Advances in data capture and computer technology have made possible the collection of three-dimensional, high-resolution, digital geological data from outcrop analogs. This paper presents new methodologies for the acquisition and utilization of three-dimensional information generated by ground-based laser scanning (lidar) of outcrops. A complete workflow is documented—from outcrop selection through data collection, processing and building of virtual outcrops—to geological interpretation and the building of geocellular models using an industry-standard, reservoir-modeling software. Data sets from the Roda Sandstone in the Spanish Pyrenees and the Grabens region of Canyon-lands National Park, Utah, USA, are used to illustrate the application of the workflow to sedimentary and structural problems at a reservoir scale.

Subsurface reservoir models are limited by available geological data. Outcrop analogs from comparable systems, such as the Roda Sandstone and the Grabens, are commonly used to provide additional input to models of the subsurface. Outcrop geocellular models can be analyzed both statically and dynamically, wherein static examination involves visual inspection and the extraction of quantitative data on body geometry, and dynamic investigation involves the simulation of fluid flow through the analog model.

The work presented in this study demonstrates the utility of lidar as a data collection technique for the building of more accurate outcrop-based geocellular models. The aim of this publication is to present the first documentation of a complete workflow that extends from outcrop selection to model investigation through the presentation of two worked data sets.

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