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Imagine the Mediterranean Sea drying out. Imagine the late Permian, as the Earth warmed and dried, and much of life faced extinction. Now put the two together, and you have the basis of an analog examined in the presentation “The Messinian Mediterranean Crisis: A Model for the Permian Delaware Basin?” at the upcoming AAPG International Conference and Exhibition in Istanbul, Turkey.

DL Abstract

Over the last two decades, numerical and physical experiments have repeatedly generated insights that contradict the sequence stratigraphic model that is near-universally used to interpret ancient strata in terms of relative changes in sea-level. This presentation will re-examine Upper Cretaceous strata (Blackhawk Formation, Castlegate Sandstone, Mancos Shale) exposed in the Book Cliffs, east-central Utah, USA, which are widely used as an archtype for the sequence stratigraphy of marginal-marine and shallow-marine strata. Stratigraphic architectures in these strata are classically interpreted to reflect forcing by relative sea level, but key aspects can instead be attributed to autogenic behaviors and variations in sediment flux.

DL Abstract

This lecture presents a history of sea-level changes focusing on the last 100 Myr. Prior to the Oligocene (ca. 33.5 Ma), the Earth had been a warm, high CO2 Greenhouse world that was largely ice-free back to 260 Ma, though recent evidence suggests that 15-25 m sea-level changes observed may have been caused by growth and decay of small, ephemeral ice sheets. The growth and decay of a continental scale ice sheet in Antarctica caused 50-60 m variations on the 106 yr scale beginning ~33.5 million years ago (Ma).

DL Abstract

IODP Expedition 313 (New Jersey shallow shelf) cored a 3-hole transect across Miocene seismic clinothems (prograding sigmoidal sequences) in topset, foreset, and bottomset locations, providing an opportunity to integrate seismic, log, and core data into a sequence stratigraphic framework. Our interpretations of sequences and systems tracts are made independent of any preconceived relative sea-level curves. Rather, we use basic seismic, core, and stratigraphic principles to recognize sequence boundaries, Maximum Flooding Surface, transgressive surfaces, and facies successions within sequences.


Sequence stratigraphy is the study of genetically related facies within a framework of chronostratigraphically significant surfaces. Paleontologic data, integrated with seismic and well log data, are an integral part of sequence stratigraphic analysis.

Organic-carbon–rich shales of the lower Marcellus Formation were deposited at the toe and basinward of a prograding clinothem associated with a Mahantango Formation delta complex centered near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Distribution of these organic-carbon–rich shales was influenced by shifts in the delta complex driven by changes in rates of accommodation creation and by a topographically high carbonate bank that formed along the Findlay-Algonquin arch during deposition of the Onondaga Formation. Specifically, we interpret the Union Springs member (Shamokin Member of the Marcellus Formation) and the Onondaga Formation as comprising a single third-order depositional sequence. The Onondaga Formation was deposited in the lowstand to transgressive systems tract, and the Union Springs member was deposited in the transgressive, highstand, and falling-stage systems tract. The regional extent of parasequences, systems tracts, and the interpreted depositional sequence suggest that base-level fluctuations were primarily caused by allogenic forcing—eustasy, climate, or regional thermal uplift or subsidence—instead of basement fault reactivation as argued by previous workers. Paleowater depths in the region of Marcellus Formation black mudrock accumulation were at least 330 ft (100 m) as estimated by differences in strata thickness between the northwestern carbonate bank and basinal facies to the southeast. Geochemical analysis indicates anoxic to euxinic bottom-water conditions. These conditions were supported by a deep, stratified basin with a lack of circulation.
Explorer Article

"Breakthrough elegance": ExxonMobil geologists Jeff Ottmann and Kevin Bohacs shared their highly-coveted knowledge on sweet spots and producibility thresholds at a recent Geosciences Technology Workshop on Unconventional Reservoir Quality.


This article describes a 250-m (820-ft)-thick upper Eocene deep-water clastic succession. This succession is divided into two reservoir zones: the lower sandstone zone (LSZ) and the upper sandstone zone, separated by a package of pelitic rocks with variable thickness on the order of tens of meters. The application of sequence-stratigraphic methodology allowed the subdivision of this stratigraphic section into third-order systems tracts.

The LSZ is characterized by blocky and fining-upward beds on well logs, and includes interbedded shale layers of as much as 10 m (33 ft) thick. This zone reaches a maximum thickness of 150 m (492 ft) and fills a trough at least 4 km (2 mi) wide, underlain by an erosional surface. The lower part of this zone consists of coarse- to medium-grained sandstones with good vertical pressure communication. We interpret this unit as vertically and laterally amalgamated channel-fill deposits of high-density turbidity flows accumulated during late forced regression. The sandstones in the upper part of this trough are dominantly medium to fine grained and display an overall fining-upward trend. We interpret them as laterally amalgamated channel-fill deposits of lower density turbidity flows, relative to the ones in the lower part of the LSZ, accumulated during lowstand to early transgression.

The pelitic rocks that separate the two sandstone zones display variable thickness, from 35 to more than 100 m (115–>328 ft), indistinct seismic facies, and no internal markers on well logs, and consist of muddy diamictites with contorted shale rip-up clasts. This section is interpreted as cohesive debris flows and/or mass-transported slumps accumulated during late transgression.

The upper sandstone zone displays a weakly defined blocky well-log signature, where the proportion of sand is higher than 80%, and a jagged well-log signature, where the sand proportion is lower than 60%. The high proportions of sand are associated with a channelized geometry that is well delineated on seismic amplitude maps. Several depositional elements are identified within this zone, including leveed channels, crevasse channels, and splays associated with turbidity flows. This package is interpreted as the product of increased terrigenous sediment supply during highstand normal regression.

DL Abstract

Numerous studies of sediment-dispersal systems have focused on the relative role of allogenic versus autogenic controls, and their stratigraphic imprint. Advancing our understanding of these vital issues depends heavily on geochronology.

DL Abstract

The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is the 9th largest body of water on earth, covering an area of approximately 1.6 million km2 with water depths reaching 4,400 m (14,300’). The basin formed as a result of crustal extension during the early Mesozoic breakup of Pangaea. Rifting occurred from the Late Triassic to early Middle Jurassic. Continued extension through the Middle Jurassic combined with counter-clockwise rotation of crustal blocks away from North America produced highly extended continental crust in the subsiding basin center. Subsidence eventually allowed oceanic water to enter from the west leading to thick, widespread, evaporite deposition. Seafloor spreading initiated in the Late Jurassic eventually splitting the evaporite deposits into northern (USA) and southern (Mexican) basins. Recent work suggests that this may have been accomplished by asymmetric extension, crustal delamination, and exposure of the lower crust or upper mantle rather than true sea floor spreading (or it could be some combination of the two). By 135 Ma almost all extension had ceased and the basic configuration of the GOM basin seen today was established. The Laramide Orogeny was the last major tectonic event impacting the GOM. It caused uplift and erosion for the NW margin from the Late Cretaceous to early Eocene.

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In-Person Training
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Online Training
10 May, 2012 10 May, 2012 1486
10 May 2012

Recognition and Correlation of the Eagle Ford, Austin Formations in South Texas can be enhanced with High Resolution Biostratigraphy, fossil abundance peaks and Maximum Flooding Surfaces correlated to Upper Cretaceous sequence stratigraphic cycle chart after Gradstein, 2010.

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17 February 2011

This presentation is designed for exploration/production geologists and geological managers or reservoir engineers.

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