Research Fellows Directory
Dr Jonathan Imber
University of Durham
My research is into the application of geology to improve exploration for, and extraction of hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons occur within buried rock strata known as reservoirs. We cannot see the reservoir directly, so we rely on geological interpretations of seismic reflection profiles to determine their size and shape. Seismic reflection profiles are images of the subsurface produced by sound waves generated at the surface being reflected back from the tops and bases of rock layers where there is a change in rock properties, e.g. density. The challenge, particularly in areas such as the North Sea, is to extract the remaining hydrocarbons that occur in “structurally complex” reservoirs, which are not simple, continuous layers of rock, but are cut by faults, geological structures that allow layers of rock to slide past one another. Slip along faults can bring reservoir rocks on one side of the fault into contact with impermeable (“sealing”) rocks on the other. This process is known as “juxtaposition sealing” and is important in determining whether a fault can seal hydrocarbons within a reservoir. Exploitation of structurally complex reservoirs for hydrocarbons requires accurate knowledge of whether a fault is likely to act as a conduit or seal. A key challenge is to use the geological information contained within seismic reflection profiles more effectively than current practice allows. My research has shown that detailed information on fault geometry and juxtaposition exists within seismic profiles, but is routinely ignored because neither our current knowledge of fault geometry, nor existing software tools used by the hydrocarbon industry to interpret faults using seismic images are sufficient to extract and interpret this information. I am working with two UK companies, Badley Geoscience Ltd (BGL) and Geospatial Research Ltd (GRL), to test, refine and apply a new approach to analysing fault geometry and juxtaposition in a wide range of structurally complex reservoirs.
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