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The use of microresistivity image AUTHORS

logs for facies interpretations: An Howard Brekke ~ Consultant, 450

Hidden Valley Grove NW, Calgary, Alberta,
Canada T3A 5X2;
example in point-bar deposits of Howard Brekke is a geologist with 20 years

the McMurray Formation, of industry experience. He received a B.Sc.

(1992) and an M.Sc. (1995) in geology from
the University of Alberta. He is an image
Alberta, Canada log specialist focusing on interpretation
and mapping.
Howard Brekke, James A. MacEachern, Tania Roenitz, James A. MacEachern ~ Applied
and Shahin E. Dashtgard Research in Ichnology and Sedimentology
Group, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon
Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia,
Canada V5A 1S6;
James MacEachern is a professor of
Well logs such as spontaneous potential and gamma ray histori- earth sciences at Simon Fraser University,
cally have been the only tools available for facies evaluation of specializing in ichnology, sedimentology,
noncored wells in the McMurray Formation. The addition of mi- and stratigraphy. He received his B.Sc. Honours
croresistivity image logs has greatly improved facies identica- (1982) and M.Sc. (1987) degrees from
tions and interpretations, particularly when integrated with core University of Regina and a Ph.D. (1994) from
data sets. In the case of McMurray channel complexes, core de- University of Alberta. In 1995, he was hired
to help develop the earth sciences program
scriptions provide detail about bedding contacts, sedimentary
at Simon Fraser University.
texture, stratication, bioturbation intensity, and trace fossil di-
versity. Image logs provide texture, fabric, bedding contact style, Tania Roenitz ~ Statoil Canada Ltd., 3600,
dip directions and angles, and bedding architecture information, 308 4th Ave SW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
yielding paleoow and lateral accretion directions. This study T2P 0H7;
characterizes facies by integrating interpretations from 414 Tania Roenitz works for Statoil as a geologist
image logs with core-based descriptions from 138 of these wells. in the Canadian East Coast Group. Roenitz
The reservoir targets, and most prolic depositional facies in this holds a B.Sc. in earth sciences (2005) from
Simon Fraser University, Canada.
study, are associated with channel systems and their associated
point-bar deposits. Facies identications are based on several image Shahin E. Dashtgard ~ Applied Research
log criteria. Mud clast breccias display variable dip angles and dip in Ichnology and Sedimentology Group,
directions. Cross-stratied sands comprise vertical successions of Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser
stacked, internally consistent bedsets with high dip angles (>15) University, Burnaby, British Columbia,
that indicate paleoow direction. Lateral accretion beds show Canada V5A 1S6;
consistent dip directions with a progressive change from shallow- Shahin Dashtgard is an associate professor
to-steep-to-shallow dip angles (e.g., <4 to 15 to <4) from the at Simon Fraser University. He received his
B.Sc. (1998) and Ph.D. (2006) from the
base to the top of the succession, as well as beds that dip toward
University of Alberta and worked 5 years
the thalweg of the paleochannel. Flat-lying (<4) mud records
as a geologist in the Canadian petroleum
vertical accretion associated with point-bar tops or channel industry. Shahins research focuses on
abandonment. Although this facies classication is specic to the marginal marine depositional systems on
McMurray Formation in the study area, the principles provided modern coastlines and in the rock record.

Copyright 2017. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.
Manuscript received January 27, 2016; provisional acceptance May 27, 2016; revised manuscript received July The authors are grateful for comments and
5, 2016; nal acceptance August 24, 2016. recommendations from Stephen M. Hubbard

AAPG Bulletin, v. 101, no. 5 (May 2017), pp. 655682 655

and an anonymous reviewer on this paper here are applicable to other subsurface studies and demonstrate
and reviewers Dale A. Leckie and Roger M. the enhanced reliability of integrated coreimage log data sets.
Slatt and an anonymous reviewer on an
earlier version of this paper. The authors
wish to thank J. P. Derochie, Bryce Jablonski,
and Jennifer Vezina for their valuable INTRODUCTION
discussion and comments on this paper. We
also wish to thank Statoil Canada Ltd. for This study outlines a method to combine high-resolution mi-
permission to publish these data. croresistivity image logs (image logs) with core to generate more
robust facies interpretations. These improved facies interpreta-
tions yield a better understanding of the presence of permeability
barriers needed to characterize reserves vs. resource in steam-
Color versions of Figures 36, 810, and assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) reservoirs.
1221 can be seen in the online version of Permeability barriers in SAGD projects created by laterally
this paper.
continuous mud beds have the largest negative effect on pro-
duction, making these zones nonprospective. Discontinuous mud
beds create small bafes that have a subordinate effect on pro-
duction. The focus of this study is to dene facies that differenti-
ate prospective from nonprospective deposits.
The McMurray Formation of the Athabasca oil sands hosts
large bitumen reserves in point bars deposited in uvial to
tidaluvial channel systems. The lateral extent, thickness, and
distribution of mud beds in these settings have been studied to
estimate their effect on bitumen production (Labrecque et al.,
2011a, b; Burton and Wood, 2013; Hassanpour et al., 2013;
Jablonski et al., 2016). Historically, subsurface correlations were
based on facies interpreted from standard open-hole well logs
(e.g., gamma ray [GR], resistivity, and spontaneous potential
curves) and supplemented with core where available. However,
interpretations of these logs typically result in nonunique geo-
logical interpretations because different depositional settings
generate similar lithofacies.
Dipmeter logs have been used previously in the McMurray
Formation to map bedding architectures and dene channel ll
types based on dip patterns (e.g., Muwais and Smith, 1990).
Nardin et al. (2013) matched dipmeter logs to core and mine wall
exposures to dene facies characteristics and distributions, iden-
tifying bedding hierarchies and mapping the lateral extents of
point bars. Image logs provide sedimentary detail not available in
dipmeter logs by providing a continuous pseudopicture of the
wellbore (Thompson, 2009; Poppelreiter et al., 2010) and, hence,
provide signicantly more detail of reservoir character. Brekke and
Evoy (2004) used image logs to describe facies, postdepositional
deformation features, and lateral extents of point bars. Recent
applications of image logs identied scroll bars and dinosaur
footprints in the McMurray Formation (Brekke, 2015).
In this study, image logs link detailed sedimentological ob-
servations derived from conventional cores with open-hole well
logs. Visual similarities between image log responses and sedi-
mentological characteristics of the sedimentary succession,

656 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

unconformity incised into Devonian-aged carbonates
of the Woodbend and Beaverhill Lake Groups and
is capped by unconsolidated sands, muds, and heter-
olithic bedsets of the Wabiskaw Member of the
Clearwater Formation (Figure 2). The data set
comprises 414 wells with image logs, 138 of which
contain core from the McMurray Formation. Facies
types were dened using both core and image log
characteristics. Bedding dip angles and orienta-
tions were interpreted from the image logs of all 414
On a regional scale, the Lower Cretaceous
McMurray Formation (Figure 2) has informally been
divided into lower, middle, and upper units (e.g.,
Flach and Mossop, 1985; Langenberg et al., 2002;
Hein and Cotterill, 2006). Lower McMurray unit
sediments, interpreted as paleosol and uvial de-
posits, are not abundant in the Leismer area. The mid-
dle McMurray unit (Figure 3) consists of point-bar
deposits that accumulated in tidaluvial channels
(Mossop and Flach, 1983; Ranger and Pemberton,
1992, 1997) and hosts the main reservoir facies.
The middle McMurray interval is the most abundant
unit and locally comprises the entire McMurray For-
Figure 1. Map of the Leismer area, Alberta, Canada with mation interval in the study area (Figure 3A). The
township (TWP) and range (RNG) numbers shown in the detail upper McMurray unit (Figure 3B) overlies the
map. Circles denote wells in the study area with image logs. Black- middle McMurray and constitutes the transition
lled circles corresponding to cored wells with image log data. from uvialestuarine deposition into deltaic to
marine deposition.

coupled with the in situ location of image log records,

makes their use vastly superior to conventional at-
tempts to tie core data from one location to open-
hole well log characteristics in adjacent wells. The
extensively drilled and cored McMurray Formation
of northeastern Alberta, Canada, provides an ex-
cellent example of how to integrate core-based fa-
cies analysis with image log data.



The Leismer study area covers 200 km2 (77 mi2) in

northeast Alberta, Canada (Figure 1). The McMurray
Formation at Leismer comprises a 4060 m (130200
ft) succession of unconsolidated sands, mud clast Figure 2. Chronostratigraphic chart of the McMurray Forma-
breccias, heterolithic composite bedsets, and muds. tion, Alberta, Canada. Fm. = Formation; Gp. = Group; Mbr. =
The formation rests on a regionally extensive angular Member.


Figure 3. Sample logs of the McMurray Formation in the Leismer area. Two sample logs display the range of facies and informal stratigraphic
units in this study. Each log contains gamma ray (GR), photoelectric effect (PE), density porosity (DPSS), and neutron porosity (NPSS) curves in
addition to facies associations (FA), facies, and bedding dip tadpole tracks. (A) This example shows GR ranges from 30 to 80 API and
DPSSNPSS separation from 3% to 21%; this is consistent with a mix of slightly muddy to mud-dominated lithologies. Facies 3a and 3b are
dominant in this well and consist of thick intergradational intervals. Bedding is almost exclusively lateral accretion (red tadpoles) dipping to the
northnorthwest. (B) This example has log characteristics grossly similar to (A), but facies are highly varied, and intervals are thin with sharp
contacts. Bedding consists of lateral accretion and vertical accretion (purple tadpoles). Note: A color version can be seen in the online version.

METHODS bedset thicknesses, and stratication styles, unless

noted otherwise.
Core-based facies characterization followed the The combination of the two data sets was su-
conventional practice of identifying lithology, tex- perior to using core alone. Using core facies alone can
tural characteristics, bed and bedset thicknesses, be problematic for the following reasons.
internal primary physical stratication, bioturbation
index, burrow distributions, and ichnological suites. 1. Oil saturation obscures physical and biogenic
Image logs provided dip angles and directions for characteristics.
beds, laminae, and other surfaces. Both core and 2. Core recovery is incomplete, or core was reserved
image logs were used to describe lithologies, bed and for destructive testing.

658 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

5. Observed dip angles in core display only apparent
dips because individual core tubes are slabbed in
random vertical orientations.
6. True dip directions cannot be determined because
the cores are nonoriented.

Image logs are the best tool for calibrating core

to depth and identifying bed contacts, bed dips,
and sedimentary features. Correspondingly, they are
critical for facies interpretation. Image log data are
measureable at the millimeter scale and, like stan-
dard well logs, provide continuous vertical coverage
through the drilled interval. The most important
aspect of image log interpretations, however, is the
measurement of in situ bedding.
Image logs used in this study measure the micro-
resistivity of the formation lithology and uid. The
image log tool consists of 6 pads; each pad has 25
sensor buttons and 150 channels of data per well. The
sensor buttons are spaced 4.1 mm (0.2 in.) apart on
each pad, resulting in a vertical sample frequency of
2.5 mm (0.1 in.) and a vertical resolution of 5.0 mm
(0.2 in.). A standard interpretation interval of one bed
per 10 cm (4 in.) avoided oversampling of nely
stratied sediments and limited user bias in picking
surfaces. With an average thickness for the middle
McMurray of 45 m (150 ft), up to 450 bedding
surfaces were picked per well. A representation of
an image log in the cylindrical wellbore (Figure 5A)

Figure 4. Example of matching core to depth and recognizing

core compression. A 2.5-m (8.2-ft) image log interval, track (Tr.) 4,
was used to correlate core to depth. Track 2 shows the 75-cm
(2.5-ft) lengths of slabbed core as recovered. White dashed lines
mark contacts between continuous sections of slabbed core; white
circles denote the core tube numbers. The core in track 2 does not
correlate to the depths in the image log; notably, the dark-colored
sand interval is 60 cm (23.5 in) thick in core tubes 67 and 68 but
over 80 cm (31.5 in) in the image log. Expanding the core pho-
tographs in track 3 to match the mud beds in track 4 puts the core
on depth. This example shows that the unconsolidated core was
likely dewatered and compacted during the coring process. Figure 5. Image log (A) as acquired from the three-dimensional
wellbore and (B) as presented in the two-dimensional wellbore.
Six pads make up the image log oriented with south in the middle
3. Core tubes are misplaced (e.g., upside down, out
and north on the left and right sides. Each track represents a pad
of order, or even belonging to other wells). made up of 25 readings displaying microresistivity values that
4. Cored intervals from the McMurray Formation range from low (dark) to high (light). (C) Two tracks of image log
are locally prone to stretching and/or compaction data showing a low-resistivity mud clast surrounded by high-
during the coring process (Figure 4). resistivity sand.


Figure 6. Image log key.
Bedding classication with
dip angle and direction for
each interpreted bed is dis-
played in the left track. The
tadpole head indicates dip
angles scaled from 0 to 50,
and the tadpole tail points in
the dip direction. The color
of the tadpole represents
the interpreted bedding type
shown in the surface key. The
example bed at the arrow is
a lateral accretion layer that
dips west at 10. The beds are
sinusoids on the interpreted
image log; a noninterpreted image log shows bedding contacts and lithology. Note: A color version can be seen in the online

displays vertical colored bands that correspond to The standard two-dimensional representation of the
resistivity values measured from each pad. The blank image log shows all six pads of well coverage (Figure
vertical strips represent the area of the wellbore with- 5B) and a close-up of the data (Figure 5C).
out tool coverage. Light colors (white to yellow) in Variations in resistivity highlight surfaces and
the image logs indicate high-resistivity features such other sedimentologic features in the image log, with
as hydrocarbon-bearing sands, carbonates, and con- planar surfaces appearing as sinusoids. The inter-
cretions. Conversely, dark colors (brown to black) preter manually places the sinusoid on the image in
distinguish low-resistivity features, which include the interpretation software (Figure 6), and the dip
muds, water-saturated sands, and organic detritus. angle, dip direction, and depth of the surface are

Figure 7. Diagrammatic rep-

resentations of bedding bound-
ing surfaces and internal
bedding. (A) Disorganized high-
angle bedding with abundant
internal bedding surfaces
grouped into sets with similar
dip directions truncated by dis-
organized bedding bounding
surfaces. (B) Disorganized low-
angle bedding dened by dis-
organized bedding bounding
surfaces without internal bed-
ding. (C) Organized low-angle
bedding with internal bedding
surfaces grouped into sets with
similar dip directions truncated
by organized bedding bounding
surfaces. (D) Organized low-
angle bedding dened by
organized bedding bounding
surfaces without internal bedding. (E) Horizontal bedding dened by lowdip angle bedding bounding surfaces. (F) Bedding types
identied from image log categorized by dip angles and direction, lower bed f bedding, organized low-angle mottled bedding, and
horizontal bedding. N/A = not applicable.

660 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

automatically calculated from the amplitude and
bearing of the traced sinusoid. These data display as
tadpoles for each surface, with the head represent-
ing dip magnitude and the tail indicating dip direc-
tion (Figure 6). This study used static images with a
constant resistivity scale to ensure standardized color
values for lithology and pore uid characterization
from well to well. Dynamic images are commonly
displayed beside static images to emphasize detail
where resistivity contrast is low.
Image log bedding in this study exhibits seven bed
types (Figure 7F), based on dip angles and direction,
lower bed boundaries, and lithology. Dip angles fall
into three broad groups: high angle (15), low angle Figure 8. Bedding reclassication over a 23-m (75-ft) interval.
(>4 to <15), and horizontal bedding (4). Dip di- (A) Initial bedding picks in the sandy interval were initially classied
rection classication for bedding types is based on the as high-angle disorganized because of the steeply dipping beds
bedding bounding surface: organized beds are similar (dip angles from 0 to 40). The low-angle organized beds in the
in dip angle and dip direction (Figure 7A, B), and muddy interval above the sand matched bedding below the sand
and were consistent with a continuously deposited package. (B) The
disorganized beds have different dip directions (Fig-
beds in the sandy interval were reexamined, and bedding consistent
ure 7C, D). Sand on sand and sand on mud bedding with the overlying and underlying low-angle organized beds was
bounding surfaces are sharp (laminated) contacts; mud reclassied to match. This reclassication dramatically changes the
over sand contacts are either laminated or mottled depositional interpretation for these sandy beds. GR = gamma ray.
(bioturbated). Internal bedding lies between bounding
surfaces and is primarily organized and of high angle. discontinuous laminae (Figure 7F). Therefore, ripple
Surfaces generated in sand beds are laminated bedding picks indicate only the location of ripples
and are classied as disorganized high-angle bedding and not dip angle or direction. Other beds highlight
or disorganized low-angle bedding (Figure 7F). Disor- observations not associated with primary deposition
ganized high-angle bedding consists of sets of meter- (e.g., carbonate nodules).
scale, highdip angle organized intervals of internal Bedding classication is the rst step in facies de-
bedding separated by disorganized bounding surfaces termination and includes interpreting bedding charac-
(Figure 7A). Disorganized low-angle bedding lacks teristics, classifying the lithology, and integrating the
highdip angle internal bedding (Figure 7B). Muddier available core and open-hole log suite as required. The
and heterolithic beds have organized dipping bound- next step is to group beds with similar surface char-
ing bedding surfaces with or without internal bedding acteristics (i.e., dip patterns and lithology) into facies.
(Figure 7C, D). Muddy bedding bounding surfaces The interpretation process may take multiple itera-
may be sharp and laminated or mottled and irregular tions where bedding trends are inconclusive. That is,
and are classied as organized low-angle laminated subtle patterns may become apparent after reviewing
bedding and organized low-angle mottled bedding, dip patterns in the well (Figure 8) or from nearby wells.
respectively. The lower contacts of mottled mud beds This iterative process improves facies interpretations
are nonplanar, making them unreliable for dip orien- by expanding the area of observation beyond the par-
tation measurements. Conversely, the sharp tops of the ticular interval and incorporating surrounding data to
mud beds provide reliable orientation measurements determine genetic linkages among beds and bedsets.
and are the surfaces picked for all low-angle bedding.
Horizontal beds are classied independent of lithol-
ogy (Figure 7E). Horizontal bedding dip angles are RESULTS AND INTERPRETATION
reliable, but accurately determining the dip direction
is not possible because of the very low dip angles. Table 1 summarizes eight recurring McMurray For-
Ripples are too small to form planar features mation facies (F1 to F8), occurring in four facies as-
spanning the wellbore and appear as small clusters of sociations, labeled FA1 to FA4 (Table 1).


Table 1. Facies Characteristics of the McMurray Formation of the Leismer Area
Lithologic Components

Facies Association Facies Facies Name Clasts Sand Mud Bed Thickness Basal Contact Structures

FA1 F1 Mud clast breccia Angular and Variable, ne to >10 cm (>4 in.) May be gradation Trough cross-beds
subangular coarse grain size; with F2,
mud clasts moderately to otherwise sharp
>2 mm well sorted

FA1 F2 Sand-rich, high-angle, Rare 90%, ne to coarse 10% Sand 20100 cm May be gradation Trough cross-beds,
variably dipping grain size; (940 in.); with F1, current ripples
stratication moderately to laminated mud otherwise sharp
well sorted <20 cm (8 in.)

FA1 F3a Sand-rich, low-angle, Rare 70%, very ne to 30% Sand <50 cm (<20 Gradational Trough cross-beds,
uniformly dipping medium grain in.); mud <20 cm current ripples
stratication size; moderately (8 in.)
to well sorted

FA1 F3b Mud-rich, low-angle, <70%, very ne to 30% Sand <10 cm (<4 Gradational Current ripples
uniformly dipping medium grain in.); mud <20 cm with rare trough
stratication size; moderately (8 in.) cross-beds
to well sorted

FA1 F4 Mud-rich, at-lying <10%, very ne to 90% Sand <2 cm (<0.8 Gradational Parallel laminated
stratication ne grain size; in.) with current ripples,
moderately to convolute bedding
well sorted and loading
FA2 F5 Bioturbated sandy mud <10%, very ne to 90% Sand 2100 cm Bioturbated Bioturbated with
to sand ne grain size; (0.840 in.); mud oscillation ripples in
moderately well <1 cm (0.4 in.) low-angle wavy
sorted parallel laminations

FA2 F6 Bioturbated to <10%, very ne 90% Sand 2100 cm Bioturbated Oscillation ripples in
laminated muds grain size; well (0.840 in.); mud wavy parallel
sorted <1 cm (0.4 in.) laminations
FA3 F7 Heterolithic >10%, very ne to 90% <10 cm (<4 in.) Sharp HCS in sand, rippled
coarsening-upward ne grain size; ; sand and soft
cycles well sorted sediment

FA4 F8 Unburrowed, root- <5% 95% <10 m (33 ft) Sharp Pedogenic
bearing mud and coal slickenslides

Bedding type frequencies are (1) dominant, (2) abundant, (3) common, (4) uncommon, (5) rare, and (6) not applicable (N/A).
Abbreviations: BI = bioturbation index; CBB = cut-bankderived breccia; HCS = hummocky cross stratication; PBB = point-barderived breccia. Ichnology abbreviations: Ar =
Arenicolites; As = Asterosoma; Ch = Chondrites; Cs = Cosmorhaphe; Cy = Cylindrichnus; ea = equilibrium adjustment; Gy = Gyrolithes; H = Helminthopsis; fu = fugichnia;
nav = navichnia; Ph = Phycosiphon; Pl = Planolites; Ps = Psilonichnus; Si = Siphonichnus; Sk = Skolithos; Te = Teichnichnus; Th = Thalassinoides; Tr = Trichichnus.

662 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

Table 1. Continued
Image Log Bedding Types

Internal Bedding Bounding Bedding Depositional

Bioturbation Surfaces Surface Image Log Utility Process Interpretation Interpretation

Muddy clasts may be Common: Common: Breccia easily identied CBB: collapse of cut-bank Eroded and
bioturbated disorganized high disorganized high sowing lateral clast deposits. PBB: mobilized host rock
angle (from 0 to angle (from 15 to terminations and unidirectional current deposits.
90) 40) and low-angle unusual dip angles. ow of reworked
disorganized bedload sediment.
Mud BI 02: Pl, Cy, Abundant: Common: Dip of high-angle beds Unidirectional current Two- and three-
nav disorganized high disorganized low indicates paleoow ow of bedload dimensional dunes
angle; uncommon: angle direction. sediment. and trough cross-
ripples stratication in
thalweg or as
transverse bar.
Sand BI 02: Cy, Sk, Uncommon: ripples; Dominant: organized Dip of bounding surfaces Helical ow forms Sand-rich lateral
Si, fu; mud BI 15: rare: disorganized low-angle mottled indicates direction of reactivation (bounding) accretion beds of
Pl, Cy, nav, Th, Te, high angle and and organized low- point-bar accretion. Dip surfaces equivalent to a point bar.
Gy, Sk, Si, Ps disorganized low angle laminated of internal bedding point-bar lateral
angle indicates paleoow accretion surfaces.
direction. Unidirectional current
ow of bedload
Sand BI 02: Cy, Sk, Uncommon: ripples; Dominant: organized Dip of bounding surfaces Deposition of mud from Mud-rich lateral
Si, fu; mud BI 15: rare: disorganized low-angle mottled indicates direction of suspension during accretion beds of
Pl, Cy, nav, Th, Te, high angle and and organized low- point-bar accretion. Dip lateral accretion. a point bar.
Gy, Sk, Si, Ps disorganized low angle laminated of internal bedding Unidirectional current
angle indicates paleoow ow of sand and
direction. occulated mud as
bedload sediment.
BI 05: Pl, Ch, nav, Rare: ripples Dominant: horizontal Differentiate point bar Vertical accretion of mud Vertical accretion at
Th, Te, Gy bedding from abandoned from suspension. the top of point
channel deposit. bars or as channel
BI 25: Cy, Pl, Pa, Sk, Rare: ripples Common: horizontal Flat-lying beds indicative Vertical accretion of mud Brackish bay ll.
Di, Si, Gy, Te, Th, Ch bedding of vertical accretion. from suspension.
Oscillatory ow
formation of low-angle
wavy laminations.
BI 45: Ch, As, Co, Pl, Rare: disorganized Common: horizontal Flat-lying beds indicative Vertical accretion of mud Prodelta to distal
Pa, Sk, Tr, Te, He, low angle and bedding of vertical accretion. from suspension in open bay.
Ph, fu, nav, Cy ripples marine conditions.
BI 04: Pl, Te, Si, fu; Uncommon: Common: horizontal Flat-lying beds indicative Oscillatory sediment Storm- and wave-
BI 01: Gy, Ch, Th, disorganized high bedding of vertical accretion. transport with rare dominated delta.
Ar, Sk, nav angle, disorganized unidirectional sediment
low angle, and transport.
Roots N/A N/A Very dark appearance is Subaerial deposition; Intrachannel
characteristic. Mottled locally vegetated. oodplain, swamp,
unit lacks bedding scroll bar.


Figure 9. Facies of the McMurray Formation channel complex (facies association 1). All scales are 3 cm. (A) Mud clast breccia unit showing oil-
saturated sand matrix (F1). The interval is mostly clast supported. Note the oil-stained sandy interlaminae within the clasts and the clasts variable
orientations. (B) Well-sorted, cross-stratied, oil-saturated sand with a coalied wood fragment as a rip-up clast (rc) (F2). (C) Mud asers in the
toesets of cross-stratied sand beds. Note the abundant carbonaceous debris within the mud asers (F2). (D) Low-angle bedded sand consisting of
stacked current ripple cross-lamination. Oil stain is weak because of elevated water saturation. Trace fossils include Skolithos (Sk) and fugichnia (fu) in
a unit showing bioturbation index (BI) 2 (F3). (E) Sandy inclined heterolithic stratication (IHS), showing oil-saturated sand with indistinct current
ripple laminae and interbeds of silt-rich mud. Note that the muds locally contain interlaminae of sand showing parallel lamination and current ripples.
Some mud layers are burrowed and show irregular upper margins caused by erosional events. The interval shows BI 2, with isolated sand- and mud-
lled Planolites (P) (F3a). (F) Sandy IHS, showing oil-saturated cross-stratied sand and a thin mud layer. Note that the mud layer is burrowed and
shows Cylindrichnus (Cy), P, and navichnia (nav). (G) Muddy IHS, showing subequal proportions of oil-saturated sand and silty to sandy mud beds.
The unit shows BI 3, with P, Sk and Cy (F3). (H) Muddy IHS, with isolated and starved current ripples locally showing mud foresets (black arrows) in
silty mud, forming a lenticular bedded composite bedset. The unit contains sand-lled syneresis cracks (sy). This muddy IHS interval shows BI 12,
with P and Teichichnus (Te) (F3b). (I) Flat-lying heterolithic mudstone interpreted as abandoned channel ll (F4). Note the similarity between this
mudstone and that of (G). The mudstone is lenticular bedded, with starved current ripples, localized mud foresets, syneresis cracks (sy), and BI 12
with low numbers of P. Only the image log data demonstrate that this facies is at lying and vertically aggraded instead of laterally accreted.

664 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

Figure 10. Image log and core photographs of the breccia facies (facies 1), including overview and detailed views. In the overview tracks
(15), track (Tr.) 1 shows the gamma ray (GR) curve scaled from 0 to 150 API. Track 2 shows the measured depth (MD) in meters; the red and
green rectangles in this Tr. correspond to the core intervals of tracks 9 and 10. Track 3 is the interpreted tadpole Tr; Track 4 is an unmarked static
image log used for gross lithological information and correlation. Track 5 shows the recovered core. In the detailed view tracks (69), Tr. 6 is the
interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 7 is the static image with the interpreted beds displayed as sinusoids. Track 8 is the static image without the
interpreted beds. Track 9 shows the cored interval matching tracks 68 and the red interval in Tr. 2; the vertical exaggeration (VE) is 0.5. Track 10
shows close-up sections of the cored interval corresponding to the green intervals in the depth Tr. and green intervals in the unmarked image; the
VE is 0.5. In all core photographs, the bitumen-saturated sand is dark, and the mud intervals are light in color. Conversely, in image logs the
bitumen-saturated sand is brightly colored, and the mud intervals are dark in color. In interval A, mud clast breccia displaying abundant, angular,
chaotically inclined, visibly discontinuous clasts of various sizes is conspicuous in the core and in the image log. In interval B, the core appears to
be a at-lying, laminated mud interbedded with sand. The hallmarks of the breccia in interval A (i.e., chaotic bedding and the associated angular
and discontinuous terminations) are not visible in core. The mud clasts are obvious in tracks 7 and 8 because the laminated muds dip at 11/120
(C) and 8/260 (D) and are clearly truncated. Using core alone, breccias consisting of small clasts are readily identied, but some intervals with
more robust clasts would be incorrectly identied as heterolithic bedding. Note: A color version can be seen in the online version.

Facies Association 1 core, cover 360 of the wellbore, and are better suited
to recognizing large clasts (see Figure 10B). Dip
Facies 1: Mud Clast Breccia orientations observed in FA1 and in image logs in-
Facies 1 (F1) consists of mud clasts in a sand matrix clude bedding surfaces marked by clasts, reoriented
that varies from clast supported to matrix supported primary bedding within large clasts, and surfaces
(Figures 9A, 10, Table 1). Mud clasts are readily ap- following truncated clast edges.
parent in core where lateral terminations are visible or
where clasts dip at high angles. Large clasts with at-
lying internal laminae spanning the width of the core Facies 1 Interpretation
are challenging to identify; however, image logs have Clasts are intraformationally derived from the ero-
roughly seven times the viewable area of slabbed sion of cohesive mud beds. The angularity of these


Figure 11. Point bar schematic drawing and bedding surface. (A) The schematic point bar diagram illustrates the dominant processes
and facies associated with point-bar deposition. (B) The dip angles of lateral accretion beds change from shallow to steep to shallow
(cf. the epsilon cross-bedding of Allen, 1963). This change in dip angle is characteristic of lateral accretion surfaces in point bars. 2D = two-
dimensional; 3D = three-dimensional.

soft, unlithied muds is consistent with burial follow- bases of new channels (Brekke and Evoy, 2004;
ing little or no reworking. Two possible depositional Nardin et al., 2013). The PBB interpretation should
settings for mud clast breccia deposition are (1) cut- be made where the bedding orientations of over-
bankderived breccia (CBB) and (2) point-bar lying and underlying organized low-angle bedding
derived breccia (PBB) (Figure 11). exhibit similar dip directions. In this scenario, the
breccia is derived from muddy sediments higher up
Cut-BankDerived Breccia on the point bar. The erosion of heterolithic lateral
The CBB consists of mud clast breccias formed from accretion bedsets caused by elevated discharge is
the collapse of muddy, cohesive cut-bank deposits on a source of clasts for the PBB (e.g., Sisulak and
the outer banks of meander bends. These breccias Dashtgard, 2012; Choi et al., 2013; Jablonski et al.,
overlie the erosional bases of migrating channels (CBB; 2016). The lateral migration of a single channel with
Figure 11) and mark the thalweg position of the associated transient erosional events is a better in-
active channel. Zones of CBB greater than 1 m (3 ft) terpretation in these cases.
thick may be associated with cross-stratied sand of The classication of a breccia as CBB or PBB is
facies 2 or lateral accretion beds of facies 3. It is impossible complicated where disorganized bedding surrounds
to determine from core if a breccia is a CBB marking the the breccia. Therefore, its resolution may require
base of a new channel unless the occurrence lies at the a comparison with bedding in nearby wells.
base of the formation. The only way to determine if
a breccia is a CBB is to compare bedding orientations
Facies 2: Sand-Rich, High-Angle, Variably Dipping
above and below the breccia. In the case where the
breccia is bracketed by organized low-angle bedding
Facies 2 (F2) (Table 1) is easily distinguished in image
with different dip directions, the breccia is likely
logs (Figure 12) by sand-dominated intervals of
derived from the cut bank of the migrating channel.
disorganized high-angle bedding and/or low-angle
bedding. Although stratication is locally visible in
Point-BarDerived Breccia core (Figure 9B), oil saturation commonly obscures the
Zones of breccia occurring within lateral accretion sedimentary features in this facies. Stratication is gen-
beds of facies 3 (PBB; Figure 11) might not mark the erally of high angle (>15) and occurs in decimeter-scale

666 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

Figure 12. Image log and core photographs of the breccia facies (facies 2), including overview and detailed views. In the overview tracks
(15), track (Tr.) 1 shows the gamma ray (GR) curve scaled from 0 to 150 API. Track 2 shows the measured depth (MD) in meters; the red
and green rectangles in this Tr. correspond to the core intervals of tracks 9 and 10. Track 3 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 4 is an
unmarked static image log used for gross lithological information and correlation. Track 5 shows the recovered core. In the detailed view
tracks (69), Tr. 6 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 7 is the static image with the interpreted beds displayed as sinusoids. Track 8 is the
static image without the interpreted beds. Track 9 shows the cored interval matching tracks 68 and the red interval in Tr. 2; the vertical
exaggeration (VE) is 0.5. Track 10 shows close-up sections of the cored interval corresponding to the green intervals in the depth Tr. and
green intervals in the unmarked image; the VE is 1.0. In core, sedimentary features are obscured by bitumen staining. The light-colored parts
of the core in Tr. 9 are a photographic effect caused by reection of the ash from the slabbed, bitumen-stained core. Sedimentary
structures are evident in the image log view. Note that the image in Tr. 4 is at the standard color scale for this study, and the images in tracks
7 and 8 are rescaled (darker) to enhance the bedding. This image log interval displays abundant, high-angled dipping beds that cluster into
meter-scale bedsets. The dip directions of internal bedding surfaces are consistent within individual beds but vary between bedsets. Internal
bedding dip angles display minor variation within a bedset but are commonly 2035. Bedsets of cross-bedded units commonly display
truncation (A and B) of the underlying cross-beds by an erosional bounding surface dipping at a relatively low angle (<15). Bedsets can also be
identied by bulk shifts in dip direction (C) and/or abrupt dip angle changes (D). Cross-bedding shows two discrete clusters of bedsets in the
overview tadpole track: one cluster dipping to the northeast at the base (X23X30 m) and one dipping to the northwest at the top (X15X23 m).
Bedsets exhibiting cross-stratication represent stacked dunes associated with current ow. Note: A color version can be seen online.

beds. Clay interlaminae and limited burrowing occur deposits (Figure 11). Localized ow directions be-
locally within some sands (Figure 9C). tween bedsets may be highly variable, but dominant
trends emerge when multiple bedsets are present.
The rapid deposition and migration of dune-scale
Facies 2 Interpretation bedforms results in minimal burrowing because or-
Facies 2 may occur at any level in the point bar, re- ganisms cannot easily inhabit and maintain domiciles
ecting small dunes or bars. When found at the base of in high-energy mobile substrates (cf. Dashtgard et al.,
the succession, this facies is interpreted as the deposits 2008; Gingras et al., 2008). Although the bulk of
of dunes and indicates high-energy, nonbar, channel this facies is unburrowed, the localized presence of


Figure 13. Image log and core photographs of the breccia facies (facies 3a), including overview and detailed views. In the overview tracks
(15), track (Tr.) 1 shows the gamma ray (GR) curve scaled from 0 to 150 API. Track 2 shows the measured depth (MD) in meters; the red
and green rectangles in this Tr. correspond to the core intervals of tracks 9 and 10. Track 3 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 4 is an unmarked
static image log used for gross lithological information and correlation. Track 5 shows the recovered core. In the detailed view tracks (69), Tr. 6 is
the interpreted tadpole track. Track 7 is the static image with the interpreted beds displayed as sinusoids. Track 8 is the static image without the
interpreted beds. Track 9 shows the cored interval matching tracks 68 and the red interval in Tr. 2; the vertical exaggeration (VE) is 0.5. Track 10
shows close-up sections of the cored interval corresponding to the green intervals in the depth Tr. and green intervals in the unmarked image; the
VE is 1.0. Interval A displays alternating laminated mud and sand layers in core and image log, characteristic of sand-dominated inclined heterolithic
stratication (IHS) with dips to the northwest at 710. Interval B is sandy and lacks visible bedding in core, but the image log displays bedding
dipping to the northwest at 915. These dipping beds are consistent with the sand-dominated IHS beds in interval A and are sandy inclined
stratication. The beds in the detailed tracks are all bounding surfaces as in Figure 8E, and a single dominant dip direction is present through the
overview interval. Detailed bedding information available from the image logs is consistent with a single depositional element, independent of
lithological variation. The overview interval shows the lateral accretion beds of a point bar. Note: A color version can be seen online.

burrows likely record pauses in dune migration (Yang and mud-dominated (F3b). Most biogenic structures
et al., 2009; Dashtgard, 2011). in this facies (Figure 9DH) are diminutive, and few
beds contain more than three ichnogenera. The uni-
directional dipping bed contacts observed in image
Facies 3: Low-Angle, Uniformly Dipping Stratication
logs are bounding surfaces (Figure 7C, D) and are the
Low-angle, uniformly dipping stratication is typied
most persistently oriented surfaces in the study, forming
by organized low-angle laminated bedding and or-
bedsets up to 50 m (165 ft) thick (Figure 3A).
ganized low-angle mottled bedding (Figures 1315)
and constitutes the most common facies in the study
area (Table 1). Facies 3 (F3) encompasses a spectrum Facies 3 Interpretation
of lithologies (Table 1) ranging from 100% sand Facies 3 represents lateral accretion of a point bar
(Figure 13B) to 100% mud (Figure 15). Facies 3 is deposited by a migrating channel. These inclined
subdivided into two subfacies: sand-dominated (F3a) surfaces are the master bedding planes of Allen (1963)

668 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

Figure 14. Image log and core photographs of the breccia facies (facies 3), including overview and detailed views. In the overview tracks
(15), track (Tr.) 1 shows the gamma ray (GR) curve scaled from 0 to 150 API. Track 2 shows the measured depth (MD) in meters; the red
and green rectangles in this Tr. correspond to the core intervals of tracks 9 and 10. Track 3 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 4 is an
unmarked static image log used for gross lithological information and correlation. Track 5 shows the recovered core. In the detailed view
tracks (69), Tr. 6 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 7 is the static image with the interpreted beds displayed as sinusoids. Track 8 is the
static image without the interpreted beds. Track 9 shows the cored interval matching tracks 68 and the red interval in Tr. 2; the vertical
exaggeration (VE) is 0.5. Track 10 shows close-up sections of the cored interval corresponding to the green intervals in the depth Tr. and
green intervals in the unmarked image; the VE is 1.0. Intervals A and B display characteristic inclined heterolithic stratication, consisting of
alternating bioturbated mud and sand layers in roughly equal proportions. The bedding in interval B appears to be at-lying in core.
However, the bioturbated mud beds in the image log clearly dip at 26 to the southsouthwest. This interval is continuous and
architecturally similar to that of the overlying interval A, the only difference being the higher sand content in B. Where bioturbation is intense
in interval B, the bedding may be obscured, making bed determination difcult. Throughout the overview interval (Tr. 4), a consistent
southwest dip direction is present in the red tadpoles inclined at 48, representing low-angle lateral accretion beds of a point bar. The at-
lying beds indicated by purple tadpoles are associated with the lateral accretion beds but are treated separately because the dip directions
are not reliable. Note: A color version can be seen in the online version.

and dene inclined heterolithic stratication (IHS) and outcrops by Flach and Mossop (Flach and Mossop,
inclined homolithic stratication (IS) (Thomas et al., 1985). This pattern is also noted by Thomas et al.
1987). In these point bars, the lateral accretion beds (1987) where bounding surfaces atten out down-dip.
maintain consistency in their dip direction (20), but Note that the epsilon cross-bedding prole described
dip angles steepen upward from the base of the unit, above is idealized; the dip angle prole displayed in
reaching their highest dip angles near the midpoint Figure 3A shows the steepest dip angles in the upper
before progressively shallowing to the top of the point third of the interval, well above the midpoint.
bar (Figure 11B). This shallow-to-steep-to-shallow dip Demonstrating the persistence in dip direction and
pattern is the epsilon cross-bedding described by Al- progressive change in dip angle of beds is indispensable
len (1963) and described in McMurray Formation for establishing a lateral accretion interpretation, as


Figure 15. Image log and core photographs of the breccia facies (facies 3b), including overview and detailed views. In the overview tracks
(15), track (Tr.) 1 shows the gamma ray (GR) curve scaled from 0 to 150 API. Track 2 shows the measured depth (MD) in meters; the red and
green rectangles in this Tr. correspond to the core intervals of tracks 9 and 10. Track 3 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 4 is an unmarked static
image log used for gross lithological information and correlation. Track 5 shows the recovered core. In the detailed view tracks (69), Tr. 6 is the
interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 7 is the static image with the interpreted beds displayed as sinusoids. Track 8 is the static image without the
interpreted beds. Track 9 shows the cored interval matching tracks 68 and the red interval in Tr. 2; the vertical exaggeration (VE) is 0.5. Track
10 shows close-up sections of the cored interval corresponding to the green intervals in the depth Tr. and green intervals in the unmarked
image; the VE is 1.0. The lithology of the overview interval (tracks 15) varies from cross-bedded sand to muddy inclined heterolithic
stratication (IHS). Bioturbated mud and sand layers shown in the detailed core interval are characteristic of muddy IHS. The muddy IHS appear
to be at-lying in core, but in the detailed image log the mud beds can be seen to dip at 611 (red tadpoles) toward the westsouthwest. The
detail interval is interpreted to be deposited by lateral accretion of a point bar. The overview interval shows the abrupt transition from a sandy,
crossbeddominated unit with subordinate westward-dipping lateral accretion surfaces (F3a) overlain by a muddy IHS unit accreting to the
west. The consistent character of the dipping lateral accretion beds crossing from the sand-dominated (F3a) to the mud-dominated (F3b) lateral
accretion shows that lateral accretion is independent of lithology. Note: A color version can be seen in the online version.

well as conrming that the succession constitutes part and F2, yielding intervals that are indistinguish-
of the same point bar. Conversely, stacked point bars able in cored successions.
show marked changes in dip directions. Discriminating Facies 3b records lower-energy deposition on
stacked point bars based on changes in lithology or pro- the laterally accreted tidaluvial point bars, where
portions of sand to mud beds is not reliable, because the mud content is greater than 70%. Low-intensity
these vary both in vertical prole and from one side of bioturbation with low-diversity suites correspond to
the depositional body to the other. reduced and/or strongly uctuating salinity as well as
Facies 3a is one of the most difcult to rec- heightened sedimentation rates (Pemberton, 1982;
ognize using core alone because it is easily mis- Pemberton and Wightman, 1992; MacEachern and
identied as the cross-stratied sand facies (F2). Gingras, 2007; Hauck et al., 2009). The intensely
Thin laminated mud beds may occur within F3a bioturbated muds are indicative of slow deposition

670 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

Figure 16. Image log and core photographs of the breccia facies (facies 4), including overview and detailed views. In the overview tracks
(15), track (Tr.) 1 shows the gamma ray (GR) curve scaled from 0 to 150 API. Track 2 shows the measured depth (MD) in meters; the red and
green rectangles in this Tr. correspond to the core intervals of tracks 9 and 10. Track 3 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 4 is an unmarked
static image log used for gross lithological information and correlation. Track 5 shows the recovered core. In the detailed view tracks (69), Tr.
6 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 7 is the static image with the interpreted beds displayed as sinusoids. Track 8 is the static image without
the interpreted beds. Track 9 shows the cored interval matching tracks 68 and the red interval in Tr. 2; the vertical exaggeration (VE) is 0.5.
Track 10 shows close-up sections of the cored interval corresponding to the green intervals in the depth Tr. and green intervals in the unmarked
image; the VE is 1.0. Mud and sand layers are similar in appearance to the muddy inclined heterolithic stratication in Figure 15. The beds in both
gures have a laminated appearance, and both gures show well-sorted, oil-saturated sand sharply overlain by a mud-dominated unit. The
overview interval in Figure 16 shows the abrupt change from a sandy, northwest-dipping, cross-bedded unit to a at-lying, vertically accreted
muddy unit. This interval reects the abandonment phase of a channelpoint bar complex. Note: A color version can be seen online.

rates showing that there was time for infauna to in- bedding appear in core (Figure 9I). Image logs exhibit
habit and then churn these sediments. This facies only horizontal bedding (Figure 16), also called
could have been deposited in sheltered positions, on to- horizontal stratication.
pographically higher parts of the tidaluvial point bar
complex, during periods of low or seasonally uc- Facies 4 Interpretation
tuating discharge, and/or where coarser-grained ma- Where F4 directly overlies F3 and is associated with
terial was unavailable (Dalrymple and Choi, 2007; the shallow-to-steep-to-shallow dip pattern of F3, it is
Hubbard et al., 2011; Musial et al., 2012; Sisulak and interpreted as vertical accretion at the top of a point
Dashtgard, 2012). bar (i.e., at-lying beds at the top of the epsilon cross-
stratication; Figure 11B). This type of F4 succession
Facies 4: Mud-Rich, Flat-Lying Stratication is typically only a few meters thick, and the vertical
Facies 4 (F4) consists of variably bioturbated, at- dip architecture displays the gradual change from
lying muds (Table 1). Bioturbation obscures much of lateral accretion bedding with gently decreasing dip
the primary fabric, but remnant laminae and graded angles to vertical accretion.


672 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations
Occurrences of F4 that abruptly overlie cross- D, lower half of Figure 18A). Trace-fossil suites are
stratied sands or abruptly overlie lateral accretion de- diverse and ichnogenera robust, contrasting with
posits without the gradual change associated with the diminutive forms typical of F1 through F4. The
a shallow-to-steep-to-shallow dip pattern are interpret- pervasive bioturbation in most units limits the level
ed to reect channel abandonment (Figure 16). These of facies detail discernible on image logs. Bedding
occurrences are several meters to tens of meters thick. is rarely observed, but where present, dips are very
low (4).
Facies Association 1 Interpretation
Facies association 1 (FA1) comprises tidally inuenced Facies 5 Interpretation
uvial channel, point-bar, and channel abandonment This facies is interpreted to record deposition in a
deposits (Table 1, Figure 11) that range from 45 to 50 m brackish water bay characterized by higher salinities
(145 to 165 ft) in thickness. Basal bedsets up to 30 m than were present during deposition of FA1. The
(98 ft) thick are dominated by cross-bedded sand (F2) combination of slow deposition in a sheltered,
and cut-bank breccias (CBB of F1). Lateral accretion subaqueous brackish water setting lying above fair-
surfaces with geometries that are consistent with ep- weather wave base and showing reduced freshwater
silon cross-stratication (Figure 11B) range from sand input (e.g., removed from direct uvial discharge)
rich (F3a) to mud rich (F3b) and comprise the bulk of with higher and more uniform salinities is consis-
the point-bar deposit. Point-bar breccias (PBB of F1) tent with a protected shoreline prograding along
are sourced from, and are deposited within, lateral ac- a bay margin. The stacked cycles indicate that
cretion deposits. Fully preserved point-bar successions there were uctuations in base level with short-lived
are capped by at-lying burrowed muds (F4) 23 m transgressions, forming inshore parasequences sepa-
(610 ft) thick. Thick sections of at-lying burrowed rated by bay margin ooding surfaces. A Glossifungites
mud (F4) up to 25 m (82 ft) thick capping F2 sands ichnofacies-demarcated erosional discontinuity marks
record the positions of the abandoned channels. the base of the facies succession caused by wave
ravinement during transgression. The surface is ar-
eally extensive, which is consistent with widespread
Facies Association 2
Facies 5: Bioturbated Sandy Mud to Sand
Facies 5 (F5) is characterized by intensely bio- Facies 6: Bioturbated to Laminated Muds
turbated intervals of sandy mud (where the sand Facies 6 (F6) is mud-dominated with less than 10%
content is >10%), muddy sand, and sand (Figure 17C, sand content and ranges from silty and bioturbated

Figure 17. Facies associations 24 of the McMurray Formation. (A) Root-bearing (r) silty to sandy mudstone with spherulitic siderite (sid)
representing continental deposits (F8). The unit contains common siderite as small nodules. (B) Pervasively bioturbated silty mudstone with rare,
remnant oscillation ripples to parallel lamination (black arrows) (F6). Although trace fossils are diminutive, they are abundant and contain fully
marine elements. The facies shows bioturbation index (BI) 45, with Planolites (P), Phycosiphon (Ph), Chondrites (Ch), Asterosoma (As), and
Cylindrichnus (Cy). (C) Pervasively bioturbated muddy sands of a typical coarsening-upward cycle (F5). The unit displays BI 5 and contains robust
Thalassinoides (Th), Skolithos (Sk), P, and Gyrolithes (Gy). (D) Pervasively bioturbated sand toward the top of a coarsening-upward cycle (F5).
The facies shows rare parallel laminated sand layers (e.g., black arrow) but is dominated by bioturbation. The interval displays BI 4, with Sk,
Rosselia (Ro), Cy, Gy, P, and fugichnia (fu). (E) Mud-dominated heterolithic unit characterized by wavy parallel laminae, interpreted as
microhummocky cross stratication (HCS), and wave ripples, some of which are aggradational and interlaminated with mud (black arrow) (F7).
Syneresis cracks (sy) are common, subtending from the bases of sand layers. These wavy- to lenticular-bedded composite bedsets show BI 01,
with isolated, diminutive P. Unit is characteristic of the basal facies of heterolithic coarsening-upward cycles. (F) Wavy bedded composite bedset
consisting of thin sand beds with wavy parallel laminae (interpreted as micro-HCS) and wave ripples interbedded with mud layers containing
parallel interlaminae of silt, sand, and carbonaceous detritus (F7). Sand-lled sy subtend from the bases of sand layers. The unit shows BI 02,
with isolated P, Arenicolites (Ar), Gy, and fu. The unit occurs in the lower half of a heterolithic coarsening-upward cycle. (G) Sand-dominated,
wavy-bedded interval characterized by wavy parallel laminae (interpreted as HCS) with thin mud layers containing parallel laminae of silt and
sand (F7). Sand beds show BI 01, with rare fu. Mud layers locally contain sy, show BI 01, and contain P and Sk. The unit occurs in the upper half
of a coarsening-upward cycle. (H) Oil-saturated, wavy parallel laminated sand interpreted as stacked swaley cross stratication (SCS) (F7). The
unit is largely unburrowed, with localized zones containing rare fu. Unit occurs near the top of a coarsening-upward cycle.


Figure 18. Image log and core photographs of the breccia facies (facies association 2), including overview and detailed views. In the
overview tracks (15), track (Tr.) 1 shows the gamma ray (GR) curve scaled from 0 to 150 API. Track 2 shows the measured depth (MD) in
meters; the red and green rectangles in this Tr. correspond to the core intervals of tracks 9 and 10. Track 3 is the interpreted tadpole Tr.
Track 4 is an unmarked static image log used for gross lithological information and correlation. Track 5 shows the recovered core. In the
detailed view tracks (69), Tr. 6 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 7 is the static image with the interpreted beds displayed as sinusoids.
Track 8 is the static image without the interpreted beds. Track 9 shows the cored interval matching tracks 68 and the red interval in Tr.
2; the vertical exaggeration (VE) is 0.5. Track 10 shows close-up sections of the cored interval corresponding to the green intervals in the
depth Tr. and green intervals in the unmarked image; the VE is 1.0. The lower half of interval A shows bioturbated mud and sand layers
that are broadly similar in appearance to inclined heterolithic stratication in core, although with a more marine trace fossil as-
semblage. Although a few beds dip from 4 to 8, most of the bedding in this interval dips at less than 4. Interval B shows heterolithic
wavy bedded mud and sand layers forming coarsening-upward cycles overlain by a muddy unit that lacks observable laminations. The
bedding in the heterolithic wavy interval appears to be at-lying in core, but rare beds in image logs dip between 4 and 10, and dip
directions lack a consistent orientation. Note: A color version can be seen online.

(Figure 17B, upper half of Figure 18A) to silt poor, Facies 6 Interpretation
laminated, and ssile. Bioturbated intervals display Facies 6 represents deposition in a broad, open bay
diverse trace fossil suites with robust ichnogenera, in- and is interpreted as the distal expression of F5. In
dicating more marine conditions. Laminated muds this succession, mudstones correspond to ooding sur-
contain greater amounts of organic debris and appear faces deposited during regional transgressions of the
visibly darker than the muds in F1F4. Bedding is area. The silty muds exhibit pervasive bioturbation
commonly horizontal, but F6 lithologies charac- and elevated trace fossil diversities (Figure 17B) and con-
teristically have low resistivity values resulting in stitute the most marine expression of the McMurray
poor image log contrast, which limits the level of Formation in the Leismer area. The thin lamina sets
detail discernible on image logs. This facies is as- record incremental emplacement of mud, and the
sociated with F5 and F7. low abundance suite of fully marine ichnogenera is

674 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

Figure 19. Image log and core photographs of the breccia facies (facies 8), including overview and detailed views. In the overview tracks
(15), track (Tr.) 1 shows the gamma ray (GR) curve scaled from 0 to 150 API. Track 2 shows the measured depth (MD) in meters; the red
and green rectangles in this Tr. correspond to the core intervals of tracks 9 and 10. Track 3 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 4 is an
unmarked static image log used for gross lithological information and correlation. Track 5 shows the recovered core. In the detailed
view tracks (69), Tr. 6 is the interpreted tadpole Tr. Track 7 is the static image with the interpreted beds displayed as sinusoids.
Track 8 is the static image without the interpreted beds. Track 9 shows the cored interval matching tracks 68 and the red interval in
Tr. 2; the vertical exaggeration (VE) is 0.5. Track 10 shows close-up sections of the cored interval corresponding to the green
intervals in the depth Tr. and green intervals in the unmarked image; the VE is 1.0. Flat-lying, blue-gray mud beds lack bioturbation
and locally contain carbonaceous detritus or roots. The low resistivity of these beds is represented in image logs as a very dark
brown to black interval (A and B), which is characteristic of this unit. The dips in the overview Tr. show a consistently at-lying
bedding style. These facies are interpreted as paleosols deposited in a terrestrial setting. Note: A color version can be seen in the
online version.

consistent with environments experiencing ele- Facies Association 3

vated deposition rates.
Facies 7: Heterolithic Coarsening-Upward Cycles
Facies 7 (F7) intervals show mud-dominated, lentic-
Facies Association 2 Interpretation ular to wavy bedded composite bedsets that pass up-
Facies association 2 consists of variably burrowed silty ward into amalgamated hummocky cross-stratied
muds, sandy muds, and muddy sands of F5, bounded sands with rare, thin mud interlaminae (Figures
by pervasively burrowed silty muds of F6. Each 17EH, 18B). Image log data show the bedding
coarsening-upward cycle is capped by a ooding surface, contacts to be generally at lying (4). The heter-
forming stacked bay shoreline parasequences that olithic coarsening-upward cycles commonly overlie
were formed during overall transgression during the weakly burrowed laminated muds of F6 and are
middle McMurray Formation. common toward the top of the McMurray Formation.


Figure 20. Representative core photographs of the reservoir body at the Underground Test Facility in northeastern Alberta. The bitumen-
stained sand is dark brown, mud is lighter gray, and the red boxes represent intervals without core. The sub-Cretaceous unconformity
overlying the Devonian (DEV) Beaverhill Lake Group is in the bottom panel on the left. This reservoir was exploited using steam-assisted
gravity drainage in the sandy interval above the Devonian strata. Steam chamber development continued upward and stopped at the
mud at point A (Strobl et al., 1997). The 60-cm-thick (2-ft-thick) mud layer between A and B comprises part of a lateral accretion bed
(inclined heterolithic stratication of Strobl et al., 1997, in Table 2) deposited in a point bar setting. Understanding the depositional style
of mud beds provides a better indication of their reservoir effect than using mud thickness cutoffs alone (e.g., mud thickness cutoff
signifying nonreservoir if muds are >2 m [6 ft] thick and reservoir if muds are <2 m [6 ft] thick). Note: A color version can be seen in the
online version.

Facies 7 Interpretation and trace fossil suites impoverished, indicating

Facies 7 is interpreted to record the progradation of brackish water conditions. The general paucity of
delta front over prodelta deposits of F6. Sediments burrowing in the HCS sands supports rapid event-
are dominated by wave-generated structures deposited style deposition and higher energy in the delta front.
during storm events and under fair-weather conditions.
Oscillation ripples, combined ow ripples, and muds Facies Association 3 Interpretation
represent deposition under fair-weather conditions, Facies association 3 comprises regionally extensive,
whereas amalgamated deposits of hummocky cross at-lying deposits that form a series of coarsening-
stratication (HCS) and micro-HCS are storm- upward parasequences. These markedly heterolithic
generated features. Bioturbation intensities are low and strongly wave-inuenced, storm-amalgamated

676 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

facies (F7) reect wave-dominated delta cycles that Breccias (Facies 1)
prograded into shallow embayments. Breccias are readily identied in image logs (Figure
10), including larger, apparently at-lying clasts that,
Facies Association 4 in some cores, may be easily mistaken for mud-prone
laminae sets associated with lateral accretion beds of
Facies 8: Unburrowed, Root-Bearing Mud and Coal IHS (e.g., Figure 10B). Recurring breccias within
Facies 8 (F8) is characterized by silty or (more rarely) a vertical section can be interpreted in two ways: (1)
sandy muds with carbonaceous root traces (Figure 17A). as a series of stacked channels wherein each breccia
No primary structures are apparent within the mud, is derived from the cut bank and deposited in the
and many intervals tend to disaggregate into rubble. thalweg of the active channel (CBB) or (2) as intra-
Disseminated, hematite-stained spherulitic siderite point-bar breccias derived from muddy lateral
grains occur in some zones. Mudstone rubble displays accretion beds (PBB). Caution should be exercised
rare waxy pedogenic slickensides. Facies 8 lacks bed- before assigning clast-rich zones as the bases of
ding surfaces to highlight in image logs, but the high stacked channels in these heterolithic point-bar suc-
organic content results in a very low resistivity unit, cessions (Brekke and Evoy, 2004; Jablonski et al.,
yielding a very dark image log interval that is char- 2016; Nardin et al., 2013). Where image log data sets
acteristic of this facies (Figure 19). display changes in bedding attitude and paleocurrent
directions, amalgamated channels are a reasonable in-
terpretation. Core-based studies lack orientation data
Facies 8 Interpretation of surrounding beds, which leads to the overuse of
These facies record periods of subaerial exposure CBB interpretations and the interpretation of stacked,
and subsequent pedogenic modication of exposed smaller-scale point-bar deposits (cf. Langenberg et al.,
McMurray Formation sediments (i.e., incipient pa- 2002; Ranger and Gingras, 2003). Breccias in this
leosols). Pedogenic features such as randomly ori- study commonly occur throughout the vertical sec-
ented discontinuous slickensides and spherulitic tion of the point bar, suggesting that stacked channel
siderite correspond to subaerial exposure and col- interpretations are commonly overemployed in core-
onization by vegetation (e.g., Leckie et al., 1989). In based studies of tidaluvial channel complexes in
the case of coals, swamp-like conditions were es- the McMurray Formation.
tablished and carbonaceous debris preserved.

Sand-Dominated Facies (Facies 2 and 3a)

Facies Association 4 Interpretation Sand-dominated facies are subdivided into sandy lat-
Facies association 4 (FA4) consists of unburrowed, eral accretion beds (F3a), identied by the presence
root-bearing mud and coal (F8) that overlie either of organized bounding surfaces (Figures 7C, D,
the sub-Cretaceous unconformity or cap FA1. These 13B), and cross-bedded sands (F2), identied by
facies represent terrestrial deposition and/or subaerial disorganized bounding surfaces (Figures 7A, B, 12).
exposure of McMurray Formation sediments. These facies are challenging to interpret from core
alone because observed bedding displays only ap-
parent dip angles (Figure 9B), and bedding struc-
DISCUSSION tures are commonly obscured by bitumen staining
(Figure 12, track 10). Correspondingly, core is of
Applications of Image Logs to Facies
limited use in differentiating F2 from F3a. These
two facies are common in the lower parts of
McMurray Formation point bars.
Much of the focus on the mapping of the McMurray
Formation surrounds the recognition and characteriza-
tion of the sand-dominated point bars of FA1 because Lateral Accretion Beds (Facies 3a and 3b)
these form the primary reservoirs. As such, this paper The McMurray Formation contains large-scale lateral
concentrates on the facies composing FA1, discussed accretion sets (Mossop and Flach, 1983; Hubbard
in detail below. et al., 2011). Within some composite lateral accretion


Table 2. Bedforms and Facies from Point Bar Studies
Jordan and Pryor (1992) Strobl et al. (1997) Nardin et al. (2013) This study

Extent (Crest Impact On

Bedform Length) Flow Barriers Facies Lateral Extents Flow Barriers Facies / Facies Associations Mud Extents Facies Facies Name Reservoir

F1 Mud-clast breccia (CBB) Moderate

LF-6 - mudstone clast F1 Mud-clast breccia (PBB) Lowhigh
Third-order 1661 m Mud laminae; Cross-bed sets 0.36 m (1-20 ft) LA-AB - trough F2 Sand-rich, high-angle, None
dunes (50200 ft) bedset boundaries (sands) cross-bedded to variably dipping
current rippled sand stratication
Fourth-order 0.33 m (muds) < 4 m (13 ft) Discontinuous
waves and (110 ft) draping muds
Bedding unit 16 x 150 m Mud laminae; Transition zone LF-11 - current-rippled to F3a Sand-rich, low-angle, Low-moderate

The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

(50 x 500 ft) bedset boundaries crossbedded sand uniformly dipping
Lobe sheet 666 x 666 m Mudsheets IHS Dip direction Laterally LA-D >800 m (2600 ft) F3b Mud-rich, low-angle, Highsevere
(2000 x 2000 ft) > 150 m (500 ft) continuous uniformly dipping
mudstone stratication
Strike direction LA-F - current rippled ~500 m (1640 ft)
> 200 m (650 ft) sand with abundant
mud drapes
F4 Mud-rich, at-lying Severe vertical
(vertical accretion)
F4 Mud-rich, at-lying Severe vertical
stratication and lateral

The Jordan and Pryor (1992) study emphasized heterogeneity at different reservoir scales from modern analogs. Dunes, bedding units, and lobe sheet extents indicate potential continuous mud bed distribution. Strobl et al. (1997)
characterized the lateral extent of heterogeneities of the McMurray Formation at the Underground Test Facility in northeastern Alberta. This study estimated the effect of inclined heterolithic stratication (IHS) on production. A
recent study by Nardin et al. (2013) matched extensive dipmeter log data to McMurray Formation mine faces at the Mildred Lake Mine in northeastern Alberta to determine sand body dimensions, facies distributions, and mud bed
extents. Similar features are correlated for the above three studies and the facies in this study. An estimate of the potential negative effect on steam-assisted gravity drainage reservoir production for each facies ranges from absent to
Abbreviations: CBB = cut-bankderived breccia; LA = lithofacies association; LF = lithofacies; PBB = point-barderived breccia
sets, the inclined surfaces of F3b can be traced into the such lithological variations are the natural conse-
underlying F3a unit (Mossop and Flach, 1983). Flach quence of these spatially and temporally dynamic
and Mossop (1985) also noted the continuity of processes. Understanding local lithological variations
sandy heterolithic bedding (F3a) merging downdip associated with lateral accretion is vital for mapping
into cross-stratied sand (F2), indicating that deposi- facies trends.
tion of those two facies was contemporaneous as well.
Hence, as image logs make clear, IS (F3b) may pass
progressively through sandy IHS and into cross- Mud-Dominated Facies (Facies 3b and 4)
stratied channel sands. Laterally accreted muds (F3b) and vertically accreted
In most studies, lateral accretion sets are routinely muds (F4) have a similar lithological appearance in
modeled as simple ning-upward successions. By con- core (Figure 9H, I) but display dissimilar bedding
trast, observations in modern IHS point bars, out- styles that are apparent only when analyzed using
crops of the McMurray Formation, and image log image logs. Recognizing the difference between the
data demonstrate that such lateral accretion sets are two mud successions displayed in Figures 15 and 16
characterized by highly variable facies successions is fundamental for mapping of the lateral distribu-
(e.g., Brekke and Evoy, 2004; Choi et al., 2004; tion of these facies.
Hubbard et al., 2011; Sisulak and Dashtgard, 2012;
Johnson and Dashtgard, 2014; Jablonski et al., 2016).
Using simple ning-upward grain size proles to dis- The Effect of Facies on Reservoir Heterogeneity
cern discrete point-bar cycles is unreliable in these
tidaluvial strata (Brekke and Evoy, 2004). Image log Reservoir facies heterogeneity is recognized as the
data demonstrate that lateral accretion bedsets with primary control affecting production (Jordan and
common bounding surface orientations compose part Pryor, 1992), especially where gravity is the reser-
of the same depositional body regardless of erratic or voir drive mechanism (Burton and Wood, 2013). In
unpredictable variations in sand and mud content. particular, Burton and Wood (2013) demonstrated
Factors that may contribute to the alternating litho- that mud bed continuity and frequency varies sig-
logical stacking pattern include uctuations in sedi- nicantly by depositional environment, and hence,
ment supply caused by seasonal and monthly ow recognition of depositional environments is crucial
rates in the river (e.g., Sisulak and Dashtgard, 2012; for mud bed parameterization. Effects of mud beds
Johnson and Dashtgard, 2014), extraordinary ow on reservoir quality are apparent in McMurray For-
conditions (i.e., ood or drought; Choi et al., 2004), mation SAGD production. Early work by Strobl
and sediment availability caused by the erosion of et al. (1997) studied the effects of mudstone layers
upstream host sediment (e.g., Labrecque et al., 2011a; on steam chamber development and oil produc-
Nardin et al., 2013). Image log data sets conrm that tion with an emphasis on mudstone-dominated IHS

Figure 21. Close-up photograph of

a large point-bar breccia clast in the
Horseshoe Canyon Formation near
Drumheller, Alberta. Point-bar breccias with
large clasts are commonly regarded as
reservoir-quality sediment in the McMurray
Formation, but large clasts such as this are
difcult to transport large distances. In this
photograph, the breccia clast (A) is only
1.5 m (5 ft) from the muddy lateral accretion
beds (B) from which it was sourced. Photo
courtesy of Jason Lavigne.


(F3b). They focused on the lateral continuity and Cross-Stratied Sand (Facies 2) versus Sand-Dominated
its effect on permeability of bedsets in F3a, noting Inclined Heterolithic Stratication and Inclined Homolithic
that mud intervals as thin as 70 cm (2 ft) can impede Stratication (Facies 3a)
steam migration through the reservoir (Figure 20). The lateral distribution of muddy layers in point bars
Nardin et al. (2013) quantied the lateral extents of has important implications for vertical permeability and
similar mud layers in IHS deposits as an analog for production. Sand-dominated facies must be correctly
mud bed continuity in subsurface reservoirs. Point- identied to predict the lateral continuity of mud layers
bar successions from the modern Mississippi River (Table 2). Facies F2 and F3a are both present in the
and ancient McMurray Formation (Table 2) provide same geological setting, appear lithologically similar,
guidance for assessing the range of lateral extents and are locally interbedded with one another. By
of bedforms and ow barriers. This study does not contrast, the vertical permeability of sands and lateral
provide data on the lateral continuity of beds; continuity of mud layers are quite different in the two
therefore, implications of the continuity and effects facies. Jordan and Pryor (1992) measured vertical
of mud layers on reservoir quality are qualitative. The permeability in present-day Mississippi River sedi-
following examples highlight reservoir characteristics ments and found that the permeability across F3a-
of facies that appear to be similar lithologically but can like bed boundaries was only 80% of that present in
be differentiated using image log analysis. similar boundaries for F2-like sediments. The F3a
sands of the McMurray have extremely high hori-
zontal permeability, as well as high vertical per-
Cut-Bank Breccia versus Point-Bar Breccia meability, making them excellent reservoir units.
Breccias are not commonly differentiated into sub- Nevertheless, these facies must be recognized and
types and are commonly included as a reservoir facies mapped as accurately as possible to ensure that per-
because of the belief that steam can migrate around meability effects are correctly mapped, modeled, and
individual mud clasts. This can be a dangerous as- accounted for in production forecasts.
sumption because some breccias are developed in The other difference between F2 and F3a is the
close association with nonreservoir facies. Differentiat- continuity (or lack thereof) of mud beds (Table 2)
ing CBB from PBB is critical in determining whether and the effect they have on overall reservoir quality.
a given breccia should be classied as a reservoir facies. Mud beds that drape cross-beds in F2, as reported by
Breccias must be handled on an ad hoc basis to assess Strobl et al. (1997), are less than 4 m (13 ft) in lateral
their potential effect on production and for reserve extent. This limited extent is expected to have only
estimates. The CBB has only a slight to moderate minor effects on reservoir quality. Conversely, mud
negative effect on reservoir quality because these beds in F3a are more laterally continuous and can be on
breccias are interbedded with the reservoir quality the order of 150 m (500 ft) in extent (Jordan and Pryor,
sands of facies 2. The effect of CBB on production 1992; Strobl et al., 1997). The lateral extents of these
increases with higher mud clast content. The PBB mud beds have a signicantly greater effect on reservoir
that consists of small, rounded mud-clasts that are quality than their thickness for SAGD developments.
sparsely distributed were probably transported suf-
ciently far to permit their reworking and dispersal.
The effect of these small PBB lags on production Mud-Dominated Inclined Heterolithic Stratication (Facies
is likely negligible where they occur within sand- 3b) versus Vertically Accreted Horizontal Stratication/
dominated facies. By contrast, large angular PBB Abandoned Channel (Facies 4)
clasts are interpreted to have been sourced from Understanding the differences between the two mud
nearby mud beds with little transportation (e.g., successions in Figures 15 and 16 is fundamental to
Figure 21). These mud beds are likely to be later- the mapping of their facies distributions. The succes-
ally extensive and will have a signicant negative sions are indistinguishable when evaluating cored in-
effect on reservoir quality. Wells may not always pen- tervals or comparing their gamma-ray log signatures.
etrate these mud beds, and the only clue as to their Both F3b and F4 have a signicant, negative effect on
presence may be the observation of large, angular reservoir quality, but their lateral extents are markedly
PBB clasts. dissimilar. Facies 3b comprises continuous mud layers

680 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations

that are laterally extensive and have a widespread effect Choi, K. S., R. W. Dalrymple, S. S. Chun, and S.-P. Kim,
on the reservoir. Where F4 represents channel aban- 2004, Sedimentology of modern, inclined heterolithic
stratication (IHS) in the macrotidal Han River Delta,
donment, however, it is areally restricted to the loca-
Korea: Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 74, p. 677
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1992) and must be mapped accordingly. Choi, K., C. M. Hong, M. H. Kim, C. R. Oh, and J. H. Jung,
2013, Morphologic evolution of macrotidal estuarine
channels in Gomso Bay, west coast of Korea: Impli-
CONCLUSION: USING IMAGE LOG DATA TO cations for the architectural development of inclined
IMPROVE FACIES INTERPRETATIONS heterolithic stratication: Marine Geology, v. 346,
p. 343354, doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2013.10.005.
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facies trends through the uvial-marine transition in tide-
trum of depositional environments in the McMurray
dominated depositional systems: A schematic framework
Formation, including terrestrial, tidal, and marine for environmental and sequence-stratigraphic interpre-
settings. Of particular importance are point-bar tation: Earth-Science Reviews, v. 81, p. 135174, doi:
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682 The Use of Image Logs for Facies Interpretations