Improving Permeability Semivariograms with Transition Probability Models of Hierarchical Sedimentary Architecture Derived from Outcrop-Analog Studies

Document Type


Publication Date



As analogs for aquifers, outcrops of sedimentary deposits allow sedimentary units to be mapped, permeability to be measured with high resolution, and sedimentary architecture to be related to the univariate and spatial bivariate statistics of permeability. Sedimentary deposits typically can be organized into hierarchies of unit types and associated permeability modes. The types of units and the number of hierarchical levels defined on an outcrop might vary depending upon the focus of the study. Regardless of how the outcrop sediments are subdivided, a composite bivariate statistic like the permeability semivariogram is a linear summation of the autosemivariograms and cross semivariograms for the unit types defined, weighted by the proportions and transition probabilities associated with the unit types. The composite sample semivariogram will not be representative unless data locations adequately define these transition probabilities. Data reflecting the stratal architecture can often be much more numerous than permeability measurements. These lithologic data can be used to better define transition probabilities and thus improve the estimates of the composite permeability semivariogram. In doing so, bias created from the incomplete exposure of units can be reduced by a Bayesian approach for estimating unit proportions and mean lengths. We illustrate this methodology with field data from an outcrop in the Española Basin, New Mexico.