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Siliciclastic Sequence

Sequence
Siliciclastic
in Well
Well Logs,
Logs,
Stratigraphyin
Stratigraphy
Cores, and
and Outcrops:
Outcrops:
Cores,
Concepts for
for High-Resolution
High-Resolution
Concepts
of TilDe
~ i mand
and
e Facies
Facies
Correlation of
Correlation
-

by

J.C.Van
VanWagoneI;
Wagoner,R.M.
R.M. Mitchum,
Mitchum,
J.C.
K.M.Campion,
Campion,and
andV.D.
V.D. Rahmanian
Rahmanian
K.M.

AAPG Methods
Methodsin
inExploration
ExplorationSeries,
Series, No.7
No. 7
AAPG

Publishedby
by
Published
The
American
Association
of
Petroleum
Geologists
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists
74101
U.S.
A.
Tulsa,
Oklahoma
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74101 U.s.A.
1990 The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, All Rights Reserved.

1990 The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, All Rights Reserved.

Previous stratigraphic
stratigraphic concepts
concepts

in most places, the facies


facies above
above these boundaries have
no physical or temporal relationship to the facies
facies
below.
below. Because of this decoupling
decoupling of facies
facies across
across
these boundaries, vertical
vertical facies
facies analysis should be
done within the context of parasequences, parasequence sets,
sets, and
and sequences
sequences to
to interpret lateral facies
facies
quence
relationships accurately.
accurately.
Using well
well logs,
logs, cores,
cores, or outcrops,
outcrops, each sequence
sequence
can be subdivided into
into stratal units
units called
called systems
systems
can
tracts,
tracts, based on
on their positions within the
the sequence,
sequence,
the distribution
distribution of parasequence sets,
sets, and
and facies
facies assoassothe
ciations.
ciations. Systems
Systems tracts are
are defined as
as a "linkage of
contemporaneous depositional
depositional systems" (Brown
(Brown and
Fisher, 1977).
1977).Systems
Systems tracts provide a high degree
degree of
Fisher,
facies
facies predictability within the chronostratigraphic
chronostratigraphic
framework
framework of sequence
sequence boundaries. This
This predictabilpredictability is
is especially
especially important
important for
for the
the analysis
analysis of reservoir,
reservoir,
ity
source, and
and seal
seal facies
facies within a basin or a field.
field.
source,
This
This book documents
documents the
the stratal
stratal expressions
expressions of paraparasequences,
sequences, parasequence sets,
sets, especially
especially as
as compocomponents of systems
systems tracts,
tracts, and
and sequences
sequences in
in well
well logs,
logs,
cores,
cores, and
and outcrops.
outcrops. Additionally,
Additionally, the
the book illustrates
illustrates
core, and
and outcrop-recognition criteria
criteria for
for the
the
well-log, core,
stratal
stratal units
units from
from the
the lamina to
to the
the sequence, and
and
the stratal
stratal units
units are
are used to
to achieve
achieve
demonstrates how the
a high-resolution correlation of time and
and facies.
facies.
Finally,
Finally, the
the book will
will relate
relate these
these stratal
stratal patterns
patterns to
to
(1988),
accommodation concepts
concepts developed
developed by
by Jervey
Jervey (1988),
accommodation
Posamentier
Posamentier et
et al.
al. (1988),
(1988), and
and Posamentier and
and Vail
Vail
(1988).
(1988).

PREVIOUS STRATIGRAPHIC
STRATIGRAPHIC
PREVIOUS
CONCEPTS
CONCEPTS
AND
AND TERMINOLOGY
TERMINOLOGY
The sequence
sequence as
as an
an unconformity-bounded stratal
stratal
The
unit was
was proposed
proposed by Sloss
Sloss in
in 1948
1948(Sloss
(Sloss et
et al.,
al., 1949;
1949;
. Sloss,
Sloss, 1950,
1950, 1963).
1963). Sloss
Sloss (1963)
(1963) pointed out,
out, "The
"The
sequence
sequence concept
concept is
is not new and
and was
was already
already old
old
when
when itit was
was enunciated
enunciated by the
the writer
writer and
and his
his colcolleagues in
in 1948.
1948. The
The concept
concept and
and practice
practice isis as
as old
old as
as
leagues
organized
organized stratigraphy:'
stratigraphy." Nonetheless,
Nonetheless, Sloss
Sloss deservdeservedly
edly is
is given
given credit
credit for
for developing
developing the
the unconformity-bounded sequence
sequence as
as aa stratigraphic
stratigraphic tool.
tool.
formity-bounded
Sloss
Sloss(1963)
(1963)recognized six
six packages
packages of
of strata
strata bounded
by interregional
interregional unconformities on
on the
the North AmeriAmerican craton
craton between latest
latest Precambrian and
and Holocene
Holocene
can
deposits.
deposits. He
H e called
called these
these stratal
stratal packages
packages
"sequences" and
and gave
gave them
them native
native American
American names
names
"sequences"
to emphasize
emphasize their
their North
North American
American derivation
derivation (Sloss,
(Sloss,
to
1988).
1988). Sloss
Sloss (1988)
(1988) used
used these
these cratonic
cratonic sequences
sequences as
as
operationalunits
units for
forpractical
practical tasks
tasks such
such as
asfacies
facies mapmapoperational
ping,
ping, although
although he
he felt
felt that
that these
these sequences
sequences "have
"have no
no
necessary applications
applications to
to the
the rock
rock stratigraphy
stratigraphy and
and
time stratigraphy
stratigraphy of
of extracratonic
extracratonic or
or extracontinental
extracontinental
time
areas"
areas" (Sloss,
(Sloss, 1963).
1963).Although
Although the
the concept
concept of
of the
the cracratonic sequence
sequence provided the
the foundation
foundation for
for sequence
sequence
tonic

stratigraphy, Sloss's ideas had found


found little
little acceptance
acceptance
in the 1950s,
1950s, 1960s,
1960s, and early
early 1970s
1970sexcept
except for
for Wheeler
(1958)
(1958)and "former students
students and close
close acquaintances"
(Sloss,
(Sloss, 1988).
1988).
The next major development in the evolution of
sequence
sequence stratigraphy occurred when P.R.
P.R. Vail,
Vail, R.M.
R.M.
Mitchum,
Mitchum, J.B.
J.B. Sangree, and
and S.
S. Thompson III
I11of Exxon
Exxon
published the
the concepts
concepts of seismic
seismic stratigraphy in
in the
the
American Association
Association of Petroleum Geologists
Geologists MemMemoir
oir 26
26 (Payton,
(Payton, 1977).
1977). In a series
series of seminal
seminal articles
articles
these
these authors
authors presented the
the concepts
concepts of eustasy and
and
resulting unconformity-bounded stratal patterns
applied to and documented with seismic-reflection
seismic-reflection
data.
data. Mitchum (1977)
(1977) sharpened and extended the
concept of the sequence
sequence by defining it as
as "a stratistratigraphic unit composed of a relatively conformable
conformable sucsuccession of genetically
genetically related strata and
and bounded at
at its
its
top and
and base by unconformities or their correlative
correlative
conformities." Vail
Vail modified Sloss's (1963)
(1963) use of
sequence
sequence in
in two
two other important ways.
ways. First,
First, the
the
sequence
sequence of Vail
Vail and
and Mitchum
Mitchum encompassed a much
smaller amount of time
time than the
the sequence
sequence of Sloss
Sloss
(1963).
(1963).The
The original
original six
six cratonic
cratonic sequences
sequences were signifsignificantly
icantly subdivided;
subdivided; Sloss's sequences
sequences became supersupersequences
sequences on
on the
the Exxon
Exxon cycle
cycle chart.
chart. Second,
Second, Vail
proposed eustasy as
as the
the predominant driving mechamechanism for
for sequence
sequence evolution
evolution (Vail
(Vail et
et aI.,
al., 1977).
1977). This
This
interpretation
interpretation alone
alone generated
generated and
and continues
continues to
to gengenerate
1989a).
erate much
much discussion
discussion (Sloss,
(Sloss, 1988;
1988; Galloway,
Galloway, 1989a).
As
As aa result
result of
of Memoir
Memoir 26
26 (Payton,
(Payton, 1977)
1977)and
and the
the advent
advent
of
of improved
improved seismic-reflection
seismic-reflection technology,
technology, the
the
sequence
sequence as
as a practical,
practical, unconformity-bounded unit
for
for stratigraphic analysis
analysis advanced a giant
giant leap
leap
beyond Sloss's original
original concept of cratonic
cratonic sequences.
sequences.
Although they represented
represented a major step
step forward in
in
the
the application of sequences,
sequences, seismic-stratigraphy
concepts
concepts in
in the
the late
late 1970s
1970s were
were applied
applied primarily to
to
basin analysis
analysis at
at the
the scale
scale of
of the
the seismic
seismic data.
data. Well
Well
logs,
logs, cores,
cores, and
and outcrops
outcrops generally
generally were
were not used
independently
independently to
to analyze
analyze sequences.
sequences. Seismic
Seismic stratigstratigraphy
raphy did
did not offer
offer the
the necessary precision to
to analyze
analyze
sedimentary
sedimentary strata
strata at
at the
the reservoir scale.
scale.
In
In 1980
1980 the
the application
application of
of seismic
seismic stratigraphy
stratigraphy was
was
broadened by new accommodation
accommodation models
models developed
developed
by Jervey
Jervey (1988)
(1988) to
to explain
explain seismically
seismically resolvable
resolvable
stratal
stratal patterns. The
The accommodation
accommodation models
models quickly
quickly
led
led to
to the
the realization that the
the sequence
sequence could be
be subdisubdivided
vided into
into smaller
smaller stratal
stratal units,
units, ultimately
ultimately called"syscalled "systems
tems tracts"
tracts" (Brown
(Brown and
and Fisher,
Fisher, 1977).
1977). In
In conceptual,
conceptual,
3-dimensional
block
diagrams
developed
3-dimensional block diagrams developed by
by PosaPosamentier
and
Vail,
(1988),
and
Baum
and
Vail
mentier and Vail, (1988), and Baum and Vail (1988),
(1988),
submarine-fan,
submarine-fan, lowstand,
lowstand, transgressive, and
and highhighstand
systems
tracts
were
illustrated
in
type-1
stand systems tracts were illustrated in type-1
sequences;
sequences; shelf-margin,
shelf-margin, transgressive, and
and highhighstand
stand systems
systems tracts
tracts were
were illustrated
illustrated in
in type-2
type-2
sequences.
sequences. After
After 1980
1980the
the lowstand
lowstand system
system tract
tract of
of the
the
type-1
type-1 sequence
sequence was
was recognized to
to consist
consist of
of the
the

stratigraphic concepts
Previous stratigraphic
basin-floor fan, slope fan,
fan, lowstand-prograding
lowstand-prograding
incised-valley fill (Vail,
(Vail, 1987).
1987). Type-1
Type-1 and
wedge, and incised-valley
type-2 referred to the type of unconformity upon
rested. Systems tracts and type-1
type-1
which the sequence rested.
and type-2 sequences will be explained further in the
"Sequence"
"Sequence" section, later in the book.
Concurrently with the development of the conceptual models, other Exxon stratigraphers strongly influenced by D.E.
D.E. Frazier (1974)
(1974) and c.v.
C.V. Campbell (1967)
(1967)
began to analyze the stacking patterns of shallowingupward siliciclastic
siliciclastic strata in well logs, cores, and outcrops. The goal of this analysis was to use stacking
patterns to improve subsurface correlations of time
and facies.
facies. These shallowing-upward stratal units are
bounded by chronostratigraphically
chronostratigraphically significant
marine-flooding surfaces and are composed of laminae, laminasets, beds, and bedsets.
bedsets. Beds, bounded by
practically synchronous
synchronous bedding surfaces, were used
well-log
as informal time-stratigraphic markers for well-log
correlation (Campbell, 1967).
1967).
This line of research quickly converged with the conceptual models when it became apparent that the
shallowing-upward stratal units and their component
sedimentary layers were the building blocks of the systems tracts and sequences. Although shallowingupward units had been called "cycles" by some other
(Wilson, 1975;
1975; Goodwin and Anderson,
workers (Wilson,
1985), these units were called"parasequences"
called "parasequences" by Van
1985),
(1985). This usage preserved the dictionary
Wagoner (1985).
use of the word "cycle" by Vail et al.
al. (1977)
(1977)to indicate a
time in which a regularly repeated event occurs and
emphasized the relationship between the parasequence and the sequence.
Groups of associated parasequences were observed
to stack into retrogradational, progradational, and
aggradational patterns; these distinct associations of
parasequences were called "parasequence sets" (Van
(Van
1985; Van Wagoner et al., 1988).
1988).Each paraseWagoner, 1985;
quence set approximately corresponded to a systems
tract. In addition, each systems tract generally was
facies and by
characterized by a distinct association of facies
a position within the sequence.
Recognition of parasequences and parasequence
sets as the building blocks of the systems tract and the
sequence placed them within a chronostratigraphic
framework in which their stacking patterns, constituextent, their compoent bedding types, and, to a great extent,
nent depositional environments, were predictable.
This enhanced their use for the subsurface correlation
facies.
of time and facies.
The concept of the parasequence, or upwardshoaling cycle as it is commonly named in literature,
(1836) and includes
dates back at least to Phillips (1836)
(1912), Weller (1930),
(1930), Wanless
Wanless (1950),
(1950), Duff et al.
al.
Udden (1912),
(1967),
(1967), Busch (1971,
(1971, 1974),
1974), Wilson (1975),
(1975), and Einsele
(1982). The chronostratigraphic signifisignifiand Seilacher (1982).
cance of the marine-flooding surface bounding a para-

sequence was pointed out by Wilson (1975),


(1975), who
stated that carbonate cycles
cycles are bounded by widespread transgressive surfaces that may "closely
"closely
approximate time markers and are more useful as such
than the diachronous facies
facies within each cycle." In a
review of work by Sears et al.
al. (1941),
(1941), Krumbein and
Sloss (1963)
(1963)pointed out that the transgressive surface
of a progradational-shoreline sandstone approximates
approximates
a time line. Anderson et al. (1984)
(1984) and Goodwin and
Anderson (1985)
(1985) also emphasized this importance of
cycles for chronostratigraphy, based on work in the
carbonate Helderberg Group of New York, and they
designated the upward-shoaling carbonate cycle of
Wilson (1975)
(1975) a PAC, an acronym for Punctuated
Aggradational Cycle.
Cycle.
By 1983,
1983, within Exxon,
Exxon, stratigraphic analysis had
evolved beyond parasequence analysis to documentation of the various stratal expressions of siliciclastic
siliciclastic
sequences and systems tracts in well logs, cores, and
outcrops. This represented a major step beyond seismic stratigraphy.
stratigraphy. Using well logs and cores, a very
high-resolution chronostratigraphic framework of
sequence and parasequence boundaries, defined
solely by the relationships of the strata, could be constructed to analyze stratigraphy and facies
facies at the reservoir scale.
scale. Integration of the systematic
documentation of siliciclastic sequences, similar
advances in carbonate facies (Sarg,
(Sarg, 1988),
1988), and
al., 1988)
1988)
sequence-keyed biostratigraphy (Loutit et al.,
with the methodology of seismic stratigraphy produced the framework and methodology for stratifacies analysis now known as sequence
graphic and facies

stratigraphy.
As more basins were analyzed with sequencestratigraphic techniques two important observations
(1) Siliciclastic
Siliciclasticsequences in many parts of
were made. (1)
100,000- to
the sedimentary record occur with a 100,000200,000-year frequency.
frequency. This is much higher than has
200,000-year
been observed previously by seismic stratigraphers
al., 1987;
1987; Van Wagoner and
andMitchum,
Mitchum,
(Goldhammer et al.,
1989).
1989). (2)
(2) The lowstand systems tract is the dominant
systems tract preserved in siliciclastic
siliciclastic sequences, and
valley.
on the shelf, its major component is the incised valley.
litExamples of incised valleys have been cited in the lit(1944) documented the
erature for many years. Fisk (1944)
extensive incision in the Mississippi valley in response
to the last sea-level
sea-level fall
fall commencing approximately
27,000 years ago (Williams,
(Williams, 1984).
1984). The incised alluvial
alluvial
27,000
valley of the Mississippi is, in places, 260 ft deep and
120
120 mi (193
(193 km) wide (Fisk,
(Fisk, 1944).
1944). The lower twothirds of the alluvial
fill
from
Cairo,
alluvial fill
Cairo, Illinois, to the
present coastline, a distance of approximately 600 mi
(963 km),
km), contains gravel and coarse-grained sand.
sand.
(963
Using high-resolution seismic data, Suter and Berry(1985) documented regional incision across the
hill (1985)
Mexico, also
continental shelf of the northern Gulf of Mexico,
sea-level fall.
fall. Incised valleys in
in response to the last sea-level

The sequence as a tool

the Albian-aged Muddy Sandstone and its stratigraphic equivalents in the western United States have
been studied extensively (Harms,
(Harms, 1966;
1966; Stone, 1972;
1972;
Dresser,
Dresser, 1974;
1974; Weimer,
Weimer, 1983,
1983, 1984,
1984, 1988;
1988; and Aubrey,
1989).
1989).
Sequence stratigraphy relates the formation of
incised valleys to relative changes in sea level and, for
the first time, places them in a chronostratigraphic
context of parasequence and sequence boundaries.
boundaries.
Detailed analysis of sequences in well logs, cores, and
outcrops reveals the widespread occurrence in time
and space of incised valleys within the updip part of
the lowstand systems tract.
tract. As a result, the timing and
distribution of valley incision and fill
fill becomes more
predictable. This, in turn, is critical for understanding:
(1)
(1) variations in type-l
type-1 sequence-boundary
shelf;
expression on the shelf;
(2) regional distribution of shallow-marine
shallow-marine and
(2)
nonmarine depositional environments within
each sequence; and
(3)
(3) reservoir distribution within the sequence,
because on the shelf, incised valleys commonly contain the best reservoirs within each
sequence.

THE SEQUENCE
SEQUENCE AS A TOOL
STRATIGRAPHICANALYSIS
FOR STRATIGRAPHIC
Application of sequence-stratigraphic analysis
depends on the recognition of a hierarchy of stratal
units including beds, bedsets, parasequences, parasequence sets, and sequences bounded by chronostratigraphically significant surfaces of erosion,
nondeposition, or their correlative surfaces. This
method of stratigraphic analysis contrasts with the use
of transgressive and regressive cycles of strata for
regional correlation of time and facies.
facies.
Transgressive and regressive cycles have been used
for regional correlation for at least 50 years (Grabau,
1932; Krumbein and Sloss,
Sloss, 1963).
1963). Recently,
Recently, propo1932;
nents of transgressive and regressive cycles, referred
to as T-R units, for regional correlation have included
(1983), Busch and Rollins (1984),
(1984), Busch et al.
Ryer (1983),
(1985),
(1985), and Galloway (1989a).
(1989a). Galloway (1989a)
(1989a) introduced the"genetic
the "genetic stratigraphic sequence;'
sequence," which is a
regressive depositional unit bounded by transgressive
surfaces. Although he did not define it specifically, he
described it as "a package of sediments recording a
significant episode of basin-margin outbuilding and
basin filling,
filling, bounded by periods of widespread basinflooding."
margin flooding:'
The genetic stratigraphic sequence is based on Frazier's (1974)
(1974) concept of depositional episodes pat"sequences" deposited
terned after late Quaternary "sequences"
during high-frequency "episodes"
"episodes" controlled by gla-

cial cycles.
cycles. The depositional episodes are bounded by
"hiatuses" or flooding surfaces formed during sealevel rise or by shifting delta lobes. Galloway (1989b)
(198913)
applied Frazier's (1974)
(1974) concept to much larger Cenozoic units of the Gulf of Mexico
Mexico basin, recognizing
about 14
14 major continental-margin outbuilding episodes, each of which culminated in a major flooding
event. Although Frazier's (1974)
(1974) depositional episodes
have frequencies
frequencies comparable to fourth-order
sequences, Galloway'S
Galloway's (1989b)
(1989b) units average 4 to 5 Ma
in frequency.
frequency. They commonly include several thirdorder sequences as defined by Vail et al. (1977).
(1977).
Both T-R cycle analysis and the nearly identical
"genetic stratigraphic
stratigraphic sequence" analysis rely on the
transgressive surface at the top of a regressive unit or
the surface of maximum flooding
flooding for regional correlacorrelation. We believe that the sequence boundary is a better
surface for regional stratigraphic analysis than a transgressive surface for the following reasons:
(1) The sequence boundary is a single, widespread surface that separates all of the rocks
above from all of the rocks below the boundary.
ary. Although all points on the sequence
boundary do not represent the same duration
of time, one instant of time is common to all
points. This synchroneity is basinwide and is
interpreted to be global within limits of biostratigraphic dating. For these reasons the
sequence boundary has time-stratigraphic
significance.
(2) The sequence boundary forms independently
of sediment supply. A rapid relative fall
fall in sea
level coupled with a large supply of sediment
delivered rapidly will result in a sequence
boundary strongly marked by truncation. A
rapid relative fall
fall in sea level coupled with a
minor supply of sediment delivered slowly
will result in a sequence boundary marked by
Widespread
widespread subaerial exposure but little truncation.
cation. In contrast, transgressions and regressions are strongly controlled by sediment
supply and for that reason may not be synchronous, even within a given basin.
basin. For
example, movements of the shoreline are
often due to local differences in sediment supply around a basin rather than sea-level
changes, and therefore typically are regionally
diachronous.
(3)
(3) There are two major transgressive surfaces
within the sequence: the first flooding surface
forming
forming the upper boundary of the lowstand
systems tract and the maximum-flooding surface
face associated with the condensed section.
section.
Typically, several other transgressive surfaces,
bounding parasequences within the transgres-

Sequence
Sequencestratigraphy
stratigraphy

sive systems
systemstract,
tract, occur
occur between
between these
these major
major
sive
surfaces. All
All of
of these
these surfaces
surfaces potentially
potentially can
can
surfaces.
be confused
confused in
in regional
regional correlation,
correlation, especially
especially
be
the data
dataused
used to
to correlate
correlateare
arewidely
widelyspaced.
spaced.
ifif the
Theage
ageof
of each
eachtransgressive
transgressivesurface
surfacewithin
withinaa
The
sequenceat
atdifferent
differentpoints
pointsin
inaabasin
basin may
maydifdifsequence
fer
significantly
depending
upon
variations
in
fer significantly depending upon variations in
regional
sediment
supply.
regional sediment supply.
(4) The
Thesequence
sequenceboundary
boundary commonly
commonlyisis marked
marked
(4)
onlap,
by significant
significant regional
regional erosion
erosion and
and onlap,
by
which exert
exertaastrong
strongcontrol
controlon
on facies
faciesdistribudistribuwhich
tion. Transgressive
Transgressive surfaces
surfaces are
are characterized
characterized
tion.
byvery
veryslow
slowdeposition
depositionor
ornondeposition
nondepositionwith
with
by
onlyrelatively
relativelyminor
minor transgressive
transgressivescour.
scour.
only
(5) Systems
Systems tracts
tracts occur
occur predictably
predictably within
within the
the
(5)
sequence and
and are
are related
related to
to the
the sequence
sequence
sequence
boundary; each
each systems
systems tract
tract is
is associated
associated
boundary;
with the
the boundary
boundary at
at some
some point.
point. This
This relarelawith
tionship is
is not
not true
true of
of the
the transgressive
transgressive sursurtionship
faces.
faces.
(6) There
There isis aa distinct
distinct break in
in deposition
deposition and
and aa
(6)
basinward shift
shift in
in facies
facies across
across the
the unconunconbasinward
formable portion
portion of
of aa type-1
type-1 sequence
sequenceboundboundformable
ary, making
making itit aa natural
natural surface
surface for
for separating
separating
ary,
relatively conformable
conformable facies
facies packages
packages above
above
relatively
and below.
below. Commonly,
Commonly, this
this break occurs
occurs
and
within the
the middle
middle to
to upper parts
parts of regressive
regressive
within
units. If
If the
the transgressive
transgressive surfaces
surfaces bounding
bounding
units.
Galloway's (1989a)
(1989a) "genetic
"genetic stratigraphic
stratigraphic
Galloway's
sequence" are
are used to
to subdivide
subdividebasin
basin stratigstratigsequence"
and the sequence
sequence boundaries are
are overoverraphy and
looked, then the
the basic depositional unit
looked,
contains aa potentially major
major unconformity
contains
within it,
it, making
making the
the accurate
accurateinterpretation
interpretation of
within
lateral-faciesrelationships
relationships difficult.
difficult.
lateral-facies
(7) Recognizing
Recognizing the
the unconformable
unconformableportion
portion of the
the
(7)
sequence boundary as
as part of the hierarchy of
sequence
chronostratigraphic stratal
stratal surfaces
surfaces and disdischronostratigraphic
continuities
described
in
this
book
has
great
continuities described
great
chronostratisignificance in working out chronostraticontemporaneity of facies.
facies. HowHowgraphy and contemporaneity
facies boundaries, or
ever, using only facies
subordinating "the stratigraphy of surfaces"
(Galloway, 1989a)
1989a) to facies
facies boundaries that
(Galloway,
commonly transgress geologic
geologic time,
time, may lead
commonly
to erroneous
erroneous conclusions
conclusions about
about contemporacontemporato
facies distribution.
distribution.
neity of facies
book, the
As will be discussed throughout this book,
correlasequence, bounded by unconformities or their correlaconformities, is a highly practical
practical stratal
stratal unit for
tive conformities,
regional stratigraphic
stratigraphic analysis
analysis with seismic, well log,
and biostratigraphic
biostratigraphic data, as well as for reservoir-scale
reservoir-scale
analysis using well logs, outcrops,
outcrops, and cores.
cores. It is most
analysis
completely understood and used at all scales of
analysis by a synthesis of these data bases.
analysis
bases.

55

SEQUENCE
SEQUENCESTRATIGRAPHY
STRATIGRAPHY
AND
AND THE
THE HIERARCHY
HIERARCHY
OF
STRATAL
OF STRATALUNITS
UNITS
As
As already
already discussed,
discussed, stratal
stratal units
units from
from the
the lamina
lamina
to
to the
the sequence
sequencecan
can be
be grouped
grouped into
into aa hierarchy.
hierarchy.RecRecognition
ognitionof
of these
thesestratal
stratalunits
unitsand
andtheir
their use
use in
incorrelatcorrelatof sequence
sequence
ing
ing time
time and
and facies
facies isis the
the essence
essence of
stratigraphy.The
Thefollowing
followingdiscussion
discussionbuilds
builds upward
upward
stratigraphy.
fromthe
the smallest
smallestunit
unit in
in the
the hierarchy,
hierarchy, the
the lamina,
lamina,to
to
from
the
thelargest
largestunit
unit considered
consideredin
in this
this book,
book, the
the sequence.
sequence.
Eachstratal
stratalunit
unit in
inthe
thehierarchy
hierarchyisis defined
definedand
andidenidenEach
tified only
only by
by the
the physical
physical relationships
relationships of
of the
the strata,
strata,
tified
including
including lateral
lateral continuity
continuity and
and geometry
geometry of
of the
the sursurfaces bounding
bounding the
the units,
units, vertical-stacking
vertical-stacking patterns,
patterns,
faces
and lateral
lateral geometry
geometry of
of the
the strata
strata within
within the
the units.
units. In
In
and
addition,
addition, facies
facies and
and environmental
environmental interpretations
interpretations of
of
strata
strata on
on either
either side
side of
of bounding
bounding surfaces
surfaces are
are critical,
critical,
especially for
for parasequence,
parasequence, parasequence
parasequence set,
set, and
and
especially
sequence-boundaryidentification.
identification.Thickness,
Thickness,time
timefor
for
sequence-boundary
formation, and
and interpretation
interpretation of
of regional
regional or
or global
global orioriformation,
gin
gin are
are not used to
to define
definestratal
stratalunits
units or
or to
to place
place them
them
in
in the
the hierarchy.
hierarchy. In
In particular,
particular, parasequences and
and
sequences
sequences can
can be
be identified
identified in
in well
well logs,
logs, cores,
cores, or
or outoutcrops and
and used to
to construct
construct aa stratigraphic
stratigraphicframework
framework
crops
regardless of
of their
their interpreted
interpreted relationship
relationship to
to changes
changes
regardless
in eustasy.
eustasy.
in
Documentation of
of parasequences, parasequence
parasequence
Documentation
sets, and
and sequences
sequencesin
in this
this book isis primarily
primarily from
from TerTersets,
tiary
tiary strata
strata in
in the
the northern Gulf
Gulf of
of Mexico
Mexico and
and CretaCretaceous strata
strata of
of the
the basins
basins in
in the
the western
western interior
interior of
of the
the
ceous
United States.
States. Examples
Examples are
are exclUSively
exclusiveiy of siliciclastic
siliciclastic
United
rocks; however,
however, many of the concepts
concepts documented
documented by
rocks;
examples can
can also
also be applied
applied to
to carbonate
carbonate strata
strata
these examples
(Sarg, 1988).
(Sarg,1988).

LAMINA, LAMINASET,
BED, BEDSET
Campbell
Campbell (1967)
(1967) identified laminae,
laminae, laminasets,
laminasets,
beds, and bedsets as
as the components
components of a sedimentary
sedimentary
body;
body; we recognize
recognize these stratal
stratal units as
as the building
blocks of parasequences.
parasequences. General
General characteristics
characteristics of
these units are given in Table 1;
1; definitions
definitions and more
detailed
2. Figure
Figure 11
detailed characteristics
characteristics are given in Table
Table 2.
shows these
these types of strata from
fromdelta-front
delta-front turbidites
turbidites
shows
in cores, outcrops,
outcrops, and well logs
logs from
from the Panther
Panther
Tongue of late Santonian age
age (Fouch
(Fouch et aI.,
al., 1983)
1983) in
Tongue
east-central Utah.
Utah. Because treatment of these units is
east-central
(1967) paper is recrecnot our major thrust, Campbell's (1967)
additional detail.
detail.
ommended for additional
four types of stratal
stratal units listed above
above are genetigenetiThe four
similar; they differ primarily in the interval of
cally similar;
formation and in the areal extent of the boundtime for formation
arcing surfaces. The surfaces bounding the units are
defined by (1)
(1)changes in texture,
texture, (2)
(2) stratal terminaterminations, and (3)
(3) paraconformities (Dunbar
(Dunbar and Rogers,
Rogers,

Stratal
Stratal Units
Units in
in Hierarchy:
Hierarchy: Definitions
Definitions and
and Characteristics
Characteristics
TABLEt
TABLE 1
STRATAL
STRATAL
UNITS
UNITS

DEFINITIONS
DEFINITIONS

AA RELATIVEL
Y CONFORMABLE
RELATIVELY
CONFORMABLE SUCCESSION
SUCCESSION
OF
ALL Y RELA
TEp STRA
TA
OFGENETIC
GENETICALLY
RELATED
STRATA
SEQUENCE
UNCONFORMITIESAND
AND THEIR
THEIR
BOUNDED BY
BY UNCONFORMITIES
SEQUENCE BOUNDED
CORRELATlVE
(MITCHUM
CORRELATIVE CONFORMITIES
CONFORMITIES (MITCHUM
AND OTHERS 19771

RANGE
RANGE OF
OF
THICKNESSES
(FEETI
THICKNESSES (FEET)

1000 100 10

RANGE
RANGE OF
OF LATERAL
LATERAL
EXTENTS
EXTENTS(SQ.
(SO. MILESI
MILES1

INCHES 100001000100 10 1

RANGE
RANGE OF
OF TIMES
TIMES FOR
FOR
FORMATION
FORMATION (YEARS)
(YEARS)

lo6

105104lo3 10' 10

TOOL
TOOL RESOLUTION

4.

~I-A-N_D-O-T-H-E-R-S-.- 1-9-7-7-'---------t-_f-_-t-_+-_f--+__t--t-__t---i_+-t_--if-t---i_+---i_-t_+--i__+_0..

I-

PARAPARA
SEQUENCE
SEQUENCE
SET
SET

AA SUCCESSION
SUCCESSION OF
OF GENETICALLY
GENETICALLY RELATED
RELATED
PARASEQUENCES
PARASEQUENCESFORMING
FORMINGAA DISTINCTIVE
DISTINCTIVE
ST
ACKING PATTERN
Y
STACKING
PATTERNAND
AND COMMONL
COMMONLY
BOUNDED
BY MAJOR
MAJORMARINE-FLOODING
MARINE FLOODING
BOUNDEDBY
SURFACES
SURFACESAND
AND THEIR
THEIRCORRELATIVE
CORRELATIVE SURSUR
FACES_
FACES

PARA
PARA
SEQUENCE
SEQUENCE

AA RELA
TIVEL Y CONFORMABLE
RELATIVELY
CONFORMABLE SUCCESSION
SUCCESSION
OF
ALL Y RELA
TED BEDS
OFGENETIC
GENETICALLY
RELATED
BEDS OR
OR
BEDSETS
BEDSETS BOUNDED
BOUNDEDBY
BY MARINE-FLOODING
MARINE FLOODING
SURFACES
THEIRCORRELATIVE
CORRELATIVE SURSUR
SURFACES AND
AND THEIR
FACES
FACES

BEDSET
BEDSET

~
rJ)

II:
d

o..J
9
a
a..

::

SEE
SEE TABLE
TABLE TWO
TWO
0
<.:l

o..J
S

1-----1r-------------------+-+--t--t-+-t---+-t---+-+-II-t--+-+-+-+-+-+_-t-+--t-------:j
I
I I

2,

BED
aED

SEE TABLE
TABLE TWO
TWO
SEE

LAMINASET

SEE
SEE TABLE
TABLE TWO
TWO

II

a
a..

g
a:
0
u
0

Il-

?=,

00.
0P

LAMINA
LAMINA

SEE TABLE
TABLE TWO
TWO
SEE

II

II

zZ

LU

w
a
a:.

00

U
u

Characteristics of Lamina,
Lamina, Laminaset,
Laminaset, Bed,
Bed, and
and Bedset
Bedset (from Campbell,
Campbell, 1967)
1967)
Detailed Characteristics
TABLE 22
TABLE
STRATAL
STRATAl
UNIT
UNIT

BEDSET
BEDSET

BED
BED

LAMINASET

DEFINITION
DEFINITION

CHARACTERISTICS
CHARACTERISTICS
OF CONSTITUENT
OF
STRATAL UNITS
UNITS
STRATAL

RELATIVELY CONFORMABLE
CONFORMABLE
A RELATIVELY
SUCCESSION OF
OF GENETICALLY
GENETICALLY
SUCCESSION
RELATED BEDS
BEDS BOUNDED
BOUNDED BY
BY
RELATED
BEDSET
SURFACES 'CALLED
(CALLED BEDSET
SURFACES
SURFACES) OF
OF EROSION,
EROSION. NONNONSURFACES)
DEPOSITION. OR
OR THEIR
THEIR CORRELCORRELDEPOSITION,
ATlVE
A
TlVE CONFORMITIES

BEDS ABOVE AND BELOW


BELOW
BEDS
BEDSET ALWAYS DIFFER
DIFFER IN
IN
BEDSET
COMPOSITION. TEXTURE,
TEXTURE. OR
OR
COMPOSITION,
STRUCTURE
SEDIMENTARY STRUCTURE
FROM THOSE
THOSE COMPOSING
FROM
THE BEDSET
BEDSET
THE

RELATIVELY
CONFORMABLE
A RELATlVEL
Y CONFORMABLE
SUCCESSION OF
OF GENETICALLY
GENETICALLY
SUCCESSION
LAMINARELATED LAMINAE OR
OR LAMINARELATED
SETS BOUNDED BY
BY SURFACES
SURFACES
SETS
(CALLED BEDDING SURFACESI
SURFACES1 OF
(CALLED
EROSION. NON-DEPOSITION
NON-DEPOSITION OR
EROSION,
THEIR CORRELATIVE
CORRELATIVE CONFORMI
CONFORMITHEIR
TIES
TIES

NOT ALL BEDS


BEDS CONTAIN
NOT
LAMINASETS
LAMINASETS

DEPOSITIONAL
PROCESSES
PROCESSES

EPISODIC
EPISODIC OR
OR PERIODIC.
PERIODIC.
(SAME
(SAME AS BED
BED BELOW)
BELOW)

CHARACTERISTICS
CHARACTERISTICS OF
OF
BOUNDING
BOUNDING SURFACES
SURFACES

(SAME
(SAME AS BED
BED BELOW)
BELOW)
PLUS
PLUS

BEDSETS
BEDSET SURFACES
SURFACES FORM
FORM
BED
SETS AND BEDSET
OVER
OVER A LONGER
LONGER PERIOD
PERIOD OF
OF TIME THAN
THAN
BEDS
BEDS

COMMONLY HAVE
HAVE A GREATER
GREATER LATERAL
EXTENT
EXTENT THAN
THAN BEDDING
BEDDING SURFACES
SURFACES

EPISODIC OR PERIODIC
PERIODIC
EPISODIC

FORM
FORM RAPIDLY,
RAPIDLY, MINUTES
MINUTES TO
TO YEARS
YEARS

EPISODIC
EPISODIC DEPOSITION
DEPOSITION INCLUDES
INCLUDES
DEPOSITION FROM
FROM STORMS,
STORMS.
DEPOSITION
FLOODS,
FLOODS. DEBRIS
DEBRIS FLOWS,
FLOWS. TURTURCURRENTS
BIDITY CURRENTS

SEPARATE
SEPARATE ALL YOUNGER STRATA FROM
FROM
ALL OLDER
OLDER STRATA OVER THE
THE EXTENT
EXTENT OF
OF
THE
THE SURFACES
SURFACES

FACIES
FACIES CHANGES ARE BOUNDED
BOUNDED BY BEDBEDDING
DING SURFACES
SURFACES

USEFUL FOR
FOR CHRONOSTRATIGRAPHY
USEFUL
UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES

TIME
TlME REPRESENTED
REPRESENTED BY BEDDING
BEDDING SURFACES
SURFACES
PROBABLY
PROBABLY GREATER
GREATER THAN TIME
TlME REPREREPRESENTED
SENTED BY BEDS
BEDS

EXTENTS VARY WIDELY FROM


FROM
AREAL EXTENTS
SQUARE
SQUARE FEET
FEET TO 1000's
1 0 0 0 ' s SQUARE MILES

FORM RAPIDLY.
RAPIDLY, MINUTES TO DAYS.

SMALLER AREAL EXTENT THAN ENCOMENCOMPASSING BED

FORMS VERY RAPIDLY.


RAPIDLY, MINUTES TO
HOURS

SMALLER AREAL EXTENT THAN ENCOMPASSING BED

PERIODIC DEPOSITION
DEPOSITION INCLUDES
PERIODIC
DEPOSITION
DEPOSITION FROM
FROM SEASONAL
CLIMATIC CHANGES
CHANGES
OR CLIMATIC

A RELATIVELY
RELATlVEL Y CONFORMABLE
SUCCESSION OF GENETICALLY
GENETICALL Y
RELATED LAMINAE BOUNDED
BOUNDED BY
SURFAC~S
SURFACES (CALLED LAMINASET
SURFACE)
SURFACEI OF EROSION.
EROSION. NONNONDEPOSITION OR THEIR CORRELA.
CORRELA
TlVE
TIVE CONFORMITIES

CONSISTS OF A GROUP OR
SET OF CONFORMABLE
LAMINAE THAT COMPOSE
DISTINCTIVE STRUCTURES
STRUCTURES
IN
IN A BED

EPISODIC.
EPISODIC, COMMONLY FOUND
IN WAVEWAVE OR CURRENT-RIPPLED
CURRENT-RIPPLED
IN
BEDS, TURBIDITES, WAVEBEDS.
RIPPLED
RIPPLED INTERVALS IN
IN HUMBEDSETS, OR CROSS
MOCKY BEDSETS,
BEDS AS REVERSE
REVERSE FLOW RIPRIPBEDS
PLES
PLES OR RIPPLED
RIPPLED TOES OF
FORESETS
FORESETS

THE SMALLEST MEGASCOPIC


LAYER

UNIFORM IN
IN COMPOSITION/
COMPOSITIONI
TEXTURE
TEXTURE

EPISODIC
EPISODIC

LAMINA
NEVER INTERNALLY
LAYERED
LAYERED

Parasequence

1957) marked by burrow, root, or soil zones.


zones. Figure 2
1957)
illustrates these criteria at the scale
scale of the bed. The
illustrates
bounding surfaces
surfaces are slightly
slightly erosional
erosional to nondeposifrom older strata. The
tional and separate younger from
lateral
lateral continuity of the bounding surfaces
surfaces varies from
from
inches for some laminasets
laminasets to thousands of
square inches
some beds or bedsets. The surfaces
surfaces
square miles for some
form relatively
relatively rapidly,
rapidly, ranging from
from seconds to thouform
sands of years, and so are essentially synchronous
over their areal extents
extents (Campbell,
(Campbell, 1967).
1967). In addition,
addition,
interval represented by the surfaces
surfaces boundthe time interval
ing these layers
layers probably is much greater than the time
interval represented by the layers
layers themselves.
themselves. For all
of these reasons, beds and bedsets commonly can be
chronostratigraphic correlation,
correlation, over wide
used for chronostratigraphic
depositional settings.
settings. Closely spaced
areas in many depositional
induction logs (0.5
(0.5 to 2 mi or 0.8
0.8 to 3 km apart, espesections) or contincontincially in marine-shale or mudstone sections)
uous outcrops
outcrops provide the most detailed data for a
time-stratigraphicanalysis
analysisbased on bed or bedset surtime-stratigraphic
faces.
faces.

PARASEQUENCE
PARASEQUENCE
Observations
Scope of Observations
Parasequences have been identified
identified in coastal-plain,
coastal-plain,
Parasequences
deltaic, beach, tidal, estuarine, and shelf environdeltaic,
(Van Wagoner, 1985).
1985). It is difficult to identify
ments (Van
parasequences in fluvial
fluvial sections
sections where marine or
marginal-marine rocks are absent, and in slope or
marginal-marine
basinal sections,
sections, which are deposited too far below sea
influenced by an increase
increase in water depth.
depth.
level to be influenced
The general
general concepts
concepts presented here apply to all of the
depositional
depositional environments mentioned above in which
following
parasequences have been recognized; the following
discussion illustrates
illustrates deltaic
deltaic and beach parasequences
discussion
because these are common in most basins.
Definitions
following terms in the described conconWe will use the following
texts:
texts:
Parasequence:
relatively conformable
conformable succession
succession of
Parasequence: A relatively
genetically related beds or bedsets bounded by
surfaces or their correlative
correlative surfaces.
surfaces.
marine-flooding surfaces
In special positions within the sequence,
sequence, parasequences may be bounded either above or below by
sequence
sequence boundaries.
Marine-Flooding Surface:
Surface: A surface
surface separating younacross which there is evidence of
ger from older strata across
an abrupt increase in water depth. This deepening
commonly is accompanied
accompanied by minor submarine erosubaerial erosion
sion or nondeposition (but not by subaerial
due to stream rejuvenation or a basinward shift in
facies), with a minor hiatus indicated.
indicated. The marinefacies),
flooding surface
surface has a correlative
correlative surface
surface in the coastal
coastal
flooding
plain and a correlative surface on the shelf.
shelf.

Delta:
Delta: A genetically related succession of strata
coastline
deposited at the mouth of a river, causing the coastline
water. The delta can be
to bulge into a standing body of water.
delta-plain and distributary-channel
distributary-channel
subdivided into delta-plain
subenvironments dominated by unidirectional, fluvial
processes;
processes; and stream-mouth bar, delta-front, and
prodelta subenvironments
subenvironments dominated by unidirectional or bidirectional processes. The subenvironments of the delta are interpreted from associations
associations of
beds and bedsets, sandstone/shale
sandstonelshale ratios, and
sandstone-body geometry.
geometry.
Beach: A genetically related succession of strata
processes and deposdeposdominated by wave and current processes
ited as a ribbon of sediment along
along a coastline
coastline of a
water. The beach can be subdivided
standing body of water.
into backshore, foreshore,
foreshore, upper-shoreface, and
lower-shoreface subenvironments based on associaassocialower-shoreface
ichnofossil assemblages,
assemblages,
tions of beds and bedsets, ichnofossil
sandstonelshale ratios.
ratios.
and sandstone/shale

Characteristics
Characteristics
Parasequence characteristics are summarized in
1.Most siliciclastic
siliciclasticparasequences are progradaTable 1.
progradadistal toes of successively
successively younger
tional, i.e., the distal
farsandstone bedsets were deposited progressively fardepositional pattern results in an
ther basinward. This depositional
facies in which younupward-shoaling association of facies
ger bedsets were deposited in progressively shallower
Some siliciclastic,
siliciclastic, and most carbonate, parasewater. Some
quences are aggradational
aggradational and also shoal upward.
quences
schematic well-log and stratal characteristics
characteristics of
The schematic
upward-coarsening and upward-fining parasequences are shown in Figure 3. In the typical upwardcoarsening
coarsening parasequence (Figures
(Figures 3A-3C), bedsets
thicken,
thicken, sandstones coarsen, and the sandstone/
sandstone1
mudstone ratio increases upward. In the upward3D), bedsets thin,
(Figure 3D),
fining parasequence (Figure
finer grained (commonly
(commonly culmiculmisandstones become finer
coals), and the sandstone/
sandstone1
nating in mudstones and coals),
mudstone ratio decreases
decreases upward.
The vertical-facies
vertical-facies associations within both the
upward-coarsening and upward-fining parasequences are interpreted to record a gradual decrease in
depth. Evidence
Evidence of an abrupt decrease in water
water depth.
foreshore bedsets lying sharply on
depth, such as foreshore
lower-shoreface bedsets, has not been observed
within parasequences.
parasequences. Also, vertical-facies associaassociations indicating
indicatinga gradual increase
increase in water depth have
If individual
individual
not been observed within parasequences.
parasequences. If
parasequences do exist,
exist, they
"deepening-upward" parasequences

1-Bedset, bed, laminaset, lamina characteristics


characteristics
Figure l-Bedset,
and relationships.

0-

A!'( U~ITS

'"

Parasequence
BEDDING

.., ~

IN

::l: 0

COAE

GR
API UNITS

,0
~ ;;
WITHIN EACH PARA SeQUENCE:
SANDSTONE BEDSET$ AND BEDS THICKEN UPWARD

PARASEQUENCE
eOUNDA,AYi

SANDSTONEIMUDSTONE RATIO INCREASES UPWARD


WlTHlN
EACH
PARASEQUENCE:
GRAIN
SIZE
INCREASES UPWARD
BEDSETS AND
BEDS THICKEN
UPWARD
SANDSTONE
LAMINAE
GEOMETRY
BECOME
STEEPER
UPWARD ON GENERALI
SANDSTONEIMUDSTONE RATIO INCREASES UPWARD

BIOTURBATION DECREAses U~AAD TO THE PARASEQUENCE


BOUNDARY
GRAIN SlZE INCREASES UPWARD
LAMINAE
GEOMETRY
BECOME
STEEPER UPWARD
IIN GENERAL1
FACIES
WITHIN
EACH
PARASEOUENce
SHOAL
UPWARD
BIOTURBATION DECREASES UPWARD TO THE PARASEOUENCE
BOUNDARY MARKED BY:
PARASEQUENCE
BOUNDARY

ABRUPT CHANGE IN LITHOLOGY FROM SANDSTONE BELOW

FACIES
WlTHlN
EACH PARASEOUENCE
SHOAL
THE
BOUNDARY
TO MUDSTONE
ORUPWARD
SILTSTONE ABove THE

BOUNDARY

PARASEQUENCE BOUNDARY MARKED BY:

ABRUPT
DECREASE
IN BED THICKNESS
ABRUPT CHANGE
IN LITHOLOGY
FROM SANDSTONE BELOW

OR SILTSTONE
ABOVE THELAMINAE
THE BOUNDARY
TO MUDSTONE
TRUNCATION
OF UNDERLYING
POSSIBLE
MINOR
BOUNDARY

HORIZON OF BIOTURBATION; BIOTURBATION INTENSITY


ABRUPT DECREASE IN BED THICKNESS
DIMINISHES DOWNWARD
POSSIBLE MINOR TRUNCATION OF UNDERLYING LAMINAE

SANDSTONE

GLAUCONITE, PHOSPHORITE, SHELL HASH, ORGANIC RICH


HORIZON OF BIOTURBATION; BIOTURBATION INTENSITY
SHALE, SHALE PEBBLES

SANDSTONE
MUDSTONE

ENVIRONMtNT ACROSS
ABRUPT
DEEPENING
IN DEPOSITIONAL
GLAUCONITE,
PHOSPHORITE,
SHELL HASH, ORGANIC-RICH
THE
BOUNDARY
SHALE.
SHALE PEBBLES

DIMINISHES DOWNWARD

ABRUPT DEEPENING IN DEPOSITIONAL ENVIRONMENT ACROSS


THE BOUNDARY
~
BURROWS AND A VESTIGE OF

MUDSTONE

TROUGHCROSS
BEDDING

PLANAR BEDDING

HUMMOCKY BEDDlriG

~
.;;.;:..

~ ~v

A WAVERIPPLW SANDSTONE
BED

Y~~;,;::;;:;;:~~~

Isl

TROUGH-CROSS
HUMMOCKY BEDDING
PLANAR BEDDING
FS _ FORESHORE;
USF _ UPPER SHOREFACE:
BEDDING LSF _ LOWER SI-fOREFACE; O,LSF _ DISTAL LOWER SHOREFACE: SH SHELF
BED

Figure 3A-Stratal characteristics of an upward-eoarsening


parasequence.
This type
parasequence
interpreted to
FS = FORESHORE. USF
UPPER SHOREFACE.
LSF
LOWER SHOREFACE.
D LSF of
DISTAL
LOWER SHOREFACE; SHis
= SHELF
form in a beach
environment
on a sandy,of waveor fluvial-dominated
shoreline.
Figure
3A-Stratal characteristics
an upward-coarsening
parasequence.
This type of parasequence is interpreted to
=

form in a beach environment on a sandy, wave- or fluvial-dominated shoreline.


0

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~~

PAAASEQUENCE
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API UNITS

v
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WITHIN EACH PARASEOUENCE:


WITHIN EACH PARASEQUENCE:

SANDSTONE
BEDS
BEOSETS
THICKEN
BEDSETS
THICKEN
UPWARDUPWARD
SANDSTONE BEDS
OR OR

.-;:u

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SANDSTONEIMUDSTONE RATIO
INCREASES
UPWARDUPWARD
SANDSTONE/MUDSTONE
RATIO
INCREASES
GRAIN SlZE INCREASES UPWARD

GRAIN SIZE INCREASES UPWARD


LAMINAE GEOMETRY BECOME STEEPER UPWARD

LAMINAE GEOMETRY BECOME STEEPER UPWARD


BIOTURBATION INCREASES UPWARD TO THE PARASEQUENCE
BOUNDARY
BIOTURBATION
INCREASES UPWARD TO THE PARASEOUENCE
BOUNDARY
FACIES WlTHlN THE PARASEOUENCE SHOAL UPWARD

FACIES WITHIN THE PARASEQUENCE SHOAL UPWARD


PARASEQUENCE BOUNDARY MARKED BY:

ABRUPT CHANGE IN LITHOLOGY FROM SANDSTONE BELOW TO


MUDSTONE ABOVE

PARASEQUENCE BOUNDARY MARKED BY:

ABRUPTDECREASE
CHANGEININ
LITHOLOGY
ABRUPT
BED
THICKNESS FROM SANDSTONE BELOW TO
MUDSTONE
ABOVE
POSSIBLE
SLIGHT
TRUNCATION OF UNDERLYING LAMINAE

SANDSTONE

SHALE

MUDSTONE

ABRUPT DEEPENING IN DEPOSITIONAL ENVIRONMENT ACROSS

SANDSTONE

CURRENT-RIPPLE LAMINAE
THE BOUNDARY

TROUGH

MUDSTONE
OSMB

THICKNESS
ABRUPT OF
DECREASE
IN BED
HORIZON
BIOTURBATION,
BURROWING
INTENSITY
DECREASES SLIGHT
DOWNWARD
TRUNCATION OF UNDERLYING LAMINAE
POSSIBLE
GLAUCONITE. SHELL HASH, PHOSPHORITE. OR ORGANIC-RICH
HORIZON OF BIOTURBATION; BURROWING INTENSITY
SHALE
DECREASES DOWNWARD
ABRUPT DEEPENING IN DEPOSITIONAL ENVIRONMENT ACROSS
GLAUCONITE,
THE
BOUNDARY SHELL HASH, PHOSPHORITE. OR ORGANICRICH

OUTER STEAM-MOUTH BAR. DF = DELTA FRONT. PRO D = PRO DELTA. SH = SHELF

CURRENT_RIPPLE LAMIN"'E
F71 BURROWS
Figure 3B-Stratal characteristicsof an upward-coarsening
This
type of parasequence
is interpreted to
H PLANARparasequence.
LAMINAE
TURBIDITE
c:::J WAVE-RIPPLED LAMINAE
shoreline.
form in a deltaic environment on a sandy, fluvial- or wave-dominated
I-fOMOGENEOUS

TROUGHCROSS. BEDS

OSMB _ OUTER STEAM-MOUTH BAR. DF DELTA FRONT. PAD 0 PAD DELTA. SH SHELF

Figure 3D-Stratal characteristics of an upward-coarsening parasequence. This type of parasequence is interpreted to


form in a deltaic environment on a sandy, fluvial- or wave-dominated shoreline.

facies relationships
relationships
Vertical facies
venation, downward shift in coastal onlap, or onlap of
overlying strata;
strata; it may be marked by local erosion due
to fluvial processes and local evidence
evidence of subaerial
subaerial
exposure
exposure such as soil or root horizons normally found
coastal-plain deposits.
deposits. The correlative
correlative surface on
in coastal-plain
the shelf is a conformable
conformable surface
surface with no significant
significant
hiatus indicated and is marked by thin pelagic or hemipelagic deposits. These deposits include
include thin carbonates, organic-rich mudstones, glauconites, and
volcanic ashes indicating
indicating terrigenous-sediment
terrigenous-sediment starvation. Strata across
across correlative
correlative surfaces usually do
not indicate
indicate a change in water depth; commonly
commonly the
correlative
correlative surfaces
surfaces in the coastal plain or on the shelf
can be identified
identified only by correlating updip or downdip
from a marine-flooding surface. In even deeper-water
environments,
environments, such as the slope or basin floor,
floor, parasealso be unrecognizable.
quence boundaries may also
unrecognizable.
The characteristics
characteristics of parasequence boundaries suggest that they form in response to an abrupt increase in
sufficiently rapid to overcome
overcome
water depth that is sufficiently
deposition.
parasequence-boundary fordeposition. The stages of parasequence-boundary
forsimplisticallyillustrated
illustrated in Figure 4.
mation are simplistically
In two special cases, shown in Figure 5, parasequences may be bounded either above or below by
sequence
sequence boundaries. In the first case (Figure
(Figure5, Example 1),
I), a sequence
sequence boundary truncates a parasequence
in the underlying transgressive systems tract and
erodes into lower-shoreface
lower-shoreface sandstones (well
(well A) and
marine mudstones (well
(well B). Subsequent deposition of
a lowstand-shoreline parasequence on top of the
sequence
sequence boundary results in (1)
(1) a younger paraseabove by a marine-flooding surface
quence bounded above
(2) an older
sequence boundary,
and below by a sequence
boundary, and (2)
parasequence bounded below by a marine-flooding
surface and above by an erosional sequence
sequenceboundary.
surface
boundary.
Example 1,
1,
The correct parasequence interpretation in Example
sequence boundary, is conconbased on recognition of the sequence
trasted in Figure 5 with the incorrect parasequence
parasequence
if the sequence
sequence boundary is
interpretation that results if
identified.
not identified.
(Figure 5,
5, Example 2)
2) the
In the second case (Figure
sequence boundary in well 2, expressed as a surface
surface of
subaerial
subaerial exposure,
exposure, coincides
coincides with a marine-flooding
surface. This juxtaposition of surfaces
surfaces results in a parasurface.
sequencebounded above by a sequence
sequence boundary and
sequence
surface. There are three
below by a marine-flooding surface.
surfaces at the top of the youngest paraseparasecoincident surfaces
quence in well
we11 2:
2: (1)
(1) the marine-flooding surface
surface origiparasequence, probably formed
formed at
nally bounding the parasequence,
the end of the highstand, (2)
(2) the sequence
sequence boundary,
boundary,
expressed
expressed as a subaerial
subaerial exposure
exposure surface, and (3)
(3) the
last marine-flooding surface formed
formed during the seasealevel rise that terminated the lowstand.
Parasequence boundaries, within a framework of
Parasequence
regional sequence
sequence boundaries, are the best surfaces to
logs and
correlationof time and facies
facies from
fromlogs
use for local correlation
cores,
cores, and as surfaces
surfaceson which paleogeographic maps

13
13

several reasons.
reasons. (1)
(1) Parasequence
Parasequence
can be made, for several
boundaries are easily recognizable
recognizable surfaces that sepasepa(2)The boundaries
rate older beds from younger beds. (2)
(similarobservations
observations have been made by
form rapidly (similar
other authors, notably Wilson,
Wilson, 1975;
1975; and Goodwin
Anderson, 1985),
1985), probably within hundreds of
and Anderson,
approximate time
years to thousands of years, and approximate
markers
markers useful for chronostratigraphy
chronostratigraphy (Sears
(Sears et al.,
1941; Krumbein and Sloss, 1963;
1963; Wilson, 1975;
1975;
1941;
1985). (3)
(3) Parasequence
Goodwin and Anderson, 1985).
boundaries bound genetically
genetically related assemblages
assemblages of
facies, providing an essential
essential framework for facies
facies
facies,
interpretation and correlation on well-log
well-log cross secsecsequence. (4)
(4) Finally,
Finally, they commonly
tions within the sequence.
areally extensive enough for local subsurface
subsurfacecorrecorreare areally
lation within a basin. However, parasequence
parasequence boundaries usually cannot be easily correlated regionally
regionally
with widely spaced well control.
control. For this reason, and
because parasequence
parasequence distribution is very sensitive to
sediment supply, parasequence boundaries usually
are not good surfaces
surfaces for regional correlation of time
and facies.
facies.
Vertical Facies Relationships
in Parasequences
Well-exposed outcrops
outcrops in the Blackhawk Formation
Well-exposed
east-centralUtah were studied to document the ververof east-central
facies relationships
relationships in parasequences
tical and lateral facies
subsurface correlation. These exposures
exposures
as a guide for subsurface
(1949), Young
also have been studied by Spieker (1949),
(1955), Balsely and Horne (1980),
(1980),Kamola and Howard
(1955),
(1985), and Swift et al.
al. (1987).
(1987). To
To relate outcrop obserobser(1985),
vations of parasequences to subsurface
subsurface expression,
expression,
vations
Prothree wells were drilled on the outcrop by Exxon ProResearch Company
Company in 1982.
1982. Each well was
duction Research
continuously with a suite of convenconvencored and logged continuously
electric- and nuclear-logging tools.
tools. The vertical
tional electricfacies relationships
relationships of parasequences
facies
parasequences from the Late
Cretaceous age (Campanian)
(Campanian) Blackhawk Formation
Cretaceous
outcrop, core,
core, and well log,
log,
are shown in Figure 6 in outcrop,
the latter from
from one of the nearby 1982
1982wells.
wells. Each paraparasequence on the log is marked by an upward decrease
decrease
sequence
in gamma-ray response, indicating an upward
increase in the sandstone/mudstone
sandstone/mudstone ratio within the
increase
parasequence and generally an upward increase in the
thickness. This vertical patsandstone bed or bedset thickness.
coarsening and thickening
thickening reflects
tern of upward coarsening
parasequence progradation. .'
parasequence boundary in Figure 6 is marked
Each parasequence
by a blue line on the well log.
log. The parasequence from
from
interval A (160
(160 to 218 ft, or 49 to 66 m)
m) begins at the
interval
base with interbedded mudstones and burrowed,
hummocky-bedded sandstones deposited in the
shoreface of a beach. The upper part of the cored
lower shoreface
interval consists of trough and tabular cross-bedded
cross-bedded
interval
depossandstones and planar-laminated
planar-laminated sandstones deposshoreface and foreforeited, respectively,
respectively, in the upper shoreface

PARASEQUENCES IN OUTCROP

PARASEQUENCES IN A WELL LOG

PARASEQUENCES IN CORES

NORTH CUFF. MOUTH OF GENTILE WASH


NE CORNEA $EC.11- T1 35-R9E
CARBON COUNTY, UTAH

EXXON PRODUCTION RES. CO.

EXXON PRODUCTION RES. CO.

PRICE RIVER COAL NO. 3


N.W. CORNER SEC.6-T1 3S-R1 DE

PRICE RIVER COAL NO.3

N.W. CORNER SEC.6- T13S-Rl DE


PARASEQUENCE CORE INTERVAL A

~~~

...
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PARASEQUENCE_

BOUNDARY

50

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Base map for outcrop

and well location


HXON'1I0D

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,

Figure 6-Parasequences in outcrop, well log, and core from the Blackhawk Formation, Spring Canyon Member, in the
Book Cliffs, near Helper, Utah.

PARASEQUENCE

BOUNDARY

PAAASEOUENCE
BOUNDARY

EXXON
ELM GROVE PLANTATION
BOSSIER PARISH, LA.
SEC.23-T16N-RllW

12000

SP

3000

100000

r-------Tl-II:.:.:.~~;-------1

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EXXON
FARMERS LIFE G.U. NO.2
DUVAL CO. TEXAS

1 - - - - - - - - I 8600

10000

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10000

UNION OIL OF CALIFORNIA


J LAND S CO. "C" NO. 1
ST. MARTIN PARISH, LA.
SEC.ll-T13S-RllE

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QUINTANA PETROLEUM AND KOCH INDUSTRIES


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9300

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14200
SHALLOWMARINE BEACH PARASEQUENCES FROM
THE LATE JURASSIC TO EARLY CRETACEOUS
COTTON VALLEY GROUP OF LOUISIANA. CORES
WERE AVAILABLE FOR FACIES INTERPRETATION.

....
:::-----==
c

13300 1---'

SHALLOW MARINE SANDSTONES

13400

r-~ ~-------'

14400

~-- POSSIBLE PARASEQUENCE BOUNDARY

10000

r
SHALLOW MARINE DELl AIC PARASEQUENCES FROM
THE MIOCENE OF CENTRAL LOUISIANA. FACIES
INTERPRET A TIONS FROM LOG RESPONSE AND
REGIONAL WELL LOG CORRELATIONS.

SHELF MUDSTONES ANi) THIN SANDSTONES


PARASEQUENCE BOUNDARY

9900

{-=F
14300

o
o

SHALLOWMARINE BEACH PARASEQUENCES FROM


THE PALEOCENE WILCOX GROUP OF SOUTH TEXAS
CORES WERE AVAILABLE FOR FACIES
INTERPRET ATION.

Figure 7-Well-Iog responses for beach and deltaic parasequences from Jurassic to Miocene in age. All well-log depths are in feet.

SHALLOWMARINE DELTAIC PARASEQUENCES FROM


THE MIOCENE OF CENTRAL LOUISIANA. FACIES
INTERPRETATIONS FROM LOG RESPONSE AND
REGIONAL WELLLOG CORRELATIONS.

facies relationships
Lateral facies
shore of the beach.
beach. The parasequence boundary
occurs
at
158.5
(48 m)
m) near the top of the last core
occurs 158.5 ft (48
is
marked by deeper-water,
box.
The
boundary
box.
deeper-water, black,
shelf mudstones lying sharply on burrow-churned,
low-angle
low-angle to planar-laminated sandstone beds with no
intervening transgressive lag. In outcrop, this parasequence boundary can be traced approximately 15
15 mi
(24 km)
km)along depositional dip. This core was cut near
the youngest, most basinward position of the foreforeshore in the parasequence.
Interval B (308
(308 to 255 ft,
ft, or 94 to 78
78 m)
m) contains two
parasequences (Figure
(Figure 6).
6). The lower parasequence
begins at the base of the core with burrowed, black
mudstones and partially burrowed-churned, waverippled sandstones deposited on a shelf.
shelf. This facies
facies is
overlain by burrowed, hummocky-bedded sandstones interbedded with thi11.,
thin, black mudstones deposited in the lower shoreface of a beach. The boundary
for the lower parasequence is a burrowed surface
surface at
274 ft (84
(84 m)
m) defined by black mudstones lying
abruptly on hummocky-bedded sandstones.
sandstones. The
upper parasequence in interval B
B begins at the base
with burrowed, black, shelf mudstones and thin
wave-rippled sandstones; like the lower parasequence, it is capped with burrowed, hummockybedded sandstones deposited in the lower shoreface
shoreface
of a beach.
beach. The parasequence boundary for the upper
parasequence occurs at 260 ft (79
(79m).
m). The boundary is a
distinct surface
surface defined by black mudstones in sharp
contact with underlying burrowed and hummockybedded sandstones. In outcrop, these parasequence
boundaries can be traced at least 12
12 mi (19
(19 km)
km) along
depositional dip.
dip. As in interval A, both parasequence
boundaries in interval B are devoid of transgressive
lags in the core and outcrop.
outcrop.
The parasequence boundaries in intervals A and B
are marine-flooding
marine-flooding surfaces
surfaces interpreted to result from
an abrupt increase in water depth. This deepening is
indicated by the facies
facies contrasts across
across the parasequence boundaries. Vertical-facies
Vertical-facies associations
associations within
parasequences in intervals A and B do not exhibit any
significant discontinuities and are interpreted to result
from normal-shoreline progradation. Additional welllog responses of parasequences and parasequence
boundaries in different regions and formations are
shown in Figure 7.

Lateral Facies Relationships


Relationships
in Parasequences
Parasequences
facies relationships, predicted rock types
The lateral facies
cores, and well-log
well-log responses for a single
single
observed in cores,
parasequence interpreted to have been deposited in a
beach environment are shown in Figure 8.
8. Bedset surfaces are the throughgoing master surfaces that define
faces
stratification within the parasequence.
the primary stratification
facies changes within each bedset occur bed by
The facies

15
15

bed. Because the types of facies


facies changes occurring
occurring in
each bedset within the parasequence are similar and
significant chronostratigraphic breaks
there are no significant
between bedsets, a parasequence is considered to be a
genetically related succession
succession of beds and bedsets.
genetically
single bed in a beach parasequence (Figure
(Figure8),
8),
Within a single
seaward-dipping, planar, parallel laminae of
gently seaward-dipping,
the foreshore change geometry basinward into more
steeply dipping foreset laminae within trough-cross
beds of the upper shoreface. These foreshore
foreshore and
upper-shoreface rocks compose the potential hydroparasequence. The troughcarbon reservoir in the parasequence.
cross beds grade seaward bed-by-bed into hummocky
beds of the lower shoreface.
shoreface. Finally,
Finally, the same bedset
deposited in the lower shoreface can be traced seaward to a point where the sandstone bedset thins to a
few inches and may be so churned by burrowing orgaCampbell
nisms that its boundaries become indistinct. Campbell
(1979)
(1979) has documented similar lateral facies
facies changes in
the beach deposits of the Gallup Sandstone.
direction, foreshore and upperIn the landward direction,
shoreface bedsets within a parasequence either
facies into washover fans, which in
abruptly change facies
facies into coastal-plain
coastal-plain mudstones and
turn change facies
thin sandstones, or are truncated by tidal inlets.
Because
Because of progradation, the entire vertical succession
of strata composing the parasequence is rarely complete at any point in the parasequence, as shown by
the schematic well-log and core profiles
8.
profiles in Figure 8.
Parasequences terminate in a landward direction by
fluvialonlap onto a sequence boundary, by local fluvialchannel erosion in the updip coastal or alluvial plain,
or by widespread fluvial
fluvial incision associated with a
sequence boundary. Parasequences lose their identity
basinward by thinning, shaling out, and downlapping
accompanied by stratal thinning onto an older parasequence, parasequence set, or sequence boundary.
Shoreline parasequences often can be correlated on
well-log
well-log cross
cross sections for tens of miles into the basin
before the parasequence boundaries become unrecognizable as flooding
flooding surfaces.
surfaces.

Interpretation of Depositional Mechanisms


Mechanisms
Interpretation
Shallow-marine
Shallow-marine parasequences form when the rate
deltaic, beach, or tidal-flat enviof sedimentation in deltaic,
ronments is greater than the rate of accommodation
accommodation
coastline. Accommodation
Accommodation is defined as the
along the coastline.
available for sedimentation and is internew space available
preted to be a function of eustasy and subsidence (Jer(Jervey, 1988;
1988; Posamentier et aI.,
a]., 1988).
1988). Parasequence
form when the rate of
boundaries are interpreted to form
sediment supply at the shoreline is less than the rate of
accommodation. Under these conditions, the shoreaccommodation.
little marine
line normally retreats rapidly and very little
sediment is preserved in the stratigraphic record;
record; commonly a marine-flooding
marine-flooding surface
surface is the only indication

Parasequence
Parasequence set
set
that
that the
the rate
rate of
of accommodation
accommodation exceeded
exceeded the
the rate
rate of
of
sediment supply.
supply.
sediment
Three different
different mechanisms
mechanisms can
can generate
generate paraseparaseThree
quence boundaries.
boundaries. One
One well-documented
well-documented mechamechaquence
nism isis the
the relatively
relatively rapid
rapid increase
increase in
in water
water depth
depth
nism
caused by
by compaction
compaction of
of prodelta
prodelta mudstones
mudstones in
in aa
caused
delta
delta lobe
lobe following
following distributary-channel
distributary-channel avulsion
avulsion
(Frazier, 1967).
1967).The
The drowning
drowning of
of the
the lobe
lobe produces
produces an
an
(Frazier,
abrupt, planar,
planar, slightly
slightly erosional
erosional surface,
surface, commonly
commonly
abrupt,
with little
little or
or no
no preserved
preserved transgressive
transgressive lag
lag lying
lying
with
above itit (Elliott,
(Elliott, 1974).
1974). The
The resulting
resulting parasequence
parasequence
above
has aa lateral
lateral extent
extent equivalent
equivalent to
to the
the areal
areal
boundary has
extent of the
the lobe
lobe itself.
itself. Frazier
Frazier and
and Osanik
Osanik (1967)
(1967)
extent
showed that the
the three
three youngest lobes
lobes in
in the
the Holocene
Holocene
showed
San Bernard delta
delta in
in southeastern
southeastern Louisiana have
have
San
2
areal extents
extents ranging from
from 300
300 to
to 3000
3000 mi
mi2
(777to
to 7770
7770
areal
(777
2
km2).
The rates
rates for
for lobe
lobe progradation range
range from
from 800
800to
to
km
). The
1400 years.
years. Because
Because the
the surfaces
surfaces bounding each
each of
of
1400
these lobes
lobes are
are extensive
extensive areally
areally and
and formed
formed rapidly,
rapidly,
these
provide local
local time
time lines
lines for
for chronostratigraphic
chronostratigraphic
they provide
and lithostratigraphic
lithostratigraphic analysis
analysis over
over relatively
relatively large
large
and
areas in
in the
the subsurface.
subsurface.
areas
A second
second mechanism for
for the
the formation
formation of
of aa paraseparaseA
quence boundary isis aa rapid relative
relative rise
rise in
in sea
sea level
level
quence
caused by subsidence
subsidence along
along tectonically
tectonically active
active faults.
faults.
caused
Earthquakes such
such as
as the
the 1964
1964 earthquake
earthquake in
in Alaska
Alaska
Earthquakes
(Plafker,
1965)
or
the
1960
earthquake
in
Chile
(Plafker
(Plafker, 1965) or the 1960 earthquake in Chile (Plafker
and Savage,
Savage, 1970)
1970) produced nearly instantaneous,
instantaneous,
and
coastal subsidence
subsidence of
of 6.5
6.5 and
and 99 ftft (2
(2 and
and 33
maximum coastal
m), respectively.
respectively. Plafker
Plafker and
and Savage
Savage (1970)
(1970)document
document
m),
of subsidence
subsidence 600
600 mi
mi (963
(963km)
km) long
long and
and 70
70 mi
mi
a zone of
(112km)
km) wide along
along the
the Chilean coastline.
coastline. Along lowlow(112
lying shorelines,
shorelines, such
such subsidence
subsidence could drown large
large
lying
areas of coastal
coastal deposits
deposits rapidly,
rapidly, thereby producing a
areas
boundary. Short-term
Short-term increases in the
the
parasequence boundary.
subsidence on
on the
the order of a few
few thousand
rate of subsidence
coastal salt domes
domes or growth faults
faults also
also
years near coastal
local relative
relative rises
rises in sea
sea level
level sufficient
sufficient
could produce local
to drown coastal
coastal deposits and
and produce parasequence
parasequence
to
boundaries.
for parasequence boundary forforA third mechanism for
is eustasy.
eustasy. The
The relationship of eustasy and
and subsubmation is
to parasequence and
and sequence
sequence deposition
deposition is
is
sidence to
39 and
and is
is discussed
discussed later,
later, in
in "Interpresented in Figure 39
the
pretations of Depositional Mechanisms" within the
section.
"Sequence" section.

PARASEQUENCE SET
SET
PARASEQUENCE
Definition
is a succession of genetically
A parasequence set is
forming a distinctive stacking
related parasequences forming
pattern bounded by major marine-flooding surfaces
and their correlative surfaces. Parasequence set characteristics are
are summarized in Table
Table 1.
1.
acteristics

17
17

Parasequence Set
Set Boundary
Boundary
Parasequence
Like
Like parasequence
parasequence boundaries,
boundaries, parasequence
parasequence set
set
boundaries
boundaries are
are marine-flooding
marine-flooding surfaces
surfacesand
and their
their corcorrelative
shows aa parasequence
parasequence set
set
relative surfaces.
surfaces. Figure
Figure 99 shows
boundary
boundary with
with hummocky-bedded
hummocky-bedded and
and burrowed,
burrowed,
lower-shoreface
lower-shoreface sandstones
sandstones lying
lying in
in sharp
sharp contact
contact on
on
coastal-plain
coastal-plain coals.
coals. Parasequence
Parasequence set
set boundaries
boundaries (1)
(1)
separate
separate distinctive
distinctive parasequence-stacking
parasequence-stacking patterns,
patterns,
(2)
(2) may
may coincide
coincide with
with sequence
sequence boundaries,
boundaries, and
and (3)
(3)
may
may be
be downlap
downlap surfaces
surfaces and
and boundaries
boundaries of
of systems
systems
tracts.
tracts.

Types
Types of Parasequence
Parasequence Sets
Sets
Stacking
Stacking patterns
patterns of
of parasequences within paraseparasequenee
quence sets
sets are
are progradational, retrogradational, or
or
aggradational
1985),depending
depending on
on the
the
aggradational (Van
(VanWagoner,
Wagoner, 1985),
ratio
ratio of
of depositional
depositional rates
rates to
to accommodation
accommodation rates.
rates.
Figure
Figure 10
10 schematically
schematically illustrates
illustrates these
these stacking
stacking patpatterns
terns and
and their well-log
well-log responses.
responses. In
In aa progradational
progradational
parasequence
parasequence set,
set, successively
successively younger parasequences
parasequences
are
are deposited
deposited farther
farther basinward;
basinward; overall,
overall, the
the rate
rate of
of
deposition
deposition isis greater
greater than
than the
the rate
rate of
of accommodation.
accommodation.
In
In aa retrogradational
retrogradafional parasequence
parasequenceset,
set, successively
successivelyyounyounger
ger parasequences
parasequences are
are deposited
deposited farther
farther landward,
landward, in
in
aa backstepping pattern; overall,
overall, the
the rate
rate of
of deposition
deposition
is
is less
less than
than the
the rate
rate of
of accommodation.
accommodation. Although
Although each
each
parasequence in
in aa retrogradational
retrogradational parasequence
parasequence set
set
progrades, the
the parasequence set
set deepens
deepens upward
upward in
in aa
"transgressive
"transgressive pattern." We
We use
use the
the term "retrograda"retrogradation" in
in the
the dictionary
dictionary sense
sense(Gary
(Garyet
et aI.,
al., 1972)
1972)to
to mean
"the backward (landward)
(landward) movement or retreat of a
shoreline or coastline:'
coastline." As
As Gary
Gary et a1.
al. (1972)
(1972) pointed
out,
out, retrogradation is
is the
the antonym
antonym of progradation.
progradation. In
an
an aggradational
aggradational parasequence
parasequence set,
set, successively
successively younger
parasequences are
are deposited above
above one
one another
another with
no
no significant
significant lateral shifts;
shifts; overall,
overall, the
the rate of accomaccommodation approximates the
the rate
rate of deposition.
deposition.
Vertical
Vertical Facies
Facies Relationships
Relationships
in
in Parasequence
Parasequence Sets
Sets
Parasequence
Parasequence sets
sets can
can be identified from
from a single
single
well log.
log. In a progradational
progradational parasequence
parasequence set
set (Figure
(Figure
11),
l l ) , successively younger parasequences
parasequences contain
sandstone with greater depositional
depositional porosities and
and
higher percentages of rocks
rocks deposited in
in shallowshallowmarine
marine to
to coastal-plain environments than underlying
parasequences. The
The youngest parasequence in
in the
the
well may
may consist entirely of rocks
rocks that were
were deposited
in
in a coastal-plain environment. In addition, younger
parasequences tend to
to be thicker than older parasequences
quences in
in the
the set.
set.
In a retrogradational
retrogradational parasequence set (Figure
(Figure 11),
ll),
successively
successively younger parasequences contain more
shale
rocks
shale or mudstone and higher percentages of rocks
deposited in deeper-water
deeper-water marine environments,
environments,
such as
as lower shoreface,
shoreface, delta front,
front, or shelf,
shelf, than

Lateral facies
facies relationships in parasequence sets
underlying parasequences. The youngest parasequence in the set commonly is composed entirely of
rocks deposited on the shelf.
shelf. In addition, younger
parasequences tend to be thinner than older parasequences in the set. .
In an aggradational parasequence set (Figure
(Figure 11)
11)the
facies, thicknesses, and sandstone to mudstone ratios
significantly.
do not change significantly.

Lateral Facies Relationships

in Parasequence
Parasequence Sets
Sets
The vertical expressions of different kinds of parase11) also have
quence sets in single well logs (Figure 11)
sections.
characteristic lateral expressions on cross sections.
expresThese subsurface and outcrop cross-section expresFigsions are illustrated with four examples, shown in Figures 12
12 through 16.
16.
In the first example, the dip-oriented distribution of
parasequences in a progradational parasequence set
(Campanian) Blackhawk
from the Late Cretaceous age (Campanian)
Cliffs, north of Price,
Price,
Formation exposed in the Book Cliffs,
Utah, is shown in Figure 12.
12. A gamma-ray curve from
the Exxon Production Research Company Price River
section. Facies
Facjes
No.33 well is included on the cross section.
Coal No.
data plotted on the gamma-ray curve are from contin3-in. (7.62-cm)
(7.62-cm) cores recovered from that well
uous 3-in.
(Figure 6).
6). Successively
Successively younger parasequences step
(Figure
farther basinward, and produce the well-log patterns
11for a progradational parasequence
shown in Figure 11
set. The updip pinchouts of porous marine sandstones
set.
into nonporous, coastal-plain mudstones also step
basinward in successively younger parasequences.
The highest depositional porosities in each parasequence are preserved just seaward of the pinchout of
marine rocks into coastal-plain deposits. These pinchouts are very abrupt, commonly occurring laterally
100 ft (30
(30 m).
m). Such pinchover a distance of less than 100
outs can lead to confusion in well-log correlations
because of the abrupt change in log shape between
two closely spaced wells. One of the updip pinchouts
13. In this
within a parasequence is shown in Figure 13.
foreshore and upper-shoreface sandstones
example, foreshore
are truncated updip by a landward-dipping erosional
surface, interpreted to be cut by a migrating tidal inlet.
A wedge-shaped sandstone body with a maximum
15 ft (4.6
(4.6 m), consisting of imbricate,
thickness of 15
floodlandward-dipping bedsets, and interpreted as a floodsurface. The
b he pinchtidal delta, rests on the erosional surface.
(Figure 13)
13) occurs on the cross section (Figure
(Figure 12)
12)
out (Figure
between Gentile Wash (Sec.
(Sec. 2, T13S,
T13S, R9E)
R9E) and Spring
(Sec. 15,
15, T12S, R9E).
R9E).
Canyon (Sec.
In the second example, the dip-oriented distribution
of parasequences in three progradational parasequence sets from the subsurface Parkman and Teapot
(Campanian)
sandstones of the Late Cretaceous age (Campanian)
Mesaverde Formation, Powder River basin, Wyo-

21
21

ming, is shown in Figure 14.


14. In the Parkman parasequence set, successively younger parasequences step
father basinward to the east, producing the well-log
well-log
pattern characteristic of a progradational parasequence set (Figure
(Figure 11).
11). Only the marine-flooding sursurfaces
faces on top of each parasequence are carried on the
cross section; their seaward correlative surfaces are
not indicated.
indicated. The parasequence set is terminated by
an abrupt increase in water depth that flooded across
the top of the parasequence set and superimposed
deeper-water marine mudstones on top of shallowmarine sandstones. Well-log correlation indicated that
surface.
the top of the parasequence set is a planar surface.
Each parasequence within the set is bounded by a
minor marine-flooding surface; the parasequence set
is bounded by the major marine-flooding surface that
terminates the underlying stacking pattern.
The Teapot Sandstone (Figure
(Figure 14)
14) is composed of
two progradational parasequence sets.
sets. The lower
parasequence set is terminated by a sequence boundary marked by truncation of the underlying parasefacies. A
quences and a slight basinward shift in facies.
second progradational parasequence set, composed of
two parasequences, rests on top of the sequence
boundary. A marine-flooding surface separates
deeper-water mudstones above the parasequence set
boundary from shallow-marine
shallow-marine sandstones below the
boundary.
In the third example, the dip-oriented distribution of
parasequences in a retrogradational parasequence set
from the Late Cretaceous age (Campanian)
(Campanian) Almond
Formation and Ericson Sandstone, Mesaverde Group,
Washakie
Washakie basin, Wyoming, is shown in Figure 15.
15. SucSuccessively younger parasequences step farther landward, producing the well-log pattern characteristic of
a retrogradational parasequence set (Figure
(Figure 11).
11). Sandstones deposited in nearshore, shallow-marine environments compose the bulk of the middle part of the
cross section, where porosities are best developed.
Updip pinchouts of porous marine sandstones into
nonporous, coastal-plain mudstones step landward
time.
with time.
In the fourth example, the dip-oriented distribution
of parasequences in an aggradational parasequence
set from the Late Jurassic or Early Cretaceous age, CotCotton Valley Group, East Texas basin, is shown in Figure
16.
16. Parasequences stack vertically with little or no
lateral shift in facies,
well-log pattern
facies, producing the well-log
characteristic of an aggradational parasequence set
(Figure 11).
11). A significant vertical
vertical thickness of porous
sandstones may develop where this stacking occurs.
In an updip position, or just seaward of the updip
pinchouts of marine sandstones into coastal-plain
mudstones, the porous sandstones may stack, with little or no intervening nonporous sandstone or mudstone, to form a potentially thick reservoir facies
facies with
continuity. In an intermediate position,
good vertical continuity

22

Sequence

the porous sandstones will be separated by shelf mudstones or thin beds of nonporous sandstones.

Concepts
Correlation Concepts
Parasequence and parasequence set correlations
commonly yield results that differ significantly
significantly from
from
commonly
conventional lithostratigraphic
lithostratigraphic corcorthose obtained by conventional
relations that rely on formations,
formations, or formation "tops"
of sandstone or mudstone intervals.
intervals. To illustrate
illustrate some
differences, schematic
schematic cross
cross sections through
of these differences,
a progradational parasequence set and a retrogradational parasequence set are compared with typical lithostratigraphic correlations
correlations (Figures
(Figures 17
17 and 18).
18).
ostratigraphic
cross section
section
The progradational parasequence set cross
17 was constructed using the parasequence
in Figure 17
set boundary as a datum. The shallow-marine
shallow-marine and
coastal-plain rocks of each younger parasequence step
coastal-plain
upward and basinward. The shallow-marine
shallow-marine sandstones are potential reservoirs. Many are isolated
above
above and below in mudstones, ensuring poor vertical
communication and possibly separate oil-water contacts. Because of amalgamation of shoreline sandsome of the potential reservoirs
reservoirs have good
stones, some
vertical communication near the updip pinchouts of
coastal-plain rocks.
rocks.
marine rocks into coastal-plain
lithostratigraphic cross section in Figure 17
17 was
The lithostratigraphic
constructed using the tops of the shallow-marine
(1)comsandstones as a datum because this boundary (1)
site of coal deposition
deposition providing a good
monly is the site
log marker,
marker, (2) is the most conspicuous
conspicuous boundary on
(3) provides
the SP or gamma-ray log, and (3)
provides a similar
facies,
resistivity response on each log inasmuch as the facies,
porosities, and fluids
fluids in each massive,
massive, shallow-marine
shallow-marine
sandstone
sandstone are similar.
similar. If
If this datum is selected,
selected, as is
lithofacies are correlated by
commonly done, and the lithofacies
connecting the sandstone tops, the continuity
continuity of the
connecting
genetically different sandreservoir is exaggerated, genetically
together, and potential shallowshallowstones are linked together,
marine sandstone reservoirs
reservoirs are interpreted to change
facies updip into marine shales and mudstones.
facies
The retrogradational
retrogradational parasequence
parasequence set cross section
section
18was constructed using a parasequence set
in Figure 18
boundary as a datum.
datum. This boundary can be traced
basinward into a diagnostic resistivity marker bed in
the shale.
shale. The marine rocks in successively
successively younger
backstep. Each paraparasequences step landward or backstep.
sequence progrades and each shallow-marine
shallow-marine sandsequence
changes facies
facies updip into coastal-plain
coastal-plain rocks.
stone changes
shallow-marine sandstone reservoirs are isolated
isolated
The shallow-marine
above and below in marine mudstones and commonly
above
contacts.
have separate oil-water contacts.
lithostratigraphic cross section in Figure 18
18 was
The lithostratigraphic
significant
constructed using the top of the youngest, significant
shallow-marine
shallow-marine sandstone in each well as a datum.
lithologic break. It has a simisimiThis horizon is a distinct lithologic
lar appearance
appearance in all of the wells and is easy to identify
identify
on the logs because it commonly is marked by an

abrupt resistivity change.


change. Correlating the logs using
this surface
surface leads to an interpretation of a continuous,
continuous,
relatively thin, shallow-marine
relatively
shallow-marine sandstone.
sandstone. The conticontinuity is exaggerated, and potential reservoir sandsandincbrrectly linked into the same
same sandstone
stones are inc6rrectly
body with an interpreted common oil-water contact.
contact.
When production data suggest that there are at least
geologist
two oil-water contacts in this reservoir, the geologist
discrepancy
commonly adds a fault to explain the discrepancy
between production data and the stratigraphic
stratigraphic interinterpretation. Benthonic
Benthonic fauna usually are preserved in
the shales just above the sandstone.
sandstone. Using the first
occurrence of the benthonic foraminifera
foraminifera as a correlacorrelaoccurrence
tion tool results in the same correlation arrived at by
using the sandstone tops, because these organisms
organisms are
facies
facies controlled.
controlled.

SEQUENCE
SEQUENCE
Definitions
Sequence: A relatively conformable
conformable succession of
Sequence:
genetically related strata bounded by unconformities
genetically
correlative conformities
conformities (Mitchum,
(Mitchum, 1977).
1977).
or their correlative
Parasequences and parasequence sets are the stratal
Parasequences
building blocks of the sequence.
sequence. Sequence
Sequencecharacteris1.
Table 1.
tics are summarized in Table
Unconformity: A surface separating younger from
from
Unconformity:
evidence of subaerialolder strata along which there is evidence
erosional truncation and, in some areas, correlative
correlative
erosional
subaerial exposure,
exposure, with a sigsubmarine erosion, or subaerial
indicated (Van
(Van Wagoner et aI.,
al., 1988).
1988).
nificant hiatus indicated
definition restricts the usage of unconformity to
This definition
subaerial surfaces
surfaces and their correlative
correlative submarine erosubaerial
surfaces and is somewhat more restrictive than
sional surfaces
the definition of unconformity used by Mitchum
(1977). Local, contemporaneous erosion and deposideposi(1977).
geological processes such as
tion associated with geological
point-bar development or aeolian-dune
aeolian-dune migration are
excluded from the definition of unconformity used in
this book.
Confomzity:A surface separating younger from older
Conformity:
strata along
along which there is no evidence
evidence of erosion (nei(neisubaerial nor submarine)
submarine) or nondeposition, and
ther subaerial
along which no significant hiatus is indicated. It
includes surfaces onto which there is very slow depoincludes
sition or low rates of sediment accumulation, with
long periods of geologic time being represented by
very thin deposits.
deposits.
Sequences can be subdivided into systems tracts
Sequences
(Van Wagoner et aI.,
al., 1988;
1988; Posamentier
al., 1988)
1988)
(Van
Posamentier et aI.,
based on objective
objective criteria including
including types of boundsurfaces, parasequence set distribution,
distribution, and posiing surfaces,
tion within the sequence.
sequence. Systems
Systems tracts also can be
characterized by geometry
geometry and facies
facies associations.
associations.
characterized
contemporaSystems tracts are defined as a linkage of contemporadepositional systems
systems (Brown
(Brown and Fisher, 1977);
1977);
neous depositional

WEST
ANADARKO
NO. A-l PISTOL POINT
CAMPBELL CO., WYOMING
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NO. 3-19 POWELL-FED.
CAMPBELL CO., WYOMING
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Figure 14-Parasequence stacking in progradational parasequence sets. Three parasequence sets are shown; one
parasequence set is in the Parkman Sandstone, Mesaverde Formation (Campanian), two parasequence sets are in the
Teapot Sandstone (Campanian). The Teapot Sandstone in the three western wells rests on an unconformity (sequence
boundary). These wells are from the Powder River basin, Wyoming.

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Figure 15-Parasequence stacking in a retrogradaHonal parasequence set, Almond Sandstone, Late Cretaceous age,
Washakie basin, Wyoming,

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COASTALPLAIN SANDSTONES AND


MUDSTONES

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100 FT

6 MILES

26

type-1 sequences
Stratal patterns in type-1

shelf
In addition to being deposited in a basin with a shelf
break, the following
additional
conditions
must
exist:
(1) sufficiently large fluvial systems to cut can(1)
yons and deliver sediment to the basin;
(2) enough accommodation for the parasequence
(2)
sets to be preserved; and
(3) a relative fall in sea level of
of a rate and magni(3)
tude sufficient to deposit the lowstand sysjust beyond the shelf break.
tems tract at or just

The component parasequence sets discussed below


are the ones most commonly encountered in each sysof sediment supply
tems tract. Variations in the rates of
and relative sea-level change along a basin margin can
of different pararesult in the simultaneous deposition of
sequence sets in different places on the shelf. For this
sequence
reason, boundaries between systems tracts may vary
in time from place to place on the shelf within the same
sequence.
of the syssyssequence. Fundamental stratal components of
tems tracts in an ideal sequence
sequence (Figure
(Figure 19)
are
dis19)
cussed below. Although a submarine fan is included
in Figure 19,
19, this inclusion is not meant to convey a
thickness for the sequence,
sequence, especially
especially on the
particular thickness
shelf. As mentioned previously in this book,
sequences are defined by the component strata and
sequences
types of bounding surfaces, not by thickness
thickness or time
for formation.
formation. For example, an unconformitybounded stratal
stratal unit, composed of systems
systems tracts with
no internal unconformities (as
(as defined in this book) is
a sequence.
sequence. This sequence
sequence may be tens of feet thick
and detectable
detectable only on well logs or in cores and outcrops, or it may be hundreds of feet thick and easily
resolvable on seismic
resolvable
seismic lines.
Lowstand Systems
Systems Tract

The lowstand systems


systems tract consists of a basin-floor
fan,
wedge. Typically,
Typically, the
fan, a slope
slope fan,
fan, and a lowstand wedge.
basin-floor
fan is dominantly
basin-floorfan
dominantly sand,
sand, consisting
consisting of Tab,
Tab,
Tac and truncated Ta Bouma sequences.
sequences. It appears to
be similar to the type I and type II
I1 fans
fans of Mutti (1985).
(1985).
The basin-floor
basin-floor fan may be deposited
deposited at the mouth of a
canyon,
canyon, although
although it may occur widely separated from
from
the canyon mouth, or a canyon
canyon may not be evident.
evident. It
has no age-equivalent rocks
rocks on the slope
slope or shelf.
shelf. Slope
Slope
fans are
fans
are made up of turbidite-leveed
turbidite-leveedchannel
channel and overoverbank deposits.
deposits. They overlie
overliethe basin-floor fan
fan and are
downlapped by the overlying
overlying lowstand wedge
wedge (Vail,
(Vail,
1987).
111
1987).The
The slope
slope fan
fan appears
appears to be similar
similarto
to the type
type III
fan
fan of Mutti
Mutti (1985).
(1985).The
The lowstand
lowstand wedge is
is composed
composed of
one or more progradational
progradational parasequence
parasequence sets
sets making
making
up a wedge that is
is restricted seaward
seaward of the shelf break
and that onlaps
onlaps the slope
slope of the preceding
preceding sequence.
sequence.
The
The proximal part of the wedge
wedge consists
consists of incisedincisedvalley
valley fills
fills and their associated
associated lowstand-shoreline
lowstand-shoreline
deposits
deposits on the shelf or upper slope.
slope. The
The distal
distal part of
the wedge
wedge is
is composed of a thick,
thick, mostly shale-prone,
shale-prone,
wedge-shaped
wedge-shaped unit that downlaps
downlaps onto
onto the
the slope
slope fan.
fan.

As strictly defined, parasequences are difficult to


recognize in basin-floor and slope-fan environments
because there are no criteria in these units with which
to recognize shallowing upward. Fan lobes in these
units characterized by upward thinning and fining
bedsets or by upward thickening and coarsening bedsets may represent parasequences.
Incised valleys are entrenched fluvial systems extending their channels basinward and eroding into underlying strata in response to a relative fall in sea level. On
the ihelf,
shelf, the inci'sed
incised valleys are bounded
bounded below by the
sequence boundary and above by the first major
marine-flooding surface, called the transgressive surface.
face. The well log at the left in Figure 19 shows a common well-log pattern through an incised-valley
incised-valley fill.
The blocky well-log pattern, interpreted from the log
shape as a braided stream, lies in sharp contact with
shelf mudstones. This abnormal
abnormal vertical association of
depositional
depositional environments is called a basinward shift
in facies; it forms
fall in sea
forms in response to a relative fall
level. A basinward shift
shift in facies
facies occurs when shallowmarine to nonmarine strata, deposited above a
sequence boundary, lie directly on much deeper
strata, such as middle- to outer-shelf mudstones and
thin sandstones below the sequence
sequence boundary, with
depono intervening rocks deposited in intermediate depofacies is
sitional environments. The basinward shift in facies
gradational
a result either of erosion of the intervening gradational
facies, or of nondeposition because of the rapid shift of
facies,
environments. Differentiation
Differentiation of basinward shifts
shifts in
environments.
facies from distributary
distributary channels is discussed in the
facies
Characteristics."
section entitled "Sequence Boundary Characteristics:'
single parasequence
parasequence
The well-log response through a single
illustrated in Figure
at the top of the lowstand wedge is illustrated
19.
19.
stratigraphic analyses, such as those docuRegional stratigraphic
suggest that a proportionately
proportionately
mented in this book, suggest
large number of the reservoirs
reservoirsin siliciclastic
siliciclasticsequences
sequences
large
systems tract.
occur within the lowstand systems
Systems Tract
Transgressive Systems
transgressive systems
systems tract is bounded below by
The transgressive
transgressive surface
surface and above
above by the downlap
the transgressive
surface or maximum-flooding
maximum-flooding surface.
surface. Parasequences
Parasequences
surface
backstep in a
transgressive systems
systems tract backstep
within the transgressive
retrogradational parasequence
parasequence set.
set. The systems
systems tract
retrogradational
deepens upward as
as successively
successively younyounprogressively deepens
parasequences step
step farther
farther landward. The
The downdownger parasequences
surface, coincident
coincident with the upper boundary of the
lap surface,
parasequence in the transgressive
transgressive systems
systems
youngest parasequence
is the surface
surface onto which
which the clinoform
clinoform toes
toes of
tract, is
overlying highstand systems
systems tract may merge and
the overlying
thin. It is
is during the time
time of the transgrestransgresbecome very thin.
sive to
to early highstand systems
systems tracts
tracts that this
this conconsive
section is
is deposited.
deposited.
densed section
The condensed section
section (Loutit
(Loutit et aI.,
al., 1988)
1988) is
is a facies
facies
The
consisting of thin hemipelagic
hemipelagic or
or pelagic
pelagic sediments
sediments
consisting

Stratal
Stratal patterns
patterns in
in type-2
type-2 sequences
sequences

deposited as
as the
the parasequences
parasequences step
step landward
landward and
and as
as
deposited
the shelf
shelf isis starved
starved of
of terrigenous
terrigenous sediment.
sediment.The
The greatgreatthe
est diversity
diversity and
and abundance
abundance of
of fauna
fauna within
within the
the
est
sequence are
are found
found in
in this
this terrigenous-starved
terrigenous-starved interintersequence
val. Deposition
Deposition within
within the
the condensed
condensed section
section isis conconval.
tinuous although
although the
the section
section commonly
commonly is
is thin,
thin,
tinuous
accumulates at
at very
very slow
slow rates,
rates, and
and encompasses
encompasses aa
accumulates
great deal
deal of
of time.
time.
great
Condensedsections
sectionsare
aremost
most extensive
extensive at
at the
the time
time of
of
Condensed
maximum regional
regional transgression
transgression of
of the
the shoreline
shoreline
maximum
(Loutitet
etaI.,
al., 1988).
1988).These
These characteristics
characteristicsof
of condensed
condensed
(Loutit
sections have
have two
two important
important implications
implications for
for stratistratisections
graphic analysis.
analysis. First,
First, ifif the
the sampling
sampling of
of outcrop,
outcrop,
graphic
core, or
or cuttings
cuttings for
for biostratigraphic-age
biostratigraphic-age determinadeterminacore,
tion isis not
not selective,
selective, the
the condensed
condensed section
section can
can be
be
tion
missed. If
If the
the condensed
condensed section
section is
is missed,
missed, there
there may
missed.
be an
an apparent
apparent major
major time
time gap
gap in
in the
the biostratigraphic
be
prompting paleontologists to
to infer
infer aa major
major
record, prompting
unconformity where
where deposition
deposition really
really was
was continucontinuunconformity
ous. Second,
Second, the
the condensed
condensed section
section commonly
commonly conconous.
tains more
more abundant,
abundant, diverse,
diverse, deep-water
deep-water fauna
fauna than
than
tains
do rocks
rocks above
above or
or below.
below. Few
Few or
or no
no fauna
fauna are
are recovrecovdo
ered from
from the
the largely
largely fluvial,
fluvial, estuarine,
estuarine, or
or shallowshallowered
sandstones of the
the transgressive
transgressive or
or lowstand
marine sandstones
systems tracts.
tracts. If
If fauna
fauna from
from successive
successive condensed
condensed
systems
sections are
are sampled
sampled through
through several
several sequences
sequences in
in aa
sections
well, and
and no
no attention
attention is
is paid to
to interpretations
interpretations of
of
well,
depositional environments
environments from
from well-log
well-log or
or seismic
seismic
depositional
data in
in the
the same
same interval,
interval, aa continuous,
continuous, deep-water
deep-water
data
environment may
may be
be interpreted
interpreted for
for the
the sampled
sampled
environment
interval. This
This interpretation
interpretation misses
misses the
the important
important
interval.
sequence boundaries along
along which fluvial
fluvial or
or shallowshallowsequence
marine, reservoir-quality sandstones
sandstones might have
have been
marine,
introduced farther
farther into
into the
the basin.
basin. Furthermore,
Furthermore, the
the
introduced
sandstones might be
be interpreted
interpreted erroneously
erroneously as
as havhavsandstones
ing been deposited
deposited in
in deep
deep water.
water.
ing
Highstand Systems
SystemsTract
Tract
Highstand

The highstand systems


systems tract
tract is
is bounded below by
The
the downlap
downlap surface
surface and
and above
above by the
the next sequence
sequence
the
boundary. The
The early
early highstand commonly consists
consists of
boundary.
an aggradational parasequence set;
set; the
the late
late highstand
an
is composed
composed of one
one or more progradational paraseparaseis
quence sets.
sets. The
The ideal highstand is
is illustrated in FigFigquence
19. In many siliciclastic
siliciclastic sequences
sequences the
the highstand
ure 19.
systems tract is
is significantly
significantly truncated by the
the overlyoverlysystems
ing
ing sequence
sequence boundary and,
and, ifif preserved, isis thin and
and
shale prone.
prone.
shale

Ramp Margin
Margin
Ramp
to Figure
Figure 19,
19, the
the type-1
type-1 sequence
sequence in FigFigIn contrast to
20A was deposited in a basin with a ramp
ramp margin.
margin.
ure 20A
on a ramp
ramp margin is
is characterized by
Deposition on

27
27

(3)
(3) no
no abrupt
abrupt breaks
breaks in
in gradient
gradient separating
separating relarelatively
tively low
low dips
dips from
from much
much steeper
steeper dips;
dips;
(4)
(4) no
no abrupt
abrupt changes
changes in
in water
water depth
depth from
from shalshallow
low water
water to
to much
much deeper
deeper water;
water;
(5)
(5) incision
incision to,
to, but
but not
not below,
below, the
the lowstand
lowstand shoreshoreline
line in
in response
response to
to aa relative
relative fall
fall in
in sea
sea level;
level;
and
and
(6)
(6) deposition
deposition of
of lowstand
lowstand deltas
deltasand
and other
other shoreshoreline
line sandstones
sandstonesin
inresponse
response to
to the
the sea-level
sea-levelfall
fall
(basin-floor
(basin-floor submarine
submarine fans
fans and
and slope
slope fans
fans
unlikely
unlikely to
to be
be deposited
deposited on
on the
the ramp
ramp margin).
margin).

Cretaceous strata
stratain
in the
theinterior
interior foreland
forelandbasin
basin of
of the
the
Cretaceous
western
western United
United States
States and
and Canada
Canada contain
contain examples
examples
of this
this type
type of
of sequence.
sequence. Asquith
Asquith (1970)
(1970)showed
showed wellwellof
defined examples
examples of
of sigmoidal
sigmoidal to
to shingled
shingled clinoforms
clinoforms
defined
with present dips
dips of
of 0.5
0.5 or
or less
less in
in the
the Washakie,
Washakie, Big
Big
and Powder River
River basins
basins in
in Wyoming.
Wyoming.
Horn, and
the transgressive and
and highstand
highstand systems
systems
Although the
tracts
tracts in
in Figure
Figure 19
19and
and Figure
Figure 20A
20A are
are similar,
similar, the
the lowlowstand
stand systems
systems tracts
tracts in
in these
these two
two figures
figures differ.
differ. Thick,
Thick,
shale-prone
shale-prone lowstand
lowstand wedges,
wedges, slope
slope fans,
fans, and
and basinbasinfloor
floor fans
fans are
are unlikely
unlikely to
to form
form in
in the
the lowstand
lowstand systems
systems
tract because the
the depositional
depositional dips
dips on
on ramps
ramps are
are relarelalowstand systems
systems
tivelylow
lowand
and uniform.
uniform. Instead,
Instead, the
thelowstand
tively
tract in
in aa ramp
ramp margin
margin typically
typically consists
consists of
of narrow to
to
broad incised
incised valleys, usually filled
filled with
with tidetidedominated deltaic
deltaic deposits
deposits and
and age-equivalent,
age-equivalent, updip
updip
dominated
strata. Low-angle
Low-angle clinoforms,
clinoforms, such
such as
as those
those
fluvial strata.
fluvial
documented
documented by Asquith (1970),
(1970), commonly
commonly are
are found
found
highon ramp
ramp margins
margins within the
the transgressive or
or highon
stand
stand systems
systems tracts.
tracts. Delta-front
Delta-front turbidites, such
such as
as
those
those documented
documented from
from the
the Panther Tongue
Tongue delta
delta
(Figure 1),
I), are
are common
common in
in this
this type
type of
of basin and
and may
may
(Figure
be mistaken
mistaken for
for submarine
submarine fans.
fans.
be
Two
Two end-members
end-members of type-1
type-1 sequence
sequence deposition
deposition
are
are represented
represented by Figures
Figures 19
19and
and 20A.
20A. In the
the first
first end
member (Figure
(Figure 19),
19),the
the relative
relative fall
fall in sea
sea level
level is
is sufsufshoreline beyond the
the
ficient to
to move the
the lowstand shoreline
ficient
depositional-shoreline
depositional-shorelinebreak to
to the
the shelf break, resulting
ing in probable
probable canyon and
and submarine-fan
submarine-fan formation.
formation.
In
In the
the second
second end member (Figure
(Figure 20A),
ZOA), either
either the
the relrelative
ative fall
fall in sea
sea level
level moves the
the lowstand shoreline
shoreline
the depositional-shoreline break but not to
to the
the
beyond the
shelf
shelf break, or
or no
no shelf
shelf break exists
exists in
in the
the basin
because the
the margin
margin isis aa ramp,
ramp, resulting
resulting in
in aa lowstand
lowstand
because
systems tract consisting of a relatively
relatively thin wedge with
systems
no canyon or submarine-fan
submarine-fan formation.
formation.
no

Stratal Patterns
Patterns in
in Type-2
Type-2 Sequences
Sequences
Stratal

The
The distributions
distributions of parasequence sets
sets and
and systems
systems
20B.
tracts in
in a type-2
type-2 sequence
sequence are
are illustrated in
in Figure
Figure 20B.
tracts
1",with The
(1) uniform, low-angle dips
dips of less
less than 1,
(1)
The lowest system tract in the
the type-2
type-2 sequence
sequence is
is the
the
0.50;O;
dips less
less than 0.5
most dips
shelf-margin systems
systems tract
tract (Posamentier
(Posamentier et al.,
al., 1988).
1988).
(2) shingled to
to sigmoidal
sigmoidal clinoforms
clinoforms (Mitchum
(Mitchum et It
(2)
It can
can be deposited anywhere on
on the
the shelf and
and consists
consists
al., 1977);
1977);
aI.,
one or more
more weakly
weakly progradational to
to aggradational
of one

30
30

characteristics
Sequence boundary characteristics

parasequence sets
sets composed of shallow-marine paraparasequence
sequences
with
updip coastal-plain
coastal-plain deposits.
deposits. The
The base
sequences
of the shelf-margin systems
systems tract is
is the type-2
type-2
sequence
boundary,
and
the
top
is
the
first
significant
sequence boundary, and the
is the first significant
flooding surface on the
the shelf.
shelf. The
The transgressive
transgressive and
and
flooding
highstand systems tracts
tracts in type-2
type-2 and type-1
type-1
sequences are
are similar.
similar.
sequences
Type-2
sequences
(Figure 20B)
20B) and type-1
type-1 sequences
sequences
Type-2 sequences (Figure
deposited on a ramp (Figure
(Figure 20A)
20A) superficially
superficially resemresemfans and canyons,
canyons, and both of
ble each other; both lack fans
their initial
initial systems
systems tracts (shelf-margin
(shelf-margin systems
systems tract
type-2 sequence
sequence and lowstand systems tract in
in the type-2
the type-1
type-1 sequence)
sequence) are
are deposited on the shelf.
shelf. HowHowever, unlike the type-1
type-l sequences deposited on ramps,
ever,
is no relative fall
fall in sea level
level at the depositionaldepositionalthere is
for the type-2
type-2 sequence. ConseConseshoreline break for
quently, type-2 sequences do not have incised valleys
valleys
quently,
significant erosional truncation that
and they lack the significant
results from stream rejuvenation and a basinward
facies.
shift in facies.

Sequence Boundary
Boundary Characteristics
Characteristics
Sequence
A sequence boundary is an unconformity and its
correlative conformity;
conformity; it is a laterally continuous,
correlative
widespread surface covering at least an entire basin
and seems to occur synchronously in many basins
(Vailet al., 1977;
1977; Vail and Todd, 1981;
1981;
around the world (Vail
1984; Haq et aI.,
al., 1988).
1988). A sequence boundVail et al., 1984;
ary separates all of the strata below the boundary from
1977)
all of the strata above the boundary (Mitchum, 1977)
significance. Correlation
and has chronostratigraphic significance.
of sequence boundaries on well-log cross sections provides a high-resolution chronostratigraphic
chronostratigraphic framework for facies
facies analysis. If
If sufficient well control is
available, not only does this framework equal or suravailable,
pass other tools in chronostratigraphic resolution, but,
if necessary, the framework can be developed from the
well-log data base. The following discussion of
sequence boundaries is divided into three parts: recognition criteria, incised-valley attributes and examples, and correlation pitfalls.

Recognition Criteria
The criteria that identify the unconformable part of
sequence boundaries in a single well log, core, or outcrop include a basinward shift in facies
facies for a type-1
type-1
sequence boundary and a vertical change in parasequence stacking patterns for a type-1 or a type-2
sequence boundary. As an example of
of the latter criterion, consider the case of
of three parasequence sets
arranged in vertical order from the oldest to the
youngest: retrogradational, progradational (or aggradational),
dational), followed by retrogradational. In this case,
there is commonly a sequence boundary
boundary at the top or
the base of
the
progradational
(or
aggradational) paraof
sequence set.
On a well-log or outcrop cross section the recognition

criteria for
for the unconformable part of aa type-2
type-2
sequence
onlap of overlying
overlying strata,
sequence boundary include
include onlap
aa downward shift in
in coastal
coastal onlap,
onlap, and
and subaerial expoexposure
sure with minor subaerial
subaerial truncation,
truncation, all
all landward
landward of
the
the depositional-shoreline
depositional-shoreline break within the
the updip,
updip,
coastal-plain part of the sequence
sequence where correlation is
is
less
less precise.
precise. For this reason, these criteria
criteria are
are particularly
larly difficult to recognize in well-log or outcrop cross
cross
sections.
sections. Type-2
Type-2 sequence
sequence boundaries are
are most readily
defined by the changes
changes in parasequence stacking patterns described above.
above. Based on this criterion,
criterion, type-2
sequence
sequence boundaries in siliciclastic
siliciclasticstrata appear to be
rare in most basins.
On a well-log or outcrop cross
cross section the recognirecognition criteria
criteria for
for the unconformable part of a type-1
type-1
sequence
sequence boundary include
include the following:
following:
-Subaerial-erosional
*Subaerial-erosional truncation, a laterally correlacorrelative subaerial-exposure surface marked by soil or
root horizons, and laterally correlative-submarine
erosion, especially
especially in the deep-water slope envienvironment must be present.
.Onlap
O n l a p of overlying strata either onto the margins of
incised valleys or coastal onlap must exist.
exist.
-*A
A downward shift in coastal
onlap (Vail
coastalonlap
(Vailet aI.,
al., 1977);
1977);
however, this commonly cannot be demonstrated
on well-log cross sections because much of the
coastal onlap occurs in the updip, fluvial
fluvial part of the
sequence where accurate well-log correlation is difdifficult,
ficult, and therefore, the criterion of a basinward
shift in facies
facies must be used.
-To
*To confirm that erosional truncation and a basinward shift in facies
facies marks a sequence boundary and
not a local-distributary channel, one or more of
these criteria must be demonstrated over a regionarea.
ally significant area.
The unconformable part of a type-1
type-1 sequence
boundary can be traced seaward into a conformable
surface on the shelf or slope, commonly occurring at or
near the base of a marine parasequence. Based on the
criteria listed above, applied to the stratigraphic
type-1
analysis of many basins around the world, type-1
sequence boundaries appear to predominate in siliciclastic strata.
Not all of the recognition criteria presented above
occur everywhere along a particular type-1 sequence
type-1 sequence boundary has
boundary in a basin. A type-1
different physical expressions depending on where it
is observed and on the variations along a basin margin
of sediment supply and sea-level change.
in rates of
of the shelf
shelf break or in
On the slope, seaward of
pronounced
deeper-water environments, the most pronounced
of a type-1 sequence boundary are truncaattributes of
of these recognition
tion and onlap. The distribution of
of submarine
criteria is controlled by the distribution of
canyons, slope failure, contour-current erosion set up
by lowstand conditions, and the deposition of
of the
basin-floor and slope fans.

Sequence boundary characteristics


On the shelf, the most pronounced attributes of a
type-1 sequence boundary are truncation, a basinward
type-l
shift in facies,
facies, and subaerial exposure. The distributype-1 sequence boundaries
tion of these properties of type-l
is controlled primarily by the distribution of incised
valleys and the lithology of the strata that fill these
valleys.
Incised Valleys
Valleys
Incised valleys range in width from less than several
miles to many tens of miles. They range in depth from
feet. Incised valleys
valleys form
tens to several hundreds of feet.
fill in two phases. The first phase consists of eroeroand fill
sion, sediment bypass through the eroded valleys,
valleys,
sion,
and deposition at the lowstand shoreline in response
fall in sea level. The second phase consists
to a relative fall
relaof deposition within the valleys in response to a relasealevel,
tive rise in sea
level, generally during the late lowstand
or transgressive systems tracts.
Because incised valleys form in these two temporally
fill may consist of a wide variety of
distinct phases, the fill
rock types deposited in a variety of environments.
Depositional environments and associated rock types
within the upper reaches of the incised valleys include
fluvial
estuarine and braided-stream sandstones, fluvial
sandstones showing evidence of significant tidal modification, or coastal-plain sandstones, mudstones or
ification,
coals. These deposits, which lie above the sequence
coals.
boundary, commonly rest directly on the middle- to
outer-shelf mudstones and thin sandstones that lie
below the boundary, with intervening rocks either
intermediate-depositional
eroded or not deposited in intermediate-depositional
environments. As discussed above, this abnormal verfacies marks a basinward shift in
tical association of facies
facies. Incised valleys
valleys also can be filled
filled with marine
facies.
if the rate of deposition of coarse-grained
mudstones if
sediment is low relative to the rate of sea-level rise at
the end of the lowstand.
Depositional environments and associated rock
types within the lower reaches of the incised valleys
vary and include lowstand-delta and tidal-flat sandstones and mudstones and beach and estuarine sandCommonly, these shallow-marine
shallow-marine strata, in
stones. Commonly,
the case of beaches or deltas, form one or more prograIf tide-dominated deltas,
dational parasequence sets. If
consisting of tidal bars and tidal shoals within an estuary, form in the lower reaches of an incised valley there
ary,
n o deposition of sand-prone lowstandmay be no
facies across the shelf until the transgressive
shoreline facies
systems tract is deposited. Landward, these tidefacies into coarse-grained
dominated strata change facies
braided-stream deposits.
Adjacent to incised valleys, the erosional surface
passes into a correlative subaerial-exposure
subaerial-exposure surface
marked by soils or rooted horizons. Three examples of
type-1 sequence boundaries,
incised valleys marking type-l
exhibiting the characteristics described above, are dis-

31
31

cussed in the following


following paragraphs.
The first example is a relatively narrow incised valley
in the Muddy Sandstone, illustrated with a well-log
cross section in Figure 21
21 showing the Clareton field
field in
the eastern Powder River basin, Wyoming.
Wyoming. The valley
is approximately 6 mi (9.6
(9.6 km)
km) wide, 40 mi (64
(64 km)
km)
long, and erodes 40 ft (18
(18 m)
m) into the underlying shelf
mudstones of the Skull Creek Shale.
Shale. The valley is
filled
filled with finefine- to medium-grained sandstone and
mudstone interpreted to have been deposited in a flufluvial to estuarine environment. The fluvial
fluvial to estuarine
sandstones lying directly on the shelf mudstones represent a basinward shift in facies
facies and, along with the
truncation, sharply mark the sequence boundary. The
incised-valley fill
fill is encased laterally in the shelf mudstones; delta-front or lower-shoreface sandstones do
not occur below the incised valley or adjacent to it.
it.
Shallow-marine parasequences, in a retrogradational
parasequence set, overlie the fluvial or estuarine
incised-valley fill.
fill. The sequence boundary defined by
the incised-valley erosion can be correlated throughthroughout the Powder River and Denver basins in Wyoming
and Colorado (Weimer,
(Weimer, 1983,
1983, 1984,
1984, 1988).
1988).
The second example illustrates three middle Miocene incised valleys from south-central Louisiana
well-log cross section (Figure
(Figure 22).
22). This
shown on a well-log
cross section is a small part of a regional study of middle Miocene sequence stratigraphy in south LouisiLouisiana. Approximately 700 well logs, six cores, and
numerous biostratigraphic analyses were used to
interpret the stratigraphy.
Depositional environments of the Miocene strata
were interpreted from well-log shapes, core descriptions calibrated to well-log response, map patterns,
and paleowater depth from biostratigraphy. Based on
foraminifer-age
foraminifer-age dates, sequence 2 was placed at the
top of the Cibicides
Cibicides opima biozone, sequence 1 at the
base of the Bigenerina humblei biozone. These zonations suggest that sequence boundary 1l corresponds
to the 13.8-Ma sequence boundary (L.c.
(L.C. Menconi,
Menconi,
personal communication, 1988)
1988)on the Exxon sea-level
sea-level
curve (Haq
(Haq et aI.,
al., 1988)
1988) and that sequence boundaries
2 and 3 are not on the Exxon chart.
chart.
Broad, sheet-like geometries, well-developed truncation, and a basinward shift in facies
facies are associated
with these incised valleys (Figure
(Figure 22).
22). The sandstones
sandstones
within the incised valleys are interpreted as fluvial,
fluvial,
possibly braided stream to estuarine in origin. In core,
the blocky sandstones are medium- to coarse-grained,
have sharp, erosional bases often overlain by the
coarsest grains in the blocky sandstone,
sandstone, are nearly
completely composed of trough-cross
trough-cross beds, and generally are composed of smaller 22- to 10-ft10-ft-(0.6(0.6- to 3 m-)
m-)
thick fining-upward units.
units. Based on biostratigraphic
data,
data, the marine mudstones below the sequence
boundaries were deposited in inner- to middle-neritic
water depths.
depths. Thin sandstones within or at the top of

32

Sequence
Sequence boundary characteristics
characteristics

sequence boundaries are


the mudstones but below the sequence
front or lower shoreface,
shoreface,
interpreted to be distal delta front
based on well-log
well-log shape, thickness, areal distribution,
distribution,
and association
association with open-marine
open-marine mudstones. This
vertical
shallow-marine to nonvertical juxtaposition of very shallow-marine
open-marine rocks marks
marine strata directly above open-marine
facies. These incised valleys
valleys
the basinward shift in facies.
extend many tens of miles updip and cut across
across underdepositional environments,
environments, which range from
from
lying depositional
fluvial to outer shelf.
shelf.
fluvial
resistivity-curve patterns from
from
Correlation of similar resistivity-eurve
well to well in the marine mudstones beneath the
incised valleys provides an accurate and detailed
chronostratigraphic framework, derived indepenindependently from
from biostratigraphic or radiometric control,
control, for
terminations such as truncation.
truncation.
recognition of stratal terminations
example
Where incised valleys are not present, for example
along sequence
sequence boundary 2, the sequence
sequence boundary
along
surface. The
coincides with a marine-flooding surface.
sequence boundary in this interfluvial area may be
sequence
horizons if
if these products of
marked by soil or root horizons
subaerial exposure
exposure have not been removed by the subsubsubaerial
sequent sea-level
sea-level rise.
23 is a paleogeographic map showing the disdisFigure 23
tribution of the incised-valley fill
fill and interfluves
interfluves for
Miocene sequence
sequence boundary 2. The map
the middle Miocene
illustrates the distribution
distribution of sediments
sediments on the deposideposiillustrates
tional surface just before the first major marineflooding event inundated the shelf, terminating
deposition, and creating the transgressive
transgressive
lowstand deposition,
surface. Contours
Contours show the gross incised-valley
incised-valley fill
fill
surface.
thickness; the major incised-valley axes are highlines. The location of the cross
cross seclighted with heavy lines.
tion in Figure 22 is marked on the map. The
incised-valleyfill in the central
central and eastern part of the
incised-valley
(64 km)
km)
map is a broad sheet of sandstone at least 40 mi (64
(40 km)
km) long, and locally, is up to 240 ft (73
(73
wide, 25 mi (40
thick, but averages
averages about 150
150ft (46
(46m)
m) thick,
m) thick over the
area. These dimensions
dimensions of the valley fill are a miniarea.
mum because the southern and eastern limits of the
area. Truncation
Truncation
incised valley are outside the study area.
facies can be observed everyeveryand a basinward shift in facies
where below the incised valley in Figure 23.
This incised-valley sheet sandstone represents
either a single,
single, large incised Miocene river similar in
dimensions
dimensions to the modern Mississippi (Fisk,
(Fisk, 1944)
1944)or a
seanumber of smaller rivers that coalesced during the seafall. In the latter case, tributaries
tributaries forming
forming as sea
level fall.
level fell
fell would erode progressively into interfluvial
areas,
areas, allowing
allowing separated rivers to coalesce into a sinsingle, large alluvial
alluvial valley.
valley. Tributary development
development in
gle,
sea-level fall
fall would have begun first in
response to the sea-level
(Figure
the earliest exposed or most northerly strata (Figure
23),
23), allowing
allowing ample
ample time, in this case, for the separate
valleys to coalesce.
coalesce. In the latest exposed,
exposed, or most
southerly strata, tributaries
tributaries barely would have begun
incising
incising before the sea-level
sea-level fall
fall ended and the valleys

initially flooded.
flooded. This condition
condition may explain
explain why
were initially
the incised valleys
valleys in the central
central and eastern part of the
map have more interfluves
interfluves at their southern or downdip ends. Incised-valley
Incised-valley sheet sandstones, commonly
commonly
bifurcating to the south,
south, are a typical reservoir pattern
Tertiary strata along the Texas
Texas and Louisiana Gulf
in Tertiary
Coast.
Coast.
incised-valleyfill in the western part of the map
The incised-valley
relatively narrow sandstone 11to 5 mi (1.6
(1.6 to 8 km)
km)
is a relatively
(64km)
km) long,
long, and up to 270 ft (82
(82 m)
m)
wide, at least 40 mi (64
dimensions are comcomthick. Except for thickness, these dimensions
dimensions of the Muddy Sandstone
parable to the dimensions
incised valleys in the Powder River basin, Wyoming
(Figure 21).
21). These relatively narrow incised valleys
valleys
(Figure
probably formed
formed when a single
single small- to moderatemoderatesized river entrenched during a sea-level
sea-level fall.
fall.
Not all type-1
type-1 sequence
sequence boundaries marked by erosional truncation associated with incised valleys
facies. The third example
example
exhibit a basinward shift in facies.
of a type-1
type-1 sequence
sequence boundary (Figure
(Figure 24)
24) illustrates
illustrates
truncation along one side of an interpreted incised valley at the 80-Ma
80-Ma sequence
sequence boundary (Haq
(Haq et aI.,
al., 1988)
1988)
on the top of the Gammon Ferruginous
Ferruginous Member of the
Pierre Shale in the Powder River basin, eastern Wyoming. The incised valley is filled with siltstones,
ming.
marine mudstones, and bentonites. In the cross section (Figure
(Figure 24),
24), 300 ft (92
(92 m)
m) of strata within the GamGammon are truncated where the sequence
sequence boundary at
the base of the incised valley cuts down to the southeast. Above the sequence
sequence boundary the Ardmore beneast.
tonite, interbedded marine mudstones, and the
Shale (another
Sharon Springs Member of the Pierre Shale
marine mudstone), onlap to the northwest. The ArdSprings
more bentonite and lower half of the Sharon Springs
obfusus ammonite
ammonite biozone (Gill
Baculites obtusus
are within the Baculifes
and Cobban, 1966).
1966). Shallow-marine
Shallow-marine to fluvial
fluvial sandrecording a basinward shift in facies
facies have not
stones recording
directly above the sequence
sequence boundary.
boundary.
been observed directly
This pattern of truncation below the sequence
sequence boundabove has been
ary and onlap of marine mudstones above
observed regionally within the Powder River basin.
80-Ma sequence
sequence
The regional truncation below the 80-Ma
boundary, interpreted to have been formed by
regional paleovalleys,
25. In conconpaleovalleys, is shown on Figure 25.
trast to Figure 24, Figure 25 shows both sides of the
major incised valley. This map illustrates
illustrates the subcrop
thickness
thickness in the Powder River basin from
from the 80-Ma
80-Ma
sequence boundary to an underlying resistivity
sequence boundary at the
marker coincident with a sequence
base of the Sussex sandstone.
sandstone. Small,
Small, open circles indiindicate the distribution
distribution of well logs used to make the
axes in Figure 25, indiindimap. North-south
North-south erosional axes
cated by heavy lines, are interpreted to be incisedincisedaxes cut during the 80-Ma
80-Ma sea-level
sea-level fall
fall (Haq
(Haq et
valley axes
al., 1988).
1988).These axes suggest a dendritic
dendritic drainage
drainage pataI.,
tern; this regional pattern is unlikely to be produced
margin. A rapid
by submarine erosion on this ramp margin.

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'"
~

1::-+-+- '-'y,---+---------+--+--+-

9-

J;:-

-=S

>:~5;j----lti:;;:'-~=~::--j------t----=>
J'
~~

~P:~=t=======~=t:
'i

--

"

---

ONE MILE

TEN FEET

Figure 21-An incised valley in the Powder River basin. Albian-aged Muddy Sandstone within the incised valley erodes
into the Skull Creek Shale. The sequence boundary at the base of the Muddy Sandstone is marked by regional-subaerial
erosion or exposure, a downward shift in facies, and onlap.

_ -"-J1

o
o
o..

b ....

1~

~
<;.
.~

11:.

';~":'===1

FtuVIAl OR ESTUARINE
INCISED VAlln FILL
SANDSTONES

NONMARINE MUDSTONES

SHAllOW-MARINE SANDSTONES

SHElFAl MUDSTONES
SEQUENCE BOUNDARY
AND TRUNCATION
SEQUENCE BOUNDARY
AND ONlAP

,
I g

--

,,

o
o

" , ,
"-

,----"o

"0"0"

"
o "\

,,

"

ST. JAMES

o
o

,,-_/
I,
,
_Jl. ..

o
o

"" ,

o \

6..0
',>
,,

,
\

ASSUMPTION

I
I
I
I

- -_ _150-....0-o
o
o
o

00

)
o

I
1

5O-~

ST.
MARTIN
0

"
"- -

_Q.. _
0

00 0

100

INCISED
VALLEY
EDGE
--_

o
0

- --

"

(,

CROSS SECTION,
FIGURE 22

~
",

LAFOURCHE

" ... _- ........

TERREBONNE
o

38

. -''
.
,,'"
/

,,
I

o
o

;"'--30

(
I

..

'\

....-

o
o o

"'\,

MAP REPRESENTS DISTRIBUTION OF DEPOSITIONAL


ENVIRONMENTS IMMEDIATELY BELOW THE FLOODING
SURFACE tFS OR FS/SB). THE GROSS THICKNESS OF
THE INCISED-VALLEY Fill IS ALSO SHOWN.

o
o

MILES

"

"

o
o

'-',

ST.
MARY

'-,

-_.~

00

'.. . ......n.--

\
\

~.

o '

, ,,-.... ..... _....


,"

,4'

o
o

00

ST JOHN
THE BAPTIST ,dl

00

6
C,1. = 50 FEET

INCISED VALLEY FILL


SANDSTONES/MUDSTONES
THIN SHELF SANDSTONES
AND MUDSTONES

~:::~~ TRUNCATED BY OVERLYING

WELL DATA USED TO CONSTRUCT MAP

LINE OF CROSS SECTION


ON FIGURE 22
_ _ _ _ INCISED VALLEY AXES

SEQUENCE BOUNDARY

Figure 2~Paleogeographic map of the middle Miocene-aged sequence 2 from Figure 22 showing the distribution of the lowstand incisedvalley fill below the trangressive surface in south-eentral Louisiana. Contours show the incised-valleyfill thickness; the major incised-valley axes are highlighted with heavy lines. The
incisedvalley fill is sheet-like in the eastern area of the map. This pattern is common in Tertiary incised valleys in the Gulf Coast and probably forms when several
river systems coalesce during sea-level lowstand. The incisedvalley fill is ribbon-like in the western area of the map, probably reflecting incision of a single fluvial
system during sea-level lowstand. This pattern is developed in basins with small or widely spaced fluvial systems. The location of the cross section in Figure 22 is
indicated on the map.

FS
FS/SB

SB

33
33

Sequence boundary characteristics

o0

I
I

"0
o
o
o

00

00

o"0

I
I
,

0
0

,Po 'C.

~o

00

1
I

CROOK

I
I

I
I
I

WESTON

r
,I
,

o
o

I
I
I
I
I
I

o
00 0

00 0

~_.1

- -o - - - - - -o- - - - - - - 0
00

0
00

000%

0
0
0

'b

rP'00

o
-

INCISED VALLEY
AXIS

0'

00

NIOBRARA

00

I
I

CONVERSE

12

MILES

150
150-1

;
I

-N-

C I == 20
2 0 FEET
C.I

A'

100
1008 0 MA SEQUENCE BOUNDARY

>w
~

50

REGIONAL RESISTIVITY

0
-- 50
50-

2CSubcmp map showing the thickness of the erosional remnant between the 80-Ma sequence
sequence boundary and an
Figure 25-Subcrop
underlying regionally correlative
correlative resistivity marker. The resistivity marker is interpreted to have been nearly horizontal
Cross-section A-A'
A-A ' represents the relief of the erosional remnant. The surface
surface represented by
at the time of deposition. Cross-section
this map is interpreted to have been incised during the 80-Ma sea-level lowstand.
lowetand. Axes of interpreted incised valleys
valleys are
coincide with the low areas on the A-A'
A-A ' cross
cross section.
section. Following incision, a rapid relative rise in
shown on the map and coincide
sea level drowned the valleys, which were subsequently filled with onlapping bentonites and prograding, downlapping
marine mudstones.

34

Sequence boundary characteristics

relative rise in sea level following


following lowstand incision the thrust sheets for a short distance into the basin,
90"0 to the north or south to flow
flow parallel
drowned the incised systems and, coupled with a and then turn 90
distances. Durprobable low influx of coarser-grained sediment, pre- to axes of regional subsidence for long distances.
sea-level highstands in the foreland basin
siliciclastic infil!.
infill. ing times of sea-level
vented significant coarse-grained siliciclastic
fluvial systems flow
flow perpendicular to the thrust
Following
Following the sea-level rise, bentonites and marine most fluvial
siliciclastic mudstones and shales, in shelf-perched
shelf-perched sheets because this drainage orientation represents, in
siliciclastic
sea. Shoreline
clinoforms of subsequent transgressive and highstand most cases, the shortest path to the sea.
clinoforms
. parasequences prograde to the east and have northnorthtopography.
systems tracts, filled the incised topography.
The 80-Ma sequence boundary has been recognized south-oriented depositional strikes in highstand or
tracts.
as a subaerial-erosion surface in other places in the transgressive systems tracts.
western United States.
These three examples (Figures
States. In western Nebraska, DeGraw
(Figures 21
21 through 25)
25) of
(1975) mapped extensive truncation at the top of the incised valleys on well-log
well-log cross sections and maps
(1975)
Niobrara just below the Ardmore bentonite. A map of show that the physical expression of type-1
type-1 sequence
siliciclastic strata on a shelf or ramp can
the incision on the top of the Niobrara shows a com- boundaries in siliciclastic
vary depending on incised-valley size, distribution,
northplex fluvial-drainage system characterized by a northfill. These aspects of incised valleys are, in turn,
south-trending trellis-drainage pattern (DeGraw, and fill.
1975).
1975).Basal Pierre siltstones and mudstones filling
filling the controlled by the dimensions, rate of sediment supply,
incised topography are interpreted to be nonmarine . and distribution of the rivers existing in the basin at
type-l
fall. The variations in type-1
(DeGraw,
(DeGraw, 1975).
1975). Another south- to southeast- . the time of the sea-level fall.
trending paleodrainage system at the top of the Nio- sequence boundary expressions and the relationships
brara has been observed in central and eastern North of these variations to incised valleys and their precurfluvial systems are shown in Figure 26. In this figfig1984). This sor fluvial
and South Dakota (Shurr and Reiskind, 1984).
Baculites ure, three different incised-valley types are
unconformity also occurs at the base of the Baculites
illustrated-a relatively narrow, sandstone-filled valobtusus ammonite zone (Shurr
(Shurr and Reiskind, 1984),
1984), illustrated-a
ley
like Figure 21; a relatively wide, sandstone-filled
establishing it as the 80-Ma sequence boundary.
boundary.
valley
like Figure 22; and a shale-filled valley like figFigInterpretation of a widespread sequence boundary
24-each incising across subaerially exposed ramp
at the top of the Niobrara or the base of the Pierre has ure 24-each
implications for the sedimentary history of the Creta- or shelf strata deposited landward of the shelf break.
Each valley represents a different original fluvial
States. Figure 24
fluvial
ceous seaway in the western United States.
sequencecoincides closely with a portion of the cross section type and each is associated with a different sequence(1970, boundary expression.
expression. For example, a type-l
type-1 sequence
through eastern Wyoming presented in Asquith (1970,
12). Asquith interpreted the surface at the boundary in a basin or portion of a basin with widely
his figure 12).
top of the Gammon Ferruginous and unnamed mem- spaced rivers of moderate discharge and a moderate
bers of the Pierre Shale as a depositional surface defin- rate of relative sea-level rise will be marked by local
facies below relaslope, and basin-floor truncation and a basinward shift in facies
ing a shelf, shelf-break, slope,
topography. Most of the clinoforms on Asquith's cross tively narrow, sandstone-filled incised valleys. Soil or
section have very low present dips, ranging from 18
18 ' root horizons in interfluvial areas, if not removed by
sea-level rise, will be widespread. The
to 43 '.'. These low-angle clinoforms or offlaps, coupled the subsequent sea-level
with the interpretation that the most steeply dipping sequence boundary might only be recognized in a well
12 is erosional, not deposideposi- log, core, or outcrop if they intersected the incisedsurface on Asquith's figure 12
tional, suggests that this is a ramp margin (see discus- valley fill. The position of the sequence boundary in
sion of ramp margin stratal geometries in the section the other well logs in the data base would have to be
on "Stratal Patterns in Type-l
Type-1 Sequences"). Further- established by correlation from the wells that penemore, if
if the Cretaceous seaway from the eastern Pow- trated the valleys.
type-1 sequence boundary in a basin or portion of
A type-l
der River basin to eastern South Dakota were
subaerially exposed, it is probable that the sea a basin with numerous, closely spaced rivers or one
retreated from a large part of the North American cra- large river with significant discharge and a low to
moderate rate of relative sea-level rise will be marked
ton at or about 80 Ma.
fluvial- or
Finally, the paleodrainage patterns in this example by regional truncation beneath an extensive fluvialare to the south, not to the east away from the high- estuarine-sheet sandstone and a widely distributed
facies. Because of extensive regional
lands, as is considered normal in this foreland basin basinward shift in facies.
(Mallory, 1972).
1972). A fall in sea level in foreland basins, truncation, interfluve areas will only be locally pre(Mallory,
such as the Cretaceous basin of western North Amer- served and soil horizons, commonly developed on
fluvial axes with interfluves will be rare. The sequence boundary will be
ica, may result in realignment of fluvial
major, basinwide tectonic elements such as loci of recognized in most of the well logs, cores, and outmajor,
sheets. If so, crops in the data base.
regional subsidence parallel to thrust sheets.
A type-l
type-1 sequence boundary in a basin or a portion
lowstand-fluvial systems may flow perpendicular to

Sequence
Sequence boundary characteristics
characteristics
of a basin with rivers carrying little or no bed load and
moderate to rapid rate of relative sea-level
sea-levelrise will be
a moderate
marked by truncation and widespread soil or root
horizons or equivalent evidence
evidence of subaerial
subaerialexposure,
exposure,
if preserved, but not by a basinward shift in facies.
facies. The
sequence boundary would not be recognized in an
sequence
individual
individual well log and probably not recognized in
cores. However,
However, correlation demonstrating truncation
cores.
resistivity markers on well-log
well-logcross
cross sections or seisseisof resistivity
mic lines would readily reveal the incised valley and
sequence
sequence boundary.
boundary.
Finally,
Finally, a type-1
type-1 sequence
sequence boundary in a basin or a
portion of a basin with no rivers will be marked only by
if this evievisubaerial exposure,
exposure, if
widespread evidence of subaerial
sea-level rise.
rise.
dence is not removed by the subsequent sea-level
transgressivelag of calcareous
calcareous nodules lying on
A thin transgressive
the flooded sequence
sequence boundary is commonly the only
indication that a soil horizon existed on the sequence
sequence
boundary before the sea-level
sea-level rise.
rise. This lag is disdis"Parasequence
cussed in more detail in the section "Parasequence
Characteristics" and more briefly discussed
discussed
Boundary Characteristics"
at the end of this section.
section. Significant
Significant erosion and a
basinward shift in facies
facies will not be associated with the
sequence
sequence boundary in this case.
case. The sequence
sequence boundary will probably not be recognized in a well log in the
absence of core, and might be only recognized in the
well if it were correlated from
from another area where it
expressed.
was more clearly expressed.
type-1
In Figure 26, different expressions of the type-1
sequence
sequence boundary on the shelf or ramp are labelled
SB1
SB1 where they are beneath sandstone-filled
sandstone-filled incised
valleys; SB2
SB2 where they are beneath shale-filled
incised valleys; and SB3
SB3 to show where the sequence
sequence
boundary is conformable
conformable on the shelf or ramp seaward
of the lowstand shoreline.
shoreline. Marine-flooding
Marine-flooding surfaces
surfaces
marking parasequence
parasequence boundaries are labelled FS,
and subaerially exposed interfluves marking the
sequence boundary away from
from the incised valleys
coincident with the flooding surface are labelled
FSISB. Depositional environments,
environments, stratal terminaterminaFS/SB.
tions, and other diagnostic criteria associated with
type-1 sequence
sequence boundaries in siliciclastic
siliciclastic strata on a
type-1
26.
shelf or ramp are summarized in the table in Figure 26.
In addition to the criteria listed in the table in Figure
26, sequence
sequence boundaries can be marked by various
types of lag deposits.
deposits. These lags include:
include:
(1)
(1) transgressive
transgressive lags of calcarous
calcarous nodules deposdepossurfaces that are coincoinited on marine-flooding surfaces
cident with sequence
sequence boundaries (FS/SB)
(FSISB)or on
sequence boundaries within incised valleys.
valleys.
sequence
The calcareous
calcareous nodules are derived by shoreshoreface erosion from
from soil horizons
horizons formed during
face
the subaerial
subaerial exposure
exposure of the sequence
sequence boundary.
ary.
(2)
(2) organic or inorganic carbonates
carbonates deposited on
marine-flooding surfaces
surfaces that are coincident
with sequence
sequence boundaries.

35

(3) basal-channel lags deposited on sequence


(3)
valleys.
boundaries within incised valleys.
The first two types of lags are discussed
discussed in the secsection "Parasequence Boundary:'
Boundary." The third type of lag
forms
forms during sea-level
sea-levelfall
fall as the shelf is eroded by flufluchannels forming
forming the incised valleys.
valleys. During inciincivial channels
sion, finer-grained shelf sediments are flushed
system. Coarser-grained
Coarser-grained particles
through the valley system.
eroded from the shelf strata are concentrated
concentrated as a basal
sequence
lag as much as several feet thick on the sequence
boundary in the valley.
valley. The lag derived from the shelf
commonly consists of a wide variety of grain
strata commonly
types including intertidal and open-marine
open-marine shells,
shark teeth, glauconite,
glauconite, phosphorite pebbles, shale
rip-up clasts, and bones. The lag commonly shows
evidence of subaerial
subaerial exposure.
exposure.
Basal-channel lags also may be derived from more
proximal sources.
sources. These lags commonly consist of
coarse grains
grains of chert and quartz, well-rounded
well-rounded quartz
coarse
and quartzite
quartzite pebbles, and sandstone and shale
shale rip-up
clasts.
clasts. It is common to find quartz and quartzite
quartzite pebbles ranging in thickness from
from thin beds, only one pebble thick,
thick, to beds 11 or 2 ft (0.3
(0.3 or 0.6 m)
m) thick.
thick. Thin
pebble beds may be deposited in the axes of incised
valleys or at the edges of incised valleys,
valleys, almost on valvalleys
interfluves. Commonly,
Commonly, basal-channel
basal-channel lags within
ley interfluves.
axes consist of a mixture of particles derived
valley axes
from the incised shelf and more proximal sources.
sources. If
the incised valley erodes into inner-shelf parasequences and the valley is filled with marine mudquences
fine-grained estuarine or lower-shoreface
lower-shoreface
stones, or fine-grained
strata, the basal-channel lag could be interpreted as
transgressive lag with no apparent evidence of a relarelatransgressive
fall in sea level.
level. If
If the incised valley erodes into
tive fall
submiddle- or outer-shelf mudstones and the valley subfiled with cross-bedded estuarine sandsandsequently is filled
stones, the basal-channel lag could be interpreted as a
transgressive
transgressive lag overlain by a shelf-ridge
shelf-ridge sandstone.
sandstone.
In Figure 26, the sequence boundary between
incised valleys (labelled
(labelled FS/SB)
FSISB) is a soil or root horizon
shallow-marine parasequence.
parasequence. This paraselying on a shallow-marine
quence may be deposited during either the highstand
quence
systems tract of the previous sequence
sequence or the early part
systems
of the lowstand systems
systems tract to which the incised valleys belong in Figure 26. The latter case probably
occurs
occurs frequently
frequently in the rock record, forming
forming in the folfollowing way.
way. In the early stages of the relative fall
fall in sea
lowing
level,
level, fluvial systems
systems incise
incise and move progressively
seaward across
across the shelf as the shelf is exposed.
exposed. SediSedifrom the underlying highstand strata by
ment eroded from
valleys is deposited seaward of and adjaadjathe incised valleys
cent to the valley mouths, forming
forming thin delta and
beach parasequences.
parasequences. As the sea-level fall
fall continues
and incised valleys
valleys erode farther across
across the shelf,
shelf, (1)
(1)
new beach and delta parasequences
parasequences are deposited farfarther out on the shelf at the mouths of incised valleys,
(2) previously deposited parasequences are eroded in
(2)

36

boundary characteristics
Sequence boundary

of incised valleys or are partially to totally pre- salt is not subdued, the paleovalleys have little or no
front of
"stranded" on the shelf
shelf at the edges of, or truncation at their bases. When little or no truncation
served and "stranded"
(3) the
the""stranded"
stranded" exists, the sequence boundary is still marked by a
adjacent to, the incised valleys, and (3)
of the paleovalley
parasequences are overridden by the subaerial- basinward shift in facies at the base of
properly be described
fill, but the paleovalley cannot properly
of the sequence boundary.
exposure surface of
"stranded" lowstand parasequences repre- as incised.
incised.
These "stranded"
sent early lowstand systems tract deposition on the
shelf or ramp. In basins with a shelf break, these para- Correlation Pitfalls
To interpret type-1 sequence boundaries correctly in
sequences could predate submarine-fan deposition
shelf edge. well logs, cores, or outcrops, it is critical to distinguish
before the sea-level fall reaches the shelf
of the sea- between incised valleys and local channels, such as
Although they form during the early part of
fall, they are overlain by a regionally extensive distributary channels, in constructing an accurate
level fall,
unconformity marked by subaerial exposure and trun- chronostratigraphic framework. In the examples preSB1, SB2,
SB2, SB3, and sented in Figures 21 through 25,
25, we interpreted the
cation labelled on Figure 26 as SB1,
FS/SB. Although it does not record the time of
of the ini- vertical association of
of facies
facies on the cross sections as
FSISB.
tial sea-level fall over its entire extent, this unconform- incised valleys and not distributary channels or other
(1) it separates all local channels because the valleys are too wide to be
ity is the sequence boundary because (1)
(2) although distributary channels, the strata at the edges of the
of the rocks below from the rocks above; (2)
all points on the surface do not represent the same incised valleys are distal-marine sandstones and shelf
duration of time, one instant of time is common to all mudstones, not delta-front or stream-mouth bar
points when the sea-level fall ends and the uncon- deposits, and valley fills occur along certain surfaces,
formed; (3)
(3) it is readily identified i.e., sequence boundaries, that are widespread in the
formity is completely formed;
(4) it is the surface that controls basin and not confined to one deltaic lobe. Criteria for
over most of its extent; (4)
the distribution of overlying strata in the lowstand sys- the differentiation of incised valleys from distributary
leg and on a well-log cross
(5) it forms relatively channels in a single well
welllcg
tems tract on the shelf; and (5)
section or in an outcrop are explained more fully in the
quickly, probably in less than 10,000
10,000 years.
following paragraphs.
The"
stranded" lowstand parasequences below the following
The "stranded"
difficult in a
Incised-valley interpretation is more difficult
sequence boundary commonly have the following
stratal characteristics:
distribusingle well log than on a cross section because distribucharacteristics:
deltaic
(1)
(1) they typically are deltaic or beach parase- tary channels, eroding deeply into underlying deltaic
quences, but commonly consist of sharp- deposits, can juxtapose
juxtapose relatively coarse-grained
mimickstrata directly on prodelta mudstones thereby mimick. based, lower-shoreface sandstones;
facies. However, where a dis(2)
(2)' they have no significant updip coastal-plain ing a basinward shift in facies.
equivalents,
equivalents, and there is no sediment accomaccom- tributary channel of a given delta lobe cuts into but not
modation updip because of the sea-level
through the prodelta mudstones of the same lobe, the
sea-level fall;
fall;
(3)
fill cannot be
(3) they rest, commonly abruptly, on open- thickness of the distributary-channel fill
marine strata, although their bases cannot be much greater than the paleowater depth of the eroded
interpreted as a basinward shift in facies;
mudstones. For example, if prodelta mudstones were
facies;
fill of the distrib100ft (30
(30m) of water, the fill
deposited
in 100
(4)
they
rest
on
a
conformable
surface,
and
each
(4)
100ft
parasequence gradually shoals upward;
utary channel eroding into them must be nearly 100
(5)
m) thick. This
This is not necessarily the case with
(30 m)
( 5 ) they are overlain by the unconformable part of (30
the sequence boundary marked either by incised valleys. Because incised valleys erode in
minor truncation or subaerial exposure; and
fall in sea level,
level, the paleowater
response to a relative fall
sequence
(6)
(6) they generally are thin because of reduced depth of the eroded mudstones beneath the sequence
thickaccommodation on the shelf;
shelf; their thicknesses boundary is commonly much greater than the thickfill. For example, shelf mudstones
typically do not exceed tens of feet;
feet; and they ness of the valley fill.
(92 m)
m) of water can be truncated by
also
also may vary in thickness due to a varying deposited in 300 ft (92
amount of truncation below the overlying an incised valley only 30
30 ftft (9
(9 m)
m) thick or less. As
as this relationship is, it is
is not always possisequence
important as
sequence boundary.
boundary.
accurately the paleowater depth of
Paleovalley
Paleovalley distribution on the shelf is
is often concon- ble to determine accurately
log. Cores,
Cores, cuttings,
cuttings, or an
trolled by tectonic
tectonic features
features such as
as basement-involved the strata imaged on a well log.
faults,
available, may provide enough data to
faults, thrusts, and growth faults.
faults. Structural
Structural lows outcrop, if available,
caused by salt withdrawal also
depth.
also control valley
valley distribu- interpret the paleowater depth.
tion.
Another important distinction between distributary
tion. In many cases,
cases, the paleovalleys
paleovalleys deposited in low
valleys that may be recognized in
areas
areas controlled by tectonics
tectonics or salt are
are incised and can channels and incised valleys
core or outcrop is
is that the sequence
sequence boundary at the
properly be called incised valleys.
valleys. In other cases,
cases, espeespe- a core
cially
shows evidence of
cially when the topography created by the tectonics
tectonics or base of an incised valley commonly shows

Sequences
Sequences in outcrop and subsurface
a hiatus between the times of erosion and deposition.
Root zones, soils,
soils, or burrowed horizons can form on
the valley floor during sea-level lowstand but before
the valley is flooded and filled
filled with sediment (Weimer,
(Weimer,
1983).
1983). A distributary channel is always full
full of fresh
water,
water, or if
if discharge is low, salt water. It is unlikely
that evidence of significant subaerial exposure will
floor.
occur on a distributary-channel floor.
On a well-log cross section or in a relatively continuous outcrop, differentiation between incised valleys
and distributary channels depends on an analysis of
channel width and lateral-facies
lateral-facies relationships. Distributary channels are relatively narrow. The distributary
channels of the modern Mississippi River range from
(153 to 1673
1673 m) wide.
wide. Incised valleys are
500 to 5500 ft (153
(Figures 2l
21,22,
23)
22, and 23)
commonly several miles wide (Figures
to many tens of miles wide (Figure 23).
23). These widths
can be identified on cross sections or in outcrops, and
regionally. Furtherif possible, should be mapped regionally.
more, widespread incised-valley erosion occurs along
a single stratigraphic surface. Deltaic distributary
channels usually stack to form multiple horizons.
facies encasing the channel
It is critical to analyze the facies
in order to distinguish between distributary channels
and incised valleys. Distributary channels are encased
(Figure
in delta-plain or stream-mouth bar deposits (Figure
27). Even when the distributary channel of a given
27).
lobe erodes through the prodelta of that lobe into an
underlying parasequence, most of the distributarydistributaryfill is laterally encased in stream-mouth bar
channel fill
deposits. Distributary channels can only step seaward
if they have a subaqueous,
subaqueous, shallow-water delta platmigrate. By their nature,
form across which they can migrate.
distributary channels cannot be encased regionally in
deeper-water deposits. For much of their length,
incised valleys commonly are encased in middle- to
incise during a
outer-neritic mudstones because they incise
fall in sea level.
relative fall

Sequences in Outcrop and Subsurface


Sequences
type-1 sequences and sequence boundExamples of type-1
aries, component parasequence sets, systems tracts,
facies associations in outcrops and well-log cross
and facies
33. Each
sections are illustrated in Figures 28 through 33.
sequence in these examples is bounded by unconformities or their correlative conformities and contains
lowstand, transgressive, and highstand systems
tracts.
(Campanian)
The first example is from Cretaceous (Campanian)
outcrops of the Grassy and Desert members of the
Blackhawk Formation and the Castlegate, Buck
Tongue, and Sego members of the Price River FormaTongue,
Cliffs between Green River,
tion exposed in the Book Cliffs
(Young, 1955;
1955;
Utah and the Utah-Colorado border (Young,
Graaff, 1964;
1964; Van De Graaff,
Graaff, 1970;
1970;
Hale and Van De Graaff,
1975; and Pfaff, 1985).
1985). Eight sequences
Gill and Hail, 1975;

37

are exposed in the cliffs, as follows:


follows: one sequence in
the upper part of the Grassy and lower Desert members, one sequence within the upper Desert Member,
another one within the Castlegate and Buck Tongue
Tongue
members, two sequences within the lower part of the
Sego Member, and three sequences within the upper
part of the Sego Member.
Member. These sequences were
deposited on a ramp margin.
Figures 28 and 29 show the well-log response
through the stratigraphic interval containing the
sequences, parasequence sets, systems tracts, and
parasequences in the Tenneco Rattlesnake State 2-12
(Figure
(Figure 28)
28) and the Exxon Production Research Co.
(EPR)
(EPR) Sego Canyon no. 2 (Figure
(Figure 29).
29). The systems
tracts are identified in the well logs using
parasequence-stacking patterns and facies
facies interpretations from outcrops and cores.
cores. The Tenneco well is 11
11
mi (18
(18 km)
km) north of the Desert and Castlegate outcrops, nearly on depositional strike with these strata;
the Exxon well is 2 mi (3.2 km) north of the outcrops.
The Sego, Buck Tongue, Castlegate, and Desert members were cored continuously in this well.
A measured section through the Sego, Buck Tongue,
Castlegate, and Desert members at Thompson Canyon is illustrated in Figure 30.
30. The measured section
documents the vertical-facies associations and the
sequence stratigraphy of these units.
A simplified outcrop cross section of the sequences
and systems tracts in the upper part of the Desert
Tongue, and Sego
Member, and the Castlegate, Buck Tongue,
members is illustrated in Figure 31. Photographs of
these strata in the cliff face
face at the Crescent Flat location
on the cross section are also shown. This cross section
is based on 135
135 sections measured between Green
River, Utah, and Hunter Canyon, Colorado, supplesupplemented with numerous outcrop panoramas.
The cross section in Figure 31, oriented westclose to a deposisouthwest to north-northeast, is close
tional dip section with respect to the Castlegate
Member,
Member, but is close
close to a depositional strike section
Sego. This occurs because, in the
with respect to the Sego.
area of the thickest Castlegate exposure, the cliffs
cliffs
east-west between Green
change orientation from east-west
River and Sagers Canyon, to northeast-southwest
northeast-southwest
from just east of Sagers Canyon to the Colorado-Utah
deposiborder, where the Sego is best exposed. The depositional dip for the Castlegate is to the southeast; the
depositional dip for the Sego Member is to the south
southwest.
and southwest.
2-12
A map locating the Tenneco Rattlesnake State 2-12
28), the EPR Co.
Co. Sego Canyon no. 2 (Figure
(Figure
(Figure 28),
(Fig29), the measured section at Thompson Canyon (Figure 30),
30), and the outcrop cross section (Figure
(Figure 31),
31), is
illustrated in Figure 32.
32.
Three backstepping parasequences near the top of
the Grassy Member form the transgressive systems
tract (Figure 28)
28) of sequence 1.
1. The parasequences are

38

Sequences in outcrop and subsurface


Sequences

overlain by the highstand systems tract (Figures


(Figures 28
29), which consists of a progradational paraseand 29),
quence set within the lower part of the Desert Member. Sequence 2 begins with a sequence boundary at
(Figthe base of the upper part of the Desert Member (Fig31), and is marked in outcrop by truncaures 30 and 31),
tion and a basinward shift in facies.
facies. These two
(48 km)
km) down deposiattributes can be traced 30 mi (48
tional dip from Tuscher Canyon to Sagers Canyon
(Figure 31). The sequence boundary is the base of a
regional incised valley; the lowstand systems tract of
sequence 2 within the valley is composed of braidedstream, point-bar, and estuarine sandstones and mudstones arranged in an aggradational parasequence set.
set.
Along the outcrop, especially between Hatch Mesa
and Coal Canyon, the incised valley cuts deeply into
the underlying strata, resulting in juxtaposition of
coal-bearing, coastal-plain rocks above the sequence
boundary directly on dark gra)'J
gray, shelf mudstones.
The transgressive systems tract of sequence 2 (Fig(Figures 30 and 31) is best developed at Crescent Flat East
and eastward to Sagers Canyon, where most of this
facies to shelf sandstones and
systems tract changes facies
mudstones. Over this area, the transgressive systems
tract consists of two lower-shoreface parasequences
within a retrogradational parasequence set lying in
sharp contact with a well-developed coalbed. The
highstand systems tract is developed locally between
Thompson and Sagers canyons (Figure
(Figure 31), where it
consists of beach parasequences stacked in a progradational parasequence set.
set. Much of the transgressive
and highstand systems tracts of sequence 2 is trun3.
cated by the boundary of sequence 3.
Sequence 3 (Figures
(Figures 28 through 31)
31) includes the Castlegate and Buck Tongue members of the Price River
Formation. Sequence-boundary 3 is marked in outfacies and truncation (Fig(Figcrop by a basinward shift in facies
31) that can be traced at least 40 mi (64
(64 km) down
ure 31)
depositional dip from Tuscher Canyon to between
Sagers and Cottonwood canyons (Figure 32).
32).
The lowstand systems tract of sequence 3 is comfluvial sandstones and mudstones, coals, and
posed of fluvial
estuarine sandstones and mudstones within the Casfluvial and estuarine rocks fill
fill
tlegate Sandstone. The fluvial
broad, coalesced, incised valleys that extensively dissect the underlying systems tracts of sequence 2.
Sequence-boundary 3 incises progressively more
31)
(Figure 31)
deeply into the underlying Desert Member (Figure
in a landward and westward direction. Near Woodside Canyon, northwest of the town of Green River
(Figure 32),
32), the Desert Member, including all of
1, is absent because
sequence 2 and most of sequence I,
incised-valley truncation (Young,
(Young, 1955).
1955). Alterof this incised-valley
nately, sequence-boundary 3 incises progressively less
deeply into the underlying Desert Member (Figure
(Figure 31)
in a seaward direction to the east.
east. Between Sagers and
Cottonwood canyons (Figure
(Figure 32), the unconformable

part of the sequence boundary merges with the top of


the youngest lower-shoreface parasequence on the
shelf and becomes a conformable surface (Figure
(Figure 31).
31).
At West Salt Creek Canyon, a ferruginous, phosphatic
oolite at the conformable surface lies on shelf mudstones and distal lower-shoreface hummocky beds,
attesting to the substantial shallowing that must have
occurred along this sequence boundary.
The transgressive systems tract in sequence 3 is comcomposed of two parasequences in a retrogradational
parasequence set and is best expressed in the EPR Co.
Co.
Sego Canyon no. 2 (Figure
(Figure 29).
29). The highest organicrich mudstones, with total organic-carbon values of
10010,
10%, lie on the transgressive surface at the top of the
Castlegate, which is within the lowest part of the
tract.
deepening-upward transgressive systems tract.
(Figure
The highstand systems tract of sequence 3 (Figure
30) is composed of one complete and one incomplete
beach parasequence within a progradational parase(Figures 28 through 30).
30).
quence set (Figures
Sequences 4 through 8 (Figures
(Figures 29 and 30) occur
within the Sego Member of the Price River Formation.
Each sequence boundary is marked by regionalerosional truncation associated with incised valleys
and a basinward shift in facies.
facies. Based on clinoform
directions, orientations of channel-cross sections, and
408 paleocurrent
paleocurrent directions measured on sigmoidaland trough-cross beds, Sego incised valleys are oriented north-south and northeast-southwest with
paleoflow to the south and southwest.
southwest.
Sequence-boundary 8 is a major regional-erosional
surface at the top of the lowstand-estuarine sandstone
in sequence 7.
7. This regional-erosional surface has as
(30 m) of relief locally and is overlain by
much as 100 ft (30
fluvial
fluvial sandstones, mudstones, and coals everywhere
in the area studied.
studied. Some of the thickest coals
coals in western Colorado and eastern Utah are in the lowstand
systems tract of this sequence. In the area studied,
sequence 8 is composed entirely of nonmarine strata.
Sequences 4 through 7 have similar systems tracts,
facies associations, and sequence-boundary expresexpresfacies
sions;
sions; these attributes are summarized in the followfollow(Figure 30).
ing description of sequence 4 (Figure
Sequence-boundary 4 is marked by truncation and a
basinward shift in facies
facies at the base of a regionally
(24 km)
km)
extensive incised valley approximately 15 mi (24
wide; incised valley edges can be seen clearly in outcrop. Shelf mudstones or wave-rippled siltstones and
interbedded mudstones below the sequence boundary are overlain by upper-fine- to medium-grained,
well-sorted sandstones above the sequence boundary.
In places, a channel lag of clay clasts, shell and bone
fragments, and phosphorite pebbles occurs at the base
of the incised-valley sandstones. More commonly a
lag of red clay clasts rests on the sequence boundary.
The sandstones are composed of sigmoidal cross bed(Mutti et a1.,
a]., 1984,
1984,1985)
(1 m) thick, with
sets (Mutti
1985) up to 3 ft (1

BALIZE BAYOU
(ABANDONED)

DISTRIBUTARY CHANNELS

- -'-

SOUTHEAST
PASS

A'

---- - - - - - ?

'r---- -

----- --

--

-'::>
c,_

-'- -------- -- -- --

_- --

---

0
100

0W

200

'"z
~

300

400

ONE MILE

o
o

STREAMMOUTH BAR SANDSTONE


LOWER-TRANSITIONAL ZONE SANDSTONES
AND MUDSTONES
DELTAFRONT SANDSTONES AND MUDSTONES
AND PRODELTA MUDSTONES

LEVEE AND MARSH SANDSTONES AND


MUDSTONES

MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER


Figure 27-Relationship of the distributary channel to the stream-mouth bar and delta front of the Mississippi River.
The distributary channel i. encued in shallow-marine deltaic deposits (after Fisk, 1961).

I
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TENNECO
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TRACT

<n

DISTAL LOWER
SHOREFACE
AND SHELF

f-------TRANSGRESSiVe
SYSTEMS
TRACTm

3700
PARASEQUENCE-SET BOUNDARY

PARASEQUENCE BOUNDARY

Figure 28-Well-logexpression of sequence stratigr~phy in the Tenneco Ra"lesn~ke St~te 2-U, Book Oiffs,

UI~h_

EXXON PRODUCTION RESEARCH CO. SEGO CANYON NO.2


NW Y. SEC.27- T20S-R20E
GRAND CO., UTAH
GR
IAPll

o1

- ...

150 6.0

~::
~~~
<...-

MSFL
(OHMS)

,'-

2000.0

~::]=l==~:..

-.-

COASTAL S lXl
+-'P~LA"""N'____!~V>'--+.'""..,"",..j

0
LOWSTAND
ESTUARINE w"'" SYSTEMS
(,I)
TRACT
.
RANS. 5'.. ~
: =====I=::='SHEL
ESTUARINE 7
10 LOWSTAND

200

fa

==I==I===>:=====t==
300

400

ffi

>

!""""

::-_-+_-+__-1 ~-----tl ~ fa

i
.

(,I)

t-

ESTUARINE

(,I)

SL-7S~~~

L. SF.
L. F.
LOWER

i::-+--l__}-i=

HIGHSTAND
SYSTEMS
TRACT

+S~H:!!O!!!R~EF':!A~C~e

!o!

IE

ESTUARINE d
LOWSTAND
TIDAL
~ '" SYSTEMS
-i_riBili:ARS
TRACT
L
SH
ot TRANS. S. T.

SHELF

i"'t-"OO+-__ 1-,.....--+=:.,--1

"

--I SHOREFACE
LOWeR
DISTAL

'--...... -~<'.....,r-+--

r~;-

.--

TRANS.
SYSTEMS
TRACT

AND

SHELF

~
~~:::!:l==]~~===l~F;L~u~v~'~A~LJ
Iiii'il~~~
r
~ ~ ~ "'i:
c( :E
cow

AND

SYSTEMS
LOWSTAND
re;;;S,.TUARI"N;;;e+_~~T.::RA?C:_T_:_l

,," '-== ;;;;:==t~~=~;:====~~~_~~'.\e:l~'CE

~~I:~:S~:N~'
"--I
S.

SHOREFACE

LOWER
SHOREFACE

.,

~~~~~
SHELF

~
~

8V>

)
,

SEQUENCE
BOUNDARY

1000

PARASQUENCE SET
BOUNDARY

HIGHSTAND
SYSTEMS
TRACT

DISTAL
LOWER
SHOREFACE

AND
SHELF

PARASEQUENCE
BOUNDARY

Figure 29-Well.log ell:pression of sequence stntigrilphy in the Exxon Production ReseaKh Co. Sego
unyon no. 2, Book Cliffs, Utah.

40

Sequences in outcrop and subsurface


subsurface

lamina. Foreset toes are


clay drapes on each foreset lamina.
extremely tangential and interbedded with clay
ripples. ReactiReactidrapes, small clay clasts, and current ripples.
vation surfaces are common within the cross bedsets;
the upper bounding surfaces
surfaces of the cross bedsets typirecogcally are convex upward. Tidal bundles can be recognized locally in the sandstones. Burrowing is minor
within the sandstones, but when present is generally
Thalassinoides.
that of Ophiomorpha or Thalassinoides.
In some places, the sandstones lying on the
sequence boundary have a more gradational
gradational base. In
sequence
these places, the vertical succession begins with the
above described lag, which is overlain
overlain by thin, upperabove
fine-grained, current-rippled sandstones with abunabunfine-grained,
dant interbedded clay drapes and minor zones of
bioturbation. The sandstone
bioturbation.
sandstone beds gradually thicken
upward, and there is a progressive decline
decline in the
small-scale sigmoidal cross
amount of clay drapes; small-scale
beds, up to 6 in.
in. (15
(15em)
cm) thick, and current ripples predominate. The upper part of this prograding unit is
dominate.
large-scale sigmoidal
sigmoidal cross
cross beds
composed of the large-scale
(described above)
above) with minor current-ripple
current-ripple deposideposi(described
tion.
These sandstones, lying on the sequence
sequence boundary,
are interpreted to be tidal bars and shoals
shoals (Mutti
(Mutti et al.,
1985) within a tide-dominated delta prograding into
1985)
flooding of the incised valley.
an estuary created by the flooding
sandstones represent the lowstand
These estuarine sandstones
systems
systems tract of sequence
sequence 4. A sharp,
sharp, planar surface
separates the lowstand sandstones below from
fiom a 2- to
8-ftfine8-ft- (0.6- to 2.4-m-)
2.4-m-) thick interval of very finegrained, hummocky-bedded sandstones above.
above. The
hummocky-bedded sandstones are overlain either by
hummocky-bedded
a parasequence or a sequence boundary.
boundary. In the case of
the parasequence boundary,
boundary, marine mudstones and
thin, wave-rippled, very fine-grained sandstones,
locally up to 20 ft (6 m)
m) thick, lie directly on the
hummocky-bedded
hummocky-bedded sandstones recording an increase
in water depth.
depth. The top of the mudstones and thin
sandstones is truncated by the next sequence
sequence boundary. The hummocky-bedded
hummocky-bedded sandstones and overlyoverlying shelf mudstones and thin sandstones are
interpreted as backstepping parasequences in the
transgressive systems
systems tract.
tract. If
If a highstand systems
transgressive
tract is present in the sequence,
sequence, it is very thin and fine
fine
grained.
In the case of the sequence boundary, mediumgrained estuarine sandstones erode into the lowerlowershoreface deposits and record a relative fall
fall in sea
level.
level. It is important to note that the estuarine sandsandstones grade basinward into thinner,
thinner, current-rippled
sandstones and interbedded mudstones that in turn
grade into shelf mudstones. Lower-shoreface,
hummocky-bedded
hummocky-bedded sandstones are not lateral-facies
lateral-facies
equivalents of the estuarine strata.
strata. In a landward
direction, the estuarine deposits
deposits become sandier and
coarser grained,
grained, eventually
eventually grading transitionally
transitionallyinto

sandstones and
coarse-grained, braided-stream sandstones
conglomerates.
conglomerates.
Tide-dominated deltas
deltas were deposited within the
Tide-dominated
partially flooded incised valley of sequence
sequence 4 during
the early stages of a sea-level
sea-level rise, presumably because
linear, relatively narrow embayment focused
focused tidal
the linear,
gradually filled
filled with tidetidecurrents. The incised valley gradually
dominated deposits,
deposits, while there was no deposition on
the subaerially exposed shelf adjacent to the incised
valley at this time. As sea level continued to rise, most
flooded. This flooding
flooding finally
finally terminated
of the shelf flooded.
valley, and created
tidal deposition within the incised valley,
conditions for deposition of sheet-like, wavedominated deposits over the entire shelf.
shelf. The sharp
from the
contact separating the estuarine sandstones from
lower-shoreface sandstones records this
overlying lower-shoreface
flooding. The progradation direction of the wavewaveflooding.
dominated shoreline
shoreline deposits of the transgressive
transgressive syssystems tract appears to be oriented nearly parallel to the
valleys.
longitudinal axes of the incised valleys.
As the previous examples (Figures
(Figures 28 through 30)
30)
show, the lithostratigraphic
lithostratigraphic subdivision
subdivision of these Creshow,
taceous rocks does not always correspond to the
chronostratigraphic or sequence
sequence subdivision
subdivision (Figures
(Figures
chronostratigraphic
28 and 29).
29). For example, the sequence boundary
within the Desert Member separates the lower part of
the Desert, interpreted as a highstand systems tract for
sequence
sequence I,
1, from
from the upper part of the Desert, interinterpreted as a lowstand systems tract for sequence
sequence 2, with
large, intervening stratigraphic
stratigraphic gap. The
a potentially large,
sequence
sequence boundaries record the fundamental breaks
in deposition;
slate is
deposition; at each sequence
sequence boundary the "slate
wiped clean" and a new depositional
depositional record begins.
begins.
Lithostratigraphic subdivisions
subdivisions commonly miss these
fundamental boundaries, making it difficult to conconstruct accurately
accurately a chronostratigraphic
chronostratigraphic and regionalregionalfacies
facies framework.
framework. Once the sequence-stratigraphie
sequence-stratigraphic
subdivision is made, the lithostratigraphic
lithostratigraphic terminolsubdivision
confusing that it needs to be modified
ogy is often so confusing
substantially or abandoned.
substantially
example of sequences
sequences is a well-log cross
The second example
section through middle Miocene strata of onshore
Louisiana. The cross
cross section
section is illustrated in Figure 33.
33.
Louisiana.
sequences are typical of much of the Tertiary
These sequences
rocks in the Gulf Coast basin. Five sequences
sequences can be
recognized on this cross section (Figure
(Figure 33).
33). Each
sequence boundary is marked by erosional
erosional truncation
sequence
facies. The sequence
sequence boundaand a basinward shift in facies.
ries have been mapped by means of these criteria,
criteria,
using nine other regional cross
cross sections constructed
illusfrom 700 well logs in addition to the cross section illushere; the sequences
sequences can be recognized over an
trated here;
2
mi2 (14,500
(14,500 km
km2)
central and
) in central
area of at least 5600 me
southern Louisiana.
Louisiana. The systems tracts, parasequence
sets, and facies
facies within the five
five sequences
sequences are similar;
sequence 11 typifies
typifies the distribution of these stratal
sequence
components.
11

R105W
R105W

R19E

R20E

R21E

R22E

R25E

R24E

R23E

R26E'

WEST
WILD COW
BITTER
WASH
CREEK
CANYON

T
16
S

7
S

8
5
T

17
R17E

158

19
5

20
5

TENNECO
RATTLESNAKE 2 - 12
GRAND CO . UTAH
SEC.2-T19S-R19E

.~-+-----

19
5

COTTONWOOD
CANYON

20
S

21
5

AREA COVERED
COVERED
AREA
BY LOCATION
LOCATION
BY
MAP

6
US 50

R20E

R21E

R22E
LOCATION-MAP SCALE

o0

.,,,p.'.
.

CASTLEGATE, DESERT,
DESERT,
CASTLEGATE,
AND SEGO
SEGO OUTCROPS
OUTCROPS
AND

u
5
!

eU~

MILES
MILES

Figure 32-Map
32-Map showing
showing the
the location
location of the
the Desert,
Desert, Castlegate,
Castlegate, and
and Sego
Sego outcrops
outcrops in
in eastern
eastern Utah,
Utah, the
the Tenneco
Tenneco Rattlesnake
Rattlesnake State
State 2-12
2-12 (Figure
(Figure28),
28), the
the EPR Co.
Co. Sego
Sego
Figure
Canyon
canyon no.
no. 22 (Figure
(Figure29),
29), and
and the
the sequence
sequence cross
cross section
sectionillustrated
illustrated in
in Figure
Figure 31.
31.

rn

42

Interpretation of depositional mechanisms

(Figure33)
33)
The lowstand systems tract of sequence 11(Figure
consists of sandstones up to 250 ft (76
(76 m)
m) thick, characwell-log patterized by a blocky to upward-fining SP well-log
tern.
tern. The sequence boundary at the base of the
sandstones is a regional-erosional
regional-erosional surface
surface with locallocal(61 m).
m). The deposierosional relief as great as 200 ft (61
tional environment of the sandstone is interpreted to
have been fluvial
fluvial or estuarine, filling
filling a broad, incisedincisedcomplex, based on log response and widely
valley complex,
spaced core control. Maps constructed using the addiaddiregional cross sections
sections in the area show
tional nine regional
75 mi
that the incised-valley complex is approximately 75
(120 km)
km) wide. The depositional environment of the
(120
mudstones and thin sandstones below the sequence
boundary is interpreted to have been middle to outer
shelf, based on biostratigraphy and well-log
responses. No intermediate water-depth deposits
incised-valley-fill sandoccur between the lowstand, incised-valley-fill
stones and the underlying shelf mudstones of the presimilar-aged
vious sequence. Incised valleys of similar-aged
sequences from Louisiana
Louisiana are illustrated in Figures 22
and 23.
(FigThe transgressive systems tract of sequence 11(Figure 33) is composed of thin backstepping paraseset. A
quences in a retrogradational parasequence set.
syscondensed section has not been identified in this systract. Only mudstones and very thin sandstones
tems tract.
tract. The
are preserved in the highstand systems tract.
coarser-grained part of the highstand systems tract
apparently was truncated by the next sequence
boundary. Erosion of the highstand systems tract by
overlying sequence boundary is common in many
the overlying
Tertiary sequences in the Gulf Coast basin. This pattern of systems tract distribution in sequence 11 is
secrepeated in the other four sequences on the cross section.
The mudstone in the transgressive and highstand
systems tracts is within the Cibicides opima shale. Based
on the fauna in this shale, the lower sequence bound15.5 Ma (L.c.
(L.C. Menconi,
ary on Figure 33 is dated as 15.5
personal communication,
communication, 1989)
1989) and appears on the
global-cycle chart of Haq et a1.
al. (1988).
(1988). The
Exxon global-cycle
youngest sequence in Figure 33 is within the Bigenerina
humblei biozone and corresponds to the Hollywood
informal regional mapping unit within
sandstone, an informal
this biozone, suggesting an age date of 14.7 Ma for
sequence boundary 5 (L.
C. Menconi, personal com(L.C.
1989). Based on these age dates, each of
munication, 1989).
the five
five sequences in Figure 33
33 is interpreted to have
been deposited during sea-level cycles lasting 100,000
to 200,000 years. These frequencies may be even
higher if one assumes a significant hiatus on the thirdslopebasin-floor and slopeorder boundary representing basin-floor
fan deposition. A model for the development of these
high-frequency sequences and their implications
implications for
the interpretation of eustasy as a driving mechanism

for
for sequence development are the topics of the next
section.
section.

Interpretation of Depositional Mechanisms


Mechanisms
Interpretation
and Sequence
Sequence Frequency
Frequency
Sequences and their boundaries are interpreted to
form in response to cycles
cycles of relative fall
fall and rise of sea
level. Jervey
Jervey (1988)
(1988) and Posamentier et al.
al. (1988)
(1988) prelevel.
analysis of the interaction between eustasy
sented an analysis
(see figure
figure 7, Posamentier and Vail, 1988)
1988) and basin
(see
subsidence that is interpreted to form sequence
boundaries.
The interpreted relationship of stratal patterns to
accommodation for a type-1
type-1 sequence with no signifisignifiaccommodation
cant incised-valley-fill
incised-valley-filldeposition is shown in the block
diagrams of Posamentier and Vail
(1988, their figures
Vail(1988,
figures 11
to 6).
6 ) . A variation of this idealized sequence, based on
Tertiary strata of the Gulf of
observations made in the Tertiary
Mexico, is shown in block diagrams
diagrams in Figures 34 to 38
Mexico,
book. These block diagrams illustrate
illustrate the sucsucin this book.
cessive
cessive evolution, over a period of 120,000
120,000 years, of a
sequence similar to the sequences in Figure 33, with
erosional truncation
well-defined incised valleys and erosional
diagrams
of the highstand systems tract. As the block diagrams
fluvial deposits within incised valleys are
illustrate, fluvial
commonly coarse-grained, low-sinuosity channels
reflecting slow rates of accommodation.
accommodation. Transgressive
Transgressive
reflecting
commonly
and early highstand-fluvial deposits are commonly
finer-grained, high sinuosity channels and associated
finer-grained,
accommodaoverbank strata reflecting high rates of accommodafluvial-architecturalpatterns
tion. These two different fluvial-architectural
can be used as a guide to interpret sequences in totally
sections (Shanley and McCabe, 1989).
1989). A
nonmarine sections
eustatic curve in the corner of each block diagram is
color-coded
color-coded to indicate
indicate the interpreted relationship of
the systems tracts to eustasy.
eustasy. This eustatic
eustatic curve is a
Jervey
graphic representation of the eustatic cycle of Jervey
(1988),although at a higher frequency.
frequency. Outcrop photo(1988),
graphs illustrate the stratal characteristics
characteristicsof the facies
facies
that occur typically in each systems tract.
Parasequences and their boundaries also
also can be
interpreted as responses to cycles
cycles of relative fall and
rise of sea level.
level. Sea-level
Sea-level cycles are classified by Vail et
al. (1977)
(1977) according
according to the duration of the cycle:
cycle: thirdorder cycles, defined from fall to fall,
fall, have durations of
11to 5 million years, fourth-order cycles have durations
Following Vail et
of hundreds of thousands of years. Following
a1.
al. (1977)
(1977) we assign to fifth-order
fifth-order cycles durations of
tens of thousands of years. The relationship between
this hierarchy of eustatic cycles,
cycles, subsidence, and the
deposition of sequences and parasequences is illusillustrated in Figure 39.
39. In this figure,
figure, a third-order eustatic
cycle (approximately
(approximately one million years)
years) is added to
fourth-order cycles
years),
cycles (approximately 120,000 years),
and fifth-order
fifth-order cycles (approximately
(approximately 50,000 years)
years) to
form a composite
composite eustatic curve. Adding a total subsisubsiform

46

Interpretation of depositional mechanisms

-6
,

HIGHSTAND SYSTEMS TRACT

>.
z

HIGHSTAND SYSTEMS TRACT

RATE OF EUSTATIC RISE IS AT A MINIMUM AND IN THE LATE HIGHSTAND, FALLS SLOWLY
RATES OF DEPOSITION GREATER THAN THE RATES OF SEA-LEVEL RISE, PARASEQUENCES BUILD BASINWARD IN
RATE OF
EUSTATIC RISE
AT A MINIMUMPARASEQUENCE
AND IN THE LATE
FALLSSYSTEMS
SLOWLYTRACT
AGGRADATIONAL
TO IS
PROGRADATIONAL
SETS HIGHSTAND,
OF THE HIGHSTAND
RATES PARASEQUENCES
OF DEPOSITION DOWNLAP
GREATERONTO
THANTHE
THE
RATES OFSECTION
SEA-LEVEL RISE, PARASEQUENCES BUILD BASINWARD IN
CONDENSED
AGGRADATIONAL TO PROGRADATIONAL PARASEQUENCE SETS OF THE HIGHSTAND SYSTEMS TRACT
PARASEQUENCES DOWNLAP ONTO THE CONDENSED
SECTION
PHOTOGRAPH

CONDENSED SECTION (PHOSPHATIC OOLITES) AND PROGRADATIONAL PARASEQUENCE SET, HIGHSTAND SYSTEMS
TRACT; CASTLEGATE, BUCK TONGUE, AND SEGO PHOTOGRAPH
MEMBERS, PRICE RIVER FORMATION, BOOK CLIFFS, DOUGLAS
CREEK ARCH, COLORADO
CONDENSED SECTION IPHOSPHATIC OOLITES) AND PROGRADATIONAL PARASEQUENCE SET, HIGHSTAND SYSTEMS
Figure CASTLEGATE,
37-Sequence evolution:
4. SlowAND
relative
rise,MEMBERS,
stillstand, and
slow
relative
fall of sea level.
TRACT;
BUCK TONGUE,
SEGO
PRICE
RIVER
FORMATION,
BOOK CLIFFS, DOUGLAS
CREEK ARCH, COLORADO

Figure 37-Sequence evolution: 4. Slow relative rise, stillstand, and slow relative fall of sea level.

48

Interpretation of depositional mechanisms

dence rate of 0.5


ft1lOOO years (15
(15 cmllOOO
cmIlOOO years) to the
0.5 ft/1000
composite eustatic curve gives a curve of the relative
change in sea level, assumed to be defined at the
depositional-shoreline break. The linear-subsidence
depositional-shoreline
curve on Figure 39 is drawn as an ascending,
ascending, rather
than descending, line to indicate that the net effect of
level.
subsidence is a relative rise in sea level.
Two types of fourth-order cycles, designated cycle
"A" and cycle "B;'
"B," compose the relative change in seasea"K
(Figure 39).
39). Fourth-order cycle"X'
cycle "A" is
level curve (Figure
fall. If
If we
defined from sea-level fall to sea-level fall.
assume adequate sediment supply, this fourth-order
cycle deposits a sequence bounded by subaerial
unconformities. Fifth-order cycles superimposed on
the fourth-order cycle form parasequences bounded
by marine-flooding surfaces.
surfaces. A schematic outcrop or
well-log profile of the strata deposited during fourthfourthorder cycle"
X' is illustrated in Figure 39. The darkcycle "A"
orange shading on the relative sea-level curve shows
the ages and positions on the curve of strata that have
a low-preservation potential because of incised-valley
erosion; near incised valleys most of the highstand
truncated.
deposits will be truncated.
Fourth-order cycle "B"
"B" (Figure
(Figure 39)
39) is defined from
(transgression) to rapid rise. This fourthrapid rise (transgression)
order cycle deposits parasequences bounded by
differmarine-flooding surfaces, if we assume that no differential subsidence occurs in the basin. A schematic outcrop or well-log profile of the strata deposited during
"B" is illustrated in Figure 39.
39.
this fourth-order cycle "B"
However, if the rate of subsidence decreases landward
of the depositional-shoreline break so that the rate of
fall exceeds the rate of subsidence in this
eustatic fall
updip position and thereby produces a downward
shift in coastal onlap in the coastal plain, cycle "B"
"B"
sequence.
may deposit a type-2 sequence.
In this schematic example (Figure
(Figure 39), depending on
the interaction between the rates of eustasy and subsidence, fourth-order cycles deposit sequences or parafifth-order cycles deposit parasequences or
sequences; fifth-order
expression. If the subsidence
have no depositional expression.
rate is increased well above 0.5 ft/1000
ftllOOO years (15
(15 cm/
cml
1000 years) in this example, the third-order cycle will
1000
deposit a sequence, referred to as a third-order
sequence; the fourth-order cycles will form parasequences that are the components of the third-order
sequence.
sequence. If
If the subsidence rate is decreased well
0.5 ft/1000
ftilOOO years (15
(15cm/1000
cmllOOO years) in this examexambelow 0.5
ple, the fourth-order
fourth-order cycles will deposit only
sequences, referred to as fourth-order sequences,
composed of fifth-order parasequences. In this situation, the fourth-order sequences stack to build a thirdorder unit, tentatively called a third-order composite
sequence,
(Van Wagoner
sequence, composed of sequence sets (Van
1989)of fourth-order sequences. In our
and Mitchum, 1989)
siliciclastic
experience, this situation is typical of many siliciclastic
sequences deposited in depoeenters,
depocenters, at least since the

Pennsylvanian. We have observed fourth-order


sequences within sequence sets in Pennsylvanian
strata of the western and central United States, Cretaceous strata of the western United States, and most of
Mexico.
the Tertiary strata in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
It is worth repeating that, in this book, we define
sequences and parasequences based on their physical
characteristics and not on the frequency of the sealevel cycle that resulted in their deposition. Although
parasequences and fourth-order sequences
sequences may,
under certain circumstances, be produced by sea-level
cycles of the same duration, we do not treat them as
synonymous stratal units as some authors do (e.g.,
synonymous
Wright, 1986).
1986).
Finally, the interpreted role of eustasy in sequence
deposition can be evaluated by referring back to Figures 22, 23, and 33 illustrating type-1
type-1 sequences from
the Miocene of Louisiana. Although from the Miocene, these sequences are typical of most Tertiaryaged sequences along the Gulf Coast. As previously
mentioned, these sequence boundaries are regional100to 200 ft (30 to 60 m)
m) of trunerosional surfaces with 100
cation covering at least thousands of square miles.
Fluvial to estuarine sandstones above these sequence
boundaries lie abruptly on outer- to mid-shelf mudstones with no intermediate shallow-marine deposits.
Typically these sequences occur with a frequency of
100,000
100,000 to 200,000 years (Figure
(Figure 33).
33). The erosional
truncation and vertical-facies associations marking
these boundaries were produced by a basinward shift
in the shoreline of tens of miles, as determined from
facies relationships on the cross sections.
sections.
facies
These stratal characteristics of the Miocene sequence
boundaries formed in response to a relative fall
fall in sea
level. Two mechanisms can produce the relative fall:
fall:
regional-tectonic uplift, or eustasy. Although they do
not result in a basinward shift or a relative fall
fall of sea
level, rapid-deltaic progradation and distributarychannel erosion are also considered.
The Tertiary structural style of the northern Gulf
Coast basin is characterized by detached, down-tothe-basin normal faults and local-salt features. These
structures are diagnostic of a passive-margin tectonic
setting where no dynamic plate-tectonic processes
occur. The Tertiary of the northern Gulf Coast basin
occur.
contains no evidence of thermal- or compressional(Murtectonic events that could cause regional uplift (Mur1967), especially at the
ray, 1961; Rainwater, 1967),
frequencies necessary to produce the observed MioMiofrequencies
cene sequence boundaries.
The interpreted fluvial
fluvial and estuarine sandstones of
the lowstand systems tract of sequences 11to 3 in Fig33 were deposited in
ure 22 and sequence 11in Figure 33
incised valleys that appear to be tens of miles wide
(Figure 23),
23), based on data from nine regional well-log
cross sections and 23 paleogeographic maps constructed in central Louisiana. The incised valleys cut

50

Interpretation of depositional mechanisms

into, and are encased in, outer- to mid-shelf mudstones and thin, distal-marine sandstones.
sandstones. Delta-front
stream-mouth sandstones are absent, both lateral
and stream-mouth
to and beneath, the blocky sandstones of the incised
valleys-according
valleys-according to interpretation of well-log
well-log shapes
and regional correlations.
correlations. Furthermore, the fluvial
fluvial or
estuarine sandstones within the incised valleys do not
facies into shoreline deposits along deposideposichange facies
tional strike.
strike. In comparison, distributary channels of
rivers like the modern Mississippi may erode into or
through prodelta deposits, but are laterally encased in
stream-mouth bar and delta-front sandstones.
sandstones. These
lateral-facies relationships exist because a distributary
lateral-facies
channel builds seaward over the subaqueous-delta
platform, even if
if deltaic progradation is extremely
rapid. Sixteen deltas associated with the Mississippi
rapid.
River have been deposited in the last 7000 years and
(Frazier, 1974).
1974).
record extremely rapid progradation (Frazier,
However, the preserved deltas and delta lobes show
distributary-channel deposits encased in stream(Fisk 1961,
1961, Gould,
mouth bar and delta-front deposits (Fisk
1970).
The
notable
lack
of
subaqueous,
sandy
deltaic
1970).
subaqueous,
deposits beneath the sequence boundary or adjacent
to the incised valley-fill sandstones in Figures 22 and
33 argues strongly against rapid-deltaic progradation
associated with large rates of sediment supply as a
formation.
mechanism for sequence-boundary formation.
If tectonic uplift and distributary-channel erosion
associated with deltaic progradation are ruled out as
viable mechanisms for the formation of sequence
boundaries, then eustasy is the most likely mechanism
to explain the stratal geometries observed in Figures 22
33. Pleistocene eustatic falls
falls produced surfaces
and 33.
1974;
and facies
facies associations (Fisk,
(Fisk, 1944;
1944; Frazier,
Frazier, 1967,
1967,1974;
Suter and Berryhill,
Berryhill, 1985;
1985; Suter et a1.,
al., 1987;
1987; Boyd et
1988)identical to those seen in the Miocene of the
al., 1988)
(Figure 33).
33). Carbon-isotope curves provide
Gulf Coast (Figure
evidence for Miocene eustatic changes (Renard, 1986).
1986).
The role that tectonism plays in forming or enhancing sequence boundaries is widely debated by stratig(1983) stated that
raphers. Pitman and Golovchenko (1983)
changes in sea level rapid enough to match the Exxon
1987,1988)
cycle chart (Haq et al., 1987,
1988) can be formed only
by glacially induced sea-level
sea-level fluctuations.
fluctuations. Yet others
Watts, 1984)
1984) have pointed out that
(e.g., Thorne and Watts,
geologic column apparently lack evilarge parts of the geologic
activity, Therefore, the formation of
dence of glacial activity.
sequence boundaries has been attributed alternatively
by many scientists to tectonism (Sloss,
(Sloss, 1979,
1979, 1988;
1988;
Bally, 1980,
1982; Watts, 1982;
1980,1982;
1982; Thorne and Watts,
Watts, 1984;
1984;
1984; Parkinson and Summerhayes,
Summerhayes, 1985;
1985; Miall,
Mid,
Hallam, 1984;
1986; Ooetingh,
Cloetingh, 1988;
1988; Hubbard, 1988;
1988; and others).
others).
1986;
However, the type of tectonic events that would produce rapid, short-term fluctuations in sea level
remains unclear, especially those tectonic events that
would produce type-1
type-1 unconformities. Cloetingh
(1988) has advanced the idea of rapid alternations in
(1988)

intraplate stresses, interacting with deflections of the


lithosphere caused by sediment loading. Although
Cloetingh did not define a frequency at which these
tectonic events might occur,
occur, he suggested that this
type of activity might occur episodically on time scales
scales
of "a few million years" to produce
produce"apparent"
"apparent" seasea(100 m)
level changes of more than 327 ft (100
m) along the
flanks of sedimentary basins. This mechanism,
although not cyclic in nature, might be one explanation for some second-order cycles (9-10 m.y. frefrequency)
quency) on the Exxon cycle chart, but does not
satisfactorily explain the higher-frequency third-order
satisfactorily
cyclicity.
or fourth-order cyclicity.
Hubbard (1988),
(1988), attributing major control of the forformation of sequence boundaries to tectonic forces,
forces, discussed this point of view. He described two types of
sequence boundaries within the Santos, Grand Banks,
and Beaufort basins. One type (megasequence)
(megasequence)
appears to be caused by folding and/or faulting related
to the onset of stages in the evolution of a given basin,
such as rift onset, synrift faulting, and rift termination.
These sequence boundaries represent tectonic epicyclic frequency,
frequency, and average 49
sodes rather than true cyclic
m.y. in their occurrence. Sequence boundaries of the
second type are unstructured, and separate transgresandlor
sive and!
or regressive wedges. They are interpreted to
be the result of the interaction of the rates of change of
basin subsidence and sediment input with that of
long-term global, tectono-eustatic sea level. These
noncyclic and have
sequence boundaries are probably noncydic
10 to 15
15 m.y. Hubbard
a modal frequency range of 10
attempted to demonstrate that the surfaces are not
synchronous between basins because each basin has a
history.
different history.
Members of the Exxon group have worked in all
three basins that Hubbard described and have recogrecognized those sequence boundaries he described. In
addition, we described other boundaries that are less
prominently developed, but that are important nevertheless in controlling sediment distribution and lithologies within the basin. These occur at the higher
frequency expected from the Exxon cycle chart. We
certainly agree that Hubbard's
Hubbard's "megasequence"
"megasequence"
boundaries, occurring during onset of stages of basin
evolution or other structural events, are tectonically
tectonically
enhanced, and become the most prominent and important surfaces in structural analysis of a basin. Similarly,
Similarly,
unconformities bounding transgressive-regressive
wedges are enhanced because the wedges commonly
are produced by subordinate phases of basin subsidence. Because their enhancement is controlled by
basinal tectonism, we would not expect the enhancement to extend beyond the limits of the individual
basins.
However, the higher-frequency sequences,
sequences, when
dated as accurately as possible using biostratigraphy,
appear to be synchronous between the basins. The

Exploration
Exploration application
applicationand
and play
play types
types

51
51

sedimentary
sedimentary strata.
strata. Fundamental
Fundamental to
to sequence
sequence stratigstratigraphy
raphy isis the
the recognition
recognition that
that sedimentary
sedimentary rocks
rocks are
are
composed
composed of
of aa hierarchy
hierarchy of
of stratal
stratal units,
units, from
from the
the
smallest
smallest megascopic
megascopic unit,
unit, the
the lamina,
lamina, to
to the
the largest
largest
unit
unit considered
considered in
in this
this book,
book, the
the sequence.
sequence. With
With the
the
exception
exceptionof
of the
the lamina,
lamina, each
each of
of these
these units
units isis aagenetigenetically
cally related
related succession
successionof
of strata
strata bounded
bounded by
by chronoschronostratigraphically
tratigraphically significant
significant surfaces.
surfaces. Correlation
Correlation of
of
these
these bounding
bounding surfaces
surfaces provides
provides aa high-resolution
high-resolution
chronostratigraphic
chronostratigraphic framework
frameworkfor
forfacies
facies analysis
analysis and
and
prediction
prediction of
of rock
rock types
types at
at aaregional
regionalto
to reservoir
reservoirscale.
scale.
Sequences
Sequences are
are the
the fundamental
fundamental stratal
stratal units
units of
of
sequence
sequence stratigraphic
stratigraphicanalysis.
analysis.A
Asequence
sequenceboundary
is
is aa chronostratigraphically
chronostratigraphicallysignificant
significantsurface;
surface;itit sepaseparates
rates all
all of
of the
the rocks
rocks above
above the
the boundary
boundary from
from all
all of
of the
the
rocks
rocksbelow.
below. In
In most
most cases,
cases, the
the rocks
rocks above
abovethe
the boundboundary
ary have
have no
no physical
physical or
or temporal
temporal relationship
relationship to
to the
the
rocks
rocks below.
below. Although sequence
sequence boundaries do
do not
not
EXPLORATION APPLICATION
APPLICATION
EXPLORATION
form
form instantaneously,
instantaneously, they probably
probably form
form in
in from
from aa
TYPES
AND PLAY
PLAY TYPES
AND
few
few thousand to
to about
about ten thousand years,
years, and
and so
so
form
very
rapidly
in
geologic
terms.
For
these
reasons,
form
very
rapidly
in
geologic
terms.
For
these
reasons,
The stratigraphic
stratigraphic concepts
concepts we
we document
document in
in this
this
The
recognition of sequence boundaries is
is critical
critical for
for accuaccuhave broad application
application to
to exploration
exploration and
and propro- recognition of sequence
book have
rate
facies
interpretations
and
correlations.
rate
facies
interpretations
and
correlations.
chronoduction. The
The concepts
concepts provide
provide techniques for
for chronoduction.
A sequence
sequence boundary is
is aa better surface
surface for
for the
the
stratigraphic correlation
correlation of
of well
well logs
logs that
that result
result in
in (1)
(1)
stratigraphic
is
aa transregional
correlation
of
time
and
facies
than
regional
correlation
of
time
and
facies
than
is
transmore accurate
accuratesurfaces
surfacesfor
for mapping
mapping and
and facies
faciescorrelacorrelamore
gressive surface.
surface. This
This is
is true
true primarily
primarily because
because the
the
(2)higher-resolution
higher-resolution chronostratigraphy
chronostratigraphy for
for gressive
tion, and
and (2)
tion,
timing
of
the
formation
of
aa sequence
boundary is
not
timing
of
the
formation
of
sequence
is
not
improved definition
definition of
of plays,
plays, especially
especially stratigraphic
stratigraphic
improved
affected
affected by variations
variations in
in sediment
sediment supply;
supply; conversely,
conversely,
traps.
traps.
the
timing
of
the
formation
of
aa transgressive
surface,
the
timing
of
the
formation
of
transgressive
surface,
The concepts
concepts also
also provide
provide techniques
techniques for
for lithostratilithostratiThe
at
the
top
of
aa regressive
unit,
is
controlled
strongly
by
at
the
top
of
regressive
unit,
is
controlled
strongly
graphic correlation
correlation of
of well
well logs,
logs, thereby
thereby yielding
yielding (1)
(1)aa
graphic
sediment
supply.
Temporal
and
spatial
changes
in
the
sediment
supply.
Temporal
and
spatial
changes
in
the
more effective
effectivemethod for
for evaluating
evaluating sandstone
sandstone conticontimore
rate and distribution of sediment
sediment entering
entering a basin are
are
directions in reservoirs,
reservoirs, superior
superior to
to rate
nuity and trend directions
common.
Furthermore, the sequence
boundary is
common.
sequence
is
conventional correlation
correlation methods using sandstone or
conventional
accompanied
usually by regional
erosion
and onlap
accompanied
regional
erosion
onlap
shale tops, (2)
(2) improved methods
methods for
for predicting
shale
control facies
facies distribution.
distribution. The
The transgressive
transgressive sursurreservoir, source,
source, and sealing
sealing facies
facies away
away that control
potential reservoir,
face
is
marked by slight
erosion
and no
onlap.
face
is
slight
erosion
no
onlap.
from the well, and (3)
(3) an
an alternative
alternative to
to exploration
exploration
from
Sequences
Sequences are
are composed
composed of parasequences and syssysconcepts such
such as
as offshore-bar
offshore-bar reservoirs-resulting
reservoirs-resulting in
concepts
tems
tracts.
Parasequence
boundaries are
most useful
tems
tracts.
Parasequence
are
useful
more accurate
accurate trend prediction.
prediction.
more
for local correlation of time
time and facies
facies within the
Finally, these
these concepts
concepts provide tools
tools for
for looking
looking at
at for local
Finally,
chronostratigraphic framework
framework of individual
individual
mature basins in fresh
fresh ways
ways that result in (1)
(1)definition
definition
mature
sequences.
Parasequences
stack
to
form
aggradaaggradasequences.
stack
to
form
types, opening up
up heavily
heavily drilled
drilled basins
of new play types,
tionat
progradational,
and
retrogradational
parasetional,
progradational,
parasefor new exploration,
exploration, (2)
(2)improved ability
ability to
to define
define and
for
quenee
sets.
Parasequence
sets
generally coincide
quence
sets.
Parasequence
sets
coincide
locate subtle,
subtle, but potentially
potentially profitable,
profitable, stratigraphic
stratigraphic
locate
systems tracts
tracts within the sequence
sequence in
traps, (3)
(3) re-evaluation
re-evaluation of producing fields
fields to
to extend with the systems
traps,
to
nonmarine facies.
They
are
shallow-marine
shallow-marine
to
facies.
They
are less
less evievilives and increase
increase reserves,
reserves, and (4)
(4) a more
more inteintetheir lives
dent in deeper-water facies
of the basin-floor
and
facies
basin-floor
stratigraphic framework
framework for
for risking
risking new plays.
plays.
grated stratigraphic
slope fans. Systems tracts provide aa high degree
degree of
of
Figure 40
40 summarizes
summarizes potential stratigraphicstratigraphic- and slope fans. Systems tracts
Figure
facies
predictability
away
from
the well
bore
or outfacies
predictability
away
from
well
bore
outstructurallstratigraphic-play types
types assoassocombination structural/stratigraphic-play
combination
crop within the sequence.
sequence. This
This predictability
predictability is
is espeespeciated with the sequences
sequences and parasequences on
on two
two crop
ciated
cially
important for
analyzing
reservoir,
source,
and
cially
for
analyzing
reservoir,
source,
different basin margins:
margins: a margin with a shelf break,
break,
different
seal
facies
within a basin or a field.
seal
facies
field.
referred to in Figure 40 as
as a shelf-edge-type
shelf-edge-type margin,
margin,
Three
Three systems
systems tracts are
are recognized in the ideal
ideal
and a ramp-type margin.
margin.
type-1
type-1 sequence:
sequence: lowstand, transgressive, and highhighstand systems
systems tracts.
tracts. The
The lowstand systems tract is
is
CONCLUSIONS
CONCLUSIONS
composed of a basin-floor
basin-floor fan,
fan, a slope
slope fan,
fan, and a lowlowwedge. On the shelf the most conspicuous
conspicuous comcompowerful meth- stand wedge.
Sequence stratigraphy provides a powerful
is the incised
incised valley.
valley. A
odology for
for analyzing time and rock relationships in ponent of the lowstand wedge is

presence of
of these
these sequences
sequencesstrongly
stronglysuggests
suggests that
that the
the
presence
higher-frequency eustatic
eustatic overprint
overprint isis superposed
superposed on
on
higher-frequency
the lower-frequency
lower-frequency or
or non-cyclic
non-cyclic tectonic
tectonic and
and
the
sediment-supply controls.
controls. Hubbard's
Hubbard's (1988)
(1988)article
article isis
sediment-supply
excellent for
for its
its description
description of
of sequence-stratigraphic,
sequence-stratigraphic,
excellent
basin-analysis procedures,
procedures, and
and for
for its
its use
use of
of tectonitectonibasin-analysis
cally enhanced
enhanced sequences
sequences to
to describe
describe and
and date
date basin
basin
cally
development. However,
However, we
we feel
feel that
that there
there isis aa much
much
development.
stronger interrelationship
interrelationship than
than he
he recognized
recognized
stronger
between eustasy
eustasy and
and tectonism
tectonism in
in controlling
controlling sedisedibetween
ment type
type and
and distribution
distribution within
within the
the basin.
basin.
ment
Although tectonism is
is the
the dominant
dominant control
control in
in
Although
determining the
the shape
shape of
of the
the basin,
basin, the
the rate
rate of
of sedisedidetermining
supply, and
and possibly
possibly even
even the
the longer-term,
longer-term,
ment supply,
second-order arrangement
arrangement of
of sequences,
sequences, we
we believe
believe
second-order
eustasy controls
controls the
the timing
timing and
and distribution
distribution of
of
that eustasy
higher-frequency thirdthird- and
and fourth-order
fourth-order sequences.
sequences.
higher-frequency

RAMP-TYPE MARGIN
FOUND IN: CRATONIC BASINS ON CONTINENTAL CRUST
SHELF-EDGE TYPE MARGIN

CONTINENTAL-MARGIN BASINS ON ATTENUATED CONTINENTAL CRUST


LACUSTRINE BASINS ON CONTINENTAL OR ATTENUATED CONTINENTAL CRUST

FOUND IN: CONTINENTAL-MARGIN BASINS ON ATTENUATED CONTINENTAL TO OCEANIC CRUST

--

7
9

3
SEQUENCE
BOUNDARIES

2
SEOUENCE
BOUNDARIES

2
4

NO.

PLAY TYPE

UPDIP PINCH OUT

INCISED VALLEY

SHELF ONLAP

BASINALLY RESTRICTED
ONLAP
SUBMARINE FAN

LOWST AND WEDGE

DOWNDIP PINCH OUT

RESERVOIR-FACIES TYPE

POTENTIAL SEAL

EXAMPLES

BEACH OR DELTAIC
SANDSTONES

COASTAL-PLAIN
MUDSTONES

FALL RIVER
SANDSTONE, POWDER
RIVER BASIN

BRAIDED-STREAM OR
ESTUARINE SANDSTONES

SHELF
MUDSTONES

YEGUA. MIOCENE;
GULF OF MEXICO;
MUDDY, POWDER RIVER
BASIN

BEACH, DELTAIC. ESTUARINE,


OR SUBTIDAL TO TIDAL-FLAT
SANDSTONES

SHELF
MUDSTONES

DELTAIC SANDSTONES

SLOPE/BASIN
MUDSTONES

SUBMARINE-FAN. TURBIDITE
SANDSTONES

SLOPE/BASIN
MUDSTONES

WOODBINE,
TUSCALOOSA;
GULF OF MEXICO

PLEISTOCENE,
GULF OF MEXICO

SMALL. AREALLY RESTRICTED


FANS - COMPOSED OF THIN
TURBIDITE SANDSTONES

SLOPE/BAIN
MUDSTONES

YEGUA.
GULF OF MEXICO

DELTAIC, BEACH, OR
SUBTIDAL SANDSTONES
INEED STRUCTURAL TILTI

SHELF
MUDSTONES

PARKMAN SANDSTONE,
SHANNON SANDSTONE.
POWDER RIVER BASIN

TRUNCATION

BEACH OR DELTAlC
SANDSTONES

SHELF
MUDSTONES

WILCOX, GULF OF
MEXICO; SUSSEX.
POWDER RIVER BASIN

FAULT CLOSURE

1.2. OR 3 ABOVE

SHELF
MUDSTONES

PLIOCENE, PLEISTOCENE;
GULF OF MEXICO

Figure 4~Play types along shelf-edge and ramp-type margins.

SUBMARINEFAN
SANDSTONES

SLOPE MUDSTONES AND THIN


TURBIDITE SANDSTONES
SMALL, ISOLATED FANS WITHIN
THE SLOPE

SHALLOW-MARINE
SANDSTONES

SHELF MUDSTONES

FLUVIAl/ESTUARINE INCISED
VALLEY SANDSTONES

COASTALPLAIN SANDSTONES
AND MUDSTONES
ORGANIC RICH SHALES, CARBONATES,
GLAUCONITES, VOLCANIC ASHES

52

Acknowledgments

hydrocarbons produced from


from silisililarge proportion of hydrocarbons
ciclastic
ciclastic rocks comes out of the lowstand systems tract.
tract.
transgressive systems tract is composed of backThe transgressive
backstepping parasequences, which can also contain
hydrocarbon
hydrocarbon reserves.
reserves. The transgressive
transgressive systems tract
can also be very thin, and its top can be a condensed
section. The highstand systems tract is composed of
section.
aggradational
aggradational to progradational parasequence sets.
Typically, the highstand systems
systems tract is truncated sigsigTypically,
sequence boundary.
boundary. Most
nificantly by the overlying sequence
type-l
type-1 sequences
sequences consist of a well-developed
well-developed lowstand systems tract, a thin transgressive
transgressive systems tract,
shale-dominated and truncated highstand syssysand a shale-dominated
Type-2 sequences
sequences are composed of shelfshelftems tract. Type-2
margin,
margin, transgressive,
transgressive, and highstand systems tracts.
tracts.
experience, type-2
type-:! sequences
sequences are not common
In our experience,
siliciclasticstrata.
strata.
in siliciclastic
Type-l
Type-1 sequences
sequences occur with a high frequency from
the Pleistocene back, at least, to the Pennsylvanian.
Pennsylvanian.
High-frequency
High-frequency sequences
sequences are interpreted to form
form in
response to sea-level
sea-levelcycles of 100,000
100,000to 150,000
150,000years.
years.
High-frequency sequences stack to form sequence
which, in turn, form composite sequences.
sequences. Many
sets, which,
of the third-order sea-level
sea-level cycles on the Exxon Global
Cycle Chart (Haq
(Haq et a1.,
al., 1988)
1988)may have resulted in the
deposition of composite sequences
sequences composed of
sequence sets. The recognition of composite
sequences is critical
critical for providing a regional frameframesequences
work for tying the stratigraphy of depocenters,
depocenters, where
sequences are best expressed,
expressed, to timehigh-frequency sequences
equivalent areas of low-sediment
recognilow-sediment supply.
supply. The recognition of
of high-frequency sequences is essential for
developing accurate reconstructions of sea-level
change through time and for developing
developing a detailed
picture of reservoir, source, and seal distribution
within a stratigraphic
stratigraphic unit. Finally, if our contention
that high-frequency sequences
sequences are significant components of siliciclastic
siliciclastic strata is correct, there is a fourthorder cyclicity superposed on the third-order cyclicity
predicted by the Exxon Global Cycle Chart (Haq
(Haq et al.,
1988).This will have an impact on vertical-facies inter1988).
pretation in siliciclastic
siliciclasticstrata because facies
facies continuity
may not exist across
across these high-frequency boundaries.
Recognition
Recognition of the units in the stratal hierarchy,
including sequences
sequences and parasequences,
including
parasequences, is based only
on the physical relationships of the strata. These relationships are determined from core,
core, outcrop, well-log,
or seismic data.
data. Application of sequence
sequence stratigraphy
to stratigraphic
stratigraphic analysis proceeds, in many basins,
independently of inferred regional or global deposidepositional mechanisms.
mechanisms.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors thank Exxon Production Research Company for permission to publish this book. Paul
Weimer, Tom Moslow,
Loomis, and Keith ShanMoslow, Karen Loomis,

ley reviewed the manuscript.


manuscript. Their constructive
constructive criticriticisms resulted in a greater clarity of expression.
P.R.
expression. PR.
Vail,
Vail, J. Hardenbol,
Hardenbol, H.W.
H.W. Posamentier,
Posamentier, A.D. Donovan,
F.B. ZeIt,
Zelt, S.R.
S.R. Morgan, S.M.
S.M. Kidwell,
Kidwell, J.R. Suter, N.!.
N.I.
James have freely
freely shared with us
Corbett, and D.P. James
their thoughts and observations
observations about sequence
sequence stratigraphy. We are grateful
grateful for these conversations.
conversations. We
thank E. Mutti for sharing with us his views of
sequence
sequence stratigraphy.
stratigraphy. B. Trujillo carefully
carefully turned the
senior author's drawings into polished figures.
figures.
Finally, we thank the hundreds of geologists
geologists from
Exxon Company, U.S.A. and Exxon affiliate compancompanies around the world who have attended our schools
schools
over the years.
years. Their questions and healthy skepticism
have improved the concepts and techniques of
sequence
sequence stratigraphy immeasurably.
immeasurably.

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W. Goodwin,
Goodwin, and T. H.
H. Sobieski,
Sobieski, 1984,
1984, Episodic
Anderson,
formation boundaries in the HelHelaccumulation and the origin of formation
State: Geology,
Geology, v.
v. 12, p. 120-123.
120-123.
derberg Group of New York State:
Asquith, D.O.,
D. O., 1970, Depositional topography and major marine
Asquith,
environments,
environments, Late Cretaceous,
Cretaceous, Wyoming:
Wyoming: AAPG Bulletin,
1184-1224.
v. 54, p. 1184-1224.
Aubrey, W.
W. M., 1989, Mid-Cretaceous
Mid-Cretaceous alluvial-plain
alluvial-plain incision related
southeastem Colorado Plateau: Geological Society
Society of
to eustasy, southeastern
339-443.
Bulletin, v. 101, p. 339-443.
America Bulletin,
Bally, A.
A. W.,
W., 1980,
1980, Basins
Basins and subsidence-a
subsidence-a summary,
summary, American
1, p. 5-20.
5-20.
Geodynamics Series,
Series, v. 1,
Geophysical Union Geodynamics
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