The Federal Government has thrown $5.4 million behind a radical project which uses Big Data to create "five-dimensional' models to help analyse sedimentary basins.
An international research group, led by the University of Sydney, will use big data sets and exponentially increased computing power to model the interaction between processes on the earth’s surface and deep below it in ‘five dimensions’.
The University’s School of Geosciences will lead the Basin GENESIS Hub that has received $5.4 million over five years from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and industry partners.
The modelling will span scales from entire basins hundreds of kilometres wide to individual sediment grains.
Key geographical areas the research will focus on are the North-West shelf of Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean continental margins.
The multitude of resources found in sedimentary basins includes groundwater and energy resources.
The space between grains of sand in these basins can also be used to store carbon dioxide.
Director of the Hub, from the School of Geosciences, Professor Dietmar Muller, said the research would be fundamental importance to both the geo-software industry, used by exploration and mining companies, and to other areas of the energy industry.
“The outcomes will be especially important for identifying exploration targets in deep basins in remote regions of Australia," he said.
"It will create a new ‘exploration geodynamics’ toolbox for industry to improve estimates of what resources might be found in individual basins.”
Sedimentary basins form when sediments eroded from highly elevated regions are transported through river systems and deposited into lowland regions and continental margins.
The Sydney Basin is a massive basin filled mostly with river sediments that form Hawkesbury sandstone.
It is invisible to the Sydney population living above it but has provided building material for many decades.
Muller said, previously, the approach to analysing these basins had been based on interpreting geological data and two-dimensional models.
"We apply infinitely more computing power to enhance our understanding of sedimentary basins as the product of the complex interplay between surface and deep Earth processes,” he said.
Associate Professor, Patrice Rey, a researcher at the School of Geosciences and member of the Hub, said the new approach was to understand the formation of sedimentary basins and the changes they underwent, both recently and over millions to hundreds of millions of years.
"Using computer simulations to incorporate information such as the evolution of erosion, sedimentary processes and the deformation of the earth’s crust,” he said.