Research at the Applied Geodynamics Laboratory is of three types: physical modeling, finite-element modeling, and geologic studies. These three approaches are integrated to develop new concepts related to the origin, mechanics, and evolution of salt and mobile-shale structures and their adjacent sediments.
The AGL physical-modeling program was pioneered by Bruno Vendeville, who worked at AGL from 1989-2003. Following Bruno's departure, Tim Dooley joined the group in November 2003, from Royal Holloway, University of London. The AGL physical-modeling lab features three modular deformation rigs capable of simulating gravity-driven and basement-involved structural styles in extension, shortening, and strike-slip. Modeling results are recorded by high-resolution digital photography, laser scans and digital image correlation.
Dan Schultz-Ela led AGL's one-man finite-element program from 1989-2004. The program lay idle for several years before being restarted in 2009 by Gang Luo, Maria Nikolinakou, and more recently Mahdi Moghadam. We use geomechanical models to investigate stresses and fluid pressures adjacent to and beneath salt and shale structures, and also internal structures in salt. In contrast to former studies that used elastic constitutive laws to represent sediments, our current models are simulating poro-elastoplastic soil-mechanics rheologies to provide more realistic approximations to natural systems.
Large-scale seismic-based geologic studies began in 1998. In these studies, AGL scientists use concepts developed in other parts of the AGL research program to analyze salt-tectonic processes of entire salt basins or large parts of those basins. These studies are based mostly on 3-D seismic data. As of 2023, studies have been completed or are underway in the Kwanza Basin (Angola), Lower Congo Basin (Gabon), northern Gulf of Mexico (USA), southern Gulf of Mexico (Mexico), Mauritania, Santos Basin (Brazil), Precaspian Basin (Kazakhstan), North Sea (offshore Norway), and the Eastern Mediterranean (offshore Cyprus).