Abundant three-dimensional (3-D)
seismic data from salt provinces have been acquired over the past two decades.
These data have been interpreted partly using concepts based on analysis
of two-dimensional (2-D) sections through physical and numerical models.
Three-dimensional computer visualization of physical models is a recent
development that exploits the full potential of model data by displaying
even highly irregular geological structures such as convolute salt contacts,
strata disrupted by salt tectonics, discontinuous faults, and bedding traces
on fault surfaces.
We used computer visualization techniques
to display and analyze a physical model simulating salt-related structures
produced during gravity spreading and gliding. The visualization shows,
in realistic 3-D detail, that (1) structures change seaward from tall steep-sided
diapirs to squat salt rollers; (2) salt walls change markedly along strike
and form branches and relays; (3) subsidence of underlying salt ridges
produces irregular turtle-structure closures that tend to have multiple
seals; (4) links that laterally connect reservoirs in adjacent rafts are
most common in upper stratigraphic
1997. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.
received November 1, 1995; revised manuscript received March 4, 1996; final
acceptance August 12, 1996.
of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78713.
color 3-D images and digital animations related to this paper are available
free on the Internet at http://www.utexas.edu/
wrote this paper while testing an unreleased version of the program EarthVision®
and working with its creators at Dynamic Graphics Inc. to enhance the technology
for visualizing complex brittle and ductile structures. Dynamic Graphics
Inc., especially Raphael Mayoraz, provided invaluable technical support.
Shing-Tzong Lin provided unpublished cross sections of the physical model
that he created under our supervision. Hongxing Ge digitized the model
data. The research was funded by the following companies in the Applied
Geodynamics Laboratory consortium: Agip, Amoco, Anadarko, ARCO/Vastar,
British Petroleum, Chevron, Conoco/Dupont, Elf Aquitaine, Exxon, Louisiana
Land and Exploration, Marathon, Mobil, Petrobras, Phillips, Statoil, Texaco,
and Total. K. Prewitt and T. Weaver edited the figures. T. Hentz edited
the paper. J. Farre, R. Ray, and B. Blake refereed the paper, which is
published by permission of the director of the Bureau of Economic Geology,
University of Texas at Austin.