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New project on numerical modelling of salt tectonics

The two years project SaltTecDEM, funded by Statoil ASA, will explore the growth of salt swells and resulting overburden deformation by means of Distinct Element Method (DEM) modelling.

Salt flows like a fluid at geologically strain rates and acts as a lubricant in sedimentary basins. The structural dynamics of salt systems is known as salt tectonics. Associated with salt tectonics is a wide variety of hydrocarbon traps. Existing modelling techniques that are aiming to a better understanding of the structural evolution in these settings are however affected by some problems: Analogue models for example are typically not properly scaled (e.g. buoyancy forces) and continuum methods, such as Finite Elements, are ill-suited for modelling large discontinuous deformation (e.g. faulting). In this project the Distinct Element Method (DEM) will be used to model the deformation of the brittle overburden, whereas the viscous substratum (salt) will be represented using a continuum formulation. The project will therefore combine the strengths of both discontinuum and continuum models to produce new insights into the mechanical evolution of structures associated with salt tectonics.

The project will be carried out by Martin Schöpfer (PI) and Bernhard Grasemann (co-PI) in collaboration with Florian Lehner (University of Salzburg) and Ben Huet.

further information


Department for Geodynamics and Sedimentology
University of Vienna

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