Simulating the Heterogeneity in Braided Channel Belt Deposits: 2. Examples of Results and Comparison to Natural Deposits

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In part 1 of this paper (Ramanathan et al., 2010b) we presented a methodology and a code for modeling the hierarchical sedimentary architecture in braided channel belt deposits. Here in part 2, the code was used to create a digital model of this architecture and the corresponding spatial distribution of permeability. The simulated architecture was compared to the real stratal architecture observed in an abandoned channel belt. The comparisons included assessments of similarity which were both qualitative and quantitative. The qualitative comparisons show that the geometries of unit types within the synthetic deposits are generally consistent with field observations. The unit types in the synthetic deposits would generally be recognized as representing their counterparts in nature, including cross stratasets, lobate and scroll bar deposits, and channel fills. Furthermore, the synthetic deposits have a hierarchical spatial relationship among these units consistent with observations from field exposures and geophysical images. In quantitative comparisons the proportions and the length, width, and height of unit types at different scales, across all levels of the stratal hierarchy, compare well between the synthetic and the natural deposits. A number of important attributes of the synthetic channel belt deposits are shown to be influenced by more than one level within the hierarchy of stratal architecture. First, the high‐permeability open‐framework gravels connected across all levels and thus formed preferential flow pathways; open‐framework gravels are known to form preferential flow pathways in natural channel belt deposits. The nature of a connected cluster changed across different levels of the stratal hierarchy, and as a result of the geologic structure, the connectivity occurs at proportions of open‐framework gravels below the theoretical percolation threshold for random infinite media. Second, when the channel belt model was populated with permeability distributions by lowest‐level unit type, the composite permeability semivariogram contained structures that were identifiable at more than one scale, and each of these structures could be directly linked to unit types of different scales existing at different levels within the hierarchy of strata. These collective results are encouraging with respect to our goal that this model be relevant for testing ideas in future research on flow and transport in aquifers and reservoirs with multiscale heterogeneity.