The Salt Valley anticline, in the Paradox Basin of southeastern Utah, is under investigation for use as a location for storage of solid nuclear waste. Delineation of thin, nonsalt interbeds within the upper reaches of the salt body is extremely important because the nature and character of any such fluid- or gas-saturated horizons would be critical to the mode of emplacement of wastes into the structure.
Analysis of 50 km of conventional seismic-reflection data, in the vicinity of the anticline, indicates that mapping of thin beds at shallow depths may well be possible using a specially designed adaptation of state-of-the-art seismic oil-exploration procedures. Computer ray-trace modeling of thin beds in salt reveals that the frequency and spatial resolution required to map the details of interbeds at shallow depths (less than 750 m) may be on the order of 500 Hz, with surface-spread lengths of less than 350 m. Consideration should be given to the burial of sources and receivers in order to attenuate surface noise and to record the desired high frequencies.
Correlation of the seismic-reflection data with available well data and surface geology reveals the complex, structurally initiated diapir, whose upward flow was maintained by rapid contemporaneous deposition of continental clastic sediments on its flanks. Severe collapse faulting near the crests of these structures has distorted the seismic response. Evidence exists, however, that intrasalt thin beds of anhydrite, dolomite, and black shale are mappable on seismic record sections either as short, discontinuous reflected events or as amplitude anomalies that result from focusing of the reflected seismic energy by the thin beds; computer modeling of the folded interbeds confirms both of these as possible causes of seismic response from within the salt diapir. Prediction of the seismic signatures of the interbeds can be made from computer-model studies.
Petroleum seismic-reflection data are unsatisfactory for mapping the thin beds because of the lack of sufficient resolution to provide direct evidence of the presence of the thin beds. However, indirect evidence, present in these data as discontinuous seismic events, suggests that two geophysical techniques designed for this specific problem would allow direct detection of the interbeds in salt. These techniques are vertical seismic profiling and shallow, short-offset, high-frequency, seismic-reflection recording.
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USGS Numbered Series
The utility of petroleum seismic exploration data in delineating structural features within salt anticlines