Lacustrine Basin Exploration

14-21 September 2014
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States


Who Should Attend
Geologists, geophysicists, reservoir engineers, managers and anyone working with lacustrine petroleum source rocks, unconventional resource plays, oil shale, fluvial and microbialite reservoirs, and non-marine basin stratigraphy.

Lake basins contain some of the most prolific hydrocarbon resources in the world, including super-giant fields in the South Atlantic, Caspian Sea, and in China and SE Asia. Some of the largest oil discoveries of the 20th century have come from lacustrine microbialite reservoirs offshore Brazil. In addition, lacustrine mudstone and associated sandstone are becoming increasingly important as unconventional resource plays, and have long been recognized to hold the majority of the world’s oil shale resources. Lacustrine deposits present a number of unique challenges however, including reservoir quality, oil vs. gas potential, and hydraulic fracturing properties.

Participants in this course will develop a rigorous knowledge of the unique complexities of lakes and lake deposits.They will learn a comprehensive system for categorizing lake deposits and predicting their economic potential, based on the identification of three distinctive “lake types”.Each of these lake types carries specific connotations for source rock geochemistry and generative potential (oil vs. gas), as well as reservoir type, distribution, stratigraphy and quality. 

Some specific learnings to be emphasized in this field seminar include:

  • Tectonic, climatic, and geomorphic controls on lake basin evolution.
  • Recognition of the three principal lake types, and their implications
  • Lake-type bounding surfaces
  • Controls on lacustrine source rock quality and distribution
  • Microbialite reservoir characteristics in lacustrine basins
  • Clastic reservoir (fluvial and deltaic) characteristics in lacustrine basins
  • Lacustrine stratal geometries, and distribution patterns of source rock and reservoir facies in different lake types
Course Content

This six-day Lacustrine Basin Exploration field seminar has been developed on a number of classic, world-famous field localities in Utah and Wyoming. Localities in the vicinity of Salt Lake City, UT will be used to illustrate key limnologic, geomorphic, and stratigraphic features of pluvial lake Bonneville (Gilbert deltas and other shoreline features) and modern Great Salt Lake (playa-lake environments). These “actualistic” observations will help provide context for understanding the deposits of Eocene Lake Gosiute in Wyoming, where recent radioisotopic work provides a chronostratigrahic framework of unprecedented resolution. There we will focus on basin margin to basin center transects of the Bridger and Washakie basins, based on excellent exposures of fine-grained lacustrine carbonate mudstone facies and alluvial to deltaic sandstone facies. Participants will build two basin-scale cross sections of Lake Gosiute strata by recording their own guided outcrop observations on the chronostratigraphic framework provided.

At the outcrop scale, we will examine the heterogeneous reservoir architecture of alluvial, deltaic, and lake-marginal carbonate deposits associated with overfilled, balanced-fill, and underfilled lacustrine basins. These deposits range in style from classic Gilbert deltas to more “dryland” fluvial facies dominated by upper flow regime deposition, to microbiliate carbonate strata. The latter are spectacularly exposed near LaBarge, Wyoming, and represent one of the best available analogs to recently discovered Brazilian reservoirs.

Laterally equivalent mudstone facies are similarly heterogeneous, ranging from laminated oil shale with abundant fish fossils to pedogenically modified playa facies associated with nonmarine evaporites. Distinctive biological marker compounds (biomarkers) are associated with each of these facies, and can be used to help determine paleoenvironmental setting. Mudstone mineralogy ranges from clay-rich to mostly carbonate, implying widely different fracture properties.

In addition to field studies, several classroom lectures will be used to illustrate the main course concepts and to provide geologic background information on the field areas. Because fine-grained rocks can appear rather different in core than in outcrop, we will also conduct a half-day core workshop based on representative examples of the major facies associations. We will spend some time developing criteria for subsurface recognition using wire-line logs, seismic, and organic geochemistry.

Field Seminar Location
Begins and ends in Salt Lake City, Utah

We will meet at in Salt Lake City, UT on Sunday evening and spend Monday visiting modern carbonate environments around the Great Salt Lake. We will also observe key geomorphic features left behind during the rise and fall of Pleistocene lakes in the basin.

On Tuesday we will visit the Utah Core Research Center to examine core from the Eocene Green River Formation taken from the Uinta and Piceance basins.

Tuesday afternoon we will drive to Rock Springs, WY. We will spend the remainder of the trip in southwestern Wyoming visiting outcrops of the Green River Formation in the Bridger and Washakie basins.

On Sunday morning we will return to the airport in Salt Lake City.

Expires on
14 August, 2014
Early Tuition
Expires on
21 September, 2014
Regular Tuition
20 people

Includes transportation, course materials, and lunches. Lodging NOT included in tuition.
No refunds for cancellations after 15 August 2014.


Alan R. Alan R. Carroll University of Wisconsin at Madison, USA
Vicky Vicky Kroh Registrar, Education Department +1 918 560 2650 +1 918 560 2678
Debbi Debbi Boonstra Education Manager +1 918 560-2630

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