Seeing Into the Past
How can you look thousands of feet below the surface of the earth or see millions of years into the past? Scientists use everything from picks and shovels to high-powered computers to study rock formations deep below the earth's surface in the search for oil and gas. To "see" these formations, scientists use a variety of methods, from studying rocks on the surface to creating 3D computer models of ancient landscapes that now lie buried deep underground. One program that helps create these views into the earth's geologic formations is CyberGeologist*.
The CyberGeologist Research Program
A 3D computer model of an underground gas reservoir showing rock formations in prehistoric rivers. Two point bars (pale pink) have been modelled using information from seismic data measured at the earth's surface (blue and red), and wellbore measurements (grey). Top and bottom of the gas-bearing interval are orange.
This research program, sponsored by Schlumberger and the United States Gas Research Institute, is called CyberGeologist because computers are being used to store and analyze all kinds of data about underground rock formations in order to generate 3D models of them. The scientists work in Connecticut, but their study concerns formations of all ages from all over the world.They study sedimentary rocks as they are being formed in rivers and streams, as well as samples of rocks deep below the surface which were formed millions of years ago. By studying modern formations as they occur, the scientists can better understand the shapes of ancient formations underground. This understanding can then be used to help create more accurate models of oil and gas reservoirs below the surface.One type of sand body which the scientists study is called a point bar. Read on to learn more about how point bars are formed and how understanding them helps scientists "see" below the surface of the earth.