Slope to basin-floor evolution of channels to lobes, Jurassic Los Molles Formation, Neuquén Basin, Argentina



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Slope to Basin-floor Evolution of Channels to Lobes, Jurassic Los Molles Formation, Neuquén Basin, Argentina

Nataleigh Kristine Vann, MS Geo Sci The University of Texas at Austin, 2013

Supervisor: Ronald J. Steel and Cornel Olariu

The relatively steep and short-headed Neuquén Basin margin provides an excellent laboratory for demonstrating down slope changes in sediment gravity flow bed thickness, grain size and facies, as well as channel to lobe transitions. Approximately 400m high clinoformal, shelf-slope-basin-floor deposits of Jurassic Los Molles Formation outcrops are evaluated for reservoir scale definition of facies and architectures in the La Jardinera field area, Neuquén Basin. Slope deposits represent the accretionary front of the prograding shelf margin that were fed by a coarse grained shelf (Lajas Formation). Mapping of a high-resolution satellite images draped on digital elevation model resolved a sub-meter stratigraphic framework. Thirty-three measured sections from outcrops exposed along a 5km transect characterize the evolution of sand body architectures from the shelf edge to the basin floor. The Neuquén Basin margin is typified by four main depositional environments that transition from shelf edge incisions filled with conglomerates, to confined channels in upper- to middle-slope reaches, to weakly confined channels on the lower slope to sheet-like lobes and distributary channel complexes that drape onto both the lower slope and basin floor. Along the slope to basin floor profile the depositional architecture changes by overall decrease in grain size, amalgamation of beds and degree of erosion. Confined slope channels are up to 25m deep, isolated within muddy slope deposits and have complex multistory fills marked by basal and internal erosive contacts lined with mud-clast and/or pebble conglomerates. Channel axes contain amalgamated, medium to coarse sandstones that thin and fine towards channel margins over 100m. Down dip, lower slope channels are up to 400m wide and less than 10m thick. A marked reduction in mud clasts and conglomeratic material at basal erosional surfaces in weakly confined channels represent a downslope decrease in flow energy. However, distinct meter scale erosion surfaces continue to be recognizable where thin ripple laminated sands are truncated on channel margins by amalgamated structureless sands. Erosional surfaces are absent in laterally extensive (>5km), sheet-like lobes of basin-floor fans that are generally finer grained than lower or upper slope channel fills. There are lenticular debrites and thin micro-conglomerates associated with basin-floor fans.