Outcrop analysis of ooid grainstones in the Permian Grayburg Formation, Shattuck Escarpment, New Mexico



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Ooid grainstone reservoir architecture remains poorly understood, particularly because of sedimentologic and stratigraphic heterogeneities that are innate to grainstone body development. Understanding of Geospatial relationships and recovery of hydrocarbons from these significant reservoir facies can be improved with access to outcrop analog information from well exposed examples. Object-based models and other modern subsurface reservoir models are considered superior methods for portraying realistic sediment distributions. These models, however, are highly dependent on input data describing sediment-body geometry for faithful template generation. Such input data are notably rare in carbonate systems. Maps generated from modern depositional patterns give a first approximation of areal distribution, but they are not as useful for understanding final preserved stratigraphic thickness and internal facies, sedimentary structure, and grain-type patterns. For this purpose, studies of exceptional outcrops are required. The 18 km long oblique-dip-oriented wall of the Shattuck Escarpment provides such a unique exposure of Permian-age grainstones. The Shattuck Escarpment in the Guadalupe Mountains provides an oblique-dip profile that exposes a near-complete middle Permian Grayburg mixed clastic-carbonate shelf succession of three high-frequency sequences which contain 30 high-frequency cycles. Particularly important for this study are the four cycles that display full updip to downdip extents of ooid grainstone tidal bar and tidal delta objects. The data from the Shattuck wall presented in this paper focusses on the transgressive portion of the upper Grayburg, or G12 high-frequency sequence (HFS), located 5 km landward of the time-equivalent shelf margin. This interval is an analog for productive fields along the northwest shelf of the Delaware Basin and on the eastern flank of the Central Basin Platform. The goal of this project is to understand the sedimentology and facies/cycle architectural variability of tidally influenced shelf crest ooid grainstones of the Grayburg Formation. Comparing this outcrop data to modern grainstone deposits allows the reader to understand the small-scale and large-scale sedimentologic and architectural patterns in analogous subsurface ooid grainstone reservoirs. Spatial analysis of these cycles was carried out using measured sections and GigaPan (high resolution photomosaic) data. Petrophysical (Porosity and Permeability) data was collected from three separate vertical core plug transects approximately 1 km apart with a vertical resolution of 30 cm. Cycle-set-scale grainstone complexes up to 6m thick extend at least 4.25 km along depositional dip and show variations in permeability between 6-400 mD and porosities between 8-20% within the lower portions of the grainstone complex.