C. Bonnefon; A.Aboussou; E.


The Var Ridge: analysis of the levee reservoir
potential of a present day channel-levee system

Tu SP2 11

Introduction & Geological context

Structure/Architecture of the ridge (2)

The Var turbidite system is located in the Liguro-Provençal basin, in the Western
Mediterranean sea, and covers a 20 000 sq.kms wide area extending from off Nice to the
Northwestern margin of Corsica (Migeon et al., 2000).
Several stages over geological time have led to this basin structure : Pyrenean
setback at the Mesozoic, convergence of Africa towards European plate at the Upper
Cretaceous and finally the back-arc extension causing a rifting and leading to oceanisation
during the Oligo-Miocene. This depositional system developed, after the Messinian salinity
crises during the Zanclean reflooding (Savoye et al., 1993). It has an occidental
hypertrophied levee due to the curved morphology of the channel called the Var
sedimentary ridge, on which giant sand dunes develop.
The study of this atypical morphology can be used as a geological analogue for
hydrocarbon reservoirs and therefore is of major interest for both academic research and
the oil industry. 2D seismic in the area of interest (Fig.1) is used to describe the spatiotemporal organisation of the giant dunes and to analyse, understand and to model the
processes responsible for their formation, and finally to characterize their reservoir potential.

In the red unit, the sigmoids evolution is difficult to see whereas in the blue
and green units it is possible to see that the size of the levee decreases
from S-W to N-E. Several features, giving clues about sigmoid migration
and formation mecanisms, can be highlighted with synthetic cross-sections
- Concentration, thickness and lateral dunes extension;
- Distance between levee (depocenter) and first dune;
- Kind of levee (high and low);
- Type of deposit;
and are summarized in two
extreme cases (Fig.4):

Fig.4 : 2 extreme cases
encountered in the basin.
Mechanism of deposition are
in figure 6. (C.Bonnefon)

Fig.1 : Location map showing the position of seismic data used in this study.
The star indicate the profiles that will be shown next. (C.Bonnefon)

Fig.2 : Seismic facies identified with their geological interpretation and
illustrated by a portion of 3pa103 profil (N-S). Note that red, blue and green
units are mega-sequences studied later on this presentation. (C. Bonnefon)

We use high-resolution
seismic lines recorded on
board Téthys II. An air gun
emits waves that will be
interfaces and recorded by
hydrophones. Arrival time,
amplitude and waveforms
characterize the structures
and physical properties of
the subsurface. It is then
seismic facies recognized
everywhere in the study











Internal configuration of the
Continous bedding (Parallel)
with asymetrics sigmoids in
the basin (less important than
Continous bedding (Parallel)
with asymetrics sigmoids in
the basin
Strong lateral facies variation
: Continous or dicontinous
bedding (Parallel)
Continous bedding (Parallel)


Configuration of the
reflections at the Limits

Mid to High
High frequency

Concordant (upper and lower

As for 4b except deposits are
less homogeneous : presence of

High amplitude
High frequency

Concordant (upper and lower

Turbiditic deposits (levees)

Mid amplitude
High frequency

Discordant limits
« apparent Onlaps» due to salt
movements (diapirs)

Low amplitude
Low frequency

Concordant (lower limits)



Continous bedding (Parallel)

High amplitude
Low frequency





Concordant (upper and lower
Apparent Onlaps (lateral
Deform the upper units (2, 3,

Structure/Architecture of the ridge (1)
Seismic facies study shows
that the ridge is constituted by
not uniform, in space and
time, sigmoids. Indeed, it is
possible to distinguish 3 mega
sequences : red, green and
blue. For each of them and
each profil (Fig.1), thickness
has been measured at CDP
regular intervals. This work
allowed us :
1: to create synthetic W-E
and N-S oriented crosssections respectively showing
the N-S (Fig.3A) and W-E
(Fig.3B) variations .

Fig.3 : A) West-East synthetic cross-sections showing
North-Souh variations. B) North-South synthetic crosssections showing West-East variations. (C.Bonnefon)


Geological interpretation

Migrant Dunes

Between 3 and 4 : Quaternary limit.
Plio-Pleistocene deposits with many channels that
migrate over time.
Homogeneous and fine deposits with coarse
intracalations (paleochannels) : Hemipelagic marls
linked to the sudden Zanclean reflooding.


Evaporites with detritic intercalations deformed by
unit 1 : Upper Unit (Messinian-Miocene).

Salt diapirs: Mobile Unit (Messinian-Miocene).

Offset (CDP)

Fig.6 : Development and the migration of
dunes/sigmoids. (C.Bonnefon after A.Aboussou)




Construction and migration of dunes/sigmoids

Time (mstwt)

Data & Geological interpretation

Conclusion &Perspectives

2: to create three isopach maps (Fig.5).
evolution of the center-deposit
(maximum amount of deposition
ie the levee) over time. It
migrates from the S-W to the NE. So it seems that the sigmoids
migrate in a synchronous way
with the levee.
The following part provides a
valid explanation about the
migration through space and
Fig.5 : Isopach showing the
migration of the center-deposit.
over time (t1 to t3) . (C.Bonnefon)

As dunes are essentially composed of sand, they are a great
potential reservoir. Taking into account the giant dunes fields
components of the Var ridge and their particular concave forms,
there are many reservoirs available to store and trap migrated
hydrocarbons .


Dunes are built by the overflow of turbidite current out
of the channel. The sediment cloud passing over the
levee erodes first (descending slope) and, due to the
decreasing energy, the sediments are deposited on the
rising slope. This hydraulic jump phenomenon allows
the migration of sand dunes against the direction of
flow (Fig.6). Sigmoids are formed by alternating Fig. 7 : 3pa101 (N-S) section showing the internal
and structure of a giant dune. Yellow=turbidites and
Black=Hemipelagic. (C.Bonnefon)
hemipelagic deposits (continous process) (Fig.7).
Migration from West to East of the center deposit is related to the morphology of the levee. Indeed,
the levee acts as a wall and constrains the flow. When it is poorly developed, the particles overflow
and there is formation of marked sigmoids, whereas when the levee is well developed, only the fine
particles of the turbidite cloud manage to pass into the basin and therefore the sigmoids are less
marked. Finally when the levee is too thick, the turbidites are blocked and the system (channel and
center deposit) shifts, it migrates from South to North further into the basin where there is more
accomodation space. Thus, the channel migration and the model of deposition can explain migration
of the center deposit by lateral compensation.

A good-quality reservoir can be coarse sand with high porosity with a significant lateral/vertical
extension. In this context, dunes/sigmoids have a relief and a wide extension. Moreover, the rising
part of the dunes/sigmoids is composed of coarse material. However, their compositions are not
homogenous : alterning layers of turbiditics porous and hemipelagics non-permeable. That could be
either an advantage or a disadvantage because the distributions govern the connection or
disconnection of the sand bodies and play a key role in the quality of the reservoir. For example :
 In fig.8a, the sandy dunes are connected thanks to the hydraulic jump which had eroded the
basal part of the dune but the clay banks isolate sand bodies in the rising part and seal the sigmoid
in the falling part. Hydrocarbons can dismigrate, migrate in one upper reservoir or remain trapped in
disconnected sand bodies as in fig.8c.  In fig.8b, several sand bodies are connected, isolated one
side and at the top by clay forming a reservoir with a concave shape. In this case, there are both a
reservoir and a stratigraphic trap where hydrocarbons can migrate, accumulate and the recuperation
can be done more efficiently.
 MTD/MTC (fig.7) is interesting because this type of sediment mobilization feature can also
connect sand bodies over an extended thickness. Moreover, fig.7 enable to do an estimates. Using
conservations time/depth laws with CDP=12,5m and time in mstwt, a single dune (one yellow layer in
Fig. 8 : Various cases of lateral continuity,
longitudinal, vertical and interconnection of fig.6), has a thickness of 20m and a volume of sand of 130 Mm . With an hypothetic porosity=30%,
Shc=80% and FVF=0,77 : hydrocarbons volume could be around 25 Mm3, or 150 Mbbl.
sand bodies. (C.Bonnefon)

Potential Reservoir

Our study about the Var sedimentary ridge contributes to a
better understanding of the construction and space and
temporal evolution of structurally-constrained turbiditic systems.
The curvature of the main channel induces the
overdevelopment of the southern levee. Turbiditic currents
overflow the levee and induce a process of erosion on the
downslope and deposition on the rising slopes. When the levee
is high, only fine particules overpass whereas coarser particles
are deposited away where the levee is less developed. This
phenomenon induces the migration from west to east. When the
basin is full, the channel-levee system migrate towards the

However, in the Liguro-Provençal basin story, although there
were two anoxics periods that allowed the deposits of two
source rocks (Messinian marl and syn-rift sediments), evidence
for the presence of hydrocarbon accumulations still needs to be
found. The absence of hydrocarbon suggests that either
maturation and migration could not occur due to insufficient
burial, or that the Messinian evaporites act as very efficient
sealing layers.
The Var ridge giant sand dunes geometries could be an
interesting geological analogue for such stratigraphic traps.
Future works may involve a comparison between seismic
interpretations and well data in order to better determine and
predict the reservoir quality of the sedimentary succession.

First of all, we thank the University Pierre et Marie Curie and GEOAZUR who
provided seismic lines.
A big thank you at UPMC-EAGE Geosciences Student Chapter which was
created the 2 of January 2015 with the aim of representing EAGE at
UPMC. We thank the EAGE for selecting our abstract and giving us
the chance to present our work to the 77th EAGE Conference &
Exhibition 2015 in Madrid.
To finish, we thank all the people who were able to participate in some way in
our project.

Migeon S., Savoye B., Faugeresb JC., 2000. Quaternary development of
migrating sediment waves in the Var
deep‐sea fan: distribution, growth
pattern, and implication for levee evolution.
Savoye, B., Piper, D.J.W. and Droz, L., 1993. Plio-Pleistocene evolution of the
Var deep-sea fan off the French Riviera. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 10:550571.