Digital outcrop mapping of a reservoir-scale incised valley fill, Sego Sandstone, Book Cliffs, Utah
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Outcrop analog studies have long been used to define subsurface correlation strategies and improve predictions of reservoir heterogeneities that can complicate production behavior. Recent advancements in geographic information software, 3D geologic modeling techniques, and survey equipment have the potential to revolutionize outcrop analog studies. A workflow is developed to create digital outcrop models using a reflectorless total station, a digital camera, Erdas Photogrammetry Module™, and Gocad™ to document complex stratal variations across kilometers-long outcrops. Combining outcrop digital elevation models with orthorectified photographs and detailed sedimentologic logs provides a framework for static 3D reservoir analog models. Developed methodologies are demonstrated by mapping rock variations and stratal geometries within several kilometers-long, sub-parallel exposures of the Lower Sego Sandstone in San Arroyo Canyon, Book Cliffs, Utah. The digital outcrop model of the Lower Sego Sandstone documents complex bedding geometry and facies distribution within two sharp-based sandstone layers. A mapping of allostratigraphic surfaces through the digital outcrop model provided a framework in which to analyze facies variations. These surfaces included: 1) Basal erosion surfaces of these layers interpreted to have formed by tidal erosion of the sea floor during shoreline regression; 2) a high relief erosion surface within the upper layer interpreted to have formed during lowstand fluvial incision; and 3) top contacts of layers defined by abrupt fining to marine shale, which are interpreted to record marine ravinement during transgression. Facies variations within the lower layer include low sinuosity distributary channel deposits incised into highly marine bioturbated sandstone. Deposits above the high-relief erosion surface within the upper layer are a classic valley fill succession, which processes upward from lowstand fluvial channel deposits, to heterolithic estuarine deposits, and finally to sandy landward-dipping beds of an estuarine mouth shoal deposit. The digital outcrop model allows surfaces and facies observation to be mapped within a structured 3D coordinate system to define reservoir analog models.
Fey, Matthew F. (2006). Digital outcrop mapping of a reservoir-scale incised valley fill, Sego Sandstone, Book Cliffs, Utah. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from