Facies characterization and stratigraphic architecture of organic-rich mudrocks, Upper Cretaceous Eagle Ford Formation, South Texas



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The Eagle Ford is a well-known source rock for both sandstone (Woodbine) and carbonate (Austin and Buda) hydrocarbon reservoirs in East and South Texas. Recent discoveries have demonstrated that source rocks, such as the Eagle Ford, are capable of producing significant volumes of gas and oil. At the same time, variations in well producibility indicate that these rocks, like conventional reservoirs, display considerable geological heterogeneity. Yet, only limited research has been published on the subsurface stratigraphy and character of Eagle Ford facies. Understanding the types, controls, and distribution of these heterogeneities requires in-depth rock-based studies. In order to characterize Eagle Ford facies, 27 cores from 13 counties were investigated for rock textures, fabrics, sedimentary structures, and fossil assemblages. These studies were supported by light and electron microscopy as well as analysis of elemental chemistry and mineralogy. Regional subsurface stratigraphic correlations and facies distributions were defined using wireline logs calibrated from core studies. In South Texas, the Eagle Ford Formation was deposited during a second-order transgressive/regressive cycle on the flooded, oxygen-restricted Comanche Shelf. Nine depositional facies consisting predominately of organic-rich, fine-grained (5.0 % TOC) to coarser-grained (3.05 % TOC) fabrics were identified. Facies developed in low-energy environments episodically interrupted by higher-energy, event sedimentation (current winnowing, cohesive and non-cohesive density flows, and turbidity flows). Locally, these rocks show evidence of early diagenetic recrystallization of calcite.
Concurrent water anoxia and organic matter preservation persisted locally into later Austin deposition, resulting in formation of a three-fold division of the Cenomanian-Coniacian Eagle Ford Formation. Common facies of lower and upper Eagle Ford members include (1) unlaminated, fissile, clay- and silica-rich, organic-rich mudrocks, (2) laminated, calcareous, organic-rich mudrocks, and (3) laminated, foraminifera- and peloid-rich, organic-rich packstones. The transitional Eagle Ford member consists of highly-cyclic (1) ripple-laminated, organic-rich wackestone (cycle base) and (2) burrowed, organic-lean lime wackestones (cycle top). Transitional Eagle Ford facies developed in oxygen-restricted, basinal depositional environments as distal equivalents to burrowed, foraminiferal lime wackestones of the Austin Formation.
Facies complexities in the Eagle Ford stem from complicated and interrelated processes of sediment production and distribution, diagenesis, and water column chemistry. Integrated core studies shed light on both controls of facies formation and their spatial distribution. These findings provide a framework for upscaling the fine-scale, heterogeneous character of shelfal Eagle Ford mudrocks; thus allowing development of predictive models into the distribution of key reservoir properties in the subsurface.