Hardrock Elastic Physical Properties: Birch’s Seismic Parameter Revisited

Monday, 15 December 2014
Maria Wu and Bernd Milkereit, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Identifying rock composition and properties is imperative in a variety of fields including geotechnical engineering, mining, and petroleum exploration, in order to accurately make any petrophysical calculations. Density is, in particular, an important parameter that allows us to differentiate between lithologies and estimate or calculate other petrophysical properties. It is well established that compressional and shear wave velocities of common crystalline rocks increase with increasing densities (i.e. the Birch and Nafe-Drake relationships). Conventional empirical relations do not take into account S-wave velocity. Physical properties of Fe-oxides and massive sulfides, however, differ significantly from the empirical velocity-density relationships. Currently, acquiring in-situ density data is challenging and problematic, and therefore, developing an approximation for density based on seismic wave velocity and elastic moduli would be beneficial. With the goal of finding other possible or better relationships between density and the elastic moduli, a database of density, P-wave velocity, S-wave velocity, bulk modulus, shear modulus, Young’s modulus, and Poisson’s ratio was compiled based on a multitude of lab samples. The database is comprised of isotropic, non-porous metamorphic rock. Multi-parameter cross plots of the various elastic parameters have been analyzed in order to find a suitable parameter combination that reduces high density outliers. As expected, the P-wave velocity to S-wave velocity ratios show no correlation with density. However, Birch’s seismic parameter, along with the bulk modulus, shows promise in providing a link between observed compressional and shear wave velocities and rock densities, including massive sulfides and Fe-oxides.