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Outcrop Analogs of Subsurface Deep-water Systems

Saudi Arabia, northern Red Sea

The Midyan Peninsula is located at the junction of the northern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba in NW Saudi Arabia. It contains uplifted syn-rift sediments from the Lower Miocene, including a deep-water unit, known as the Burqan Formation.

Cody Trigg (PhD 2018) is working on the facies relationships and sedimentary mechanics in this proximal, coarse-grained system. Exceptional exposure of the deposits allows us to track the downslope facies changes and infer the evolution of sediment flows entering the basin. Sediment flows likely entered the basin during catastrophic floods, washing immature alluvial sediments directly from the rift-flank through desert wadis and into the nascent Red Sea. The flows largely bypassed narrow carbonate shelves, similar to the modern day Gulf of Aqaba.

Ventura Basin, California

Jon Rotzien (PhD 2013) worked on the sedimentology and stratigraphy of the Pliocene Repetto and Pico Formations from the Ventura Basin. His work was published in the Journal of Sedimentary Research here.

San Joaquin Basin, California

Larisa Masalimova's research will focus on the sedimentary mechanics, depositional setting, mud properties and content of the slurry flows of the Monterey Formation of the San Joaquin Basin. The research on slurry flow formation, evolution and deposition will be documented through integration of borehole images, thin section study, and geochemical analysis. Reservoir architecture and depositional setting will be determined using well logs and seismic data. This study will be beneficial for oil exploration, as it will document reservoir quality (porosity, permeability) and predict the occurrence and lithological changes of the slurry beds as potential reservoirs for hydrocarbons.

Glenn Sharman has started research on the detrital zircon provenance and paleogeographic setting of deepwater sandstones in the La Honda and southern San Joaquin Basins. This study will focus on two deepwater, sand-rich systems that have been displaced by right-lateral slip along the San Andreas Fault. Detrital zircon provenance analysis will be used to test current models of slip history along the San Andreas Fault, determine sediment provenance and dispersal patterns of deep-water systems, and document the paleotopography and paleodrainage during Paleogene and Neogene time.

Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas and Oklahoma

The Ouachita Trough was a predominantly fine-grained, quartz-rich, continent-sourced depositional basin along the southern margin of the North American Craton that evolved from a sediment-starved passive continental margin from the Cambrian to the Mississippian. Subsequent closing of the basin, initiated in the Mississippian, formed an elongate, narrow foredeep and orogenic highlands to the south (Mississippian-Pennsylvanian).

One chapter in a PhD thesis by Tom Hickson (1999) focused on turbidity current and slurry flows deposits in the Jackfork Group in the classic DeGray Spillway section. In addition, Tracey Chester (1994) conducted a statistical analysis of bedding trends in the Jackfork Formation at DeGray Spillway.

Moy Hernandez is currently studying the slurry beds in the Jackfork Group. Slurry flows, sediment flows transitional between turbidity currents and debris flows, are being increasingly recognized as major components of deep-water sequences and have a strong influence on the properties and distribution of sand beds. Moy is studying the depositional environments and flow processes of the slurry flow deposits using process sedimentology and geochemical analyses.

East Coast Basin, New Zealand

The Raukumara Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand is the northernmost area of the East Coast Basin and contains numerous deep-water sequences deposited within an active forearc basin beginning in the Early Miocene. Cliff outcrops along the coast enable evolutional and architectural studies of deep-water systems, and provide useful analogies for forearc and piggy-back basin deposition. The East Coast Basin is part of an active petroleum system although has never been substantially developed. Recent interest has prompted an extensive 2D seismic survey by Crown Minerals, vastly improving the formerly spotty data set of the region.

Blair Burgreen (2014 PhD), studied the deep-water deposits of the Hikuwai Sandstone located in the northeastern onshore portion of the East Coast Basin. The sandstone outcrops along the coast in ~200m high cliff exposures, providing an excellent opportunity for architectural analysis. The goal of this study is to observe vertical and horizontal changes in the geometry and stratigraphy in order to develop a conceptual depositional model for basin fill in a tectonically active forearc setting.

Taranaki Basin, New Zealand

Outcrops along the north Taranaki coast, North Island, New Zealand provide an opportunity to examine a variety of deep-water deposits. The lateral continuity of the exposures and slight tilting of the strata provide a nearly continuous sequence of many kilometers of vertical stratigraphy exposed along tens of kilometers of coast. Outcrops include the volcaniclastic Mohakatino Formation, the sandstone Mount Messenger Formation, and the siltstone-dominated slope deposits and sandstone and conglomerate filled slope channels of the Urenui and Kiore formations. The Mount Messenger Formation records both confined and unconfined deposition on one or more submarine fans. Generations of 2D and 3D, onshore and offshore, seismic-reflection data in intervals equivalent to the coastal outcrop section are available through collaboration with GNS Science (Lower Hutt, New Zealand).

Katherine Maier (PhD 2012) completed a project on the Urenui and Kiore formations based on coastal outcrops and seismic-reflection data. Her research also included dating of volcanic ash beds throughout the coastal sequence.

The Lower Mount Messenger and Upper Mount Messenger Formations were studied by Larisa Masalimova (PhD 2013) and Jon Rotzien (PhD 2013), respectively. Both of these projects were focused on using analysis of bed-scale sedimentation units and the implied flow properties, their stacking to form lithofacies, and the cyclic arrangement of lithofacies to understand the large-scale depositional architecture and evolution of the deep-water system.

Glenn Sharman is completing a kinematic and stratigraphic analysis of spectacular coastal outcrops of a seismic-scale mass transport deposit in the Mohakatino Formation. His research focuses on the sedimentological and deformational characteristics of sand-rich slumps.

Lauren Shumaker is researching the undeformed strata of the Mohakatino Formation, using detailed sedimentologic analysis to understand the transition from volcaniclastic to siliciclastic deposition, and the relative timing and role of the MTD in basin sedimentation.

Magallanes Basin, Chile

The Magallanes Basin in southern Chile was formed in the Jurassic through continental rifting and was subsequently closed and filled in a retroarc foreland setting from the Early Cretaceous to the middle Tertiary. The major deep-water phase lasted from Early Cretaceous to Late Cretaceous and involved deposition of over 5000 meters of siliciclastic rocks belonging to the Punta Barrosa (Lower-Upper Cretaceous), Cerro Toro (Upper Cretaceous), and Tres Pasos (Upper Cretaceous-Tertiary) Formations. The general geology and sedimentology of the Magallanes Basin sequence was studied in the 1960's and 1970's (e.g. Winn and Dott, 1977, 1979). SPODDS research in the basin was initiated in 1999 and has continued to the present. Outcrops in Torres del Paine National Park and areas to the east and south as far as Puerto Natales provide superb, 3-dimensional exposures of a number of large deep-water, conglomerate-filled channel systems developed within the foreland basin and associated slope, slope basin, levee, and lobe areas. Eight PhD theses have involved research in the basin and two additional PhD projects are in progress. Special SPODDS field trip for affiliates to the Magallanes Basin were offered in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2009.

Theses and dissertations include those of Will Crane (2004) who studied the Paine channel complex in the Cerro Toro Formation in the Silla Syncline, Torres del Paine National Park, Andrea Fildani (2004) studied the Punta Barrosa Formation to better understand the transition from the Rocas Verdes back-arc basin into the Magallanes retroarc foreland setting, Steve Hubbard (2006) documented the architecture and stratigraphy of the deep-water deposits in the Cerro Toro Formation, Brian Romans (2008) analyzed the controls on sedimentation in this tectonically active setting by studying the Tres Paso Formation, Jake Covault (2008) studied the transition from deep- to shallow-water sedimentation in the Dorotea Formation, and Zane Jobe (2010) provided a detailed architectural study of the Cerro Toro coarse-conglomeratic channel belt deposits on Sierra del Toro. Dissertations in progress are focusing on the architecture and evolution of a Cerro Toro Formation feeder channel exposed at the Silla Syncline (Anne Bernhardt), 3D modeling of the coarse-conglomeratic deposits on Sierra del Toro (Lisa Stright) and a large scale study of the evolution of the Patagonia fold-thrust belt (Julie Fosdick).

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