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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 86, No. 5 (May 2002), P. 797-822.

Copyright ©2002. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Reservoir simulations developed from an outcrop of incised valley fill strata

Karl D. Stephen,1 Mark Dalrymple2

1Department of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH14 4AS; email: [email protected]
2Department of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH14 4AS; email: [email protected]


Karl Stephen possesses a B.Sc. (hons) degree in physics (1987) from Aberdeen University and a Ph.D. in theoretical and computational physics (1991) from Strathclyde University, United Kingdom. He joined the Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh, and modeled the transport of groundwater solutes and gases. In 1996, Karl joined Heriot-Watt University, where he is now a senior research associate researching flow simulation, upscaling, uncertainty, and geological modeling.

Mark Dalrymple gained his first degree from the University of Glasgow. An M.Sc. degree in petroleum geology and a Ph.D. in reservoir sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy from the University of Aberdeen (1997) followed. He completed a three-year postdoctoral study at Heriot-Watt University that involved the quantification of large-scale outcrop analogs for the purposes of reservoir modeling and simulation. Mark worked for Alastair Beach Associates for one year before joining Hurricane Hydrocarbons Ltd., where he works as an exploration geologist.


We would like to acknowledge the financial support of the following sponsors of one or both of the Genetic Units Project Fluvial Module and the Heterogeneity Project at Heriot-Watt University: Amerada Hess, BG, BP-Amoco, Chevron, Conoco, Deminex (now Veba), the United Kingdom Department for Trade and Industry (UK DTI), Elf, Esso, Exxon, Fina, Mobil, PanCanadian, Petrobras, PetroCanada, Phillips, Shell, Statoil, Talisman, and Total Oil Marine. Sponsors are also thanked for permission to publish these results. Schlumberger GeoQuest are thanked for use of the ECLIPSE simulator. The image analysis software used in the processing and measuring of data from outcrop photomosaics is freely available from the National Institute for Health (NIH) Scion Web site at <http://rsb.info.nih.gov/nih-image/>. C. Forster, Bryce McKee, Gordon Moir, and Chris White are thanked for their useful comments in the review of this article.


The principal aim of reservoir simulation of this study at outcrop is to quantify the impact that lithological heterogeneity on a scale of one to hundreds of meters has on the production of hydrocarbons from incised valley fill reservoirs. Excellent exposure of an incised valley fill unit in the Kaiparowits Plateau region of southern Utah has enabled high-resolution interpretations of the lithofacies distributions to be adapted as two-dimensional flow simulations. The outcrop section through incised valley fill strata is oriented approximately perpendicular to paleoflow and is above the A sandstone sequence boundary within the Cretaceous Straight Cliffs Formation. The lithofacies, identified as shale, heterolithics, and sand bodies with bounding surfaces, give rise to heterogeneity, predominantly in the vertical direction. The direction of least variability is horizontal and parallel to the paleocurrent.

Petrophysical properties of the lithofacies have been varied by altering the flow properties, thus generating different scenarios and realizations for comparison. This allows the impact of each rock type on the fluid-flow simulation to be quantified. Our simulation results indicate that for linear drive, where horizontal flow is induced by an injector-producer pair, the distributions of zero- and low-permeability shale and heterolithic bodies only affect flow significantly if sand body properties vary significantly. For vertical flow, however, these lithological units strongly affect the flow because of their effects on flow-path tortuousity. Our simulations show that horizontal well placement, parallel to the paleocurrent (i.e., in the direction of least variability), offers the best sweep efficiency, although the well location must be optimized.

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