Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geology and Geophysics

Document Type



Seismic velocity models of the near-surface (< 30 m) better explain seismic velocities when all elements of total effective stress are considered, particularly in materials with large cohesive and soil suction stress such as clays. Traditional constitutive elastic models assume interparticle and soil suction stresses are negligible. This study proposes a new methodology which corrects total effective stress in Hertz-Mindlin theory for interparticle and soil suction and calculates the elastic moduli by extending Biot-Gassmann theory to include pressure effects induced by water saturation changes and cohesion. The proposed model predicts seismic velocities that correlate well with measured field velocities from the literature. Soil density, porosity, elastic moduli and the soil-water characteristic curve (SWCC) are important properties for soil characterization. Currently, geotechnical and laboratory tests for soil properties are costly and limited to point sampling sites. Seismic surveys can potentially provide laterally continuous soil property values that may complement geotechnical borehole tests with low cost. We propose a new method to invert for soil properties and the SWCC from seismic P- and S-wave velocity-vs.-depth profiles interpreted from shallow (< 25 m depth) unconsolidated sediments under conditions of near-full saturation (> 99%). The results from seismic soil property inversion are validated by comparison to geotechnical and laboratory results conducted independently in the same area as the seismic survey. Knowledge of homogeneous and heterogeneous fluid-distribution patterns is important for the estimation of oil reserves, reservoir simulation, the interpretation of time-lapse seismic, and the selection of remediation techniques for groundwater contamination. Problems exist in determining in-situ fluid-distribution patterns in unconsolidated sediments because laboratory tests on core samples may not be representative of in-situ conditions. We propose a new method to determine in-situ fluid-distribution patterns by inverting experimental seismic P- and S-wave velocities using the Hertz-Mindlin and Biot-Gassmann model with different averaging methods (Wood and Hill averages) and saturation-related assumptions. During the imbibition and drainage of shallow unconsolidated sands, we observe a non-monotonic P-wave velocity-vs.-water level relationship that is consistent with previous observations. This relationship can be explained by alternation in the size of fluid patches during wetting and drainage.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Lorenzo, Juan