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Fundamental controls on fluid flow in carbonates:

current workflows to emerging technologies

ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company, PO Box 2189, Houston, TX 77252-2189, USA


Present address: Aramco Research Center, 16300 Park Row,

Houston, TX 77084, USA

Institute of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK

*Corresponding author (e-mail:
Abstract: The introduction reviews topics relevant to the fundamental controls on fluid flow in
carbonate reservoirs and to the prediction of reservoir performance. The review provides research
and industry contexts for papers in this volume only. A discussion of global context and frameworks emphasizes the value yet to be captured from compare and contrast studies. Multidisciplinary efforts highlight the importance of greater integration of sedimentology, diagenesis and
structural geology. Developments in analytical and experimental methods, stimulated by advances
in the materials sciences, support new insights into fundamental (pore-scale) processes in carbonate rocks. Subsurface imaging methods relevant to the delineation of heterogeneities in carbonates
highlight techniques that serve to decrease the gap between seismically resolvable features and
well-scale measurements. Methods to fuse geological information across scales are advancing
through multiscale integration and proxies. A surge in computational power over the last two
decades has been accompanied by developments in computational methods and algorithms. Developments related to visualization and data interaction support stronger geoscienceengineering collaborations. High-resolution and real-time monitoring of the subsurface are driving novel sensing
capabilities and growing interest in data mining and analytics. Together, these offer an exciting
opportunity to learn more about the fundamental fluid-flow processes in carbonate reservoirs at
the interwell scale.

This Special Publication grew from numerous

discussions related to a joint AAPG SPE SEG
Hedberg Conference in July 2012 at Saint-Cyr sur
Mer, France (Agar et al. 2013), and manuscripts
were submitted 1218 months after the conference.
While these papers represent only a small proportion of many strong conference contributions,
they span several active research areas related to
flow prediction in carbonate reservoirs. Here, we
do not attempt a comprehensive review of all
research areas related to carbonate reservoirs but
discuss the themes represented by the papers in
this volume in an industry context, considering the
broad challenges addressed as well as the relevant
advances. Much of the science and technology
discussed here can also be applied to other conventional and unconventional reservoir types but our
primary aim is to highlight recent applications in
the domain of carbonate reservoirs in a manner
that is useful to non-specialists. To capture recent
developments from industry as well as academia,
we include references to extended abstracts from
industry conferences. In many cases, these publications are likely to be the only record of a case

study or technology development. While we recognize that these papers may lack the scientific and
technical rigour of a peer-reviewed manuscript,
we feel that their inclusion is justified to represent
evolving frontiers in fields that are relevant to carbonate reservoirs. Related and complementary perspectives can be found in Geological Society
Special Publications and related journals (e.g. van
Buchem et al. 2010; Hollis 2011; Garland et al.
2012; Agar & Hampson 2014).
At a time when unconventional reservoirs are
attracting much attention, discussions at the Hedberg Conference reinforced that there remains much
exciting and important research to pursue in the
realm of carbonates. Some of the most significant
advances are now emerging from a growth in multidisciplinary research efforts (and, perhaps, a shift in
the population of geoscientists to develop more
hybridized skill sets). As history shows, however,
new knowledge to support efficient production from
carbonate reservoirs is likely to emerge from interactions not only between different geoscience disciplines but at the interfaces with other fields, such
as materials science, fundamental physics and

From: Agar, S. M. & Geiger, S. (eds) 2015. Fundamental Controls on Fluid Flow in Carbonates: Current
Workflows to Emerging Technologies. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 406, 1 59.
First published online November 12, 2014,
# The Geological Society of London 2015. Publishing disclaimer:

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chemistry, biotechnology, applied mathematics, and

computational sciences. For this reason, scientists
from fields outside the traditional domains of geoscience were invited to the Hedberg Conference
with a view to discussing and formulating novel
joint ventures. To reinforce the multidisciplinary
approach, this introduction is organized to reflect
thematic areas that cut across multiple disciplines
(Table 1). Topics covered in this volume include
geophysics, structural geology, pore-scale processes, reactive transport modelling, geological
modelling visualization and reservoir simulation.
Accordingly, we start with examples that illustrate
the value of global context and multidisciplinary
studies. We then discuss advances in analytical
and experimental methods. This section is followed
by a discussion of advances in subsurface imaging
and sensing methods. We then discuss inputs into
models and the representation of multiscale data
as a challenge common to multiple geoscience disciplines. A discussion of modelling techniques is
then followed by a discussion of monitoring on production timescales or in real time.

Global context and frameworks

Background and challenges
One of the key challenges for translating academic
geoscience research into industry applications is
the need to place information and insights from
independent studies into a relevant framework or
global context. For decades, geoscientists have
captured detailed data and interpretations from outcrops, complemented by various theoretical, analytical and modelling studies. But much of this
work remains untapped by industry because it has
yet to be integrated into a form that provides
readily available, generic insights for subsurface
scenarios. While carbonate sedimentology and stratigraphy have been developed in local, regional and
global contexts (Insalaco et al. 2000; Markello
et al. 2008; Garland et al. 2012), greater integration
of this information into a post-depositional framework offers further uplift. We believe that there
remain significant opportunities to develop similar
frameworks for diagenesis and deformation. By
global context, we do not simply mean tectonic
setting or depositional environment but, rather,
a more sophisticated examination of the multiple,
interacting factors that impact reservoir quality,
flow behaviours and recovery processes (Fig. 1).
Stratigraphic, diagenetic and structural elements in
a carbonate reservoir are commonly evaluated in the
context of separate disciplines. Such approaches can
obscure the importance of understanding how these
different elements interact in the subsurface and

influence styles of flow and recovery behaviours

(flow/recovery types) for given reservoir conditions, fluid types and well scenarios. Knowledge
of the frameworks and evolutionary patterns that
give rise to distinct geological combinations can
provide early insights into the nature of distinct
flow domains in the subsurface. Static and
dynamic domains defined by separate model components can be radically different from those
defined by a knowledge of: (a) the combined
impacts of geological elements on flow in a given
region v. their effects modelled separately and
coupled across different grids; and (b) the significance of knowing the relative impacts of geological
elements on flow at different scales (in a given combination) and to determine which ones matter. There
is certainly value in individual studies, such as
in-depth investigations of carbonate fault zones
(Ferrill et al. 2011), studies of mechanisms, environment and timing related to fracture populations
(Amrouch et al. 2010; Jeanne et al. 2012), and constraints on reservoir architecture, physical properties and fluid systems (Hausegger et al. 2010;
Wolf et al. 2012) that yield valuable insights into
processes and location-specific factors. Similarly,
the last few years have seen a continuing publication
of diagenetic studies in outcrops (Lopez-Horgue
et al. 2010; Maliva et al. 2011; Palermo et al.
2012) as well as in the subsurface (Morad et al.
2012; Machel 2010). However, as recognized at
the Hedberg Conference, advances in these scientific areas could benefit substantially from broader,
coordinated community efforts in a manner similar
to large integrated studies such as the Genome Project (Abecasis et al. 2010).
Comparisons of myriad investigations performed independently on local outcrops can, in the
right circumstances, offer insights far beyond those
gained through isolated studies. Given the challenges of (geological) model validation based on
limited access to subsurface data, regional-scale
insights can strengthen capabilities to link outcrop
observations to inferences for the subsurface. Such
approaches can strengthen early reservoir distribution and quality predictions during exploration
phases, and, together with production data, may
offer paradigm shifts for the evaluation of carbonate reservoirs. Comparative studies can further promote the identification of processes or associations
common to given geological settings and/or histories that support the development of algorithms
for deformation or diagenetic modelling tools.
Even if they do not provide tight constraints, they
can help to reduce uncertainty, particularly if flow
simulation studies are combined with classical
outcrop analogue studies. We note, however, that
comparative studies are limited by the wide variety
of data acquisition methods, as well as by the levels

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of detail. While rigorous direct comparisons of datasets from different outcrops or subsurface assets are
unrealistic, value still resides in a broader community effort to interpret the signals from integrated
academic and industry legacy data. From a
broader perspective, many advances now sought
by industry may require wider access to industry
datasets for academic researchers.

Selected advances
Regional perspectives on diagenesis. In recent
years, there have been several attempts to develop
a broader perception of the systems that drive diagenesis and to explore common diagenetic themes
within given geographical regions (van Buchem
et al. 2010; Machel 2010; Coimbra & Oloriz
2012; Wilson et al. 2013). Wilson (2012) promoted
an Earth Systems approach, identifying common
environmental, sedimentological and diagenetic
factors as a means of identifying equatorial carbonate systems. In this volume, Li et al. (2014) provide
a preliminary demonstration of the value of comparative studies based on their analysis of the La
Molata outcrop, southern Spain. Their initial comparisons of the geological and hydrological settings
and isotopic data for this location with those for the
Nijar and Mallorca platforms (similar age, located
on same isotopic trend) offer novel perspectives
for regional controls on trends in dolomitization.
Through these comparisons, they are able to support
broader applicability for their ascending freshwater mesohaline mixing model across the region,
while discounting the significance of basement
rockfreshwater interactions during dolomitization.
Predicting reservoir quality and reservoir processes
using reactive transport modelling. Reactive transport modelling (RTM) is now a well-established
tool to study how the flow and transport of chemically reactive fluids alter porosity and permeability
(cf. Steefel et al. 2005). Although truly quantitative predictions using RTM are still difficult to
achieve (e.g. Katz et al. 2011), compare and contrast studies allow us to link depositional environments and climate variations to patterns of early
diagenesis (Whitaker & Xiao 2010; Whitaker
et al. 2014) or to quantify how strata and structures
around three-dimensional (3D) faults influence
resulting patterns of dolomite geobody characteristics (Corbella et al. 2014; Gomez-Rivas et al.
2014). The outcome of RTM models can then
guide the modelling of geobodies, porosity and
permeability evolution in between wells, ensuring
that the static geological model is self-consistent.
Similarly, RTM can be used to analyse and interpret how Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) processes
can impact reservoir quality during production

timescales (e.g. Wilkinson et al. 2010; Stewart

et al. 2013; Teletzke & Lu 2013).
Insights to deformation through compare and contrast studies. Comparative studies of deformation
in carbonate reservoirs or outcrop analogues appear
to be less common. On a regional scale, Fitz-Diaz
et al. (2011) examined the influence of carbonate
lithologies and their distributions on first-order
structural styles and the degree of penetrative deformation within thrust sheets, extending the earlier
work by Spratt et al. (2004). Following examples
such as that of Mannino et al. (2010), we perceive
further opportunities to integrate numerous studies
of carbonate outcrops in central southern Italy
(e.g. Agosta et al. 2010; Cilona et al. 2012; Petrachinni et al. 2013; Antonellini et al. 2014). In this
volume, Welch et al. (2014) compare fault and fracture systems in two distinct chalk outcrops. Their
approach offers a refreshing change in the pursuit
of a more broadly applicable framework for fracture
prediction. Instead of looking for intriguing features or special cases, they seek characteristics that
may be applicable to other geological situations
around the globe.
Dynamic simulations across multiple scales. Understanding and quantifying how multiscale geological
structures in carbonates impact flow behaviours,
displacement efficiency and residual oil saturation
under different production scenarios and fluid properties remains an outstanding challenge. In recent
years, new modelling and simulation techniques
have emerged that enable us to study these effects
from the pore scale up to the outcrop and interwell scale by comparing and contrasting different
types of geological structures, fluid properties and
well placements (e.g. Al-Kharusi & Blunt 2008;
Agar et al. 2010; Jackson et al. 2013a, b; Agada
et al. 2014; Geiger & Matthai 2014). The outcome
of these simulation experiments offers new ways
to interpret and quantify the large number of more
traditional laboratory and field-based geological
studies. Considering that there is a wealth of geological (analogue) data available for carbonate
reservoirs, a concerted effort of such simulation
studies could eventually lead to a database or catalogue that links generic flow behaviours to certain
geological structures and, therefore, allows us to
understand the relative impacts of geological elements on flow at different scales. Such a database
would have multiple practical applications for the
industry, including providing new guidelines for
robust upscaling of static carbonate reservoir
models to dynamic reservoir simulation models,
steering the interpretation of dynamic production
data or assisting in forecasting future reservoir


Selected advances

Workflows, tools and techniques included

Reference to papers in this volume

Regional perspectives on diagenesis

Reservoir quality, processes from RTM
Insights to deformation
through comparisons
Dynamic simulations across
multiple scales

Frameworks for global perspectives

and patterns
Compare and contrast outcrop/
modelling studies
Generic flow behaviours, flow
simlations, RTM

Li et al. (2014); Welch et al. (2014)


Diagenesis and deformation

Sedimentation and deformation
Reservoir modelling and
outcrop studies

Integrated outcrop studies

and modelling
LiDAR, hyperspectral imaging
Real-time data analysis on outcrops

Cantrell et al. (2014); Sousa et al. (2014)

Insights into fundamental


Pore-scale imaging technologies

Experimental methods for
reservoir characterization
Rock physics
Novel experiments

High-resolution 3D X-ray CT
Analysis of competing
chemical mechanical processes
Rock typing, diagenetic backstrippng
NMR, DIC, time-lapse analysis
of microcracks

Chandra et al. (2014); Healy et al.

(2014); Hebert et al. (2014); Hiemstra
& Goldstein (2014); Levenson et al.
(2014); Li et al. (2014); Pal et al.
(2014); Ramaker et al. (2014);
Skalinski & Kenter (2014); Vanorio
et al. (2014)

Subsurface imaging

Seismic acquisition methods

Seismic attributes
Forward seismic modelling of
diagenetic overprints
Seismic anisotropy

WAZ, FAZ, FWI, broadband

Diffraction imaging,
scattering, inversion
Various attribute
algorithms, workflows
Forward seismic modelling
of diagenesis
Seismic anisotropy and wave guides

Astratti et al. (2014); Gibson & Gao

(2014); Shao et al. (2014)


Global context and


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Table 1. Organization of this introductory article listing the selected research and technology advances discussed and related workflows tools and techniques

Upscaling methods and uncertainty

Outcrop modelling, data
acquisition, drones
Numerical flow-simulation
Multiscale proxies
Multiscale upscaling methods

Cantrell et al. (2014); Chandra et al.

(2014); Healy et al. (2014); Hebert
et al. (2014); Hiemstra & Goldstein
(2014); Li et al. (2014); Ramaker et al.
(2014); Welch et al. (2014)

Modelling tools

Pore-scale simulations
Computational methods
unstructured grids
DFM modelling
Parallel computing and
adaptive gridding
Reactive transport,
geomechanical modelling
Visualization and interaction

Computational methods for pore- to

field-scale simulations
Fracture-flow simulations
3D printing

Chandra et al. (2014); Sousa et al.

(2014); Li et al. (2014); Hebert et al.
(2014); Hiemstra & Goldstein (2014);
Pal et al. (2014); Ramaker et al.
(2014); Prodanovic et al. (2014);
Welch et al. (2014)

Monitoring in real time or

on production

Data mining and real-time

data analytics
Dynamic behaviour of
structural features
RTM on production timescales
Time-lapse seismic

Astratti et al. (2014); Sousa et al. (2014);

Li et al. (2014); Vanorio et al. (2014)

History matching, RTM

Data mining, sensors, AI
Time-lapse GPR, SP, EM
Underground laboratories

AFM, Atomic Force Microscopy; AI, Artificial Intelligence; CT, Computed Tomography; DFM, Discrete Fracture Matrix; DIC, Digital Image Correlation; EM, Electromagnetic Monitoring; FAZ, Full
Azimuth; FWI, Full Waveform Inversion; GPR, Ground Penetrating Radar; LiDAR, Light Detection And Ranging; NMR, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance; RTM, Reactive Transport Modelling; SBIM, Sketchbased Interface Modelling; SP, Spontaneous Potential; TFI, Tomographic Fracture Imaging; WAZ, Wide Azimuth.

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Incorporating fine-scale structures in

reservoir characterization
Multiscale geological impacts on flow
Upscaling methods
Scaling relationships in deformed
carbonate rocks


Multiscale representations
and proxies

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Fig. 1. Stratigraphic, diagenetic and structural elements in a carbonate reservoir are commonly evaluated in the context
of separate disciplines. Such approaches can obscure the importance of understanding how these different elements
interact in the subsurface and influence styles of flow/recovery behaviours (flow/recovery types) for given reservoir
conditions, and for fluid and well scenarios. The left-hand column shows schematic representations of natural patterns
or geometries in rocks created by sedimentological, diagenetic and structural processes. The upper centre diagram
shows schematic combinations of these products. Each geological type combines sedimentological, diagenetic and
structural elements, reflecting a domain or subdomain for a given carbonate reservoir setting (defined by the cube
schematically representing static parameters on the RHS). The lower centre diagram schematically represents the
translation of the geological combinations into distinct types or domains of flow behaviours. In some cases, the
geological combinations will differentiate the flow behaviour, while, in other cases, the geological details may not have
that much impact. Knowledge of the frameworks and evolutionary patterns that give rise to distinct geological
combinations can provide early insights into the nature of distinct flow domains in the subsurface. Static and dynamic
domains defined by separate model components can be radically different from those defined by a knowledge of: (a) the
combined impacts of geological elements on flow in a given region v. their effects modelled separately and coupled
across different grids; and (b) the significance of knowing the relative impacts of geological elements on flow at
different scales (i.e. in a given combination, which ones matter and at what scale?).

All of the developments outlined can support

stronger integrative frameworks that lead to broader
perspectives on the patterns of geological characteristics and reservoir performance around the globe.
We argue that such perspectives are key to opening
new avenues of research (new hypotheses to test)
and vital to avoiding entrenchment so commonly
rooted in isolated outcrop or reservoir studies.

Multidisciplinary approaches
Background and challenges
There remain significant opportunities to strengthen
multidisciplinary integration. For example, stronger

collaborations between those who study fracture

populations in nature and those who develop
models of their acoustic signatures have spurred
the development of more sophisticated capabilities
to interpret the geological significance of seismic
anisotropy (Far et al. 2013). Similarly, studies that
integrate the geochemistry, diagenesis and lowtemperature deformation of carbonate rocks were
relatively sparse until the last decade. There remain
numerous further opportunities to integrate the role
of syndepositional faulting and the evolution of
fault systems into an understanding of reservoir
location, geometry, facies variations and transport
routes (Quiquerez et al. 2013; Wu et al. 2014). In the
context of this Special Publication, a significant

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area for integration is that between studies of static

records of geology and a dynamic understanding
of the reservoir. There is still much that could
be done within university curricula and industry
training to develop geoscientists who are comfortable crossing the geoscience reservoir engineering divide. A common language that strengthens
communication between engineering and geoscience, while avoiding jargon, would help. Language
can also pose barriers in academic industry
relationships. Industry practitioners may dismiss
efforts by academics because results are not framed
in a way that supports translation to the business

Selected advances
Diagenesis and deformation. In terms of crossdisciplinary advances, a leading area of activity
has been that of structural diagenesis. Coined by
Laubach et al. (2010), it represents an attempt to
understand the links between deformation and diagenetic processes and offers potential advances for
modelling open, partially or fully cemented fractures in fracture-flow simulations. Several studies
have now documented the interactions of brittle
failure with fluid rock interactions in carbonates:
by examining the relationships between fracture
opening rates and the style and extent of cementation, Gale et al. (2010) provided insights into
mechanisms of fracture porosity and permeability
evolution in carbonate reservoirs. A new look at
the way that early-stage fractures may form and
seal integrates studies of fluid flow, evaporation,
vapour transport and the localization of mineral
precipitation with the microfracture network geometry (Noiriel et al. 2010). Investigations of deformation bands in a carbonate grainstone further
highlight the influence of syndeformation cementation on changes in deformation mechanisms (Rath
et al. 2011). Others have explored the links between
facies, diagenesis and fracturing as a means to
strengthen frameworks for fracture-intensity prediction (Ortega et al. 2010). On a larger scale, studies of fault-associated dolomitization have also
expanded (Riva & Di Cuia 2013); although Vandeginste et al. (2012) provided a reality check, noting the challenges of interpreting complex fluid
flow and structural histories in carbonates in a
foreland fold-and-thrust belt. A related novel study
of injected fluids and their influence on fractures
highlights the importance of understanding the
impact of high-temperature fluids on deformation
mechanisms over production timescales (Zadjali &
Mohammed 2011). All of these studies are blurring
the boundaries between rock deformation, diagenesis and geochemistry, and all of these fields are
benefitting as a result.

Sedimentation and deformation. As a link between

carbonate sedimentology and structural geology,
the influence of syndepositional deformation on
carbonate reservoir geometries and qualities continues to receive attention with a view to predicting
reservoir potential, properties and flow behaviour
(Katz et al. 2010; Quiquerez et al. 2013). In the
Guadalupe Mountains, geomechanical modelling
has been used to investigate the interplay of synsedimentary deformation in the progradation of a
steep-sloped carbonate margin (Resor & Flodin
2010). In the same area, Frost et al. (2012) demonstrated how syndepositional fracturing has not only
influenced depositional patterns and stratal architecture but also the flow paths of early dolomitizing fluids. Studies of near-surface, normal faulting
in chalk provide novel insights into the pressure
solution fracturing interactions that control the distribution of distinct permeability zones around a
fault plane (Richard & Sizun 2011). Seismic-scale
investigations document remarkable examples of
tall collapse structures in a carbonate platform (Sun
et al. 2013) and are complemented by studies of
outcrop examples of sinkhole-related deformation
in a shallow-marine environment (Moretti et al.
2011). Studies of modern carbonate platforms are
providing insights into the coupling between platform developments and fault-system evolution (Lu
et al. 2013; Wu et al. 2014), while tighter integration
of sedimentology, structure and geophysics continues to advance new play concepts (Gao 2012).
Together, such investigations are developing a
more sophisticated approach to the prediction of
variations in carbonate reservoir locations, geometries and quality.
Reservoir modelling and outcrop studies. A further
example of multidisciplinary research involves the
development of reservoir analogue models from
outcrop studies and their subsequent use in numerical flow-simulation experiments. In this approach,
structural and architectural elements observed in
the outcrop are used as templates for a subsurface
reservoir, while petrophysical properties (e.g. permeability, porosity, relative permeability and capillary pressures) are substituted from actual reservoir
data. Numerical flow-simulation experiments can be
used to test how structural features and reservoir
architectures that are representative for a certain
reservoir type impact flow behaviours and recovery
processes (e.g. Agar et al. 2010; Agada & Geiger
2013, 2014; Agada et al. 2014; Fitch et al. 2014;
Geiger & Matthai 2014; Shekhar et al. 2014; Whitaker et al. 2014). The combination of outcrop analogue models and flow-simulation experiments
involves little additional cost given that the fieldwork to collect outcrop data is usually the most
time-consuming step. Such an approach will have

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Fig. 2. (a) Application of conventional digital images and hyperspectral imaging to the wall of the Pozalagua Quarry,
Cantabria, Spain (from Buckley et al. 2013, fig. 6). (i) Conventional digital image. (ii) Image classification used to
highlight different dolomite types. (iii) Image classification used to highlight organic-rich limestone bodies using
hyperspectral imaging (see the key for rock types). Original figure provided by S. Buckley. (b) Examples of LiDAR data
that support the translation of outcrop data into reservoir simulations. (i) Textured (photographic overlay) LiDAR
surfaces of Jurassic carbonates from a location near the village of Amellago, Morocco. LiDAR data acquired and
processed by Gilan Survey. The LiDAR data were acquired from various vantage points in the area and compiled to

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strong pedagogical value. It enables geoscientists

and reservoir engineers to develop a mutual understanding of how geological features impact recovery
processes. In turn, the resulting knowledge integration will help to focus on the characterization
of those geological features that are first-order controls on flow. Given the wealth of outcrop studies
for carbonate reservoirs, their future use in flow
simulations can support the creation of a database
of generic flow behaviours for typical carbonate
reservoirs. Such a database can be readily leveraged
using efficient techniques to set up and analyse
simulation studies. These techniques include the
design of experiments and novel multiscale visualization techniques that enable the fusion and
blending of different data sources (e.g. LiDAR (light
detection and ranging), petrophysical models and
saturation distributions) for multiple geological
models (Sousa et al. 2014) (Fig. 2). Results from
such interdisciplinary studies will not necessarily
tighten constraints on uncertainty in the subsurface but they can certainly provide better guidelines
and early predictions during exploration phases.
Ultimately, they may offer paradigm shifts for risk
evaluation in carbonate reservoirs.
In the future, one might envisage a Google
glass-type device that feeds live observations from
geoscience interpreters on the outcrop, perhaps with
a view to training (even in the form of a game) or
capturing opinions from the crowd. Over the last
decade, each year has delivered bolder versions of
outcrop virtual reality (Buckley et al. 2013; AhmadZamri et al. 2014), supporting experience on the
outcrop with very high-resolution LiDAR imaging
and fly-throughs back at the office. Such models
commonly surprise geoscientists in the different
perspectives they deliver for outcrop images: for
example, revealing previously unseen faults and
3D relationships not visible from the ground. The
future offers augmented realities by which the geoscientist automatically receives related geodetic
data or satellite image analyses superimposed live
on the actual outcrop or by which the seismic interpreter might gain real-time, geological knowledge
of the rock layers underpinning the seismic traces.
Similarly, results from related flow-simulation studies or digital rock physics could be fused with the
outcrop data in a virtual reality.

Insights into fundamental processes

via advances in analytical and
experimental methods
Background and challenge
The geosciences are benefitting from the many
recent, rapid advances in materials science that are
underpinning a near-revolution in technology developments and manufacturing, such as improvements
in 3D X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) or 3D
printing of materials with embedded sensors (Bogue
2013; Xu et al. 2014). Related developments in
analytical techniques and advances in measurement
capabilities may offer new opportunities for detecting and quantifying rock properties, diagenesis and
fluid distributions in the subsurface. Merged technologies may further support faster and betterintegrated analyses of the types of data represented
in this volume (e.g. isotopes, petrography and image
Such advances have much to contribute to an
understanding of the macroscopic properties (e.g.
porosity, permeability, capillary pressure and acoustic properties) that quantify flow and transport
through reservoir rocks, and ultimately reservoir
quality. These properties emerge from the chemical
and physical interactions of fluids with each other,
and between the fluids and minerals comprising
the rock matrix. These interactions occur at the
scale of individual pores in the rock (e.g. adsorption
of a chemical component dissolved in the brine
phase onto a mineral surface) and even at smaller
scales (e.g. molecular diffusion across the interface between two fluid phases). Averaging these
chemical and physical interactions over a rock
volume that contains tens to hundreds of thousands
of pores yields the macroscopic (also called Darcyscale) properties (e.g. porosity, permeability and
empirical correlations describing their changes).
These properties are used to model and quantify
the static and dynamic processes in the reservoir at
the field scale.
The network of connected pores in carbonate
rocks is susceptible to chemical and mechanical
changes over geological (e.g. diagenesis) and production (e.g. mineral-scale formation) timescales.
Changes in the properties of the pore network in a

Fig. 2. (Continued) generate a 3D image viewable from all angles. White lines represent the locations of logged
sections and coloured dots represent tracks along horizons in the 3D model (from Amour et al. 2013, fig. 10). (ii) &
(iii) LiDAR images of the Frogs Point wall a few kilometres from the location in (i) (Agar et al. 2010). The cliff in
(ii) is approximately 300 m long. The grey surface was generated from points acquired during LiDAR acquisition. The
brown zone represents an area where an image of the rock texture has been draped over the LiDAR-generated
morphology. The image in (iii) shows a close up of the same location revealing the high-resolution delineation of
individual fractures and fine strata in the grey LiDAR surface. In some examples, the LiDAR resolution is sufficiently
high to delineate individual stylolites.

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carbonate rock for example, when pore throats

widen as reactive fluids flow through the rock
will inevitably change the rocks macroscopic properties, and so alter flow behaviours and reservoir
quality. A challenge in carbonate reservoir characterization is to develop robust material laws that
support the quantification of reservoir property
evolution over both geological and production timescales. Such laws can link property changes to the
emergent sedimentary, diagenetic and structural
textures observed in the reservoir.
Robust material laws can have far-reaching
consequences. They could be used in reactive transport modelling (RTM) studies of diagenetic events
to predict reservoir quality away from wells. RTM
is increasingly used to analyse the evolution of
reservoir quality in an attempt to predict porosity
and permeability away from wells (e.g. Jones &
Xiao 2006, 2013; Whitaker & Xiao 2010; Xiao
et al. 2013; Corbella et al. 2014; Pal et al. 2014),
adding value to studies that constrain porosity evolution using geological and geochemical techniques
(Ramaker et al. 2014; Hiemstra & Goldstein
2014; Li et al. 2014). Yet, comparisons between
well-calibrated laboratory experiments and numerical simulations in carbonate rocks have shown that
RTM is able to match experimental observations
at best qualitatively (Katz et al. 2011). This is due
to our incomplete understanding as to how the fundamental chemical and physical interactions that
occur at the pore scale should be quantified and
upscaled to formulate more reliable macroscopic
material laws.
Understanding how porosity and permeability
evolve during diagenesis is directly relevant to
reservoir rock typing. A wide range of rock-typing
methods has been proposed for carbonate reservoirs
(e.g. Lucia 1999; Gomes et al. 2008; Hollis et al.
2010; Xu et al. 2012; Kazemi et al. 2012; van der
Land et al. 2013; Chandra et al. 2014; Skalinski
& Kenter 2014). However, these methods are commonly more oriented towards practical industry
workflows, such as defining empirical porosity
permeability transforms that translate porosities
measured at the wireline scale to permeability
values in reservoir models. Usually rock typing is
not based on a sound understanding of how the
pore space of a carbonate rock evolves as reactive
fluids flow through it.
Applications of porosity and permeability evolution during reactive transport at production timescales include acid stimulation (e.g. Davies &
Kelkar 2007) and mineral-scale formation (e.g.
Sorbie & Mackay 2000). EOR technologies also
rely on the chemical interaction between fluid
phases. These include: polymer flooding, in which
the viscosity of the injected fluid increases (cf.
Sorbie 1991); surfactant injection to change the

interfacial tension between the reservoirs fluid

phases (cf. Lake 1996); steam injection to reduce
the viscosity of (ultra)-heavy oil and bitumen (e.g.
Naderi et al. 2013); or (miscible) water-alternating
gas injection that increases microscopic and macroscopic sweep (e.g. Christensen et al. 2001). Other
EOR methods aim to trigger fluid rock interactions
that cause a wettability alteration of the reservoir
rock, from oil-wet to water-wet, liberating additional oil (e.g. Gupta & Mohanty 2011; Mohan
et al. 2011). One example of this alteration is
controlled-salinity water flooding, in which chemi2+
and Ca2+ dissolved
cal species such as SO22
4 , Mg
in the brine phase interact with the surface of
carbonate minerals. The interaction is thought to
change wettability (e.g. Austad et al. 2008; Gupta
et al. 2011; Yousef et al. 2011; Romanuka et al.
2012; Chandrasekha & Mohanty 2013). All of
these processes represent chemical and physical
interactions between fluid phases and fluid and
solid phases that drive improvements in hydrocarbon recovery from carbonate rocks. Hence, the
need for robust material laws that upscale the relevant pore-scale processes to the Darcy scale.

Selected advances
Over the last decade, many analytical and experimental advances have found routes to geoscience
applications relevant to carbonate reservoirs.
High-resolution micro X-ray computed tomography
(X-ray CT). X-ray CT has enabled the observation
of fluid fluid and fluid rock interactions in carbonate rocks at the pore scale. While this technology has
been applied to carbonate reservoir characterization
for several years and faces challenges in carbonates
owing to their multiporosity nature (Remeysen &
Swennen 2008), recent progress now supports the
visualization and quantification of in situ fluid distributions at reservoir conditions in heterogeneous
3D reservoir rocks at the pore scale (Blunt et al.
2013; Wildenschild & Sheppard 2013) and the realtime visualization of 3D fluid-displacement processes at the pore scale using synchrotron-based
X-ray CT (Berg et al. 2013). Direct observations
of the fundamental pore-scale flow and transport
processes in carbonate reservoir rocks offer new
insights into porosity, permeability and wettability
evolution. A variety of techniques exist to numerically simulate flow, transport and chemical reactions through the 3D pore space of reservoir rocks
(cf. Meakin & Tartakovsky 2009). Combining
observations from X-ray CT laboratory experiments
with numerical simulations of reactive flow and
transport at the pore scale will enable the development of new material laws for carbonate rocks
based on first principles.

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Porosity and permeability evolution in carbonates has been quantified with X-ray CT. It is well
known that pore-size distributions impact the rate
of chemical reactions in sedimentary rocks owing
to the differences in available reactive surface
area (Emmanuel & Berkowitz 2007; Emmanuel &
Ague 2009). It is, therefore, critical to quantify
how the topology of reactive surface area evolves
during fluid rock interactions and how this evolution impacts reaction rates (e.g. Noiriel et al.
2009, 2010, 2012). Using X-ray CT, Luquot &
Gouze (2009) and Gouze & Luquot (2011) have
shown how the evolution of the reactive surface
area a key input parameter in Darcy-scale reactive
transport models can be parameterized as a function of porosity in different dissolution regimes.
These results can also be extended to quantify the
evolution of permeability as a function of porosity
in carbonates under different dissolution regimes
(Luquot et al. 2014). Combining results from
X-ray CT experiments with numerical simulations
of reactive flow at the pore scale allows a more
robust quantification of such dissolution regimes
(Varloteaux et al. 2013). Overall, this approach provides new characterization opportunities that laboratory experiments alone cannot offer. Nogues
et al. (2013) showed that permeability evolution
in carbonates tends to follow a counter-intuitive
behaviour: brines that are far from chemical equilibrium induce less permeability change compared
to brines that are closer to chemical equilibrium,
even if both brines have the same pH. pH alone is
not necessarily a good proxy to interpolate permeability and porosity away from wells using RTM.
In another example, Molins et al. (2012) demonstrated that the non-uniformity of the pore-scale
transport velocities leads to an overall decrease in
fluid rock reaction rates at the continuum scale.
This observation could explain, and quantify, the
frequently observed discrepancy between reaction
rates measured in the laboratory and those observed
at the Darcy scale.
The combination of X-ray CT visualization and
numerical modelling of (reactive) flow processes
at the pore scale has limitations, particularly for
carbonate rocks. Hebert et al. (2014) demonstrate
that porosity permeability relationships that have
been identified in carbonates using X-ray CT are
non-unique and depend on the resolution of the
X-ray CT scanner as well as the sample size. Furthermore, they demonstrate how variability in
connectivity at fine scales may be obscured by connectivity measurements at larger scales. They recommend multiscale X-ray CT experiments to
quantify the spatial variability of porosity and
pore structure in order to overcome the limitations in sample size. Multiscale X-ray CT experiments provide sufficient resolution to adequately


quantify reaction rates in carbonates, a key parameter for RTM.

Atomic force microscopy (AFM). AFM has been
used successfully to quantify mineral reaction rates
for calcite growth and to develop macroscopic reaction rates for use in RTM studies (Bracco et al.
2013). However, these models also need to account
for the heterogeneity of the crystal surface. Using
AFM, Levenson et al. (2014) found that, although
the dissolution of carbonate minerals is strongly
dependent on the carabonate rock texture, the macroscopic reaction rates do not differ greatly. In a
related study, Levenson & Emmanuel (2013) further demonstrated that polished crystal surfaces
react faster than surfaces that have been smoothed
by prolonged fluid mineral reactions. This implies
that new fault zones or fractures where deformation
has generated polished carbonate mineral surfaces
may be more prone to dissolution than other mineral surfaces. This combination of direct experimental observations and numerical simulations at
the pore scale (and below) now enables the quantification of the key chemical and physical controls for
porosity and permeability evolution, and underpins
empirical porositypermeability transforms in carbonate reservoir rock typing (Fig. 3).
Experimental techniques for reservoir characterization. Detailed pore-scale imaging and simulations,
as well as AFM studies, are still too time-consuming
for routine applications in reservoir characterization workflows but the outcome of such studies can
be used to guide reservoir rock typing (see also
Skalinski & Kenter 2014). Mousavi et al. (2013)
used pore-scale simulations to quantify permeability and porosity evolution for different types
of sediment grains and cements in carbonates. Van
der Land et al. (2013) showed how diagenetic
backstripping could be combined with pore-scale
simulations to quantify porosity and permeability
evolution in carbonate rocks, and relate them to
reservoir rock types. Two-dimensional (2D) rock
images, each corresponding to a different diagenetic event for the same reservoir rock, were taken
as input to stochastic algorithms that recreated the
3D pore-space geometries from which permeability and porosity, as well as other rock properties,
could be computed. While Li et al. (2014) use more
conventional analyses, their integrated approach
achieves several insights into the processes underpinning the timing and distribution of multiphase
diagenesis. They develop conceptual models for
simultaneous dolomitization and dissolution (mixing of freshwater and evaporative brines), controls
on the timing and distribution of calcite cements
(proximity to palaeo-water table, different rock
types), correlations between increasing calcite

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Fig. 3. Typical steps involved in pore-network modelling. (a) A binarized 3D digital rock image is generated using
X-ray CT. The black colour indicates the pore space, the grey colour the mineral grains. Note that the volume of the 3D
sample typically ranges between 1 and 10 mm3. (b) The surface and topology of the pore space are identified from the
binary image. (c) The network of connected pores is extracted, typically by identifying the centre lines through the
pore-space topology. (d) The diameter and shape of the pore throats and pores are computed by measuring the distances
from the centre line to the pore surface; typically, regular shapes such as triangles, n-cornered stars or quadrilaterals are
used to represent the pore throats as such shapes allow the analytical calculations of capillary entry pressures, fluid
volumes and conductivities in the pore throat. (e) Drainage is simulated by injecting oil (red) into the water-filled (blue)
pore geometry; note that oil can only enter a pore if the capillary pressure exceeds the entry pressure of that pore.
(f) Imbibition of water or gas (green) is simulated, and the evolution of residual oil, relative permeability and capillary
pressure can be monitored while modelling the displacement processes such as piston displacement or snap-off in each
pore throat.

cement and decreasing porosity and permeability, the relative impact of vadose-zone dissolution and cementation, and the different degrees to
which heterozoan and photozoan carbonates react
with fluids. The study reinforces the continuing
need for conventional geological studies that provide the data and context that enable us to constrain permeabilityporosity distributions away
from wells using the novel experimental methods
discussed in this volume. A further advance that
may eventually provide tighter constraints on the
timing of diagenesis is that of clumped isotope
applications in combination with d18O measurements. Studies of core samples from fields in Oman
and Kazakhstan used the distributions of O and
C isotopes to identify distinct temperatures for
cements and to differentiate the temperatures of
cement fill in factures v. the host rock (Bergmann
et al. 2011). This method is still developing, with
continuing efforts being made to calibrate the
method (Zaarur et al. 2013).

Rock physics. Recent advances in analytical methods and the design of experiments now enable
the exploration of coupled processes in carbonate
rocks, yielding new insights to rock physics. These
insights support the prediction of reservoir quality
from geophysical data. Experiments by Vanorio
et al. (2014) examine the coupling between chemical dissolution, mechanical compaction, and the
original rock compositions and textures. Their simulations of competing chemico-mechanical processes during diagenesis highlight the ways by
which the original rock texture (linked to pore
stiffness and reactive surface area) may define distinct evolutionary paths for velocity and permeability for different carbonate rock types. Such
experiments are complemented by research that
links routine analyses to interpretations of the
geological controls on rock velocities. For example, the distribution and timing of different cement
phases can impact the evolution of acoustic
properties. A wide scatter of velocity porosity

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relationships in Paris Basin carbonate core samples was attributed to patterns of early cementation that influenced subsequent compaction paths
(Brigaud et al. 2010). These impacts would not
be captured by standard time-average equations
(Wyllie et al. 1956; Raymer et al. 1980) and offer
potential refinements of velocity porosity transforms for carbonate successions. Toullec et al.
(2012) found that the specific characteristics of
dolomitic texture have a greater impact than porosity values on Vp/Vs trends.
Healy et al. (2014) extend combined textural
and rock physics research to structural features.
Their investigations of the impact of host-rock
textures, fault-rock microstructure and fault displacement on acoustic velocities measured at the
laboratory scale demonstrate the factors and processes that can lead to potentially large changes
in Vp and Vs values. Broader engagement could
develop global perspectives surrounding the velocity structures of fault zones in carbonates while supporting industry advances for fault-zone imaging
and interpretation in the subsurface at seismic wavelengths. All of these petrophysical approaches
help to move our understanding beyond empirical
relationships (e.g. velocity depth trends) by revealing the set of interacting processes involved in
the modification of transport and elastic properties
of carbonates.
Ongoing developments target the capture of
continuous records of carbonate porosity and permeability via downhole sensors. This has promoted further investigations of Nuclear Magnetic
Resonance (NMR) and its use as a complementary
method to Mercury Injection Capillary Pressure
(MICP) and other petrophysical tools. Difficulties
persist in differentiating NMR signals for different
carbonate rocks (e.g. micritized grainstone v. mudstonewackestone), low resolution and diffusional
pore coupling that may interfere with permeability
calculations (Vincent et al. 2011). However, by
combining 3D NMR with dielectric logs, Abdul
Aal et al. (2013) were able to show the variation
in wettability with pore type, rock type and height
above oil water contact in carbonate reservoirs in
onshore Abu Dhabi.
Novel experiments. Experimental advances are
also providing insights into the role of fluids in carbonate deformation. Novel time-lapse monitoring
of subcritical crack propagation in calcite at room
temperature indicates the presence of a threshold
in fluid composition that determines whether the
crystal weakens (cracks propagate) or strengthens
(crack propagation is retarded) (Rostom et al. 2012).
Further studies in chalk have identified potential
causes of the weakness of chalk in the presence
of seawater. Madland et al. (2011) recognized


differences in the mechanical response depending

on whether the injected brine is NaCl or MgCl2.
The latter brine promotes dissolution of calcite
and silica that increases strain and weakens the
rock. This effect may need to be considered
when aiming to increase oil recovery from mechanically weak carbonate formations by controlling
the chemistry of the injected brine. Experiments
related to acid fracturing have probed further into
the combined effects of effective stress and fluid
parameters. Studies of the impact of fluid pH and
effective stress on fracture aperture changes in limestone have identified a transitional pH regime that,
for a given effective stress, reflects a balance
between the mechanism for free-face dissolution
and pressure solution. At high pH values, the fracture aperture increases; however, at lower pH
values, there is a decrease as stress effects become
more important (Ishibashi et al. 2013). These observations may help to constrain elusive fracture
aperture evolution, a process that is commonly
poorly constrained in fracture-flow simulations. Further studies have explored the rates of fracture
aperture opening related to CO2-acidified brine,
identifying factors that determine aperture evolution
(surface roughness, constrictions, mineral deposition and carbonate content of the host rock) (Ellis
et al. 2011).
Novel and insightful experiments have used
nanometre-resolution methods to reveal the detailed
mechanisms involved in strain accommodation
and the influence of associated cracking on strain
rates (Croize et al. 2010). Digital Image Correlation
(DIC) has enabled multiscale analysis of images
of carbonate rock samples during uniaxial compression tests, enabling the quantification of both
global and local strain fields during deformation
(Dautriat et al. 2011). This method supports a
deeper understanding of controls on damage localization and local compaction mechanisms, and their
relationship to structural heterogeneities in carbonate reservoirs.
Efforts to learn more of the interplay between
multiple processes during carbonate compaction,
and the relative importance of thermodynamic and
petrophysical and fluid parameters (Zhang et al.
2011; Croize et al. 2013), provide a way to
strengthen model algorithms incorporating both
strain rates and the formation and morphology of
stylolites (Angheluta et al. 2012). Combined experimental and outcrop observations have provided
new insights into the role of multiscale heterogeneities in limestones in localizing stylolites and their
influence on the distribution of pressure solution in
the surrounding reservoir rock (Ebner et al. 2010).
Further studies attempt to strengthen the case for
the use of stylolites to estimate palaeostress, as
well as their absolute values of formation stresses

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and compaction (Koehn et al. 2012). These studies

are supported by outcrop investigations of scaling
relationships (Rolland et al. 2012). Strengthening
the link between experimental and field studies,
Gratier (2011) emphasized the significance of the
geological context in studies of pressure solution
that impacts rates of fault creep, sealing processes
and permeability changes over production timescales. Several groups are now pursuing the mechanisms that localize and grow deformation bands
(Cilona et al. 2012), following a long period in
which few had even recognized that such structures
existed in carbonate reservoirs. New insights from
studies of faults in outcrop have identified a new
brittleductile mechanism for nano-grain formation
in carbonate rocks (Siman-Tov et al. 2013).
With a view to the future, advances in materials
science offer several possible avenues for developments in analytical and experiment methods. For
example, numerous incremental developments in
atom-probe tomography (McMurray et al. 2011;
Arey et al. 2013) may help to constrain reaction processes in carbonate rocks, thereby helping to reduce
a strong reliance on empiricism in current reactivetransport models. Microfluidic methods, long used
in biology and chemical research, as well as by the
drug industry (Tabeling 2005), have also advanced
for the benefit of the oil and gas industry (Schneider
& Tabeling 2011; Schneider et al. 2011). In the
latter case, there is clear relevance to heterogeneous wettability behaviours in carbonate rocks. It
is possible that developments in materials science
can enable constructs within microfluidic cells to
support a rigorous analysis of wettability behaviour
and potentially the combined impacts of microcracks that overprint the original rock pore space.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we perceive
further opportunities to design experiments in the
subsurface or in large laboratory facilities to learn
more about deformation and fluidrock interaction
behaviours over larger volumes. For example,
McDuff et al. (2010) demonstrated the benefits
from experiments on wormhole formation via the
non-destructive imaging of large (c. 0.5 m3) blocks
of carbonate rock.

Subsurface imaging and sensing

Background and challenges
A detailed review of advances for seismic imaging
and other geophysical methods applied to carbonate
reservoirs is beyond the scope of this introduction.
In part, this is due to the fact that the area is
rapidly evolving and many of the developments
are held in confidentiality within companies as proprietary technology while the published literature
lags behind. However, the potential for significant

impacts on carbonate reservoir performance by

subtle depositional, diagenetic and structural features calls for continuing efforts to improve seismic
characterization and the detection of fluid-flow
paths on production timescales. Improved imaging
methods are critical to the identification of future
carbonate plays, which are likely to be found in
increasingly challenging environments. Key challenges include: the delineation and characterization
of individual faults and fracture corridors that may
promote water breakthrough or compartmentalize
the reservoir (Singh et al. 2008); methods to differentiate first-order stratigraphic intervals from the
signatures of diagenetic overprints; the need to distinguish lithologies, and to quantify porosity and
permeability (Baechle et al. 2008; Xu & Payne
2009), as well as the need to monitor evolving fluidflow partitioning on production timescales. Activity
in unconventional assets is now driving technological advances that can also benefit conventional carbonate reservoirs (Goodway et al. 2010; Trinchero
et al. 2013).
Improvements in seismic data acquisition and
processing techniques offer improvements for
seeing more and seeing more accurately in carbonate reservoirs (Fig. 4). This brief survey highlights just a few examples of benefits realized from
the exploitation of broadband and full-azimuth
seismic datasets, spectral analysis, diffraction imaging and full-waveform imaging. Many of these
efforts are in their infancy and there remain significant hurdles: for example, it is not yet fully understood how to stack and interpret full-azimuth
(FAZ) data (Hung & Yin 2012). The common practice of summing FAZ data can result in image
deterioration (smearing) of structural details. FAZ
and long-offset data can be used for lithology prediction but this requires specialized processing
that has yet to mature (Hall et al. 2008). The use
of diffractions to image fractures and karst in carbonate reservoirs has also advanced (Khaidukov
et al. 2004; Fomel et al. 2007; Koren & Ravve
2011). However, challenges for diffraction imaging require access to the diffracted wavefield, separation of the diffraction from the reflection and
imaging of the diffracted wavefield (Reshef &
Landa 2009; Klokov & Fomel 2012). The use of
full-waveform inversion (FWI) to develop better
velocity models (Virieux & Operto 2009; Plessix
2013) is also being tested in carbonate reservoirs.
Recognized challenges for FWI include the need
for algorithms that keep the computational costs as
low as possible, spurious local minima, unrealistic
solutions, as well as the limited accuracy of FWI
at depths greater than about 2 km (Nangoo et al.
2012; Amazonas et al. 2013).
Early applications of seismic attributes to carbonate reservoirs (Skirius et al. 1999) significantly

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Fig. 4. Selected examples of recent application of seismic attributes in carbonate reservoirs. (a) Improvements
resulting from full-azimuth (FAZ) broadband land data acquisition from Saudi Arabia (modified from Wallick &
Giroldi 2013, fig. 7). The image compares absolute acoustic impedance from a previous dataset (left of the common
well) with that generated from new FAZ broadband data (right of the common well). The base of the Khuff
(predominantly a shallow-marine carbonate) is indicated by the white arrow. Carbonate v. clastic sections are
broadly indicated by high v. low impedance, respectively, even though the relationship between impedance values and
colour scale is different between the two images. (b) Examples from a study of seismic attributes extracted along the
horizon located just below the Dhruma Shale, Saudi Arabia (modified from Sliz & Al-Dossary 2014, fig. 4). An attribute
based on the difference between the Azimuthal Residual Moveouts computed in fast and slow directions (azRMO
MAX-MIN) is used to interpret regions of higher fracture intensity. The black ellipses have high azRMO MAX MIN
values but no indication of fractures from the post-stack attributes. (c) Normalized difference between 50 and 20 Hz
isofrequency volumes (modified from Li et al. 2011, fig. 4). The data were acquired from Carboniferous carbonates in
the Pricaspian Basin. The use of spectral decomposition is used here to highlight high-frequency anomalies associated
with higher quality carbonate reservoir encased in tight limestone (well A1). Well B1 intercepts a thinner and lower
quality reservoir.

changed perspectives on structural and stratigraphic

heterogeneities, revealing dense populations of
fine-scale faults and details of stratal geometries
previously unseen. Advances continue to improve
capabilities to interpret heterogeneities, many of
which are at the threshold of seismic resolution. In
carbonate reservoirs, it remains difficult to identify
the fault or fracture corridor that would lead to
repositioning a well. An ability to identify the
content of fault zones and fracture corridors (fluid
types, cements) and the ways by which the system

might be manipulated to either enhance or retard

fluid flow would represent a key advance. In the
case of subseismic fault identification, analyses
of seismically resolved fault lengths, heights and
orientations have been used to define characteristics
of a given fault population, and to infer the density,
orientation and distribution of finer-scale faults
(Kolyukhin & Torabi 2013; Verscheure et al.
2013). Neural network modelling approaches that
build on various seismic attribute volumes have
also been attempted (Cherazi et al. 2013), as have

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various methods for automated fault extraction

(Souche et al. 2012; Tomaso et al. 2013). However, many published examples still fail to pass a
test of being geologically reasonable. The same
can be said for applications of seismic anisotropy
to carbonate reservoirs. Even with decades of industry developments (Schoenberg & Sayers 1995;
Tsvankin et al. 2010), results from studies of
seismic anisotropy commonly represent a nongeological character.
One challenge is to ensure that all of the factors
affecting the anisotropic signature and the scales at
which they act have been considered. For carbonate
reservoirs, anisotropic signatures need to be interpreted in the light of information on heterogeneities
that occur on different scales. For example, karstification in the Idd el Shargi North Dome (Trice 2005)
may impact the signatures of anisotropy maps in the
area (Angerer et al. 2006). In situ horizontal stress,
stratal architecture, diagenesis and structure can all
contribute to the signature of anisotropy. While
many have attempted to interpret a single array of
fractures from seismic anisotropy, the signature
may reflect the combined effects of layering, multiple sets of fractures, variations in fracture-fill
cements and even stylolites. Even when methods
are applied to interpret the signature attributable to
multiple fracture sets (Sayers & Den Boer 2012;
Far et al. 2013), there remain large uncertainties in
values of fracture compliance and the distributions
of fracture apertures and cements. Frequencydependent fracture compliance has yet to be
incorporated into fracture modelling (Liu & Martinez 2013).

Selected advances
Advances in seismic imaging related to carbonate
reservoirs include studies of the low-frequency
content in broadband seismic data (Martin &
Stewart 1994; Houston & Duval 2013). Wallick &
Giroldi (2013) used full-azimuth broadband data
to demonstrate the strong improvements (better
signal-to-noise, critical velocity information) from
extending low-frequency content down to 3 Hz,
as well as the extra detail realized by including
higher frequencies. Even in the absence of well
data, it is now possible to generate much higher resolution images. The low-frequency content of
seismic data gives a greater measure of confidence
in impedance results away from well control by
reducing interpretational bias (Wallick & Giroldi
2013). Further applications of spectral decomposition include: the improved resolution of a reef
boundary (Nejad et al. 2009); the delineation of
strong amplitude, high-frequency events in producing areas of Brazilian deep-water carbonate
reservoirs (de Matos et al. 2008); and the use of

low-frequency shadows as hydrocarbon indicators

in carbonates (Wang 2006). The high-frequency
anomalies, however, have been proposed as indicators of carbonate reservoir quality (Li & Zheng
2008). Diffraction-imaging methods have been
applied to shallow settings of carbonate rocks using
3D Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) (Pelissier
et al. 2011; Grasmueck et al. 2012). These studies
demonstrated the alignment of diffraction apices
with vertical fractures and locations of karstic dissolution features. While the interpretation of karst
collapse structures from subsurface data is not
new (e.g. Hardage et al. 1996), the interpretation
of electrical resistivity and MRS methods could
provide uplift to current practices (D. Astratti
pers. comm.) and may offer improved methods to
highlight and differentiate karst components from
other reservoir heterogeneities (Trice 2005). Further applications of diffraction imaging in carbonate reservoirs in the deeper subsurface also claim
to identify zones of fractures (Boelle et al. 2012;
Nicolaevich et al. 2013).
Advances in seismic acquisition and processing.
Wide-azimuth (WAZ) data have been used to generate azimuthal stacks with different illumination
directions to improve the sharpness of subtle fault
and fracture images (Kong et al. 2012; Mahmoud
et al. 2012), and to infer the locations of fracture
corridors (Svetlichny et al. 2010). Furthermore,
it has been proposed that scattering of seismic
energy can be used, when full-azimuth seismic
data are available, to identify subsurface locations
with elevated fracture intensities (Willis et al.
2006; Burns et al. 2007). It is not unusual for the
importance of previously unrecognized, subtle features in the reservoir to become apparent during production. In such a case, Yin et al. (2010)
reinterpreted seismic volumes, using stochastic seismic inversion to improve the resolution of intrareservoir surfaces, the distribution of coral-rich
facies, 3D geometries of dense ponds and channels,
and third-order maximum flooding surfaces, to
improve the understanding of injected water movement. Application of 3D full-waveform tomographic inversion (FWI) to North Sea chalks has
now been used to obtain realistic velocity models
within a chalk reservoir down to depths of 4000 m
(Kim et al. 2011; Nangoo et al. 2012). These
efforts used FWI with reverse time migration to
achieve better imaging of carbonate reservoirs.
Further applications in shallow settings of Saudi
Arabia, as well as Oman, have also been published
(Tonellot et al. 2013; Stopin et al. 2013). Combinations of FAZ with far-offset data elastic inversion
offer a more robust method to separate limestone,
dolomite and anhydrite, as well as fluid content
(Banik et al. 2009). Such capabilities are immature

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but offer opportunities to delineate subtle variations

in seismic character (especially amplitude) as a
means to identify diagenetic features.
Seismic attributes. Applications of seismic attributes to carbonate reservoirs have sought to
develop novel algorithms to compute new attributes,
as well as creative combinations of multiple attributes to highlight specific features (Chopra &
Marfurt 2008, 2013; Nissen et al. 2009; Bravo &
Aldana 2010; Yuan et al. 2013). Some studies
have focused on methods to detect fracture corridors
(Arasu et al. 2010). Astratti et al. (2014) develop
this theme, arguing that most seismic attributes
only highlight subsets of a desired solution. Their
seismic triple combo workflow combined three
individual attributes (amplitude, structural and
uncertainty attributes) into one aggregate fault attribute. Their globally consistent dip estimation that
calculates both positive and negative dips in the
inline and crossline directions achieves a theoretical lateral resolution that doubles that of any other
known methods of dip computation. This attribute
then provides the basis for an aggregate fault cube
that combines complementary information for
structural dip, structural uncertainty and amplitude
variations, with recognized benefits for time-lapse
analysis of seismic data. Nevertheless, this and
many other studies still struggle to resolve distinct
generations of faults.
Forward seismic modelling of diagenetic overprints. Recent publications highlight improvements
in porosity prediction (Ras et al. 2012; Emang
et al. 2013) and resolution of diagenetic overprints
(Maranu et al. 2013). These efforts are complemented by forward seismic modelling of depositional
and diagenetic heterogeneities based on seismicscale carbonate reservoir analogues (Schwab et al.
2005; Goldberg et al. 2010; Fournier et al. 2011).
Toullec et al. (2012) emphasized that changes in
the seismic signal do not necessarily correspond
directly to sequence boundaries and unconformities. For example, it can be challenging to differentiate a lateral sedimentary/diagenetic facies
variation from a toplap, and the true geological continuity of the seismic signal is unclear. Overall,
seismic methods do not yet provide adequate resolution and differentiation to reliably delineate finescale diagenetic bodies.
Seismic anisotropy. There have been numerous
advances that reflect more sophisticated approaches
to modelling and interpreting seismic anisotropy
(Liu & Martinez 2013) (Fig. 5). Although not all
advances are directly linked to carbonate reservoirs,
relevant advances include deeper knowledge of the
ways that fracture characteristics impact equivalent


medium representations for the acoustic responses

of fractured rock. For example, Wei et al. (2007)
recognized a decrease in shear-wave splitting with
a decrease in fracture radius, while increasing fracture aperture thickness is associated with stronger
shear-wave splitting. These results may help to distinguish fracture populations dominated by thin
microcracks as opposed to large open fractures.
Tillotson et al. (2012) reported experiments on synthetic rock samples to support theoretical predictions that shear-wave splitting can be used as a
good estimate of fracture density. Further research
has highlighted the frequency- and scale-dependent
nature of fracture compliance (Hobday & Worthington 2012), the use of scattered seismic energy to
constrain fracture spacing and intensities (Vlastos
et al. 2007), and advanced numerical methods to
simulate seismic-wave propagation in discrete representations of fracture populations (Hall & Wang
2012). Although by no means mature, improved
approaches to predict anisotropic permeability have
been explored through the analysis of frequencydependent seismic amplitude v. angle and azimuth
data (Ali & Jakobsen 2013). Constraints on fracture
apertures have been sought through joint seismic
inversion combined with analysis of production
data (Shahraini et al. 2011). Further efforts include
those that provide links to geomechanics and production data (Kozlov et al. 2007), as well as structural analysis and fracture modelling (Liu et al.
Gibson & Gao (2014) draw attention to the need
to evaluate subsurface stress as well as fluid saturations when analysing time-lapse seismic data.
Their work adds to a sparse group of studies that
directly include stress-dependence in a theory for
effective elastic properties of fractured media.
They test new and simplified solutions for stressdependent fracture compliances. Their results
demonstrate not only a fit with inverted anisotropic
seismic-velocity variations in rock samples but also
a potential method to predict anisotropic velocity
data for different fluid-saturation conditions. In a
related effort to constrain the fracture anisotropy
signature for a carbonate reservoir in Abu Dhabi,
Ali & Worthington (2011) modelled the upper
limit of fracture compliance. This was then used
to define an upper limit of the seismic velocity
anisotropy that would result from a specified set of
fractures and served to gauge confidence for interpreting seismic anisotropy as an indicator of fracture
Shao et al. (2014) advance our understanding of
seismic anisotropy by investigating the impacts of
both layers and fractures on guided waves. Their
experiments explore the relative roles of layer thickness, fracture spacing and wavelength in the generation of guided waves. Because the layers and the

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Fig. 5. A comparison of seismic-based intepretations of fracture orientations with core data (from Liu et al. 2011; Liu &
Martinez 2013). The rose diagrams represent the azimuths of fracture strikes determined from well data (core and
Formation Micro-Imager log (FMI)). Seismic anisotropy data were analysed after the migration of overburden effects.
The anisotropy orientation is indicated by the black vectors with the interpreted fracture-strike azimuth as indicated by
the coloured scale bar, which also shows the orientation of the source and the receiver. There is a qualitative correlation
with the orientation of the anisotropy at three of the five wells (E, G, H).

fractures generate competing scattering mechanisms, their combined effects can obscure or enhance
compressional-mode wave guiding. By understanding the impacts of layering and fractures in situations when layer thickness is either smaller or
greater than a seismic wavelength, Shao et al.
(2014) develop insights into source, layer and fracture configurations that enable the use of guided
modes to assess the presence and mechanical
properties of fractures. Their method also offers
a less complex approach for the interpretation
of compressional-wave data. Overall, this study
emphasizes the importance of understanding the
interactions of distinct geological heterogeneities
in the reservoir and their combined impacts on

seismic signatures. Oversimplified interpretations

of seismic anisotropy and other seismic attributes
can lead to substantial misrepresentations of natural
fracture populations.

Modelling: multiscale integration and

Background and challenges
There are significant uncertainties in predicting the
geology of, and recovery from, carbonate reservoirs.
This uncertainty falls into two separate but linked
categories: first, the spatio-temporal distribution of

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facies and their associated petrophysical properties

is uncertain, largely due to the complex and abruptly
changing nature of the rock fabric and the intrinsic
lack of a method to quantify these changes in the
subsurface through direct measurements. Secondly,
the dynamic interactions between the fluids and carbonate rock are uncertain, both on geological timescales (e.g. chemical alteration during diagenesis
and resulting porosity permeability changes) and
during production (e.g. wettability changes during
enhanced oil recovery).
To address these uncertainties, two types of
models are needed: the static model that describes
the spatial variability of geology (present day) and
the associated rock properties; and a dynamic
model that describes the flow processes. For static
modelling, it has become standard to use geostatistical methods to interpolate facies, reservoir rock
types and petrophysical data, including their spatial variability, between wells, guided by seismic
data. By using statistical methods, it is relatively
straightforward to generate multiple realizations
of a geological model, and to generate probability
distributions of the spatial distribution of facies,
reservoir rock types and petrophysical properties.
This probabilistic approach can capture some of
the geological uncertainty. A range of geostatisticalsimulation approaches includes object-based
modelling, variograms, kriging and co-kriging, covariance functions, or multipoint statistics. A
detailed review of the advantages and disadvantages
of these methods is beyond the scope of this paper
but see works by authors including Deutsch &
Journel (1998), Jensen et al. (2000), Deutsch (2002)
and Daly & Caers (2010). Geostatistical modelling
of reservoir properties is complemented by process-based models that simulate the sedimentation
and compaction of carbonate rocks. Such simulations enable us to explore the nature and controls
of spatial heterogeneities typically observed in carbonate stratigraphy over a variety of scales (e.g.
Paterson et al. 2006, 2008; Hantschel & Kauerauf
2009; Hill et al. 2009) and the impact of these
heterogeneities on production behaviour (Chandra
et al. 2014; Whitaker et al. 2014). An area for
future development is the design of efficient methods to couple process-based models more closely
to subsurface data (e.g. seismic geometries, pore
pressure and present-day rock properties) as a
means to constrain the final model state but also
to constrain intermediate evolutionary steps. In
geomechanical modelling, for example, final and
intermediate time geometries for strata can be used
to constrain the strain evolution of originally undeformed layers, with assigned material properties
and boundary conditions controlling stress evolution (Pande & Pietruszczak 2004). Similarly, seismic and well constraints on the facies distributions


can be used with sea-level curves, and with palaeoclimate and drainage data, to constrain forward
models of carbonate accumulations (Whitaker
et al. 2014).
The approaches above focus on modelling the
carbonate rock matrix. However, the common
occurrence of natural fractures in carbonate reservoirs also indicates a potential need to model a
network of connected fractures, and to quantify
their hydraulic properties in the form of fracture
porosity, fracture permeability and shape factor
(Bourbiaux 2010). For this purpose, it is common
to use discrete fracture network (DFN) modelling
to create single or multiple realizations of the
network of connected fractures based on the fracture
statistics collected from wells, outcrop analogues
and proxies, such as the curvature of the sedimentary layers or distance to faults (Dershowitz et al.
2000). The hydraulic properties of a DFN can
be calculated using analytical methods (e.g. Oda
1985) or numerical simulations (e.g. Matthai &
Belayneh 2004).
Many geoscience disciplines wrestle with the
problem of linking observations and processes
across multiple scales (time/rates, space). A combination of analytical and modelling methods has
proven to be critical in realizing the integration of
knowledge across scales and disciplines. Advances
in this area will have broad and significant impacts
both in terms of knowledge and as industry applications. The last decade has seen significant efforts
to capture and represent the multiscale properties
of rocks. This need is particularly relevant for carbonate reservoirs in which components of the pore
structure can range from nanometres to metres in
size with large spatial variability. A key challenge
is how to quantify and integrate the variety of
matrix pore structures and associated deformation
features in a way that provides a reasonable representation of their hydrodynamic impacts on the
Darcy and reservoir scale.
Analytical and modelling techniques are based
on assumptions and assumed data input. Inaccurate
assumptions and inadequate information can lead
to erroneous results. When modelling the spatial
variability of facies and associated rock properties,
a fundamental assumption is that the variability
measured along the 1D trajectory of a well is stationary (i.e. its probability distribution remains
constant) and can be extrapolated into three dimensions. Yet, there are many examples in carbonate
reservoirs where this is not the case because of
abrupt changes in carbonate rock properties caused
by diagenesis, fracturing and faulting. The contributions by Healy et al. (2014), Chandra et al.
(2014), Ramaker et al. (2014), Hiemstra & Goldstein (2014), Li et al. (2014) and Hebert et al.
(2014) provide excellent illustrative examples. The

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statistical properties that are measured along a well

can also be biased due to under- or oversampling of
certain facies, which may lead to fundamentally
incorrect static models.
Once a static geological model (or an ensemble
of models) has been created, it can be subjected to
dynamic modelling of the relevant fluid-flow processes (Fig. 6). Typically, this occurs on a grid
that is coarser than the grid of the static model to
reduce computational costs, requiring upscaling
(averaging) of the rock properties from the fine
static grid to the coarser dynamic grid. Various
upscaling methods have been tested and applied
successfully to heterogeneous (carbonate) reservoirs, including (semi-) analytical and numerical
methods (e.g. Li & Beckner 2000; Pickup et al.
2000; Christie 2001; Christie & Blunt 2001;
Farmer 2002; King et al. 2006; Ringrose 2007;
Zhang et al. 2008; Hui et al. 2013) that can be validated with streamline simulation (e.g. Samier et al.
2002; Ates et al. 2003; Elsaid et al. 2006). If the
property distribution in a carbonate reservoir is
not stationary, a well-defined representative elementary volume (REV) cannot be defined for the
property, which renders upscaling difficult. When
upscaling a static model, or constructing the static
model, it is implicitly assumed that each grid
block is at the REV scale and, hence, an average
property can be assigned to a grid block. Yet,
there are numerous examples where the average
property changes as the observation scale changes
(e.g. grid block size) and, hence, upscaling of the
static model to the dynamic model is challenging.
The validity of the upscaling should, therefore,
always be confirmed (e.g. Li & Beckner 2000; Ates
et al. 2003; Elsaid et al. 2006; King et al. 2006;
Agada et al. 2014). The challenges for upscaling


carbonate reservoir properties are exacerbated if

the formation contains fractures because fracture
networks are normally not stationary and, hence,
do not possess an REV (Berkowitz 2002). This
fact can lead to significant uncertainties when
computing effective fracture properties from DFNs
(Dershowitz et al. 2000; Ahmed Elfeel & Geiger
2012) that cannot necessarily be recalibrated or
reduced by history matching (Ahmed Elfeel et al.
In the context of pore-scale investigations,
further advances are needed to streamline multiscale
imaging and analysis of pore structure so that they
can be effectively used to support an understanding
of flow behaviours. These types of investigations
provide important, fundamental insights that link
miscroscropic properties to the intrinsic variability
and hierarchy of the pore organization. In the context of rock deformation, a key challenge for fault
and fracture data is the understanding and representation of brittle low-temperature deformation
processes and products (e.g. cementation) over
multiple scales. Common questions revolve around
the appropriate levels of detail to analyse, how features in distinct size ranges relate to each other, if
at all, and how pre-existing structures influence
later phases of deformation. Can we, for example,
move beyond basic statistical analyses of fracture
populations and concepts of scale dependency and
fractals, and evaluate mechanisms that control associations and interactions between structures on
different scales? With respect to flow prediction in
carbonate reservoirs, such knowledge may offer
routes to new proxies for multiscale impacts of
structures (and potentially other features) on flow
(e.g. Correia et al. 2013). Novel proxies may also
assist in the identification of those features that

Fig. 6. Workflow for multiscale modelling and flow simulations through geological structures identified in a carbonate
outcrop reservoir analogue. (a) Reservoir architectures are identified in the outcrop analogue. (b) Fractures are modelled
with DFNs using the fracture statistics from the outcrop. The impact of different fracture systems (e.g. fault v.
bedding-related fractures) can be tested by generating different DFNs. Km (mD) is the matrix permeability. (c) Matrix
permeability and porosity are distributed deterministically or statistically for the observed reservoir architectures using
data from subsurface reservoirs to exclude the impacts of meteoric diagenesis. The impact of different matrix properties
for the same reservoir architectures on flow behaviours can be analysed. (d) Fracture permeability and porosity are
computed from the DFN through upscaling. The impacts of different DFNs and different upscaling methods on resulting
fracture properties are explored. Kf (mD) is the fracture permeability. (e) Relative permeability and capillary pressure
curves are distributed in the model (each colour represents a domain with a unique relative-permeability capillary
pressure curve). Different rock typing approaches can be tested in this step to understand how assumptions about
reservoir rock typing impact the predicted flow behaviours. (f) Wells are placed in the reservoir simulation model and
production is simulated. This step can be used to test how fluid properties, well completion, well location and production
strategies impact flow behaviours and reservoir performance. So is the oil saturation. (g) The key sensitivities are
identified (here using tornado diagrams, although other diagrams are also possible) and linked back to the assumptions
made about reservoir architecture, matrix/fracture properties, fluid properties, well location, and completion and
production strategies. Large parameter spaces can be explored efficiently using efficient simulation strategies such as
design of experiments techniques where only a subset of the parameter space is explored and results are interpolated

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have the greatest impact on flow in a given geological/production scenario.

In the context of RTM, there are two challenges:
as discussed above, the first challenge resides in
upscaling reaction rates robustly from the scale of
individual mineral surfaces within single pores to
the Darcy scale. Better upscaling procedures are
needed to explain the frequently observed differences between reaction rates measured in the laboratory and observed at the field or Darcy scale.
The second challenge is to quantify adequately the
mixing of two brines with different chemical
compositions (Dentz et al. 2011). To solve the mathematical models describing the transport of chemically reactive fluids through a rock formation,
RTM usually uses grid cells that are tens of metres
wide and high (and therefore contain tens of thousands of tons of rock and thousand of tons of
fluids). Flow and chemical reactions in each grid
cell are, hence, described by volume-averaged properties. RTM assumes that chemical reactions occur
uniformly everywhere in the grid block, predicting
a uniform change in composition, mineralogy, and,
subsequently, porosity and permeability at the scale
of tens of metres. Yet, such uniformity is rarely
observed in nature where there is ample evidence
that fluid rock interactions are commonly restricted
to narrow regions, such as halos surrounding fractures or dissolution seams around stylolites. Both
of these challenges indicate a need to use RTM at
the pore scale to constrain behaviors in upscaled

Selected advances
Incorporating fine-scale structures in reservoir
characterisation. Chandra et al. (2014) show how
sampling bias for petrophysical properties can lead
to the generation of inadequate carbonate reservoir
rock types and the subsequent construction of a
static model that is very difficult to calibrate using
production data. For example, the undersampling
of core plugs from a poorly recovered and mechanically weak reservoir zone comprising numerous
dissolution seams, tension gashes and stylolites in
a giant carbonate reservoir has led to the construction of a reservoir model that was biased towards
the low-permeability rocks. They demonstrate,
however, that careful upscaling of small-scale,
high-permeability structures using process-based
modelling of diagenetic carbonate structures can
enable us to correct for the bias and create more
robust reservoir rock types that include geological
heterogeneities well below the scale of a reservoir
simulation grid block. Overall, the heterogeneous
and multiscale nature of carbonate rocks renders
the application of reservoir-rock typing difficult.
Yet, this approach remains a crucial step in building

reservoir models in industrial workflows. A number of workflows exist that aim to define rock
types with unique hydraulic properties for carbonate reservoirs (e.g. Lucia 1999; Gomes et al.
2008; Hollis et al. 2010; Xu et al. 2012; Kazemi
et al. 2012). However, as mentioned before, these
workflows are not based on first principles. Instead,
they employ empirical relationships that may
work well for a given reservoir but are not necessarily widely applicable. Work such as that of
Chandra et al. (2014) can underpin the traditional
carbonate reservoir rock-typing workflows because
it incorporates efficient, yet robust, porosity
permeability transforms of small-scale geological
structures, which can impact reservoir quality. At
even smaller scales, pore-scale studies such as
those of Mousavi et al. (2013) or Van der Land
et al. (2013) can be used to quantify how individual
diagenetic events impact reservoir quality and
change reservoir rock types.
Multiscale geological impacts on flow. Outcropmodelling studies enable us to understand the
relative impacts of specific multiscale geological
features (including fractures and faults) on reservoir performance (Agada & Geiger 2013, 2014;
Agada et al. 2014; Shekhar et al. 2014; Whitaker
et al. 2014). Such studies have been able to deliver
guidelines such as the significance of matrix heterogeneity in obscuring a unique signature from
subtle diagenetic or structural features in well tests
(Agada et al. 2014) and the dominant, competing pathways along high-permeability layers and
fracture corridors (Agar et al. 2010). Some have
explored the interplay of these factors with engineering solutions, such as well placement or selection of injection fluid (Agada & Geiger 2013,
2014). It is now also possible to capture geological data from larger areas into outcrop-analogue
simulation studies: after years of kites, blimps and
balloons, drones now offer the field geologist longsought-after images from tens of metres above platform exposures (Bertotti et al. 2013) and are used by
the United States Geological Survey for monitoring
the Earth-surface processes. New software tools
allow us to collect, categorize and analyse massive
amounts of data acquired with these techniques,
such as fracture networks, in only a short time
(e.g. Hardebol & Bertotti 2013).
Numerical experiments have been used to test
suitable proxies for subseismic features and the
impact of reduced permeability in deformation
bands on pressure draw-down (Antonellini et al.
2014). Further tests of statistical proxies for the
impact of deformation bands in subseismic faultrelay zones on reservoir performance have also
been explored (Fachri et al. 2013). Some cases,
studies have shown where the simplification of

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models can be justified. In other cases, they reveal

situations in which it becomes critical to understand
the level of structural heterogeneity in a reservoir
and related uncertainties for significant economic
impacts (Hillgartner et al. 2011). Methods to
upscale structural heterogeneities in reservoir simulations (Jonoud et al. 2013), to constrain fracture
corridor locations in models (Ozkaya 2010) and
workflows demonstrating iterative calibration and
validation of production and geological data in subsurface models (Al-Azri et al. 2013) are supporting closer geoscience engineering integration. Such
models allow us to query the assumptions and simplifications that are made when modelling and simulating carbonate reservoirs. It is important to
understand which assumptions and simplifications
are valid, and which distort the results and interpretations of flow behaviours and the geological influences upon them.
Multiscale upscaling methods. Multiscale flowmodelling methods provide an alternative to traditional upscaling techniques. These methods are
now well established but are not yet applied on a
regular basis in commercial workflows (e.g. Jenny
et al. 2006; Kippe et al. 2008; Popov et al. 2009;
Fossum Gulbransen et al. 2010; Lie et al. 2012).
The principal idea of a multiscale method is to
establish a hierarchy of grids and to compute the
different physical processes occurring in a reservoir
on different levels of grid refinement. Mathematical operators, constructed for a given reservoir
simulation model, upscale and downscale the computed results between the different grids. The main
advantage is computational efficiency and physical
accuracy. This efficiency arises because computationally expensive operations, such as computing
the pressure distribution in a reservoir, are performed on a coarse grid where the permeability
has been upscaled. Computationally less expensive
operations, such as computing the saturation distribution in a reservoir, are performed on a finer grid
without any upscaling; the flow field on the fine
grid is reconstructed using the pressure distribution
of the coarse grid and suitable mathematical downscaling operators. Hence, channelling through highpermeability layers, the bypassing of hydrocarbons
and other complex flow processes can be modelled
accurately. For example, Jenny et al. (2006) demonstrated a 10-fold increase in computational efficiency using a multiscale method for a reservoir
model that contained over six orders of variation
in permeability; the multiscale method gave essentially identical results as the reference simulation.
Theoretically, it would even be possible to couple
pore-scale modelling with multiscale methods to
upscale pore-scale physics directly to the reservoir
scale (e.g. Sun et al. 2012).


Scaling relationships in the deformation of carbonate rocks. Efforts by structural geologists to

constrain multiscale characteristics include: the
recognition of scale-dependent fault-displacement
scaling relationships in a specific tectonic setting
(Bergen & Shaw 2010); the quantification of distinct scaling relationships for different categories
of structures that form on similar scales (fractures,
deformation bands) (Schultz et al. 2013); new
fractal geometry methods that offer alternative
views on scaling, inhomogeneity and anisotropy
(Kruhl 2012); and stronger insights into stratigraphic and diagenetic controls on multiscale fracturing (Barbier et al. 2012). Further studies of
scaling relationships in fault systems attempt to
reconcile the processes that drive a wide scatter in
the overlap and separation distances of relay zones
with a strong power-law relationship that persists
over eight orders of magnitude (Long & Imber
2011). Distinct scaling relationships have also been
identified for zones of faults accommodating different intensities of strain (Putz-Perrier & Sanderson 2010). Others have examined the interaction
of stratigraphic layering with the development
of a fault system, and the consequent departures
from expected fault lengthheight scaling relationships (so-called flat-topped faults) (Roche et al.
2012). Scaling studies related to fault zones include the use of a truncated power law as a means
to constrain the most reliable range of data for
the statistical approximation of fault-zone attributes (Kolyukhin & Torabi 2013) and to provide
insights into distinct displacement thickness relationships in low-displacement faults in carbonate v. clastic rocks (Bastesen et al. 2013). Distinct
scaling relationships for fracture spacing in different carbonate facies have also constrained
controls on spatial relationships between different
fracture sets in shallow-water carbonate outcrops
with inferred impacts on fracture permeability
(Larsen et al. 2010). Scaling investigations have
extended to pressure-solution cleavage, identifying
a relationship between the host-rock stratal thicknesses and the spacing between pressure-solution
seams, as well as the role of existing pressuresolution seams on the location of new dissolution
surfaces (Tavani et al. 2010). Investigations of
deformation bands in carbonate grainstones reveal
distinct length, thickness and displacement ranges
that change during their evolution (e.g. from deformation bands to a localized fault) (Tondi et al.
2012). All of these studies serve to constrain relationships between deformation features that form
on different scales, as well as between deformation features and diagenetic and/or sedimentological characteristics. These results offer potentially
smarter ways to incorporate structural heterogeneities into flow simulations.

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Modelling: tools
Background and challenges
The classical advection dispersionreaction equation (ADRE see the Appendix) aims to model
the advective and dispersive transport of reactive
solutes at the reservoir scale, and forms the core of
commercial and research-grade simulators. Experimental evidence shows that macroscopic changes
in permeability and porosity during carbonate dissolution are intrinsically linked to changes in tortuosity, a parameter that quantifies the spreading of
solutes that are dissolved in the fluid phases (e.g.
Luquot et al. 2014). This observation is consistent
with theoretical observations by Bijeljic et al.
(2013a, b) and Mostaghimi et al. (2012). These
authors showed that the centre of a chemical component plume remains increasingly stagnant, while
dispersion (spreading) increases with increasing
heterogeneity. This behaviour cannot be modelled
with the ADRE but it has been observed at the
pore scale, both in laboratory experiments and in
field studies (e.g. Berkowitz et al. 2006; Dentz
et al. 2011).
What may appear as a trivial point has fundamental consequences for any field-scale simulations, from reactive transport modelling over
geological timescales to simulating EOR methods:
the ADRE cannot capture miscible displacement
processes observed at the pore scale unless the
complete flow field at the pore space is resolved.
As a consequence, the ADRE will predict very
different concentration gradients due to mixing
and dispersion compared to what has been observed
in nature. This immediately impacts the predicted
chemical disequilibrium between fluid and rock,
and, hence, the rate and location at which permeability and porosity change, even for the most
basic bimolecular reactions of the type A + B 
C (e.g. Edery et al. 2010). When solving the
ADRE in reactive transport modelling studies, and
more generally for reservoir simulation, the coefficients of the ADRE are taken as the average
across a single-reservoir simulation grid block.
This implies that the flow field at scales below a
reservoir simulation grid block is not resolved, and
spreading and mixing are approximated by the dispersion tensor (physically incorrect). Hence, the
ADRE does not model the spreading and mixing
of solutes correctly, and any subsequent chemical
reactions are going to be estimated incorrectly
(Dentz et al. 2011). This probably helps to explain
why Katz et al. (2011) were not able to properly
match well-calibrated laboratory experiments of
reactive transport through carbonates using RTM,
and so limits the predictability of any simulation
studies that involve fluid rock interactions in

carbonate rocks, from RTM to EOR. It is therefore

to be expected that any results from field-scale simulations of reactive-transport processes in carbonate
reservoirs, from geological to production timescales, are biased because of the limitations of the
The field of hydrology has long recognized the
limitations of the ADRE, and has, for the past two
decades, developed and refined alternative probabilistic models to simulate the (reactive) transport
of chemical components during miscible singlephase flow (cf. Berkowitz et al. 2006). While these
models can be used to robustly upscale transport
processes from the pore scale to the reservoir scale
(Rhodes et al. 2008), they have hardly permeated
into the fields of reservoir engineering and petroleum geoscience where mixing and spreading of
chemical components is still approximated using
dispersion tensors and volume-averaged properties. A key reason that the limitations of the
ADRE are not a significant problem for hydrology
is that probabilistic models in hydrology consider
single-phase flow only, a major simplification that
is impractical for hydrocarbon reservoirs.
Any type of dynamic modelling requires solving the ADRE numerically on a given reservoir
geometry, for the modelled reservoir properties
and the appropriate boundary conditions (e.g. well
locations, inflow from aquifers and groundwater
recharge). The ADRE can be solved numerically
using a number of approaches finite volumes,
finite differences, finite elements or streamline
methods (e.g. Helmig 1997; Chen et al. 2006).
Finite-difference methods remain the most common numerical technique used in commercial simulators as these are computationally efficient, are
tailored to the underlying grid structure of the
static models (and vice versa) and provide some
moderate geometrical flexibility to represent reservoir structures. Well-defined (commercial) workflows exist to build static models, to upscale them
to dynamic models and to calibrate them during
history matching. However, it is well known that
finite-difference methods work best if the underlying grid is orthogonal, and numerical errors can
be significant if the grid is deformed to match
complex reservoir structures (e.g. Heinemann et al.
1991; Aziz 1993; Aavatsmark 2002; Lie et al.
2012). In addition to solving the ADRE, specific
constitutive relationships are needed to model
the physico-chemical problem of interest. These
include the fluid properties (e.g. an equation of
state, the Black Oil model and the compositional
model), the relevant material laws describing
fluid rock interactions (e.g. mineral precipitation/
dissolution for RTM or wettability alterations
during EOR) and the fluid fluid interactions (e.g.
hysteresis due to the trapping of the non-wetting

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phase or viscosity changes in the injected fluid

during polymer injection).
A wide range of commercial but also highly
advanced (open source) research simulators exists.
Some of these simulators serve more well-defined
purposes, for example RTM (Saaltink et al. 2004;
Steefel et al. 2005; Xu & Pruess 2010; Xu et al.
2011; Lichtner et al. 2013), while others can be
viewed as general-purpose simulators that can
model a wide range of so-called THMC (thermal
hydraulicmechanical chemical) processes (e.g.
Cao 2002; Pruess 2004; Matthai et al. 2007; Flemisch et al. 2011; Kolditz et al. 2012; Lie et al.
2012; Finsterle et al. 2014).
A particular challenge for all of these simulators is to model flow through fractured formations. Simulation of fractured carbonate reservoirs
traditionally employs a dual-continua model that
comprises two domains: the mobile fractures that
have little storage but provide the main flow paths;
and the immobile or low-permeability matrix that
provides the main storage (Warren & Root 1963;
Kazemi et al. 1976). At the heart of the dualcontinua model lies a transfer function that models the fluid exchange between fractures and the
matrix due to gravitational and capillary forces.
Several transfer functions exist and are routinely
applied in reservoir simulators (Kazemi et al.
1976; Gilman & Kazemi 1983; Quandalle & Sabathier 1989). A major problem is that these transfer
functions do not capture the actual physics seen
in experiments or high-resolution simulations of
fracture matrix transfer (Abushaikha & Gosselin
2008; Lu et al. 2008; Geiger et al. 2013; Ahmed
Elfeel et al. 2013a, b). Not surprisingly, this fundamental shortcoming poses major difficulties in the
history matching of fractured carbonate reservoirs.
Further simulation challenges include conceptual models for fluid fluid interactions during threephase flow and hysteresis. Water-alternating gas
injection is now considered to enhance microscopic
and macroscopic sweep in many carbonate reservoirs (Kalam et al. 2011; Pizarro & Branco 2012;
Rawahi et al. 2012). The available empirical threephase relative permeability models such as the
Stone I and Stone II models that aim to predict
the mobility of the gas, water and oil phases are
not necessarily suitable for this purpose (Blunt
2000): they assume a water-wet rock (carbonates
are mixed to oil-wet) and gas to be the least nonwetting phase (gas can be the intermediate wetting
phase). Empirical models tend to overpredict the
relative permeability to oil at low oil saturations,
and yield overly optimistic recovery scenarios and
inaccurate residual oil saturations (Blunt 2000;
Al-Dhahli et al. 2013a, b). Another issue for threephase water-alternating gas injection is the constant
decrease and increase in water and gas saturation


that leads to hysteresis and the trapping of the nonwetting phase. Hysteresis needs to be modelled
accurately to obtain reliable recovery predictions.
Yet, the many different empirical trapping and hysteresis models that are available in modern reservoir
simulations yield very different recovery forecasts
(Spiteri & Juanes 2006). Although the effect of hysteresis decreases with increasing reservoir heterogeneity in carbonate reservoirs, it is not negligible
(Agada & Geiger 2014). A final example where
the lack of macroscopic material laws hinders the
accurate predictions during reservoir simulation is
controlled water flooding in carbonate reservoirs.
Controlled water flooding has been observed to
yield attractive incremental oil recoveries in laboratory experiments. However, the underlying physicochemical effects are not yet fully understood (e.g.
Austad et al. 2008; Gupta et al. 2011; Yousef
et al. 2011; Romanuka et al. 2012; Chandrasekha
& Mohanty 2013) and, hence, conceptual models
remain mechanistic to date in that they adjust relative permeability curves as a function of brine salinity (Wu & Bai 2009; Aldasani et al. 2012;
Fjelde et al. 2012; Korrani et al. 2013; Al-Shalabi
et al. 2014; Masalmeh et al. 2014).
In addition to the lack of appropriate constitutive
models for fluid fluid and fluid rock interactions
in reservoir simulation models, industry capabilities
to predict the characteristics and impacts of diagenesis in the subsurface using RTM are limited by
several factors. Software tools available for RTM
(Saaltink et al. 2004; Steefel et al. 2005; Xu &
Pruess 2010; Xu et al. 2011) have limitations in carbonate reservoirs. Ongoing debates address: the viability of different concepts and models (Ehrenberg
et al. 2012; Xiao et al. 2013; Li et al. 2014); the
lack of effective integration of RTM tools with
other geological simulation tools; a lack of quantitative constraints for physico-chemical processes
during diagenesis; the use of empirical material
laws that link porosity and permeability evolution to chemical reactions; the limitations of the
ADRE, as noted above; Darcy-scale reaction rates
from fluid rock interactions that occur at the pore
scale and below; and relatively infrequent (published) attempts to validate models or concepts
against relevant laboratory experiments or subsurface data. In addition, relatively few RTM models
have published results from 3D simulations, which
remain challenged by their computational expense
(Xiao & Jones 2006; Gomez-Rivas et al. 2010).
Despite its challenges, RTM still offers a platform to strengthen communication between geoscientists and engineers by demonstrating the
potential value of conceptual models for carbonate
diagenesis in evaluations of reservoir performance.
This engagement can also ensure that diagenesis
is considered equally with other geological factors

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as a potential control on reservoir issues and performance (e.g. super-K zones, unconformities), and
in the capture of relevant statistics for the design
of geological models (Farzaneh et al. 2013). Such
efforts may, in turn, stimulate the development of
novel logging devices and techniques for RTM on
local scales. RTM models will also benefit from
fully unstructured grid simulations and more 3D
modelling because the combined impacts of faults,
fractures and matrix on patterns of flow and diagenesis can be significantly different from those represented in 2D.
While the primary focus of RTM in carbonate
reservoirs has been in the geological time domain,
there is potential to realize further value by linking
knowledge and expertise from this area to that of
reservoir engineering on production timescales.
Fluidrock interaction studies related to the effects
of injection fluids with different composition
on recovery have benefited from RTM applications: for example, in the area of controlled-salinity
water flooding. There remain opportunities to
broaden impacts of RTM on production decisions
by strengthening links to pore-scale processes.
Pore-scale modelling in combination with X-ray
CT visualization and other microscale experiments,
such as AFM, enable the development of constitutive relationships and material laws that offer
more robust modelling at the Darcy scale.
In the area of geomechanics, realistic modelling
of carbonate rocks requires an in-depth understanding of the physico-chemical mechanisms involved
and the incorporation of time-dependent mechanical properties or, at least, an evaluation of the
different outcomes they may drive. Numerical modelling of the evolution of individual faults and fractures is extremely challenging in any rock type,
let alone carbonates. Even if an initial set of fractures can be generated, their impact on local stress
fields, and on the localization and propagation of
subsequent fractures, is rarely captured in a realistic
manner. Few have attempted to capture interactions
between fracture apertures and pressure-solution
creep on production timescales, with most geomechanical models focusing on elastic responses.
Common, polyphase diagenetic and fluid-flow histories in carbonate rocks alter porosity and stiffness,
as well as connectivity, but none of these is commonly represented in geomechanical models of carbonate rocks. More sophisticated material models
are needed to capture the brittle-failure processes,
pressure-solution creep and volume losses associated with stylolite formation. The influence of pressure solution on carbonate reservoir quality and
fault-zone properties and the potential role of
stylolites as local baffles or sites of porosity and
permeability enhancement are widely recognized.
However, there is continuing debate concerning

the distribution and timing of mechanisms involved

at different stages of burial and compaction (Croize
et al. 2013).
Even with improved modelling capabilities, the
value of these capabilities resides in the development (and possible standardization) of modelling
methods and experiments to explore an appropriate
spectrum of model sensitivities. Only through
rigorous evaluation of model sensitivities can guidelines for use by the broader community be developed. For example, are there certain conditions
(thresholds) for which significant changes in the
distribution and style of dolomitization occur?
Under what circumstances might we expect to see
extreme impacts on porosity and permeability by
deformation? Are there multiple sets of conditions
that can lead to similar outcomes? Even with inevitable gaps in data and model approximations, it
may still be possible to develop first-order guidelines to constrain scenarios in geological models.
For example (e.g. Hiemstra & Goldstein 2014;
Ramaker et al. 2014), can diagenesis in carbonate
reservoirs be categorized by levels of complexity
of diagenesis? When is it important to include
diagenetic details or when can they be readily
ignored in representations of reservoir quality in
reservoir simulations? The need to develop systematic ways to incorporate the appropriate scale
and density of data into models is essential for
industry. There is also value in knowing when certain modelling will not work due to data limitations
or model assumptions.
Overall, research efforts related to modelling could benefit from integrated modelling platforms that can couple forward sedimentological
modelling, diagenetic/RTM and geomechanical
modelling, underpinned by probabilistic models
that quantify the heterogeneity in the flow field
and chemical reactions across scales. Furthermore,
there may be opportunities to link RTM on local
and regional scales, taking advantage of multiscale
modelling strategies, with regional-scale models
providing boundary conditions for the local models.
Currently, no such platform exists.

Selected advances
Recent advances in visualizing and modelling multiphase flow processes across a wide range of scales
now put us on the brink of revolutionizing the way
that we can quantify multiphase flow processes in
hydrocarbon reservoirs from first principles rather
than using volume-averaged dispersion tensors and
relative permeability and capillary pressure curves.
Pore-scale simulations. Pore-scale simulations of
fluid flow are no longer restricted to single-phase
reactive-flow processes. It has long been possible

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to compute physically consistent relative permeability and capillary curves for two-phase flow
displacements (cf. Blunt 2001; Blunt et al. 2002;
Sorbie & Skauge 2011). Simulations can be performed for two-phase displacements in complex
3D porous structures with mixed-wet pores, which
are common in carbonate rocks (e.g. Valvatne &
Blunt 2004; Al-Kharusi & Blunt 2008; Ryazanov
et al. 2009, 2014). Extensions are well underway
to perform similar calculations in 3D pore structures during three-phase flow (e.g. Piri & Blunt
2005a, b; Al-Dhahli et al. 2013a, b) and for dynamic displacement processes (e.g. Prodanovic &
Bryant 2006; Raeini et al. 2014). While relative
permeability and capillary pressure curves from
pore-scale simulations cannot replace special core
analysis (SCAL) experiments, they allow us to
analyse how these flow properties evolve during
EOR in order to identify shifts in relative permeability and capillary pressure, and the resulting
changes in residual oil saturation (e.g. Bolandtaba
& Skauge 2011). Simulators now offer the possibility of modelling EOR by shifting the relative permeability curves from oil- to water-wet as a function
of salinity and/or the concentration of (adsorbing)
cations in the brine. Laboratory experiments can
be readily matched using this approach (Wu & Bai
2009; Aldasani et al. 2012; Fjelde et al. 2012;
Korrani et al. 2013; Al-Shalabi et al. 2014; Masalmeh et al. 2014). It remains to be seen how predictive these empirical mechanistic models can be for
real field applications but pore-scale modelling
offers, at least, the possibility of quantifying the
magnitude of the changes in permeability curves
during EOR.
Another emerging possibility is to use porescale modelling to quantify changes in relative permeability and capillary changes due to the evolution
of the pore space, during production or geological
timescales. Prodanovic et al. (2014) show how
cementation, dissolution and the amount of microporosity in carbonates cause distinct shifts in capillary pressure and relative permeability. A similar
approach was followed by Van der Land et al.
(2013), who used pore-network modelling to quantify how capillary pressure and relative permeability
curves evolve over geological time as carbonate
rocks experience different diagenetic events. In
particular, the amount of microporosity and the
way that micro- and macroporosity are connected
in carbonates appears to impact capillary pressure and relative permeability curves (Jiang et al.
2013a, b). It is now possible to quantitatively
combine pore-scale modelling studies, such as
those of Prodanovic et al. (2014) or Jiang et al.
(2013a, b), with multiscale X-ray CT imaging of
carbonates, as represented by Hebert et al. (2014).
By analogy to probabilistic model concepts


developed in hydrology for single-phase flow, the

quantitative insights from pore-scale studies can
also be used to develop probabilistic models for
multiphase flow that link the variability in porescale physics to the Darcy scale. This approach provides a novel simulation approach that accounts
for the pore-scale physics directly by reformulating
the ADRE as a stochastic partial differential equation rather than using (incorrectly) averaged multiphase flow physics (Tyagi et al. 2008; Tyagi &
Jenny 2011).
Computational methods unstructured grids. It is
now increasingly recognized that classical finitedifference methods are no longer adequate to
simulate flow processes in structurally complex
reservoirs. Many so-called next-generation simulators, developed commercially or academically,
have successfully implemented fully unstructured
grids that can be adapted to complex geological
structures using the appropriate discretization technique, such as finite-element or multipoint flux
methods (e.g. Lee et al. 2002; Karimi-Fard et al.
2004; Matthai et al. 2007; Flemisch et al. 2011;
Kolditz et al. 2012; Lie et al. 2012; Jackson et al.
2013a, b; Moog 2013; Mallison et al. 2014). These
simulators have been applied to reservoirs, either
as a standalone simulator or to augment the upscaling of heterogeneous and fractured carbonate
reservoirs (e.g. Gong et al. 2008; Hui et al. 2008,
2013; Karimi-Fard & Durlofsky 2012a, b). Fully
unstructured grids offer a completely new reservoir
modelling approach in which any geological heterogeneity, be it faults, fractures, stratigraphic, sedimentary or diagenetic boundaries, are represented
as a hierarchy of surfaces that bound volumes
(domains) of equal or similar petrophysical properties. This approach explicitly captures the key reservoir architectures, producing reservoir models that
instantly look geologically realistic such that the
impact of stratigraphic, sedimentological and diagenetic heterogeneities on recovery can be assessed
(Matthai et al. 2007; Paluszny et al. 2007; Jackson
et al. 2013a, b). For example, Fitch et al. (2014)
showed that rock property contrasts between
sequence boundaries in a carbonate ramp setting
and the properties of the environment of deposition
belts (e.g. interfingering, anisotropy and rock properties) control recovery, independent of fluid properties and well placement. Although surface-based
reservoir modelling is in stark contrast to the use
of geostatistical means to represent key reservoir
architectures, geostatistics can still be applied
within a volume (domain) of equal or similar petrophysics to model localized petrophysical variations.
The bounding surfaces can be generated directly
in the geological model, either deterministically or
stochastically between wells.

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For completeness, we also note simulators based

on perpendicular bi-sector (PEBI) grids. PEBI grids
are also commonly referred to as unstructured
grids but it should be pointed out that PEBI grids
provide geometric flexibility mainly in areal dimensions. PEBI grids were first applied in the context of
reservoir simulation originally over two decades
ago (Heinemann et al. 1991), and are now used regularly in some proprietary industry simulators (e.g.
Liu et al. 2007a, b; Dogru et al. 2009; Verma
et al. 2009) and research simulators (e.g. Lie et al.
2012; Moog 2013).
Discrete fracture matrix modelling. Fully unstructured simulators have been used to disentangle the
complex flow processes in sector- or grid-blockscale models of fractured carbonate reservoirs,
typically using reservoir architectures from outcrop analogues (e.g. Matthai & Belayneh 2004;
Belayneh et al. 2006, 2007, 2009; Sternlof et al.
2006; Agar et al. 2010; Geiger et al. 2013; Geiger
& Matthai 2014). These are a special class of
unstructured grid simulations, the so-called Discrete
Fracture Matrix (DFM) models, which represent
both the fracture network and the rock matrix, in a
reservoir simulation using fully unstructured grids
(e.g. Karimi-Fard et al. 2004; Reichenberger et al.
2006; Matthai et al. 2007; Hoteit & Firoozabadi
2008a, b; Sandve et al. 2012; Schmid et al. 2013;
Geiger & Matthai 2014). Results from such DFM
simulations (Ahmed Elfeel et al. 2013c; Geiger
et al. 2013), in combination with theoretical and
mathematical analysis of fracture matrix transfer
processes (Schmid et al. 2011, 2012; Schmid &
Geiger 2012, 2013), have recently led to a new
transfer function for dual-continua models in which
the transfer processes are computed using exact
analytical solutions of the underlying physical processes. This new transfer function can be extended
to account for complex matrix heterogeneity in
terms of matrix block sizes, wettability or permeability, and employed in unstructured grid reservoir
simulators (Di Donato et al. 2007; Maier & Geiger
2013; Maier et al. 2013). Other DFM simulation
results have suggested an empirical approach to
compute upscaled relative permeability curves in
fractured porous media (Matthai & Nick 2009).
Within such models of fractured rock masses,
however, it needs to be recognized that diagenetic
or hydrothermal fluids are not only modifying the
matrix but are also modifying fracture apertures
through the precipitation and/or dissolution of fracture cements. DFM models provide the geometrical
flexibility to capture geologically realistic fracture
geometries and aperture variations. They offer a
way to explore the impacts of cemented fractures
on production during multiphase flow, overcoming
the limitations of existing fracture-flow simulations.

Parallel computing and adaptive gridding. Simulators now routinely perform calculations in parallel
using multicore processors or clusters. The first
promising results have been demonstrated for accelerating reservoir simulation with graphical processing units (GPUs) and report run-time reductions
of up to a factor of 100 (Bayat & Killough 2013;
Fung et al. 2013). Computing power is no longer a
limitation for reservoir simulation, which is of particular interest for giant carbonate reservoirs. Massively parallel computing with hundreds or even
thousands of processors enables grid refinement
and, hence, better resolution of geology and flow
physics in simulations of giant carbonate reservoirs
with many decades of production data (e.g. Dogru
et al. 2008, 2009). Although such large-scale simulations require novel ways to interact with the reservoir simulation, visualize results, and manage the
input and output data (Dogru et al. 2011), they also
enable the investigation of old concepts that were
not previously possible.
While parallel computing is becoming the norm,
alternative and computationally efficient techniques
to refine the grid and resolve the flow physics are
also available. In some simulators, it is possible
for the grids to adapt to evolving physical processes
over the course of a simulation by refining the grid
dynamically and automatically in certain regions
of interest (e.g. Jackson et al. 2013a, b; Faigle
et al. 2014) (Fig. 7). This capability now opens the
door to multiphysics multiscale simulations: that
is, reservoir simulations in which different physics
are modelled on grids with different resolution.
The grids change their resolution automatically as
needed to capture the spatio-temporal evolution of
the relevant physical processes with minimum
error (Helmig et al. 2013). This simulation approach
expands the aforementioned multiscale methods to
a dynamic framework, providing efficient, yet accurate, simulations of complex recovery processes
in carbonate reservoirs. For example, in EOR studies, it is commonly necessary to resolve in detail
regions in which physical and chemical processes
lead to a reduction in residual oil saturation in
order to provide better predictions about incremental oil recovery. These regions are commonly
concentrated in a small part of the reservoir (i.e.
where the fluids mix), and evolve in space and time.
Modelling these processes by adequately refining
the reservoir simulation grid uniformly throughout
the reservoir may be computationally prohibitive,
even with parallel computing. However, since
these processes are normally restricted to localized
regions in the reservoir, it seems natural to refine
the grid only in these regions and to keep it coarse
everywhere else. This technique increases the
resolution of flow fields where two brines mix
and, hence, improves the resolution of important

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Fig. 7. (a) LiDAR image of a Jurassic carbonate ramp outcrop containing fractures, fracture corridors and several
sedimentary layers (see also Fig. 3b). (b) Unstructured finite-element grid representation of the outcrop geometry where
each sedimentary layer is represented by a different colour and each fracture by a thicker black line. The black box in
(a) shows the location of the finite-element grid. (c) Numerical simulation of water flooding through two adjacent
sedimentary layers with high (yellow) and low (brown) permeability. Note how the finite-element grid is adapted as the
waterfront propagates from left to right (red colour indicates high water saturation; blue indicates low water saturation).
(a) is modified from Agar et al. (2010); (b) and (c) are modified from Geiger & Matthai (2014) and Jackson et al. (2013),

processes such as mixing, dispersion and reactions.

The adaptive grid refinement within a multiscale
multiphysics framework could overcome some of
the intrinsic challenges of the ADRE by capturing
the mixing, dispersion and chemical reactions via
a locally refined grid and sufficiently resolved
flow field. An alternative could be to augment the
ADRE with a stochastic forcing term so that fluid
fluid (Tyagi et al. 2008; Tyagi & Jenny 2011)
and fluid rock (Geiger et al. 2012) interactions
below the grid block scale are modelled in a probabilistic way rather than using volume-averaged
Reactive transport modelling. In the last 5 years,
RTM research has progressed to offer new insights
into the distribution of dolomite and anhydrite,
with implications for reservoir connectivity and
subsurface correlation strategies (Xiao et al. 2013).
Incremental improvements in RTM software continue (Xu & Pruess 2010) and have been supported by advances that improve the algorithms

underpinning the simulations (Kaczmarek &

Sibley 2011; Paster et al. 2013). Developments in
approaches to modelling RTM are as significant as
the changes to algorithms. Mangione et al. (2013)
explored iterative modelling methods to interface outputs from finite-element basin models
with RTM. Doligez et al. (2011) explored different
modelling workflows suited to distinct geological
settings. Increasingly sophisticated approaches are
now also linking depositional environments and
climate variations to patterns of early diagenesis
(Whitaker & Xiao 2010; Whitaker et al. 2014).
While Li et al. (2014) seek to identify the systems
controlling dolomitization through outcrop studies,
Pal et al. (2014) seek to test the plausibility of longproposed dolomitization mechanisms through
numerical modelling. Their use of a code for multiphysics modelling enables solutions for coupled
systems for cases of brine reflux and geothermal
convection. Even though their models remain in
the realm of 2D, they have been able to generate
similar scales and patterns of dolomitization to

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those in published outcrop studies. The application

of RTM to fault systems in 3D remains limited but
is critical to understanding the ways by which the
combined impacts of strata and structures influence
the resulting patterns of dolomite geobody characteristics. A few 3D studies have provided insights
into the rock types and structural associations that
strongly influence reservoir quality trends around
faults (Corbella et al. 2014; Gomez-Rivas et al.
2014) (Fig. 8).
Even with the advances above, it is important
to consider the most effective way to use the
results from various modelling efforts (Teletzke &
Lu 2013; Xiao et al. 2013). Results are being used
increasingly to steer broad insights to diagenetic
processes and to provide first-order guidelines for
scenarios in the subsurface. For example, brine
reflux modelling by Al-Helal et al. (2012) shed
light on why in some settings reflux preferentially dolomitizes muddy sediments but elsewhere
favours grainstones. In a study of fault-associated
dolomitization, Gomez-Rivas et al. (2014) was
able to define a minimum difference in permeability to control fluid-flow paths into specific layers.
This enabled the authors to differentiate preferred
scenarios for fluid fluxes and heat flow to achieve
observed patterns and characterization of dolomitization. Previously, Consonni et al. (2011) demonstrated the influence of permeability assumptions
and the presence of fault zones on the final predicted geometry of dolomite bodies. While Pal
et al. (2014) have been able to generate results
that at least look similar to patterns of dolomitization in outcrop, they recognize that further progress
is needed to evaluate the model to boundary conditions, parameters, other model assumptions and
full 3D modelling.
Geomechanical modelling. Geomechanics research
continues to advance modelling for carbonate reservoirs. Numerical modelling offers insights into
controls on fracture and fault populations (Caputo
2010), while geomechanical modelling of reservoirs
has advanced capabilities to simulate permeability
changes related to reservoir deformation (Dutta
et al. 2011). Combined modelling and outcrop studies have advanced more sophisticated approaches
for characterizing the effects of fracture patterns,
connectivity and clustering (Larsen et al. 2010).
Although not new, studies continue to highlight
the risks of directly attempting to link macroscopic
geometries (curvature) in carbonate structures
to fracture populations (Claringbould et al. 2013),
and to offer more informed guidance for the relationship between fractures and dip domains in
carbonate rocks (Bazalgette et al. 2010). Multidisciplinary research is also supporting advances by
strengthening the links between sedimentology and

deformation. These links offer novel proxies for use

in geomechanical modelling: for example, the style
and extent of deformation within a carbonate fault
zone can be improved by integrating data related
to facies, rock strength and mud content within a
sequence stratigraphic framework (Zahm et al.
2010). In this area, we believe that the development
of probabilistic numerical modelling approaches
offer potential uplift (Pereira et al. 2012). Such
models can explore sensitivities to stratal and structural geometries, as well as material properties and
boundary conditions. These approaches can accelerate the exploration of key uncertainties. Welch
et al. (2014) explore the mechanical modelling of
chalk. Recognizing the common patterns of faults
and fractures that occur in different rock types and
geological settings, this work explores the impacts
of pre-existing structures and pore-fluid pressure
on fracture development. To date, very few mechanical models that explore processes on geological
timescales attempt to incorporate pore-fluid effects
in simulations of fracture generation and propagation. Comparisons between two distinct chalk
outcrops and the simulation of their fracture populations by elastic-dislocation and finite-element
models may help to constrain guidelines for the categorization of fractures, the conditions that favour
their generation and their relative impacts on flow
(when open).
Visualization and interaction. The work by Sousa
et al. (2014) shows how novel interactions can
be facilitated using interactive display surfaces to
explore and visualize reservoir simulation models in a collaborative environment. For example,
rather than using mouse-based operations, intuitive
touch-based operations allow us to display different
reservoir properties, to rotate and zoom into reservoir models or to create cross-sections through
models (Fig. 9). It also becomes increasingly possible to store different and multiscale data sources
in such environments (e.g. the static model, results
from dynamic simulations, seismic data, outcrop
analogue data, borehole images or X-ray CT
images) and to fuse and blend the different types
of data interactively. The touch-based approach
allows us to overlay reservoir simulation output
on the original geological data that underpinned
the construction of the reservoir model. Links
between geological structures, flow behaviour and
production performance can, hence, be explored in
intuitive ways. Interactive display surfaces can
communicate with smart phones, tablets and other
mobile devices so that data can be readily transferred between different hardware systems and
user groups: for example, linking field teams with
laboratory teams in real time. The collaborative
nature of this emerging technology cannot be

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Fig. 8. Outcrop image and 3D model of stratiform and fault-associated dolomitization in the Benica`ssim area, NE Spain showing the results of a dolomitizing fluid- and
heat-flow simulation. (a) Image of the Benica`ssim outcrop showing dolomitized strata dissected by low-offset and seismic-scale faults. Field of view is approximately 1.2 km.
(b) The 3D model shows the distribution of temperature around multiple vertical faults after 15 500 years of model run time. (c) Cross-section showing fluid velocity and streamlines
with two hypothetical and vertical faults (f). High-temperature dolomitizing fluids flow upwards along fault zones and invade high-permeability layers. This example represents a
rare demonstration of 3D RTM in a system representing both faults and strata. The model incorporates infinite volume blocks on the top and bottom layers with near-zero
permeabilities to maintain constant boundary temperatures. Neumann boundary conditions specified: 60 mW m22 of heat flux into the model at the base and the same heat flux out of
the system at the top layer. See Corbella et al. (2014) for further information. (c) provided by E. Gomez-Rivas, S. Stafford and A. Lee (see also Xiao et al. 2013).


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Fig. 9. The use of interactive multitouch displays for collaborative visualization and analytics in exploration and
production. (a) Multitouch displays can be placed and integrated with existing working environments, including offices,
labs and visualization rooms. (b) Multitouch displays facilitate interrogation of modelling and simulation results in
post-processing phases. In this example, the user is able to literally pull the geological model apart to see property values
inside the model and then put the model back together again (Sultanum et al. 2010, 2011). (c) Multitouch displays in
large tabletop tablets facilitate the display and manipulation of multidimensional data. In this example, maps of
hydrocarbon seeps generated at different scales are integrated with geochemical data and geological surface data at one
scale and can be manipulated in 3D (Seyed et al. 2013). (d) Use of a tablet with a multitouch display to interact with
geological information (carbonate strata in a cliff face) represented by LiDAR data. In this example, the interpreter is
tracing stratal surfaces which can then be extrapolated into 3D surfaces and digitized as input to a geological model
(Sultanum et al. 2013).

overemphasized. It allows geoscientists and engineers to query different types of data across multiple
scales when analysing static and dynamic reservoir
models, comparing reservoir performance with
simulated reservoir behaviour and planning future
reservoir development.
Further developments are supporting the rapid
capture of geological concepts into models, enabling greater transfer of geological experience and
perspectives for multiple scenarios into the modelling process. As Sousa et al. (2014) show, there
are intuitive and interactive approaches to rapidly
generate and modify geological surfaces from a
variety of input data including seismic data, outcrops, wells or even blank screens, the so-called
sketch-based interface modelling (SBIM) (Fig.
10). Using tabletop and surface PCs, SBIM supports
the creation, augmentation or refinement of geological surfaces by sketching simple lines that
trace, for example, a bed boundary on an outcrop
image or a fault in a seismic cross-section. The 2D
surface is then generated automatically from these
sketches and geological rules can be implemented
to ascertain that the resulting geometries are consistent: for example, that cross-cutting relationships
are obeyed. SBIM, together with surface-based
reservoir modelling and unstructured grid reservoir

simulation, has the potential to revolutionize the

static and dynamic modelling of structurally complex carbonate reservoirs, replacing the conventional geostatistical reservoir modelling workflows
and finite-difference simulations.
We perceive an exciting future for modelling
tools and techniques: at the Hedberg Conference, the potential benefits of additive manufacturing (3D printing) for geological modelling were
recognized as a possible avenue for uplift. Today,
a house has been printed in Amsterdam (Bogue
2013; Rutkin 2014). In the same way, geological
models from nanometre to decametre scales could
be programmed remotely to be printed at a remote,
centralized facility (R. Gibson pers. comm.: see
Agar et al. 2013). Advances in materials science
that deliver bespoke material properties may eventually enable robust approaches to scaling the flow
or rheological properties of such models, as well
as the wettabilities (Torrez-Sanchez & Corney
2009). It may be that these capabilities offer a new
lease of life to the realm of physico-chemical modelling of the Earth that has diminished significantly
over the last decade. Knowing the full 3D properties
of such materials and being able to rapidly construct
configurations of the fine-scale heterogeneities in
carbonate reservoirs (pores, fractures and stylolites)

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Fig. 10. Reservoir modelling interfaces. Current high-end Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer (WIMP)-based modelling
tools are suitable for modelling tasks involving accurate and detailed parameter adjustments over a reservoir model.
Sketch-based interfaces and modelling (SBIM) (Olsen et al. 2009) are suitable for supporting interactive, intuitive,
interpretive visual geometric and topological data modelling leading to conceptual, prototype structural model of the
reservoir. Ultimately, SBIM tools should be able to leverage existing modelling tools and workflows. SBIM allows the
use of personal computers and tabletops (centre) to draw lines on the existing surfaces (right) where modifications are
needed. Geological rules can be implemented that ensure that geological concepts (e.g. cross-cutting relationships) are
obeyed when modifying the surface, that constraints in the form of hard data (e.g. well locations) are honoured or that
hierarchies of surfaces are created automatically from predefined templates (e.g. foresets). This illustration of SBIM is
for a seismic image but SBIM works for other types of data such as outcrop models (Figure provided by M. C. Sousa.)

could help to address many flow-related questions.

Furthermore, developments in medical imaging
and sensing may promote methods to look inside
physical models or to use embedded sensors to
monitor processes during model runs. Concepts
related to imaging in complex media have long
been translated to or exchanged between medical
and geophysical fields (Fink 1992; Fink et al.
2002; Mosk et al. 2012). With the development of
new avenues for physical modelling, similar techniques may also find application to live 3D rendering of actively deforming or flowing physical
models. These approaches complement advances
that have been realized for various tomographical
and fluid imaging of core samples during deformation experiments, even though applications to
higher density carbonate rocks pose challenges
(Viggiani & Hall 2004; Hall et al. 2012).

Monitoring in real time or on production

Background and challenges
To validate static and dynamic reservoir models,
it is common practice to calibrate the reservoir
simulation model using dynamic production data

(e.g. production rates, bottom-hole pressures, tracer

data and fluid ratios). This history matching process
requires a large number of additional simulations
that explore multiple possible geological scenarios,
and adapts them by altering the static and dynamic
model parameters until the simulated model
response matches the observed production data.
The term history matching is somewhat misleading in that the primary aim is not to simulate historical production but to use the mismatch between
simulated model responses and production data to
understand flow behaviours and geological structures in the reservoir. History matching is an
inverse problem with a non-unique answer: that is,
an infinite number of possible geological models
that match the past production history exist in
theory. Hence, using a single well-calibrated geological model to forecast future production behaviours is inadequate, especially if the model is
uncertain, as is the case for many carbonate reservoirs. For all that, we know that the model could
be wrong despite being calibrated to the production
data, giving the right answer for the wrong reason
and therefore yielding incorrect future production
estimates. It is, hence, pertinent to use an ensemble of likely geological models that all match
the past production history within a given tolerance to robustly quantify the uncertainty bounds

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for future production (cf. Oliver et al. 2008). Generating such an ensemble of well-calibrated but also
diverse yet likely geological models and using
them for robust uncertainty quantification and optimization of future hydrocarbon production in a
computationally efficient way is an active field of
research. Algorithms that originated in other disciplines (e.g. evolutionary algorithms, machine learning and particle swarms) are continuously adapted
to reservoir simulation, and industry workflows
for uncertainty quantification have been updated
accordingly (e.g. Hajizadeh et al. 2011; Abdollazadeh et al. 2013; Arnold et al. 2013; Ashraf et al.
2013; Dehdari et al. 2013; He & Durlofsky 2013;
Park et al. 2013; Peters et al. 2013; El-Sheikh
et al. 2014). However, it is not clear how readily
those new algorithms, which are commonly developed for well-known and sometimes slightly
idealized benchmark problems comprising clastic
reservoir models, can be applied to carbonate reservoirs. Building static models and running dynamic
models for giant fractured carbonate reservoirs
that contain hundreds to thousands of millions of
grid blocks, decades of production data and hundreds of wells, and are operated by surface facilities
that serve multiple fields is not trivial from a computational point of view, even for a single model
realization (e.g. Fung & Dogru 2008; Hui et al.
2008; Dogru et al. 2009; Carrillat et al. 2010; Aissaoui & Moreno 2013; Clara et al. 2013). New techniques are required to visualize and analyse the
overwhelming amounts of input and output data
(Dogru et al. 2011; Sousa et al. 2014). Another challenge is to use different data sources (e.g. tracers,
4D seismic and produced-water chemistry) as they
become available, and to update the static and
dynamic models accordingly. There is also the
intrinsic danger of replacing the intuition of experienced production geologists and reservoir engineers
with computing power, a process that has been
referred to as Nintendo engineering at various
conferences in recent years. The history matching
process should be used to query the concepts that
underpin the construction of static and dynamic
models, and to develop insights that establish links
to the ways in which geology impacts reservoir performance and that guide the decision-making
process during reservoir development. Instead, we
are tempted to rely exclusively on the outputs of a
large number of computer simulations.
Augmenting history matching with results from
the outcrop-scale flow-modelling studies discussed
above represents significant progress in linking
knowledge of geological impacts on flow to carbonate reservoir performance. However, relevance to
the subsurface has largely emerged from fortuitous connections. The right people just happened
to be in the right place at the right time to link

production data to geological and fluid information.

We suggest that there is an opportunity for industry
to be more proactive in the design of subsurface
experiments, building on the strengthening platforms for real-time reservoir monitoring in digital
oilfields (Dogru et al. 2011; Gomez et al. 2013;
Al-Jasmi et al. 2014; Sousa et al. 2014). There
will always be an argument that each experiment
is a special case that cannot be applied elsewhere
and will generate more questions than answers.
Nevertheless, in an age of burgeoning sensor technology with strong scientific and technical integration, such efforts may deliver benefits beyond
those previously envisaged.
While time-lapse studies are not new, there
remains much to learn about their optimal implementation in carbonate reservoirs. A key challenge
for time-lapse studies in carbonates arises from the
fact that the acoustic response of carbonates can
be highly variable and the applicability of Gassmanns equation for predicting the impact of
changes in saturation on the acoustic properties of
carbonates is debatable (Misaghi et al. 2010; Li &
Chen 2013). This point is highlighted by Yee et al.
(2012), who performed 4D studies of carbonate
gas fields of offshore Sarawak. They note that Gassmans equation would predict that water influx into
a gas reservoir would produce a relatively minor
acoustic response but two of the six repeated 2D
seismic lines showed a strong, coherent amplitude response at the gaswater contact. Continuing
challenges for time-lapse studies include finding
opportunities to validate interpretations through
carefully designed well experiments or the installation of (semi-) permanent downhole monitoring
stations. Even then, sampling, scaling and resolution
issues limit capabilities to cross-validate seismically
derived fracture attributes with geological observations of fractures. Expanded efforts are needed
to validate seismic interpretations and bulk-volume
attributes and to link them to data obtained at well
and interwell scales. Overall, time-lapse objectives
would benefit from improved velocity models,
rooted in robust knowledge of physical property
evolution of carbonate rocks, which include more
sophisticated representations of physico-chemical
changes during burial/uplift and diagenesis
(Vanorio et al. 2014). Further advances require a
full understanding of the physics, as well as the
limitations and complementary nature of tools
and techniques, used to acquire information on
different scales.

Selected advances
Data mining, pattern recognition and real-time data
analytics. Parallel computing and vastly expanded
computational capacities are impacting many areas

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Fig. 11. Visualizing and analysing multidimensional data. This example shows plots of outputs from reservoir
simulations that are being used to test five different algorithms applied to a history matching exercise (Hajizadeh et al.
2012, fig. 3). The five algorithms are: Ant Colony Optimization (ACO), Differential Evolution (DE Rand and DE Best),
Neighbourhood Algorithm (NA) and Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO). Each set of iterations traces a path (projected
into 2D) from the first to last iteration (blue to red). The cloud-like patterns indicate that a given algorithm is not
converging. The PSO algorithm follows a more discrete path to convergence of the simulation. Each iteration point
contains information about the 45 parameters input into the simulation. Future developments could provide capabilities
that link to further representations of the parameter space by selecting a given iteration.

in the modelling and inversion realms. Ensembles of static and dynamic models with production data using history matching and uncertainty
quantification workflows leads to Big Data: that
is, high-dimensional parameter spaces that cannot be explored by traditional means. Although the
visualization and analysis of huge quantities of
multiscale data remain a challenge, new, interactive
techniques have emerged that enable geoscientists
and reservoir engineers to work together in a truly
collaborative environment (Sousa et al. 2014)
(Fig. 11). In the context of history matching, uncertainty quantification and production optimization
that link static and dynamic data, such interactive
techniques project the parameter space that will be
explored in an interactive environment. End users
can interfere with reservoir simulations in real
time by querying the parameter space visually:
for example, to test a diverse range of geological
models and manipulate the parameter space based
on such analysis (Dos Santos Amorim et al. 2012;
Gundersen et al. 2012; Hajizadeh et al. 2012).
Developments in the realm of sensors represent
a further area of strong research activity. Advances
in the areas of materials science and electronics
have decreased the size of sensors and computers
to the micrometremillimetre scales (or less), and
increased their tolerance for harsh environments.
We are told that cities of the future will adjust

their systems based on real-time monitoring of

vast data streams (Batty et al. 2012), while our
homes can already learn our habits and modify our
environments accordingly (Robles et al. 2010).
Service and technology companies have quickly
recognized related opportunities for the industry,
pursuing novel sensor designs for the subsurface
(Al-Mohanna et al. 2013; Faichnie et al. 2013; Haldorsen et al. 2013; Kabir et al. 2014). With these
developments have come the growth of communities that focus on handling rapid and large data
streams from the oil and gas fields with a view to
strengthening real-time optimization (Gomez et al.
2013; Knabe et al. 2013). Large datasets from vast
arrays of wells in unconventional fields and novel
sensor development are also driving an intense
focus on Big Data and tools for data analytics
(Barron et al. 2010).
Closely coupled to developments in sensors and
large data streams are developments in artificial
intelligence (AI). Machine learning and pattern
recognition are not new to the geosciences but
advances in AI (and related advances in robotics)
have a significant potential to impact future workflows. Systems that are being developed to assist
the blind through computer visualization and sensor
data fusion (Rivera-Rubio et al. 2013), security
monitoring systems (Choi & Savarese 2014) and
biomedical imaging (Mudry et al. 2013; Toews &

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Wells 2013) are all advancing technologies of interest to geoscience: for example, pattern recognition of images can support quantitative, multiscale
analyses of 3D core images and real-time comparisons with core data from other fields. Similarly,
machine learning algorithms can use production
data to fuse different geological scenarios into a
self-consistent reservoir modelling during history
matching (Demyanov & Christie 2011). Related
techniques can be used on outcrops and with seismic data, and offer significant acceleration in data
acquisition and analysis (real time), as well as
greater data integration. Artificial intelligence is
now reaching the point where machines can generate novel scenarios based on their experience
(Helie & Sun 2010). There is the potential for machines to learn from geoscience datasets (or smart
analogues), and to envisage new opportunities
and processes in the carbonate reservoirs that may
not be readily apparent to humans.
While the benefits from these developments may
be a decade or more away, they offer new insights
into potential exploration opportunities and productivity of carbonate reservoirs based on broader
and better integrated views of all the data (see the
earlier section on Global context and frameworks),
with possibly less human bias than at present. Some
may dismiss data analytics as simply plotting data
as geoscientists and engineers have always done.
However, we suggest that key changes, particularly
in the areas of visualizing and analysing large volumes of data, are influencing geoscience research.
These include a stronger emphasis on systems thinking (as opposed to local studies of a fault zone or
facies pattern) and the ability to analyse the coupling or links between different processes across a
wide range of scales that lead to emergent behaviours. Greater data integration within these frameworks may stimulate paradigm shifts, enabling
practitioners to see things differently.
Dynamic behaviour of structural features. Studies
of fault zones in carbonate rocks have historically
lagged behind those in clastic rocks. However,
over the last decade, many more investigations of
fault zones in carbonates have emerged, encouraged
by the high-resolution seismic imaging of carbonate
reservoirs that revealed large populations of subtle
faults. For example, Corona et al. (2012) discussed
dynamic data for multiple fault zones within the
Zechstein carbonates, representing a rare quantification of flow properties in subsurface fault zones
with sufficient data to support broader inferences.
Other large datasets of fault damage zones in
outcrops in the NW German Basin also enabled
Reyer et al. (2012) to develop rules of thumb for
the mechanical behaviour of, and fluid flow in, carbonate faults in a region that might be usefully

transferred to the subsurface (e.g. Bastesen &

Braathen 2010; Elvik 2012).
Integrated approaches involving outcrop studies, numerical simulation, sandbox modelling and
seismic data offer strong platforms for the development of conceptual geometrical models of faults, as
well as static and dynamic fault-seal properties
(Agosta et al. 2010). One novel approach identified
a correspondence between fluid flow and patterns
of damage in fault zones based on observations of
stalactites in carbonate caves (Kim & Sanderson
2010). A subsurface experiment imaged fluid flow
through a fault zone via electrical tomography to
explore the detailed hydraulic property impact
resulting from alteration on fluid flow through a
fault zone in carbonate rock (Jeanne et al. 2012,
2013). These insights into the dynamic properties
of fault zones in carbonates have been matched by
a rapidly expanding group of studies related to
understanding the detailed impacts of fracture populations on flow (e.g. Dorn et al. 2013).
Reactive transport modelling on production timescales. Published applications of RTM on production timescales are growing with expanded
modelling efforts related to CO2 sequestration and
EOR (Wilkinson et al. 2010; Stewart et al. 2013;
Teletzke & Lu 2013). Advances that link model
results to observations in the subsurface offer
support for the ability of RTM modelling to simulate trends in chemical data from enhanced oil
recovery projects involving CO2 injection into carbonate reservoirs (Holubnyak et al. 2011; Shevalier et al. 2012). At the Hedberg Conference, one
study discussed 2D RTMs used to simulate the
impact of steam injection on dissolution and precipitation on production timescales (Champenoy
et al. 2012). A key point here was the need for appropriate measurements and monitoring to determine
which, of a wide array of engineering and geological
factors, have the most significant impacts. Factors
such as well deliverability, historical operations,
completions, facility constraints and reactivity may
not be at the front of a geologists mind when considering controls on flow. This work highlights
an important area for future RTM research: specifically, the potentially significant modification of
fluid pathways on production timescales by fluid
rock interaction during EOR/IOR. Observational
studies that are bringing knowledge of reactive
transport and deformation processes closer together
also signal opportunities for an expanded suite of
complementary experiments to address changes in
fracture permeability during production (Huerta
et al. 2012; Ishibashi et al. 2013).
Seismic time-lapse and (semi-) permanent monitoring. Time-lapse studies are helping to promote integrated investigations of geological and engineering

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controls on flow paths. Early, simple models that

attributed geological controls to a single structural conduit or a super-K zone are evolving with
deepening appreciation of the combined impacts
of environmental conditions (e.g. stress), geological
heterogeneity and fluid rock interaction during
production (Xu & Gui 2013; Grochau et al. 2014).
While passive seismic time-lapse applications in
carbonates lag behind those in clastics, pilot studies in the Middle East led Soroka & Al-Jenaibi
(2009) to suggest improved geophysical sensing
via a combination of passive seismic monitoring,
time-lapse 3D, vertical seismic profile (VSP) and
reflection-seismic data. In their case, however, they
found that results were commonly inconclusive
owing to difficulties in surface conditions, well
integrity and equipment availability, and in finding
an appropriate situation to demonstrate value from
passive seismic. Studies that monitored CO2 injection over a 7 year period in a carbonate reservoir
(Weyburn, Saksatchewan, Canada) confirmed a
reasonable match between reservoir simulations
and time-lapse-based interpretations of the movement of the CO2 plume (White 2009). Another
CO2 storage study demonstrated time-lapse feasibility in a Devonian reef environment in Canada
(Sodagar & Lawton 2010). To circumvent the
issues of low sensitivity to pressure changes in carbonate rocks, Zadeh et al. (2011) used a long-offset
time-lapse seismic approach at Valhall (in the North
Sea). Time-lapse cross-well electromagnetic (EM)
surveys have also been used to monitor changes in
fluid saturation during water injection in a Middle East carbonate reservoir (Clerc et al. 2010).
Time-lapse joint inversion of geophysical data has
been used as a way to reduce the non-uniqueness
of inverse modelling and to monitor changes in
partial saturation during oil production from carbonate reservoirs. For example, Revil et al. (2012)
and Torres-Verdn et al. (2012) employed two
inversion methods (active time-constrained (ATC)
and structural time-lapse inversion) to simulate the
inversion of cross-hole resistivity and seismic
data. The technique is well suited to rocks with variable fluid saturation (i.e. carbonates). Not only does
the method reduce spatial artefacts in the tomograms relative to other inversion methods but it
also offers ways to improve the time-lapse inversion
of seismic and resitivity data performed independently. This approach has been complemented by
software development designed specifically to handle the time-lapse resistivity problem for cross-well
tomography during enhanced oil recovery (Karaoulis et al. 2013).
Efforts to use 4D seismic to improve history
matching in reservoir simulations (Osdal et al.
2006) and to provide insights to controls on water
movement (Pires et al. 2013) continue. In this


volume, Astratti et al. (2014) introduce time-lapse

seismic data as a means to capture information on
the connectivity of fracture networks on production
timescales in chalk reservoirs. Integration of the
production history with the comparisons of repeated
surveys was used to link changes in fault images
to qualitative interpretations of changes in faultflow behaviour (e.g. fingering parallel to faults,
possible role as barriers). Their study demonstrates
that petrophysical and geomechanical properties
of the South Arne reservoirs (North Sea) respond
rapidly to water injection and production. After 10
years, they were able to extract 12% more fault surfaces (better definition and greater lateral extent)
from the 4D fault cube as a consequence of identified impacts of water injection. This observation,
as well as clear amplitude anomalies related to
complex changes and fluid saturation and compaction, has been related to the possible dynamic
response of the fault network to production. The
response may have modified the connectivity of
the fault network, influencing fault-controlled preferential pathways for flow. Nevertheless, there
remain acknowledged uncertainties related to the
velocity model as well as the different acquisition technologies used for the two 3D surveys that
were separated by a decade. Further studies emphasize the value obtained from integrating multiple
datasets: Colombo et al. (2010) explored a complementary approach, combining anisotropic resistivity distribution, seismic and reservoir simulation
to explore the sensitivity of the EM field to fluid saturations in in-situ reservoir conditions. In shallow
settings, Grasmueck et al. (2012) have applied timelapse GPR in carbonate rocks. In this case, the 4D
approach highlighted structural baffles (deformation bands) and their impacts on the near-surface
flow of water. In addition, 4D seismic developments
in other areas are promoting advances for permanent monitoring. Once more, advances in unconventional reservoirs may offer benefits to carbonate
settings. A new passive seismic method, Tomographic Fracture Imaging (TFI), was recently used to
image factures in two unconventional reservoirs
and a fractured carbonate reservoir (Lacazette
et al. 2013) (Fig. 12). Their results suggest promising insights into hydraulically active fractures, illuminating fluid pathways, some of which have been
independently identified by chemical tracers and
pressure monitoring.
At the Hedberg Conference, Jackson et al.
(2012) discussed the use of spontaneous potential
(SP) during waterflooding to detect and monitor
water encroaching on a well through the use of
SP and electrodes installed permanently downhole
(Fig. 12) (Saunders et al. 2012). The technique has
the potential to detect increasing water saturation several metres to hundreds of metres away but

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Fig. 12. Examples of advances in real-time monitoring in carbonate reservoirs. (a) Tomographic fracture imaging (TFI)
of a fractured carbonate anticline (from Lacazette et al. 2013). Reservoir depth slice of the ambient TFI derived from the
sum of microseismic activity over 4 days. Symbols indicate productivity: 0, no productivity, S, some productivity; E,
excellent productivity. The best productivity occurs in the location with the highest microseismic activity. (b) Exploring
the potential use of spontaneous potential to detect water encroachment (from Saunders et al. 2012). The two plots
represent results from a simulation of a heterogeneous reservoir model at two different times, showing water moving
towards a horizontal well. The plotted line traces the value of SP along the well profile. The grey tones show the
variation in water saturation along the well. As water approaches the well (high saturation in the lower plot), but is still
several tens of metres away, the SP signal increases (lower plot). Modelling and experiments by Saunders et al. (2012)
suggest that this method can be used for several monitoring objectives, including: early detection of a waterfront
approaching a well; mapping a moving waterfront from multiple wells; identifying and tracking injected fluids during
EOR processes and monitoring steam flooding.

still needs appropriate hardware and interpretation methods, and a better understanding of the
coupling coefficients involved (these relate gradients in water-phase pressure, salinity and temperature to gradients in electrical potential). Gosh
et al. (2014) have used a time-lapse pulsed neutron
capture log to track the history of water encroachment in a carbonate reservoir. Other advances are
being realized through the use of underground laboratories. The low-noise underground laboratory
at Rustrel (southern France) has hosted numerous
experiments related to the acoustic and flow properties of carbonate rocks that form the Aptian type
section (Gaffet et al. 2010; Derode et al. 2013),
and offers many further opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration for industry and academic
researchers. Discussions at the Hedberg Conference reinforced that community efforts involving academic industry collaboration are likely to
lead to more significant uplift for the industry as
a whole.

Many areas of geoscience and engineering applicable to carbonate reservoirs today might be considered mature in that most recent research
advances have been largely incremental and few
step changes have occurred in the last two decades
or more. The discussion in this paper has highlighted
advances in geophysical imaging, larger and faster
reservoir simulations supported by very large-scale
computing, and real-time monitoring and sensing
of reservoirs as among the fastest moving areas
today. However, this does not imply that research
in other areas lacks significance. Some areas seem
to have reached a point of diminishing returns but
these and other areas may simply be waiting for
the next scientific or technology development in
fields outside the geosciences to enable further
advances. In this respect, the geosciences are no different from other fields of scientific research that
encounter periods of relatively slow development

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interspersed with periods of rapid advance. As

recent history has shown, simply connecting to
established technology (such as fracking) can have
a dramatic impact on a resource base.
In our introduction we have attempted to highlight areas of promising research and research
advances as represented by papers in this volume
and elsewhere, and the concepts, tools and technologies that might offer new avenues and uplift.
These can be summarized as follows:
Global context and frameworks there exist
many opportunities to bring isolated outcrop
studies together, particularly in the realm of
carbonate deformation, for greater insights.
Regional perspectives can be strengthened
through more compare and contrast studies
supported by collaborative, community research
efforts in areas such as RTM and deformation processes over multiple scales. Dynamic
modelling of outcrop examples could support
the development of a catalogue of examples to
support the common understanding of generic
flow behaviours and comparisons with the
Multidisciplinary approaches while multidisciplinary studies have strengthened considerably, research still tends to reflect disciplinary
organization as opposed to the organization
of researchers around a problem. Recent developments highlight a stronger integration of
diagenesis and deformation, the interaction of
sedimentation with deformation and tectonic
processes, as well as the use of outcrops to promote collaboration between geoscientists and
engineers. Developments in sensing and visualization technologies offer closer links between
the outcrop and the office.
Insights to fundamental processes via advances
in analytical and experimental methods the
development of new tools and techniques in
materials science is bringing great benefits
for the geosciences and reservoir engineering.
Advances in imaging tools and novel experimental methods are pushing frontiers, revealing the details of coupled processes at the pore
scale. These developments are improving algorithms for pore-scale simulations that can support sophisticated modelling approaches to link
pore-scale processes to field-scale performance.
Subsurface imaging and sensing developments in subsurface imaging represent one
of the fastest moving areas. New acquisition
and processing technologies are enabling highresolution imaging of the numerous heterogeneities that exist in carbonate reservoirs.
Practitioners continue to develop novel workflows and algorithms for seismic imaging and


attributes to delineate subtle faults, diagenetic

overprints or karst features. Advances in
seismic anisotropy now enable more sophisticated interpretations of anisotropic signatures
but there remain significant limitations in abilities to isolate distinct sets of subseismic faults
or fractures.
Modelling: multiscale integration and proxies
developments related to the content and design
of geological and process models are driving
efforts to streamline the capture and integration of information from subsurface/other data
directly into models. Such approaches can
support rapid iterations with data updates or
faster experimentation with more scenarios.
Novel approaches to upscaling and simulation
studies are yielding deeper insights into the
impacts on flow of geological features that
form at different scales. Nevertheless, there are
many opportunities to close the gap between
geological studies of scaling relationships in
rocks and the development of suitable proxies
in reservoir models. A stronger emphasis on
the need to integrate across multiple scales is
driving the development of hierarchical gridding
and increases in computational efficiencies,
although these approaches have not yet fully
entered the commercial arena.
Modelling tools developments in pore-scale
simulations are now able to quantify changes in
relative permeability and capillary changes due
to the evolution of pore space, during production
or on geological timescales. Novel approaches
are also developing probabilistic models for
multiphase flow to link variability in pore-scale
physics to the Darcy scale. Capabilities to represent increasingly complex geological geometries in models are being complemented by
the development of tools for unstructured gridding. This approach has supported DFM modelling simulations, as well as a much-needed
alternative to dual-continua methods. Adaptive
gridding now supports multiphysics multiscale
simulations and may overcome recognized challenges associated with solutions for the ADRE.
Much modelling research stands to benefit from
advances in pre- and post-processing visualization, and novel capabilities to interrogate models
and data.
Monitoring in real time and on production timescales burgeoning interest in data mining,
pattern recogntion and data analytics supports
the exploration of high-dimensional parameter
spaces and, in turn, geoscience engineering collaborations. In combination with developments
in sensors, these approaches offer opportunites
to design novel subsurface experiments to
monitor flow and to learn more about flow

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behaviours between wells. Such experiments can

bring multiple technologies together (e.g. RTM
modelling on production timescales, time-lapse
seismic, AI and new downhole monitoring techniques) while driving stronger collaboration and

dispersion (the third left-hand-side term) and chemical

reactions (the fourth left-hand-side term)

Finally, while there are many promising advances,

their translation into industry applications is by no
means straightforward. Challenges include achieving recognition for the ways in which academic
work can contribute, communicating results from
academic studies in a framework and a common
language that strengthens connections to industry,
and the need for courageous champions within
oil and gas companies to manage the academic
industry divide, recognizing the need to experiment
as a means to reduce uncertainty, and the time
it typically takes to displace established industry
methods while achieving widespread penetration
of new ones. The Hedberg Conference focused
not only on scientific and technical contributions
but also on the behaviours that can help to overcome such hurdles, emphasizing the importance of
boundary spanners in promoting paradigm shifts.
We hope that this introduction will encourage
more geoscientists and engineers to cross disciplinary boundaries, to explore beyond traditional
industry arenas and to bring new perspectives to
old problems.

where w is the porosity of the rock, r and S are the density

and saturation of phase a, respectively, X is the mass fraction of chemical component i in phase a, v is the Darcy velocity, and G is a reaction term for component i in phase a
(e.g. adsorption). D is the dispersion tensor, which models
the spreading and mixing of the chemical component, and
yields symmetric and Gaussian plumes, which are rarely
observed in nature (cf. Berkowitz et al. 2006).

We would like to recognize all those who enthusiastically participated in and supported the Hedberg Conference, and who helped to shape many of the concepts and
ideas represented here while generously sharing their
research. All of the academic and ExxonMobil members of the (FC)2 Alliance are thanked for their input and
guidance (20072013). Thanks to all those who contributed papers to the volume, and to all the reviewers for their
diligence and support in improving the overall content.
Further thanks to J. DeGraff, A. Tscherch, G. Jones,
S. Buckley, E. Liu, M. C. Sousa, M. Jackson, D. Astratti,
E. Gomez-Rivas, S. Stafford and A. Lee for providing
and/or suggesting improvements to the figures. D. Astratti,
R. Gibson, S. Stafford and Y. Xiao are thanked for providing pre-submission reviews. S. Geiger thanks Foundation CMG for supporting his Chair in Carbonate
Reservoir Simulation. S. Agar thanks ExxonMobil for
the opportunity to pursue the GSL Special Publication
and for permission to publish.

Advection Dispersion Reaction Equation
Fundamentally, the ADRE aims to describe the spatiotemporal evolution of a chemical component i in phase a
due to advection (the second left-hand-side term),

(wra Sa Xai )
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