool for investigating the interaction of the major controls on basin-scale stratigraphy: subsidence, sediment supply, and eustasy. The explorationist gains a tool for better understanding the hydrocarbon potential of an area through integrating data from various sources and testing an interpretation for spatial and temporal consistency. As a result, a researcher or explorationist may be able to refine a basin interpretation to a degree that might not have been possible if he or she had considered only a present-day rendering of the basin.
Basin modeling can be divided into three major categories: structural, stratigraphic, and rock/fluid properties evolution. Structural and stratigraphic modeling can be conducted back through time using backstripping techniques. All three types of modeling can be conducted forward through time using simulation techniques. Several modeling systems combine backstripping procedures, to obtain basin geometries, with forward simulation, to predict rock and fluid properties. Each category of basin modeling has its advantages and limitations. When used together, these techniques complement one another.
In this paper, we illustrate the benefits of combining stratigraphic modeling techniques by presenting a research-oriented case study involving the Neogene sediments of the Baltimore Canyon Trough, offshore New Jersey. We designed this case study to evaluate several published sea level curves. Stratigraphic backstripping and simulation techniques were used to model a dip-oriented cross section for which present-day stratigraphy is well documented. Each sea level curve was used in a separate modeling run. Comparing presently accepted and modeled stratigraphic patterns allowed us to draw conclusions about the different eustatic curves. In the final section, we present several ways in which basin-fill simulation can address exploration problems.
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