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Imaging software aids fracture study

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A Norwegian Center of Excellence, Physics of Geological Processes (PGP), is working to obtain a quantitative understanding of the complex patterns and processes of the Earth. With a major initiative to understand the deformation of tight rocks, PGP has selected Avizo as its main 3D analysis and visualisation software. Avizo offers a broad spectrum of 3D image analysis tools, intuitive and sophisticated algorithms for segmentation, as well as options for 3D visualisation.

A recent study shows how insight into hydrocarbon migration in source rocks can be obtained by using sequential high-resolution synchrotron X-ray tomography. An immature shale sample from Green River Basin was heated in situ up to 400°C as 3D images were recorded. The main technical difficulty was the numerical extraction of microcracks that have apertures in the 5 to 30 micrometer range (within the size range of individual grains) from a large 3D volume of X-ray data.

Using the Avizo software, a methodology was developed to process the 3D data and image the cracks. This methodology is based on several levels of spatial filtering and automatic recognition of connected domains. The advanced image processing tools in Avizo allowed the 3D data to be segmented and quantitative analysis was then applied to obtain information about porosity evolution and geometrical characteristics of formed cracks.