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Source-to-Sink: Principles, Methods and Applications

Martinsen, Ole J.1; Helland-Hansen, William 2
1 Research, StatoilHydro, Bergen, Norway.
2 Geosciences Institute, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.

Source-to-sink (S2S) is a novel method in sedimentary geology that includes investigating the entire sedimentary system from its ultimate upstream source in the continental realm to the ultimate sediment sink, most commonly on deep ocean abyssal plains. For hydrocarbon exploration, a major challenge is to select the correct basins within which to explore. The correct selection depends on the best possible analysis of geological data from complete sedimentary systems (or S2S analysis). Yet, previous work show disparate approaches to solving source-to-sink challenges at basin and inter-basin scale. There is thus a need to define the S2S subject, evaluate the best practice to use in order to ascertain that the best results are gained. There are different perceptions of what scales S2S analysis can be applied at and what the analysis should contain. To what extent uniformitarianism applies is also debatable, since many S2S studies analyse modern and sub-recent systems, but transfer of this knowledge to ancient systems in which petroleum systems occur is challenging since controls cannot be observed directly in past systems and complete S2S systems are rarely preserved.

A whole series of methods and techniques can be used to investigate S2S systems, such as paleo-climatic (deep time) studies, continental and subaqueous geomorphology, sequence stratigraphy, classic sedimentary analysis, tectonic studies and various basin analysis techniques. Several schools have developed, including those that are fully quantitative and numerical, to experimental flume studies to semi-quantitative geomorphologically based studies. The main advantage for the petroleum industry is that S2S studies potentially allow for prediction of reservoir, source and sealing rocks in basins in deep time from a host of methods and data. We present an overview of the S2S method and its applications. The focus is on basic principles and differences in approach in modern, sub-modern and ancient systems.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009