October 21, 2020

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HKU receives 3D kinematics software for geoscience research

As global energy and technology needs continue to grow and transform, so do our resource needs. Many of these resources are extracted from the Earth. For example, the use of rare-earth metals has vastly expanded in recent years, as these are increasingly used in modern communication and battery technologies.

The tools by which we explore for key geological resources are undergoing a parallel evolution, becoming increasingly potent for use characterising three-dimensional resource settings and development. These tools can similarly be used to produce academic research discoveries, particularly in terms of creating quantitative models of solid planetary systems.

In pursuit of such discoveries, the Faculty of Science is pleased to announce a large donation of geological exploration software from a UK-based software company to the University of Hong Kong. The full monetary value of this donation is £2,082,391.97 (equivalent to roughly HKD 21.2 million).

The donation includes ten sets of the MOVE suite of programmes, which represents world-leading geological reconstruction software that principally supports petroleum applications in the industrial realm and advances crustal tectonics exploration in the academic realm.

The specific interlinked programmes are MOVE, 2D Kinematic Modelling, 3D Kinematic Modelling, Geomechanical Modelling, Sediment Modelling, Fracture Modelling, Fault Response Modelling, Fault Analysis, Stress Analysis, MOVE Link for Petrel, MOVE Link for OpenWorks, and MOVE Link for GST. Continuing free software updates are included, as well as the HARDLOCK system for hosting the software on the university servers.

The HKU Dean of the Faculty of Science stated that the powerful software will be used extensively in the Faculty’s expanding lithospheric tectonics and Earth evolution research. MOVE is the leading industrial software for exploration of crustal development in three-dimensions-plus-time. This is, of course, critical for petroleum exploration, but also holds vast academic promise. The Faculty’s team of solid Earth researchers are going to benefit tremendously from its capacity for rapid generation of highly detailed kinematic reconstructions, he added.

The donated software will allow HKU geologists to characterise complex geologies in 3D, quantitatively reconstruct the development of these geologies through time via a vast array of embedded process tools, perform forward and reverse modelling of such models, and explore the concomitant stress evolutions of the explored geological systems.

The software can further be coupled to other leading industrial software, such as Petrel, and academic numerical tools like PECUBE thermo-kinematic code. As such, MOVE is a key tool for simulating sedimentary and deformation system evolutions, from basins and deltaic systems like the Pearl River delta to the development of mountain belts like the Andes and Himalaya to oceanic rifting systems like the South China Sea.

Some uses may even be extra-terrestrial! An Associate Professor of the Department of Earth Sciences stated that MOVE is the geologist’s leading tool for performing one of the researchers’ core tasks, which can be colloquially described as ‘putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

“For example, we’re studying features on Mars that may represent either deformed impact craters or deformed volcanoes, so we’re looking forward to harnessing MOVE’s unique reconstructive capacities to better test between these possibilities.”

Knowledge exchange between the petroleum industry and academia has deep roots. An Associate Professor of the Department of Earth Sciences notes that from a historical perspective, petroleum exploration is responsible for developing large swaths of the modern field of structural geology. The motivation for the technical advance is straightforward: millions and even billions of dollars of investment depend on the accurate, precise, and exportable understanding of resource-bearing geological systems.

Academia has employed industrial tools for a greater variety of problems, for example building quantitative understandings of how continents drift apart and how they collide together. The HKU team of researchers look forward to further developing this rich tradition via MOVE-enabled research at HKU.