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Geological Applications of Wireline Logs:

a Synopsis of Developments and Trends

John H. Doveton: Kansas Geological Survey

Stephen E. Prensky, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver

[Originally published in 1992, The Log Analyst, v. 33, no. 3, p. 286-303.]


Geological log analysis has emerged as a distinctive sub-discipline of log analysis. It is built on
and an extension of the traditional treatment of logging data in terms of reservoir engineering
and geophysics. This paper uses summaries of published case studies to review recently
introduced techniques and the major developments in geological applications. Although
presented as separate sections, many of the topics discussed are interrelated The nature of these
interconnections and the diversity of topics reflects the significant growth in geologic log

For many years, the practical business of petrophysics appeared to be the domain of the engineer,
with a tight focus on the economic implications associated with the properties of porosity and
water saturation. Even the presentation of log-analysis theory seemed an alien departure from the
traditional training of many geologists. This perception contributed to the huge publishing
success of the textbook by Asquith and Gibson (1982) in which basic log analysis concepts were
presented by geologists for a geological audience. In the same vein, Asquith (1985) went on to
publish techniques applicable specifically to carbonates and a practical summary of all the
models that have been applied to shaly sandstone evaluations (Asquith, 1990). During the same
period, Darwin Ellis accepted a challenge by Stanford to teach a course on logging that would
realistically address the needs of earth scientists. The experience led to the textbook by Ellis
(1987), which is marked by a particularly readable and authoritative treatment of the physics of
the latest generation of tools and how they relate to rock properties. Systematic methods using
well logging to measure the physical properties of rocks is also the focus of the text by Hearst
and Nelson (1985) who emphasize fundamental concepts of tool theory and rock physics.

Books that elaborate on the broader geological (rather than the narrower reservoir engineering)
aspects had a slower start for a variety of reasons. However, their arrival was inevitable, as
increasing numbers of geologists worked routinely with logs, and the SPWLA moved inexorably
away from a membership dominated by engineers to a majority of geologists. The classic book,
Geologic well log analysis by Pirson (1970) had no rival for many years, although its authorship
by an engineer is reflected in both its style and topic selection. The prolific and creative work of
Oberto Serra and his coworkers finally led to a monumental two-volume treatise (Serra, 1984,
1986). The concept of "electrofacies" was a particularly useful contribution by Serra and Abbott
(1980) and has been widely adopted as a bridge to connect logging measurements with the
classical facies approach of sedimentary geology. In addition, Serra made extensive use of
dipmeter analyses, closely integrated with other logs and profiles of bedding and textural
properties. Collectively, these provide a valuable atlas in the interpretation of sedimentary
environments from logs (Serra, 1985).

Rider (1986, revised 1991) published a readable and popular book on the geological
interpretation of logs, drawn partly from his work with Serra's group, although he pointedly
declined to write on dipmeter interpretation. In his book, Doveton (1986) emphasized the role of
computer methods in the transformation of logs to profiles of lithology and mineralogy within
individual wells and as maps of variation across regional areas. The appearance of the
"Bibliography of Well-Log Applications" in The Log Analyst (Prensky, 1987), followed by
annual updates, provided a valuable reference source for geological applications. Even a cursory
glance through these references (or those listed in this article) shows the relatively limited
penetration of mainstream geological journals, at the present time.

The conventions of the SPWLA and its sister societies have always provided forums for
geological studies drawn from logs. However, in 1988, a two-day meeting with the theme
"geological applications of wireline logs" was convened in London by the Geological Society. In
the proceedings volume of this meeting, Hurst et al. (1990) boldly asserted in the introduction
that they believed this meeting to be the first of its kind. The enthusiastic response to this
meeting and the published proceedings demonstrated the wide interest in the subject and a
second meeting on this theme was held in 1991 (GAWL II), also in London. Maybe it was worth
the wait, because the developments of the last 10 years have been truly innovative and have the
potential to make a major impact on mainstream geology.


The principal geological application of logs has always been subsurface stratigraphic correlation.
Manual correlations are highly labor-intensive tasks whose end results are subjective and often
hotly debated. The potential advantages of automated correlation have been the stimulus for the
design of many different computer methods since the pioneering study by Moran et al. (1962).
Real progress has been made in the last few years toward the solution of significant problems
that have often stymied earlier attempts. Although computer programs can correlate trivial
examples, they often fail in more complex situations. Solutions may be either geologically or
geometrically absurd or the program method may be unable to distinguish between several
reasonable alternatives. The application of artificial-intelligence (AI) methods and the
development of expert systems has now provided a means to codify both geometrical constraints
and human experience within sets of rules. An expert-system component can guide the data-
handling and numerical processing of correlation algorithms, and one has been successfully
field-tested on realistic correlation problems (see, for example, Olea and Davis, 1986; Kuo and
Startzman, 1987; and Figure 1).

Previous methods of automated correlation could handle simple relative vertical displacement,
but often had limited success in accommodating missing sections and differential stretch of
correlative intervals between wells. These features result from a normal geological history that
includes multiple episodes of erosion and nondeposition, which punctuate periods of
continuously varying rates of sedimentation. The occurrence of "gaps" and "stretching" are
common to sequence matching problems in other scientific areas, such as linguistic analysis and
genetic-string comparison. Dynamic programming methods developed in these fields have been
adapted to correlation of wireline logs to select the optimum correlative match from all
possibilities. Both missing sections and differential stretch are accommodated automatically. The
methodology has proved widely successful, and applications are described by a number of
authors, including Wu and Nyland (1986), Lineman et al. (1987), and Griffiths and Bakke

The lack of digital data, where and when you need it, remains a major obstacle to the routine
application of computer methods for regional or even fieldwide correlation. This situation
continues to slowly improve with the growth of digitized log databases and archives of digital
well-log tapes. Recent changes in technology have radically accelerated the costly and time-
consuming mass transfer of log curves into digits. Logs are now routinely scanned by devices
such as facsimile machines to yield raster (bitmap) images, which can then be stored efficiently
on optical discs. Software is available to screen out background grids automatically and to follow
log curves for a raster to vector (digital) conversion with minimal user intervention. These recent
developments, summarized by Leonard (1990), hold great potential for transforming the vast
amount of logging data now frozen in paper records into digits for use in correlation as well as
for computer-processed subsurface geologic studies.


Since their introduction in 1986, electrical borehole-imaging tools have made a great impact in a
variety of commercial and academic geological applications. Gray-level processing of multiple
microresistivity curves can result in images of the borehole wall with impressive resolution
(Figure 2). The technology of these tools is described elsewhere in this issue in a companion
review paper by Maute (1992) and marks a logical step in the evolution of the dipmeter.

The images often mimic conventional pictures in a striking fashion and so can be compared
readily with core. This property has been found particularly useful for boreholes drilled for
scientific research, e.g., the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP), where extensive intervals are cored
or the borehole is continuously cored. For intervals where core recovery is poor, the images can
be used to interpolate missing information, and for intervals where core is recovered, images and
core can be matched to establish core orientation.

The images represent conductivity measurements of the borehole wall and register fractures
(both open and healed), thin beds, sedimentary structures and other features. The techniques of
interpretation are described by Harker et al. (1990); useful reference material for images of
clastic rocks is provided by Luthi (1990) and of carbonate rocks by Nurmi et al. (1990). Image
processing is now performed routinely on workstations, either as an unaided interactive task or
with assistance from an AI procedure (Startzman and Kuo, 1989).

A major application of electrical imaging is in the detection and evaluation of fractures (Casarta
et al., 1989; Standen, 1991), a goal that has always been elusive using traditional logs. The recent
boom in horizontal drilling, with its primary targets of fractured formations, has stimulated
additional interest in this area. Laubach et al. (1988) compared fractures detected by electrical
imaging with those obtained from the acoustic borehole televiewer, and their validation by core.
Hornby et al. (1990) related fracture aperture widths computed from both electrical scans and
reflected Stoneley waves. A number of useful articles are also reprinted in the SPWLA Borehole
Imaging volume (Paillet et al., 1990).


Multiple "porosity" logs (density, neutron and sonic) have been used for several decades to arrive
at true effective porosities independent of matrix mineralogy. Although manual crossplots are
still used for this purpose, computer solutions to this problem are increasingly common and
generate a compositional profile of minerals as a byproduct. The power of these tools to
discriminate mineralogy has also been significantly enhanced through the addition of the
photoelectric-absorption curve from the spectral density log. The mathematical process involved
is essentially the solution of simultaneous equations that link the unknown volumes of selected
minerals and their hypothetical log responses with log records of sedimentary sections. The
result is displayed typically as a graphic profile such as shown in Figure 3, and represents the
inversion of the original log curves to compositional traces. Consequently, their vertical
resolution is controlled by that of the tools (about 0.5 m) and thus represents a moving average of
actual variation.

The computer program for solving a determined system (when the number of logs is sufficient
for a unique component solution) is simple and can be run quickly on even the smallest
computers. The ready availability of fast computers makes them a practical medium for
interactive geological processing of wireline logs. Some degree of interaction is necessary for
thoughtful analysis due to limiting assumptions concerning linearity, idealized log responses,
correct identification of mineral components, borehole environment, and tool errors. By
involving the user as a participant, changes in mineral suites at various depths can be recognized
and an appropriate selection made from alternatives at all levels. The strategy of running
multiple models in parallel is described by Quirein et al. (1986), with the final choice dictated
either by probability concepts or user intervention.

In reality, the link between rock compositions and log responses is both underdetermined and
nonlinear. Because lithologies are typically dominated by a few components and linearity is
generally a reasonable approximation, an experienced analyst can usually generate a satisfactory
solution. More expansive approaches to the problem incorporate constraints, accommodate
nonlinearities, and take account of tool errors in an iterative process that locates an optimal result
with minimal incoherence between the solution and the logs. However, the relative slowness of
these more complex programs makes interaction impractical. Furthermore, the difficulties in
specifying many of the input parameters means that mathematical optimality does not necessarily
mean geological reality. Consequently, interaction with simpler models on workstations is still
usually favored by most analysts for routine applications, as discussed by Marett and Kimminau

Statistical Methods for Lithofacies Analysis

The inversion methods described in the previous section are rooted in a deductive or a "top-
down" approach, where solutions of mineral composition are the consequences of models set by
the user. The alternative strategy is inductive or "bottom-up," where inferences on lithofacies are
drawn directly from patterns observed in log-response associations. Distinctions between
characteristic response groupings are then used for classification and subdivision of log
sequences. The basic concept was set out by Serra and Abbott (1980), who coined the term
"electrofacies" and described a manual procedure based on simple graphical motifs. The pattern-
recognition tasks involved were later adapted as a semiautomated procedure in which the
complementary skills and limitations of machine and human are put into play. The use of
principal-component analysis reduces the dimensionality of the problem from a potentially
bewildering multiple-log representation to a lower order space. The axes of this space are
composite logs that systematically absorb the information content while screening out statistical
noise from various sources. Using cluster analysis, electrofacies are then identified by localized
clouds of points. However, the intelligent analyst intervenes at this stage to ensure that the final
clusters have interpretable geological meaning based on core observations or geological insight.
This automated electrofacies method was originally introduced by Wolff and Pelissier-
Combescure (1982), and a useful multiwell case study is described by Widdicombe et al. (1984).

The mathematical methods used in this approach are taken from the standard multivariate
analysis toolbox and so are readily available for any log analyst who works with logs on a
computer. In recent years, practical applications appear to be increasing in number, probably due
in large part to the increasing use of microcomputers and workstations by many analysts. Clear
signs of this grass-roots change are indicated by the wide readership of the popular
"petrophysics" section published in Geobyte, under the direction of Robert Elphick, and the
burgeoning membership of the computer-oriented geological societies.

Explanations of multivariate statistical techniques and their application to well logs for pattern
recognition and classification tasks can be found in a number of dispersed sources. Doveton
(1986) devoted a chapter of his book to mathematical analysis of log trends and patterns,
whereas Hayes (1989) provided a useful overview of statistical well-log pattern-recognition
methods in his Ph.D. dissertation. Elek (1988) showed how principal-component analysis could
be applied to zonation and well-log correlation. Both Busch et al. (1985) and Anderson et al.
(1988) described the application of discriminant function analysis to lithological classification
from well logs. Other techniques and case studies included cluster analysis (Robinson and
Reeves, 1989), fuzzy-set theory (Griffiths, 1989), and Kruskal multidimensional scaling
(Matyas, 1990).

Statistical Prediction of Physical Properties

The primary mission of the statistical methods described in the previous section is to serve as
automated pattern-recognition devices that link log responses with associations of rock
properties. In more traditional applications, statistical line- and curve-fit methods have been used
for many years for both calibration and prediction. Because core analysis data are commonly
accepted as the reference standard for reservoir evaluation, porosity logs are generally calibrated
against core data. The differing vertical resolution of the two measurements requires smoothing
of the core data to give common vertical resolution.
The choice of line-fit and estimation procedure by one of several statistical models is still
debatable. Only a few papers have been written in this area, but they are generally thoughtful
studies that provide useful insights into systematic data analysis for the working log analyst .
Etnyre (1982, 1990) wrote a two-part series on weighted least-squares methods applied to
formation evaluation, followed by an explanation of the petrophysical uses of the robust-
Marquardt statistical procedure (Etnyre, 1990). Rodriguez et al. (1989) described the
determination of confidence intervals for petrophysical parameters.

Many log analysts are unfamiliar with the finepoints underlying the concepts and interpretation
of statistical methods as applied to petrophysical data. However, the increasing role of digital
databases as a component in routine log analysis is a major stimulus for their increased
understanding of statistical processing. Basic statistical procedures have been great sources of
argument and discussion during the major field unit operating disputes of the 1980s. It is
interesting to speculate that the amount of money that hung on the choice of regression method
in these equity battles is the greatest in the history of statistics! Basic explanations of statistical
methods in a logging context such as the paper by Mitchell and Nelson (1988) are useful for a
wide readership. However, a certain degree of caution is appropriate, because of the potential
snares of misinterpretation and blind faith in "numbers."

The problems caused by differing sampling volumes associated with core and various logging
devices have been recognized for many years. The most common and practical means to bring
the measurements to a common vertical resolution is through the statistical smoothing of core
data to the coarser scale of the wireline logs. This loss of detail has prompted efforts over the
years to reverse the process, by enhancement of the vertical resolution of logging measurements.

Research in this area has been further stimulated by the great interest in thinly bedded reservoirs
in recent years (see e.g., Gundeso and Gronvold, 1990; Chaudhary and Vashist, 1991).
Applications of log analysis techniques to thin beds were described by Ruhovets (1989), their
integration with core data by Sinha et al. (1989), and potential pitfalls in thin-bed enhancement
resolution by Minette (1990).

Some progress in finer vertical resolution has been made through the introduction of improved
tool designs (Tittman, 1991), particularly with respect to induction logging (Silva and Spooner,
1991) and electrical borehole imaging (discussed earlier). The alternative approach is to create a
more finely resolved log through computer processing of data recorded by logging tools with
coarser resolution. The actual vertical variation of the logged property can be considered to be
averaged or "convolved" by a filter, which is determined by the tool's measurement
characteristics. The goal of "deconvolution" is equated with the design of an inverse filter or
procedure that essentially reverses the averaging process. The desirability of this is easy to
understand, but difficult to implement in a practical and convincing manner. The nonlinear
responses of the resistivity tools are mathematically difficult to deconvolve, even for the service
companies who are privy to their design characteristics. The measurements of the nuclear tools
are stochastic (statistical, rather than deterministic) and so are confounded with counting error.
Attempts to amplify the signal in these statistical data must therefore not allow the "noise" to be
amplified beyond tolerable limits. Looyestijn (1982) provided a useful and sobering review
article that explains these problems. Nevertheless, the great value of even modest improvements
continues to stimulate research in this area, such as that reported by Galford et al. (1986),
Elkington et al. (1990), and Nelson and Mitchell (1990).

Some limited progress continues to be made on the prediction of permeability from logs by the
use of multiple-regression methods. Log predictions of permeability are still most commonly
based on porosity estimates alone. These predictions are often very poor, unless the rock shows
little change in pore-size characteristics, because of the failure to take into account the variations
in internal surface area. Internal surface area is often related to rock framework textural,
mineralogical, and geochemical properties that influence many logs. Although no log measures
internal surface area directly, some logs can function as surrogate variables for surface area and
be incorporated with porosity in multiple regression models for permeability prediction and error
analysis. A very useful review paper of these methods is given by Wendt et al. (1986), who also
describe in detail, and critically, the successes and limitations of their own experiences with
Prudhoe Bay data.

In studies that draw on older logs, the choices of additional variables are generally restricted to
gamma-ray transforms and multiple porosity log indicators of shale content and changes in
matrix minerals. However, the geochemical logs (reviewed in detail later) have a great potential
for this type of application, as they record a suite of elemental measures. These elements reflect
textural properties through their sensitivity to matrix mineralogy, which is, in turn, the product of
depositional and diagenetic processes. Herron (1987) introduced this concept of using
geochemical logs as surrogate variables for the internal surface area in a multiple regression
model based on the classic Kozeny-Carman relationship.

Both simple and multiple regression models have also been applied to the prediction of organic
content in the evaluation of source-rock potentials. Logging tools are now available to estimate
organic carbon directly from the carbon/oxygen ratio (Herron, S.L., 1986). However, organic
content has a distinctive effect on gamma-ray, sonic, resistivity, neutron, and density logs (e.g.,
Schmoker, 1981; Mendelson and Toksoz, 1986), and these relationships can be used as the basis
for statistical prediction (Krystinik and Charpentier, 1987) when calibrated with core data.


A few years ago, the field of artificial intelligence was dominated by "expert systems," but
"neural networks" have recently emerged as a serious competitor. The two approaches have
radically different philosophies, but both have found legitimate and interesting applications in
log analysis.

Expert Systems

Expert systems attempt to emulate simple reasoning, drawing inferences from data as dictated by
a knowledge-base of rules. The rules are a codified mix of objective constraints and more
subjective material, which distill the experience and judgment of acknowledged experts in the
problem area. Log analysis is widely recognized as a blend of art and science, so that expert
systems provide a useful methodology to attempt to capture a lifetime’s experience from older
log analysts. Recent examples of some expert system prototypes for general log analysis are
described by Peveraro and Lee (1988) and Einstein and Sutherland (1989). Einstein and Edwards
(1988) also discuss a comparison between the performance of human experts and expert systems
in log analysis and interpretation.

By far the most well-known log analysis expert system has been the Dipmeter Advisor,
developed by Schlumberger (see Smith and Baker, 1983). Dipmeter interpretation is an obvious
application because it has always been a particularly tricky mixture of systematic analysis,
pattern recognition, and experienced judgments. A general theory of the rule-based approach to
dipmeter processing is also described by Kerzner (1988). The Dipmeter Advisor is probably
more famous in the AI research community than among log analysts because it is considered one
of the few expert systems that is used on a routine, daily basis for real-world applications rather
than as an interesting curiosity.

Automated log correlation is also an appropriate task for a rule-based approach, because certain
solutions can usually be discarded as geometrically impossible or geologically improbable (see
Olea and Davis,1986; Lineman et al., 1987). It is now widely recognized that expert systems
generally perform well in applications where the problem has clearly defined constraints and
goals, but can "fail" in more complex and subtle situations, most particularly where the human
"experts" disagree among themselves!

Neural Networks

Neural networks are drawn from models of the brain that see the processing of information as the
result of excitation of simple neurons, which are richly interconnected on a massive scale.
Although today’s neural networks cannot attempt to approach the complexity of the human
brain, some powerful applications can be developed using the basic design features of simple
"neuron" units interconnected as a network in a parallel-processing operation. The easiest task
for a neural network to attempt is a supervised problem, where the network "learns" the pattern
of input responses (log readings) that correspond with a desired output (matrix or fluid
characteristics). The current procedures are often timeconsuming since the learning is an iterative
process. However, there are several advantages over the classical statistical pattern recognition
methods, including a focus on all sample patterns, rather than just summary parameters, and a
lack of assumptions concerning linearity or normality. On the debit side, it is often difficult to
establish how a successful solution was arrived at based on input patterns. This contrasts with
expert systems, where an "audit trail" can quickly establish which rules were invoked in any
system decision.

Simple explanatory examples in the determination of lithology from a neural network are
outlined by Rogers et al. (1992), using a back-propagation learning algorithm. This material
provides an introduction to the neural network applications to log analysis given by Baldwin et
al. (1989a, 1989b), who also describe an "unsupervised" application for lithofacies recognition
(see Figure 4). Unsupervised pattern recognition is a more difficult problem because it requires
the network to teach itself from log data presented to it. Furthermore, these self-taught patterns
should have some utility and meaning to the human network handler. Derek et al. (1990)
compare the performance of neural networks and statistical pattern-recognition methods in
sandstone lithofacies identification.
There are great potential rewards in using this approach as an aid in interpretation of complex
lithologies utilizing all measurements made on current and future logging programs. For
example, current statistical methods for predicting permeability from logs are limited by their
linear structure and estimation of parameters. By contrast, neural networks can handle non-
linearities and are nonparametric so that they may be more effective for permeability prediction
(Rui-Lin and Chen-Dang, 1991). Runge and Runge (1991) also show how the simulated
annealing property of neural network operation can be applied to obtaining blocked logs from

The application of AI to log analysis is still in its infancy and results are often documented in
poorly accessible journals. However, progress in the field can now be monitored by attending or
reading the proceedings of the annual conference on "Artificial Intelligence in Petroleum
Exploration and Production", held at Texas A&M University.



The gamma-ray log has been widely used in geological interpretation for many years as a means
to assess both shale content and implied grain-size variation. So, for example, Selley (1974)
described the application of gamma-ray profiles in conjunction with glauconite and
carbonaceous material as a "cowboy geology" method to aid in recognition of ancient
sedimentary environments. However, because of the different sources of radiation,
interpretations of this type are often ambiguous and Rider (1990) points out that care must be
taken, especially in systematic work.

The introduction of the spectral gamma-ray tool in the 1970s marked a major advance in our
ability to determine the specific contributions of the potassium, uranium, and thorium isotope
series. Early applications focused on the resolution of reservoir evaluation problems such as the
distinction of micas from clays in Jurassic sandstones of the North Sea (see Hodson et al., 1976),
and the recognition of fracture systems with uranium mineralization in the Austin Chalk (see
Fertl et al., 1980).

Hassan et al. (1976) explored the differentiation of clay minerals and other radioactive species
using the ratio of thorium concentration to potassium concentration. Both thorium (by
adsorption) and potassium (chemical composition) are associated with clay minerals, so that the
ratio expresses relative potassium richness as one indicator of clay-mineral species, as well as
being diagnostic of other radioactive minerals. A widely used thorium-potassium crossplot based
on broad expectations of ratio fields that are associated with single minerals was published by
Quirein et al. (1982). Hurst (1990) cautioned against the "bland generalizations" that underlie
such a crossplot, because the chemistry of thorium and potassium associated with clay minerals
are determined both by source and diagenetic history. Also, as a nuclear log, the measurement is
a stochastic property, where considerations of precision and accuracy are important, particularly
at low counts, such as within sandstones.

Because most shales are composed of a mixture of clay minerals, the use of the photoelectric
cross section (Pe) in conjunction with the Th/K ratio is an additional help to interpretation. The
photoelectric cross section is a direct function of the aggregate atomic number. Ellis (1987)
points out that differences in atomic number between quartz and clay minerals can be attributed
mostly to iron content. As a result, values in photoelectric absorption are ordered from a low in
kaolinite to successively higher values, through smectite, illite, to chlorite, basically as a function
of increasing iron content. However, in the final analysis, systematic volumetric estimates are
made difficult by the presence of other accessory minerals, as well as the variation in
composition of clay minerals, so that these wireline measures provide generalized indications of
the compositional aspects of shales.

Based on their analyses of numerous rock samples, Adams and Weaver (1958), in a classic
paper, demonstrated the utility of the thorium-to-uranium ratio as an indication of relatively
oxidizing or reducing conditions. The two elements are normally associated geochemically.
Whereas thorium has only one valency state, which is insoluble, uranium has two valency states,
of which the lower is also insoluble, but the higher is soluble and can be removed in solution.
The ratio therefore provides a useful indication of relative reduction or oxidation, but whether
this can be attributed to depositional or diagenetic mechanisms requires additional information.
Adams and Weaver (1958) further suggested that ratios of <2 were highly suggestive of relative
uranium enrichment and, by implication reducing conditions, as contrasted with ratios >7, which
indicated preferential removal of uranium, possibly by leaching.

Doveton (1991), using ratios from logs run in a Cretaceous/Permian sequence in central Kansas,
offers an example of geological interpretation from spectral gamma-ray logs using these
concepts. Figure 5 shows striking, and readily interpretable patterns: an abrupt shift in the Th/K
ratio that occurs at the Cretaceous-Permian contact and highlights clearly the major basal
Cretaceous unconformity. At this depth, the potassium-rich illite-feldspar signature of the Cedar
Hills Sandstone changes to a Lower Cretaceous trace, which oscillates between illitic and
kaolinitic clay minerals facies, possibly linked with marine and deltaic freshwater environments,
respectively. The high-amplitude variations of the Th/K ratio log in the Graneros Shale and
Greenhorn Limestone may reflect the occurrence of volcanic ash (bentonites) observed in the
drill cuttings, interbedded with normal illitic marine shales.

Based on Th/U ratios and the diagnostic values suggested by Adams and Weaver (1958), an
oxidizing environment is indicated for much of the Cedar Hills Sandstone, which would be
consistent with its postulated origin as eolian sands. Stacked repetitions of high and medium
Th/U ratios characterize the Dakota Formation. These probably reflect high lateral variability in
clastic facies and interplay between mostly brackish and freshwater regimes of distributary
channels, bays and marginal marine deposits, which would be expected to typify a delta
complex. The relatively smooth, long-term cyclic pattern of the Th/U ratio in the marine
sequence of the Upper Cretaceous is an excellent indicator of a broad transgression/regression
couplet on an open marine shelf. The broad sine-wave feature conforms precisely with the
outcrop interpretation of the Greenhorn Cycle as a classic example of a symmetric, third-order
tectono-eustatic cycle (Glenister and Kauffman, 1985). The transgressive phase of the cycle
started in the uppermost part of the Dakota Formation, continued through the Graneros Shale,
and reached maximum development in the Greenhorn Limestone. The regressive hemicyclothem
was initiated at the top of the Greenhorn and continued through the Fairport Chalk and Blue Hills
Shale, to terminate in the Codell Sandstone. The overlying Fort Hays marks the renewal of a
major marine transgression, that is marked by a distinctive drop in the Th/U ratio log value.

The development of portable spectrometers now makes it possible to verify the Th/U log ratios
with the actual geology at the outcrop. So, for example, Zelt (1985) concluded that spectral data
recorded at outcropping Cretaceous marine shales and chalks in Colorado, New Mexico, and
Utah could be used to deduce the proximity of paleoshorelines and directions of sediment
transport. Based on field measurements of the Lower Jurassic Cleveland ironstone in England,
Myers (1989) showed relatively high Th/K ratios in the oolitic ironstones, and attributed the
thorium-rich character to a lateritic weathering origin. Myers (1990) has also reported the
integration of spectral measurements made from outcrop, core, and boreholes as important
measures of clastic reservoir properties, with refinement of mineral and grain-size interpretations
and recognition of shale permeability barriers and intervals of enhanced permeability. Slatt et al.
(1991) provide insights on the reliability of interwell correlations in the subsurface based on
experiences with detailed outcrop logging of lenticular and continuous turbidite sandstones by
both standard logging truck and handheld devices.


The major change in geological applications of logs occurred with the introduction of nuclear
logging tools to supplement the older electric logs. Geological conclusions based exclusively on
the spontaneous potential and resistivity logs are restricted to simple characterizations of shale
and pore volume and ambiguous assertions concerning grain-size variations or lithofacies types.
Sadly, this approach will continue to be used in the more mature basins where these are the
majority of logs available. Because the stratigraphic framework is so well known in these same
basins, they are the natural locations to research evolving models of sequence stratigraphy. As a
result, antique techniques of log-shape interpretation are mingled with modern sedimentological
concepts drawn from computer modeling and seismic stratigraphy.

By contrast, nuclear measurements are rich in information concerning mineralogy and

geochemistry. However, they also require more systematic analytic strategies than the often
intuitive interpretation style used with older electric logs. Ellis (1990) gives an excellent review
of the developments in nuclear logging that led up to the introduction of the geochemical
(elemental analysis) logging (Chapman et al., 1987).

The Schlumberger Geochemical Logging Tool (GLT) incorporates measurements from three
nuclear logging devices, combined on a single tool string, to estimate concentrations of 10
elements: potassium, thorium, uranium (from the natural gamma-ray spectrum); aluminum (by
delayed neutron-activation analysis); and silicon, calcium, iron, sulfur, titanium and gadolinium
(from the prompt-capture gamma-ray spectrum measured after a 14-Mev neutron burst). More
extensive technical details are provided by Hertzog et al. (1987). The GLT string has been used
both by industry and in scientific research logging (ODP, Cajon Pass well, the German KTB
project). Commercial (and onshore) applications have focused on sedimentary sections (e.g.,
Wendlandt and Bhuyan, 1990), while much of the scientific research work, summarized by
Anderson et al. (1990), has been directed to the analysis of igneous and metamorphic sections.
Figure 6 (also cover illustration) presents a spectacular example of a geochemical logging run
during ODP Leg 115, in the Indian Ocean, and shown in the ODP Wireline Logging Manual
(Borehole Research Group, 1990). This log provides a clear example of the geological evolution
of a volcanic island that subsided and the subsequent development of a reef in Lower Eocene
times. Cores from the volcanic sequence are mostly vesicular olivine-basalt flows with
weathered zones, succeeded by plagioclase basalt. The basaltic composition is shown by the
relatively high amounts of iron, aluminum, and silicon contents. The high aluminum spikes are
coincident with weathered "soil" horizons between the flows. A thin calcarenite zone (interpreted
from core as beach deposit) is succeeded by a distinctive titanium-rich basalt which marks the
termination of volcanic activity. Core recovery in the overlying reef was only 5%, but this was
sufficient to show an upward transition from grainstones to packstones and faunal changes that
collectively mark a progressive deepening of water. The reef limestone is contrasted starkly with
the volcanic basalt, by low iron, aluminum, and silicon contents, but high calcium content. The
sulfur curve is of particular interest as it shows zones, possibly cyclic, of high sulfur
concentration within the reef. The sulfur has been interpreted to reflect sulfate content associated
with evaporite zones. Although no evaporites have been observed in the limited core available
(5% recovery), the log may be a depth record of eustatic changes in sea level, with low stands
marked by sulfur anomalies. Amplitude spectra from the sulfur trace show distinctive peaks at
wavelengths of 25 and 50 ft, suggesting a cyclic pattern that may be related to the Eocene low
stands of 36, 40, 42, 49, and 54 Ma of the Vail eustatic curve. As this example shows, great
insights can be made into the geological history of a sequence from the raw elements recorded by
the geochemical logs.

The major thrust of research connected with these logs has been aimed at the production of
realistic mineral transforms. "Normative" minerals calculated from oxide analyses have been
widely used in igneous petrology since the CIPW (Cross Iddings Pirsson Washington) norm was
introduced by Cross et al. (1902). These normative minerals are contrasted with modal
compositions, which are those mineral phases actually observed in the rock. The normative
concept can be extended to sedimentary sequences in attempts to compute mineral assemblages,
based on the 10 elements currently measured on the geochemical logging tool string (Herron,
M.M., 1986). In calculating classical igneous norms, oxides are assigned to minerals in an
allocation scheme that attempts to conform with their crystallization history. By contrast,
elements from geochemical logs are transformed to normative or "chem" minerals by the
inversion procedures discussed earlier. Herron (1988) studied terrigenous sands and shales in
terms both of core and geochemical-log data and suggests that new methods of classification
may be necessary. Strictly speaking, there will almost always be more minerals than elements to
solve for them, so that the problem is always underdetermined. However, as Herron et al. (in
press) notes, the overwhelming majority of sedimentary minerals can be numbered as 10: quartz,
4 clays, 3 feldspars, and 2 carbonates. In practice, reasonable compositional solutions can be
generated using relatively small mineral subsets, provided that they have been identified
correctly and that the compositions used are both fairly accurate and constant. In common with
all new technologies, the approach is both exciting and controversial, but even modest successes
should be of enormous benefit to a variety of geological studies.

Mineral solutions may be calculated by two alternative strategies. In the first, the average
chemical compositions of minerals drawn from a large database are used as end-member
responses and resolved by standard matrix inversion procedures. This result is normative and
generic in the sense that it is based on a sample drawn from a universal mineral reference set and
applied to a specific sequence where local mineral compositions may deviate from the global
average. The result is hypothetical but has the particular advantage that comparisons can be
made among a variety of locations and do not require expensive ancillary core measurements. In
a second approach, the solution is calibrated to core data, where laboratory determinations of
mineralogy and elemental geochemistry are analyzed by multiple regression techniques to
determine local mineral compositions. This result is linked to petrography and so is
philosophically closer to an estimated modal solution, rather than the more hypothetical
normative model.

Several detailed studies have been made to assess the strengths and limitations of geochemical
logging through exhaustive comparisons of borehole data and core elemental and mineralogical
analyses. Examples include comparisons in the Conoco Research well, Ponca City, Oklahoma
(Hertzog et al., 1987); discussion of the results from an Exxon research well that penetrated
Upper Cretaceous siliciclastic rocks in Utah (Wendlandt and Bhuyan, 1990); and an assessment
of data from three Shell wells in the Netherlands, Oman, and the U.S. (van den Oord, 1990).
Figure 7 shows a typical comparative example of mineralogy for core and geochemical-log
estimates (from van den Oord, 1990).

In general, the prognosis for this infant technology is quite good, particularly with regard to the
relatively good match between in-situ borehole measurements and laboratory measurements
from core. Teething problems are related primarily to the determination of the appropriate
mineral-transform strategies to obtain useful results. Most authors working on the problem agree
that local core calibration is a necessary step, rather than resorting to a generic normative
solution. At the same time, it is recognized that the precise resolution of sedimentary mineral
assemblages is inherently a complex problem and that in some respects, the technology is ahead
of our understanding of the distribution of elements in sedimentary sequences. So, for example,
Wendlandt and Bhuyan (1990) point out that some knowledge concerning the controls on
distribution patterns of gadolinium and titanium would prove to be a very useful aid in future

In addition to the immediate display of lithofacies types, there are numerous potential
applications of successful mineral transforms of geochemical logging data including: quantitative
estimates of grain-size, cation-exchange capacity, and permeability, and using the minerals as
surrogates for other petrophysical properties (Chapman et al., 1987). Although there may be
some differences of opinion on how far these goals have been met, they certainly set forth a
worthwhile agenda of research targets. Accurate clay-mineral typing and geochemical clues to
diagenesis have immediate applications to improve reservoir engineering practice. Selley (1991)
considers that the "third age of log analysis" has arrived with the advent of geochemical logging
and that they are useful discriminators of a variety of diagenetic effects of cementation and
solution, especially when used in conjunction with other logs. Cheshire (1991) advocated the use
of computer-based diagenetic modeling as the appropriate methodology to deduce diagenesis
from wireline logs, as the overall effects of diagenetic features are fairly subtle. Denham and
Tieh (1989) suggest that measurements of thorium and uranium have potential in exploration
studies as a means to delineate migration paths for fluids associated with the generation of

As mentioned earlier, an important application of the ODP geochemical logging work has been
in igneous and metamorphic rocks. The models represent a significant advance on the
interpretations associated with older logs run in geothermal wells where most techniques
represented simple pattern recognitions based on older wireline logs (e.g., Keys, 1979).
Normative solutions of mineral compositions have been computed in a variety of lithologies,
using the inversion methods discussed earlier. Modal analyses from representative thin

sections, coupled with the use of best-fit and self-consistency criteria within the computer
algorithm, provide important constraints to guide the solution to a feasible result, as described by
Anderson et al. (1988). The strengths and drawbacks of a variety of mineral transform models
for this purpose are discussed by Harvey et al. (1990).


Over the years, a considerable amount of research has been applied to the concept that many
stratigraphic successions are composed of cyclic repetitions of simple lithological sequences.
Duff et al. (1967) summarized the extensive literature on stratigraphic cycles, most of which was
based on outcrop studies. Controversy centered on whether cyclic characteristics were real or
illusory, and, if real, whether the cycles were caused by tectonic or climatic changes.

In the last decade, mounting evidence suggests that oscillations in global climate are responses to
orbital perturbations of the earth. These are cyclic in time, and distinctive periods can be
assigned to the orbital parameters of eccentricity (95,000 years), obliquity (41,000 years), and
precession (19,000 -23,000 years). The periods are collectively known as "Milankovitch cycles"
and provide a key to the recognition of climate events in the remote geological past, such as
glaciation and sea-level changes and their effects on the stratigraphic record. The model can also
be linked with the Vail coastal-onlap curves developed from seismic stratigraphy and offers an
exciting potential to assign specific dates to stratigraphic units. The recent sedimentary
successions of the deep-sea floor have proved to be a useful testing ground for verification of
whether these cyclic climatic changes can be detected by changes in lithological properties.
These effects should be shown by changes in clay mineralogy and clay content, grain-size, types
and abundances of planktonic fossils, caused by cycles of temperature and aridity/humidity
driven by changes in solar energy.

Wireline logs have proved to be excellent records of many of these phenomena. They have the
advantage over core of being both continuous and complete. A major disadvantage (at this time)
is that they are primarily depth rather than time records of petrophysical changes. Consequently,
conversions to a chronology scale must be made using fossil-dating from cores. Also, the vertical
resolution of some logging tools may be too coarse to detect higher frequency cycles,
particularly at sites of slow sedimentation rates. Worthington (1990) examined this problem in
detail by modeling cyclic sequences with differing sedimentation rates and convolving these with
the response functions of common tools. In some cases, the poor vertical resolution of tools, such
as the induction resistivity, may cause them to be ineffective in resolving the cycles attributed to
precession and obliquity. However, the trend to running tools with higher resolutions has
improved this situation. Maltezou and Anderson (1991) described an example of the recognition
of Milankovitch cycles from resistivity logs.

Detection of potential cycles is made by Fourier transformation of the logs to amplitude spectra
and conversion of depth to time scales deduced from fossil evidence. Cyclic characters in logs
appear to be strongly linked with changes in clay content and porosity. These were registered on
resistivity and sonic logging tools in deep-sea sediments of Baffin Bay and the Labrador Sea on
ODP Leg 105 as described by Jarrard and Arthur (1989). The fluctuations in clay and porosity
appear to reflect changes in strength of ocean bottom currents. At times of weaker currents, high-
porosity clay-rich sediments accumulated; stronger currents may have resulted in transport and
deposition of greater volumes of quartz and other coarse-grained minerals. Ultimately, the
waxing and waning of the bottom currents is controlled by warming and cooling cycles at the
ocean surface, which in turn reflect migration of upwelling zones.

The use of the geochemical-logging tool string has resulted both in an improvement of vertical
resolution and the recording of elements that can be related more directly to geological
properties, particularly mineralogy. The power spectrum of the calcium/silicon ratio at the
Labrador Sea site (see Figure 8) shows peak developments that can be attributed to all three
Milankovitch cycle types (Jarrard and Arthur, 1989). In the south Atlantic (ODP Leg 114),
Mwenifumbo and Blangy (1991) derive amplitude spectra of geochemical logs using a moving
depth window. They were able to identify cycles in the calcium log that were clearly out of phase
with silicon and hydrogen variation. These characteristics are easily attributed to fluctuations of
diatom-rich porous sediments as changes in climatic temperature-moved upwelling zones north
and south.

Estimates of sedimentation rate are currently keyed to biostratigraphic control and these will
obviously vary with time. Molinie and Ogg (1990) considered that the time periods of the
Milankovitch cycles is sufficiently well established that they could be used to deduce
sedimentation rates as a continuous function from sliding-window spectral analysis. They
applied this technique to a gamma-ray log of Jurassic-Cretaceous radiolarian mudstones from the
equatorial Pacific and were able to derive reasonable sedimentation rates and detect a major

The emergence of the concepts of Milankovitch cycles and sequence stratigraphy has also
encouraged spectral analyses and cyclic interpretations of logs at sites onshore. Examples of
recent studies along these lines include the analysis of North Carolinian Upper Triassic lacustrine
beds using gamma-ray logs (Hu et al., 1990), Argentinian Lower Cretaceous highstand deposits
using a combination of resistivity, sonic and gamma-ray logs (Spalletti et al., 1990), English
Upper Jurassic sequences using filtered sonic and gamma-ray logs (Melnyk, 1990), and the
Texas Permian, using gamma-ray logs (Borer and Harris, 1991). The sequence stratigraphic link
between well logs, outcrops and cores is also described in the popular and profusely illustrated
book by Wagoner et al. (1990). Vail and Wornardt (1991) discussed the integration of well logs
with seismic stratigraphy in exploration and development.
Much fine-tuning remains to be done both in tracking the changes in periodicities back in
geologic time, and the choice of appropriate spectral techniques and logging measurements.
However, links with the Vail coastal-onlap curve offer great potential for studies of basin history
and a more refined chronology of stratigraphic events. In a parallel development, it appears that
practical magnetostratigraphy logs may soon be available even from sedimentary sequences with
low magnetization. Experimental logging on Leg 102 of the ODP demonstrated that both the
intensity and direction of paleomagnetic polarization could be measured reliably by downhole
tools in strongly magnetized volcanic rocks (Leg 102 Scientific Party, 1985). Further work by
Tabbagh et al. (1990) in the Couy (France) boreholes produced magnetic-logging results from a
sedimentary sequence that showed a good match with core measurements. If natural remnant
magnetization polarity can be logged in a practical and reliable manner, there will be important
and exciting applications. A fundamental limitation of correlations based on conventional
wireline logs is that they are lithostratigraphic whereas magnetostratigraphy logs would be keyed
directly to time. Where most correlation ties cross time-lines, because sedimentary layers are
diachronous products of transgression and regression, absolute time sequences established from
logs of magnetostratigraphy could give revolutionary insights into development of sedimentary
basins and characterizations of reservoir structure.


We have attempted to summarize the recent major trends and developments in the field of
geological applications of wireline logs. The field is expanding rapidly and comprehensive
coverage is difficult to achieve. This growth is an excellent sign that exciting future
developments can be expected and that wireline-log analysis will make increasingly significant
contributions to a wide variety of geological studies.


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About the Authors

John H. Doveton is a Senior Scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey. He graduated from Oxford and
Edinburgh universities with degrees in geology. Following work as an exploration geologist with Mobil Oil
Canada, he moved into research on computer applications to geology and petrophysics. He has taught
log analysis at the University of Kansas since 1975 and has given log analysis courses for industry,
academia, and the SPWLA. He has written a number of papers on the geological applications of wireline
logs, and also the textbook, Log analysis of subsurface geology.

Stephen Prensky is a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Petroleum Geology,
Denver, Colorado. He has been with the USGS since 1975, working as well-log specialist in reservoir
characterization. Previous experience includes exploration and production geology with Texaco's
Offshore Division. He holds a B.A. and M.S. in geology from SUNY Binghamton, and the University of
Southern California. Stephen has been a member of SPWLA since 1978, and is currently serving on the
Board of Directors as Vice-President of Publications. His "Bibliography of Well-Log Applications," has
been published annually in The Log Analyst since 1987. Stephen is also a member of AAPG, MGLS,
SCA, and SPE.

Figure Captions

Figure 1: Automated log correlation of Tertiary sections between wells in

the Lake des Allemands Field, Louisiana The lines that link the log traces
show computed depths of common correlation (from Olea and Davis,

Figure 2. Example of high-resolution electrical borehole images, which

show eolian cross-bedding features in the Permian Rotliegende
Sandstone of the North Sea as compared with core (adapted from Luthi
and Banavar, 1988, figure 4).

Figure 3. Graphic profile of mineral and porosity composition within the

Permian Chase Group, based on inversion of gamma-ray, photoelectric-
absorption, density, and neutron log responses.

Figure 4: Schematic diagram of a simulated neural network trained for

lithofacies pattern identification and recognition based on wireline logs,
using inputs of an autoassociated SOA (Self-Organizing-Activation)
hypercube (from Baldwin et al., 1989a).

Figure 5: Standard gamma-ray (SGR), computed gamma-ray (CGR),

thorium/potassium, thorium/uranium ratio and drill-cuttings lithology logs
of a Permian-Cretaceous sequence in central Kansas. The CGR log
represents the summed contribution of potassium and thorium sources,
while the differences between the SGR and CGR curves reflects uranium
content (from Doveton, 1991).

Figure 6. Geochemical logs of a Lower Eocene section from the Maldives

Ridge of the Indian Ocean, ODP Leg 115, Site 715, drilled by the ODP
drillship "Resolution" (from Borehole Research Group, 1990).

Figure 7. Comparison of mineralogy computed from geochemical logs

with core analysis estimation (from van den Oord, 1990).

Figure 8. Power spectrum of calcium/silicon elemental abundance ratios

from geochemical logs in Pliocene-Paleocene sediments of the Labrador
Sea (ODP Leg 105, Site 646). Abundance peaks can be matched with
95,000-, 41,000-, 23,000- and 19-,000-year Milankovitch cycles (from
Jarrard and Arthur, 1989).