Reflection Seismic Thermometry

  • Arkadyuti Sarkar

Student thesis: Phd


An understanding of the subsurface thermal regime is beneficial to many disciplines, including petroleum and geothermal exploration, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear waste sequestration. This project developed and tested a new methodology for determining subsurface temperature using a non-invasive approach based on the velocity information derived from seismic reflection data. By solving a one-dimensional steady state approximation of Fourier’s Law, it is possible to determine a bulk thermal gradient as a function of depth, enabling the determination of temperatures across an entire volume using this methodology, termed reflection seismic thermometry. There are two principal components to this methodology, requiring 1) a bulk thermal conductivity structure and 2) heat flow and/or temperature data to condition the model. The first component uses an empirical velocity to thermal conductivity transform whilst the second uses sparse temperature data from boreholes or a bottom simulating reflector (BSR) to derive the shallow thermal regime and heat flow. The thermometry workflow has been applied to three case studies; in the Lüderitz Basin, offshore Namibia; the Blake Ridge, offshore USA; and the North Viking Graben (NVG) in the North Sea. In the frontier Lüderitz Basin, a BSR was identified and used to derive heat flow of 60-70 mW m-2. The Aptian source rock interval here was shown to presently be in the gas generative window. On Blake Ridge borehole velocities and a BSR were used to determine heat flow (43-56 mW m-2) and subsurface temperatures. Finally, methodology validation was conducted in the North Sea Basin using a high-resolution 3D full waveform inversion (FWI) velocity dataset calibrated with 141 wells. Forward models of subsurface temperatures were calibrated against the borehole temperatures, with inverse modelling used to derive heat flow at km scale lateral resolution. The availability of a fast track velocity volume for this area allowed comparison with the FWI derived thermal model results. It was found that stacking velocities were lower than well and FWI velocities, leading to overprediction of subsurface temperature. Modelling the temperature profile for CCS well 31/5-7 showed bottom hole temperature (BHT) within 6 °C of recorded BHT. With application and verification of the method in different basins, the versatility of the work conducted is demonstrated. It is envisioned that this technique opens avenues for the seismic characterisation of thermal regime in disparate settings and varied disciplines.
Date of Award31 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJonathan Redfern (Supervisor) & Mads Huuse (Supervisor)


  • Modelling
  • Temperature
  • Subsurface
  • Heat flow
  • Velocity
  • Reflection seismic
  • Thermal conductivity

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