3D Geological Framework

3D Geological Framework

The Alberta Geological Survey is developing a three-dimensional (3D) geological framework of Alberta covering 660 000 square kilometres and including both Quaternary and bedrock geological units. The current Geological Framework model contains 23 geological units and is updated with new information as it becomes available from the Quaternary and bedrock modelling teams. The Geological Framework provides a 3D representation of the surface and subsurface geology of Alberta and is used to integrate a variety of data types from multiple sources, providing the 3D context for all geospatially referenced ground-surface and subsurface information.

Figure 1. The 3D Geological Framework of Alberta showing;

a) a thickness map of the Quaternary (surficial) deposits,

b) a block model of the bedrock units across Alberta, and

c) the complete model from the ground surface down to the Precambrian basement.

These 3D geological models support projects in groundwater, geological hazard identification, and energy resource evaluation.

The Need for Integrating Surface and Subsurface Data within a Geological Context

The Geological Framework provides a consistent and reliable geological context for Alberta, allowing users to integrate and evaluate   a wide variety of surface and subsurface information, such as the locations of pipelines, groundwater and hydrocarbon resources, wellbore paths, etc. Building a geological context within which we can integrate subsurface information significantly improves our ability to efficiently evaluate the relationships of subsurface properties and interactions.

Figure 2. Example of the integration of geospatial information

3D Surface

a) on the ground surface and

3D Subsurface

b) within the subsurface. 

Figure 2a shows the surface locations of groundwater springs in red and ecologically sensitive or protected areas in dark green, located on the surface of a section of the Geological Framework in the area of the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP). The cross sections in Figure 2b illustrate the complex geology within the LARP area and show selected wellbore paths.

A Scientifically Credible Model

The Geological Framework is a sophisticated platform, capable of integrating a variety of data types from multiple sources, and will provide the 3D geospatial context within which all geospatially referenced subsurface information can be integrated. It is supported by well-documented and transparent processes to generate reproducible and scientifically credible predictions that can be used to communicate complex geology and subsurface geoscience information to users with various levels of background knowledge.

Current Focus and Future Development

The Geological Framework program is currently focused on

  • discovering innovative ways to disseminate the Geological Framework models online to allow users to interactively navigate the models and geospatially reference subsurface data,
  • incorporating information from the structural database to more accurately portray faults and linear offsets within this model,
  • strategically developing the Geological Framework in areas identified as requiring additional evaluation to either reduce uncertainty or improve the model resolution, and
  • improving the linkage between surface and subsurface activities.