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Application of Multiple-point Geostatistics in Geological Modeling

Alireza hajizadeh*,

Farhad A. Farhadpour ,
Saeid Jmashidi ,
Department of chemical and petroleum engineering, Sharif University of Technology,
Tehran, Iran

In building a geological facies model of a reservoir, honoring the large scale
heterogeneities and long range connectivity is of crucial importance since it strongly controls
the flow paths. Traditional variogram-based geostatistical methods are inadequate in this
regard because they employ two point correlations of data which is too limiting for capturing
long range geological heterogeneity. For example variogram based methods have been
shown to fail to reproduce long range and/or complex structures such as channels. A
relatively new field, termed multiple-point geostatistics which does not rely on variogram
models allows capturing structure from so-called training images. The basic logic relies
on the fact that geological structures need to be defined using models which use correlation
between more than two points at a time. Multiple-point geostatistics borrows multiple-point
patterns from a training image which only reflects a prior structural concept and does not
need to include any accurate data. It then anchors such patterns to subsurface well-log,
seismic and production data thereby capturing the long range connectivity while honoring
the hard data. The application a particular multiple point statistics method, the single
normal equation simulation (SNESIM) to a fluvial reservoir is demonstrated in this article.
Key words: Geological modeling, Multiple- point statistics, facies, training image
1- Introduction
Although variogram based geostatistical tools have been used widely in geological
modeling they suffer from inability to produce the true heterogeneity and connectivity of
complex subsurface reservoirs. Figure 1 show examples where three strongly different types
of reservoir heterogeneities have produced very similar experimental variograms but show
radically different connectivity measure [4, 6]. This and other similar cases clearly
demonstrate that identification of two-point statistics, even if possible, is not sufficient to
allow characterization and reproduction of strings of extreme values or curvilinear and/or
wedge-shaped clusters often encountered in subsurface reservoirs.

Multiple-point statistics methods explicitly account for correlations between three or

more locations at a time and, in theory, should be able to better capture the connectivity of
many locations and thus reproduce complex, curvilinear geological structures. The multiplepoint correlation models required by multiple-point geostatistics methods are typically
provided by a training image. Such training images need not be conditioned to any locationspecific subsurface data; they need only reflect a prior geological concept. In practice,
training images can come from several different sources such as interpreted outcrop
photographs or even a geologists sketch, properly digitized and extended to 3D. Often
training images are generated using unconditional object-based simulations [6, 7].

Figure 1: Three different geological heterogeneities that result in similar variograms but
different connectivity measure (sisim : dashed line, ellipsim : thin line, fluvsim : thick line)

2- Algorithm Description, the SNESIM method

The key question is how to design a geostatistical algorithm that can reproduce the
patterns of a given training image and at the same time honor any available well and seismic
data. Single Normal Equation Simulation (SNESIM) is a sequential simulation algorithm, in
the style of methods such as sequential Gaussian simulation and sequential indicator
simulation. It relies on the idea of simulating each grid cell facies or petrophysical property
sequentially along a random path, where the simulation of cells later in the process is
constrained with any available well and seismic data along with cells earlier simulated [4].
For more details of the SNESIM procedure we refer the reader to the work of its
originator Strebelle [6]. The basic steps of the algorithm are as below:

Construct a fine 3D grid with well-data assigned to the closest grid cells
Define a random path

For each non-datum cell on the random path repeat the following steps:
1. Search for closest nearby well data and previously simulated cells
2. Construct a probability model for the property to be simulated (from the
training image, no kriging or variograms are involved) based on the data found
in step 1 and possibly any seismic data
3. Draw an outcome from the probability model in step 2 and assign that value
to the current grid cell.
Until all cells in the grid are covered.
3- Simulation of a fluvial reservoir section
As a typical application the SNESIM algorithm was used to simulate a horizontal 2D
section of a fluvial reservoir. Fluvial reservoirs are characterized by the presence of sinuous
sand filled channels within a background of mudstone. The GSLIB object-based program
fluvsim [8] was used to generate the reference true image of size 80*80 pixels shown in
Figure 2. The global facies proportions of the section are 23.5% sand and 76.5% mudstone.

Figure 2: the true image of size 80*80

Because the channels are large scale structures, their reproduction calls for performing
multiple-grid simulation which allows using large data search neighborhoods. It must be
noted, however, that too few occurrences of large data events may be found if the training
image is too small. Hence usually a training image much larger than the simulation grid is
used. The training image employed is shown in Figure 3 and has a size of 250*250 pixels.
The channel proportion of the training image is the same as the true image proportion and
close to sample data proportion: sand 23.5% and mudstone 76.5%.
32 sample data were collected at random over the true image and are shown in Figure 4.
The corresponding sample facies proportions are close to true global proportions at 25% sand
and 75% mudstone. Several realizations conditional to this 32 sample data were generated by
SNESIM algorithm available in the Stanfords Geological Modeling Software (SGeMS),
using the training image of Figure 3. The training image used for the simulation was chosen
with the same resolution (pixel size) and close distribution of channel width as the true
image. A simulation grid of size 80*80 was used to perform the simulation. Figure 5 is an
example of the reproduced channel sections. As can be seen the patterns are well reproduced

and the conditioning data are well honored. The large scale structures of the training image
are captured well but the small scale patterns of the image are not fully reproduced and the
distribution of the channel widths is somehow different. The global proportion of sand and
mudstone for the realization in Figure 5 are 28% sand and 72% mudstone which are close to
the true image values of 23.5% sand and 76.5% mudstone.

Figure 3: The training image of size 250*250 with same resolution as the true image

Figure 4: 32 sample data drawn at random from the true image (larger points from the cannels)

Figure 5: SNESIM simulated realization

4-Sensitivity analysis on the training image

The training image in Figure 3 displays characteristics that are similar to those of the true
image; such as the same preferential channel direction, the same channel orientation, and
similar distribution of the channel width. This image was taken large enough to infer the
cpdfs required during the simulation, the sensitivity of the simulated realizations to the size
and structures of the training image are important and are considered next.
4-1- Sensitivity to the size of the training image
To analyze the sensitivity of the SNESIM simulated realizations to the size of the training
image, a smaller training image shown in Figure 6 that has the same 80*80 pixel size as the
true image was considered. The global proportions of the small training image were 26.3%
and 73.7% which are still close to the proportions of the sample data. In this case the sinuous
channel patterns are still reasonably well produced as seen from the realization in Figure 7. It
is clear however that not all the simulated channels cross the image from one side to the other
and hence the large scale continuity of the true image is not honored very well. As a
consequence, the true statistical connectivity measure of the sand channels along the channel
direction is underestimated by the simulated realizations.

Figure 6: A small 80*80 training image of the same size and resolution as the true image

Figure 7: SNESIM realization using the small size training image

The global proportion of sand versus mudstone for the realization in Figure 7 are 28.7%
sand and 71.3% mudstone compared to the true image values of 23.5% sand and 76.5%
mudstone. This confirms that the training image should be taken large enough to reproduce
the large scale structures well. A rule of thumb often quoted in the literature is that one
should consider a training image which is at least twice as large as the largest structure to be
4-2- Sensitivity to the structures displayed by the training image
The sensitivity of the SNESIM algorithm to the structures displayed by the training image
was analyzed by simulating the fluvial section using the two alternative 250*250 sized
training images shown in Figures 8 and 10. The training image shown in Figure 8 displays
channels oriented at 90 degrees with respect to the channel direction of the true image. The
global proportions for this horizontally oriented training image were 22.4% sand and 77.6%
mudstone which are still close to that of the sampled data. The SNESIM realization using this
training image is shown in Figure 9 and it is clear that it captures the horizontal orientation of
the channels in the training image rather than the vertical channels of the true image.

Figure 8: A 250*250 training image with same resolution as the true image but horizontal
channel orientation

Figure 9: simulated realization using the horizontal channel training image

The second alternative training image is shown in Figure 10 and has a totally different
distribution of the channels over the section compared to the true image. The global
proportions for this alternative training image were 23% sand and 77% mudstone. The
simulated realization for this training image is shown in Figure 11. Here again the realization
attempts to reproduce the characteristics of the training image and bears little resemblance to
the true image.

Figure 10: Alternative 250*250 training image with different distribution of channel width and
distribution than the true image

Figure 11: Simulated realization using the alternative training image

The above results show the dependence of the simulated realizations on the structure
displayed by the training image. In fact traditional Variogram-based algorithms such as the
sequential indicator simulation, yield simulated realizations which reproduce the input
Variogram model, while ensuring hard data exactitude [2, 3]. Similarly SNESIM anchors the
multiple-point structures borrowed from the training image to the original sample data.
Evidently to reproduce the structural characteristic of the reservoir and its large scale
heterogeneity and connectivity the training image must be chosen with care. Once this is
done the simulated realizations can honor the sample data whilst reproducing the large scale
heterogeneity that is crucial to flow characteristics [7].
The training image determines the main features of the simulated images particularly
when the hard data is sparse. It must also be noted that in SNESIM hard data are frozen at
their locations. Consequently if there is an abundance of hard data the structures revealed by
the data may prevail over the structures read from the training image. As a result it is possible
for a conflict to occur resulting in poorer reproduction of certain structures of the training
image. To illustrate this possible conflict, 200 sample data shown in Figure 12 were collected
at random over the true image of Figure 2. A simulated realization conditional to this 200
data sample generated with SNESIM using the training image of Figure 3 is shown in Figure
13. It is clear that this is a substantially poorer realization of the true image compared to that
in Figure 5 that only used 32 data points and the same training image. Evidently both the
training image and the quantity and quality of the hard data must be carefully considered for
achieving best results with this promising multiple-point geostatistical simulation technique.

Figure 12: 200 sample data drawn at random from the true image (large points from channels)

Figure 13: Simulated realization using 200 conditioning data

5- Conclusions
Conventional geostatistical simulation tools such as sequential Gaussian simulation or
sequential indicator simulation which use two point variogram based methods often fail to
model the long range connectivity in the reservoir adequately. This is because, geological
structures need to be defined by models which use correlations between more that two points
at a time. Poor connectivity production and hence poor permeability mapping is the natural
result of such shortage. Multiple-point statistics improves the generation of these structures
especially for long ranged or curvilinear structures. The result of such modeling is highly
dependent on the characteristics of the training image such as size and orientation of the
features embedded in the training image. An excessive amount of hard data can also affect
the results by masking the information contained within the training image. Evidently for best
result the size and structural characteristics of the training image and the hard data employed
must be chosen with care.

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