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2, FRACTAL SIZE OF HYDROCARBON ACCUMULATIONS 31

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FIGURE 2.11. Schematic diagram illustrating the fractal box-counting method in which a sequence of grids is
overlain on the data. The fractal plot of the number of boxes N containing data is plotted versus the inverse of box
size liB in log-log space. The slope of a straight-line fit through the data is the fractal dimension D.

2.3 .3. Consequences of a Fractal Distribution of Hydrocarbon Accumulations


for Exploration

Strategies for exploring for hydrocarbons that are fractally distributed will be different
from those traditionally practiced. Menard and Sharman (1975) and Menard (1981) applied
a strategy of Poissonian (random) exploration to known oil provinces, which generated
synthe~ic exploration histories that corresponded closely in form to the actual exploration
history. Their exploration model had no feedback benefit of knowledge gained, no hierarchy
of drilling, and was equivalent to randomly throwing darts at a map of a province. Menard
and Sharman (1975) were concerned with the inefficiency of the historical exploration
strategies as measured by the number of dry holes, but offered no alternative strategy other
than drilling on a grid, the success rate of which is comparable to random drilling.
Exploration strategy is complexly determined and is not limited to geologic knowl-
edge. The ~nalysis of Menard and Sharman (1975) and Menard (1981) indicates that this
complex combination of geographic, geologic, economic, and political factors results in a
history that is equivalent to random drilling. Considered dimensionally, we note that both
their random model and the real exploration strategies have a dimensionality of 2; because
they are plane-filling when taken to the limit. In contrast, for stratified reservoirs in the
~, Denver and Powder River basins, the dimensionality of the hydrocarbon accumulations is
e between 1.4 and 1.5, significantly less than 2.0. We have studied the time sequence of
s exploration in these two basins using the drilling sequence animation provided in Higley
et al. (1990). We observe that an exploration strategy with a fractal dimension of 2 results
in the sequential drilling of tens to hundreds of nearest-neighbor dry holes.
Because size distribution is convergent, and the large accumulations are discovered
early in the exploration process, the yield ratio (barrels of oil per foot of drilling) declines
for two reasons. First, the net volume per field-size drops off rapidly with field-size class,
and second, progressively more drilling is required in order to discover progressively