New hi-tech approach to studying sedimentary basins

June 13, 2014

A radical new approach to analysing sedimentary basins also harnesses technology in a completely novel way. An international research group, led by the University of Sydney, will use big data sets and exponentially increased computing power to model the interaction between processes on the earth's surface and deep below it in 'five dimensions'.

As announced by the Federal Minister for Education today, the University's School of Geosciences will lead the Basin GENESIS Hub that has received $5.4 million over five years from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and industry partners.

The multitude of resources found in sedimentary basins includes groundwater and energy resources. The space between grains of sand in these basins can also be used to store carbon dioxide.

"This research will be of fundamental importance to both the geo-software industry, used by exploration and mining companies, and to other areas of the energy industry," said Professor Dietmar Müller, Director of the Hub, from the School of Geosciences.

"The outcomes will be especially important for identifying exploration targets in deep basins in remote regions of Australia. It will create a new 'exploration geodynamics' toolbox for industry to improve estimates of what resources might be found in individual basins."

Sedimentary basins form when sediments eroded from highly elevated regions are transported through river systems and deposited into lowland regions and continental margins. The Sydney Basin is a massive basin filled mostly with river sediments that form Hawkesbury sandstone. It is invisible to the Sydney population living above it but has provided building material for many decades.

"Previously the approach to analysing these basins has been based on interpreting geological data and two-dimensional models. We apply infinitely more computing power to enhance our understanding of sedimentary basins as the product of the complex interplay between surface and deep Earth processes," said Professor Müller.

Associate Professor Rey, a researcher at the School of Geosciences and member of the Hub said, "Our new approach is to understand the formation of sedimentary basins and the changes they undergo, both recently and over millions to hundreds of millions of years, using computer simulations to incorporate information such as the evolution of erosion, sedimentary processes and the deformation of the earth's crust."

The researchers will incorporate data from multiple sources to create 'five-dimensional' models, combining three-dimensional space with the extra dimensions of time and estimates of uncertainty.

The modelling will span scales from entire basins hundreds of kilometres wide to individual sediment grains.

Key geographical areas the research will focus on are the North-West shelf of Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean .

The Hub's technology builds upon the exponential increase in computational power and the increasing amount of available big data (massive data sets of information). The Hub will harness the capacity of Australia's most powerful computer, launched in 2013.

Explore further: How can basin rocks recorded formation of Dabie orogen?

Related Stories

How can basin rocks recorded formation of Dabie orogen?

March 22, 2013

Deep subduction of continental crust and rapid exhumation of ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks, and its mechanism have been one of the most important issues of the world's attention in the Dabie orogen. Professor LIU Shaofeng ...

Scientists develop model to map continental margins

September 8, 2008

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have developed a new exploration method to assist the oil and gas industry in identifying more precisely where the oceans and continents meet.

Recommended for you

Biodiversity loss from deep-sea mining will be unavoidable

June 26, 2017

Biodiversity losses from deep-sea mining are unavoidable and possibly irrevocable, an international team of 15 marine scientists, resource economists and legal scholars argue in a letter published today in the journal Nature ...

Iron chemistry matters for ocean carbon uptake

June 26, 2017

For many years, scientists have speculated that seeding the ocean with iron might help to stave off climate change. Iron in seawater promotes the growth of phytoplankton, which in turn devours carbon dioxide from the atmosphere ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.