University of Texas at Austin

2016 News

2016 RCRL Annual Sponsors Meeting Summary

RCRL Workshop

RCRL members participating in the 2016 core workshop at the BEG-CRC facility.

The RCRL Annual Sponsors Meeting was held September 25-30, 2016 in Austin, Texas at the Bureau of Economic Geology. The 6-day meeting had four main events including an all-day core workshop, a Monday evening poster session, two days of technical presentations and a three day field trip to the Glass Mountains-Marathon Basin area. In total, 65 members participated in some portions or all of the meeting.

The RCRL Core Workshop featured Texas cores of varied geologic ages (i.e., Lower Ordovician, Wolfcampian-Leonardian, Guadalupian Permian, and both Early and Late Cretaceous) which examined superb platform top shelfal carbonate reservoirs of the Late Permian Grayburg Fm., ooid grainstones of the Aptian Glen Rose and continued transition basinward into mixed carbonate-siliciclastic cores from the Wolfcampian, Bone Spring, Brushy and Cherry Canyon in the Permian Basin and downslope lithofacies within the Cretaceous Glen Rose Fm. along with Upper Cretaceous deeper water carbonates of the Buda, Austin Chalk and Eagle Ford mudrocks. Bob Loucks presented core from the Lower Ordovician Ellenburger and Viola. These intervals provide examples of paleokarst systems that are just below unconventional mudrocks of the Mississippian-age Barnett Shale and are a known source of reservoir production and completion issues in mudrock systems. Cores were presented by RCRL principals and students enabling active discussion with sponsors at all levels. Sponsors also received a 72-page Core Workshop Abstract Volume which is available to members of RCRL at the Members Research Results page.

RCRL Core Workshop

1) RCRL Researcher Bob Loucks discussing cores of the Ordovician Ellenburger Formation;  2) Xavier Janson discusses facies and stratigraphy of Early Permian core from the Delaware Basin;  3) Charlie Kerans highlights key facies and fabric of the Grayburgplatform.  4) Student Ahmed Alnahwi discusses lithofacies of the Upper Cretaceous Eagle Ford Group.

Technical presentations highlighted the work of the researchers and students from the past year and varied in scale from continental-scale stratigraphy to micropore systems. Xavier Janson and colleagues presented work on Miocene and Paleogene platform carbonates and mixed slope to deepwater systems along the Northwest Shelf of Australia, Oligocene to Miocene of East Java, Indonesia, and two Miocene basins in Turkey. After the Miocene, Greg Hurd, recent RCRL PhD (2016), highlighted the shelf-to-basin sediment accumulation associated with the Permian Cutoff and Avalon Formations in the Delaware Basin. The concept of shelf-to-basin connections was also highlighted by Charlie Kerans along the southwestern Delaware Basin as he introduced a new study on the Wolfcampian Wylie Mountains.  Additional presentations of carbonate-reservoir architecture within Permian outcrop and subsurface studies were given by PhD students Yawen He and Ben Smith along with Kerans. Bob Loucks concluded the Monday session with an introduction to Albian-age microbiolite biostromes in outcrop on the northern margin of the Maverick Basin. Also included in the member’s area is the 360-page Extended Abstract Volume which highlights the applicability and main research results of each the presentations in a short written forum. This volume is not to be missed as it gives the most current state-of-the-science views of the RCRL research group.

RCRL Technical Presentations

Left: Technical presentations for the RCRL Sponsors; right: Charlie Kerans presents research results to RCRL Sponsors.

The late afternoon and evening on Monday featured 21 technical posters presented at the BEG. Posters included work by RCRL researchers and students as well as collaborative studies involving the RCRL group. This portion of our annual meeting has become very popular as it gives our sponsor a chance to interact on a more personable level with all members of the RCRL group and provides an opportunity to see our high-quality students in action. This opportunity is a unique way for our sponsors to interview potential future work colleagues while providing critical and instructive feedback to improve RCRL research.

Technical presentations continued on Tuesday, September 27 highlighting reservoir-scale characterization issues ranging from heterogeneous facies distributions surrounding Albian-age microbiolites developed on the northern Maverick Basin to facies distribution and rock property variability within Pleistocene-age deposits exposed in outcrops of West Caicos and San Salvador, Bahamas. Detailed stratigraphic work on West Caicos questions the validity of models that suggest continuous and linear deposition through time as more than 40% of the visible island of West Caicos was deposited in a span of 3,000 years or less. In addition, porosity is reduced dramatically during exposure events by meteoric cements causing an increase in rock strength and making young, unburied carbonates brittle and susceptible to fracturing and large block development. These findings are key inputs for the development of geomechanical models of modern and ancient carbonate systems.
 

RCRL Technical Poster Presentations

Left: PhD candidate Yawen He presents her research to RCRL members during the Monday evening poster seesion; Right: RCRL researcher Chris Zahm discussing fault systems during the poster session.

High-resolution chemostratigraphy within the Upper Cretaceous Austin Chalk and Eagle Ford Formations along with detailed non-matrix pore system characterization of the Ellenburger, Viola and Barnett were presented as examples of how stratigraphic systems control critical aspects of carbonate reservoir characterization. Fracture development in these systems is also a critical component to hydrocarbon production. While many have proposed that the tectonic diversity of Texas must be important, outcrop and satellite photo characterization of south Texas demonstrate that significant brittle deformation has occurred following the Permian and must be considered in the design and development of conventional and unconventional reservoirs of the Permian and Maverick Basins. The final technical presentation was a field trip overview of the Glass Mountains and Marathon Basin highlighting the mixed carbonate-siliciclastic sedimentation associated with the Early to Late Permian in the southern Delaware and Val Verde Basins. All presentations, including the video feed of the speakers are available to members of RCRL at the Members Research Results page.

Following technical presentations, a wrap-up and feedback session was presented in an open forum with several companies providing feedback on what was presented and providing support for future directions that best suited their company’s interests. The feedback continues via email or conversations with RCRL researchers for days and weeks after the meeting. These ideas are collected and incorporated into our Research Prospectus and within a brief overview presentation which is coming soon to the RCRL website.

Twenty-four members traveled with RCRL researchers and students to the Glass Mountains and Marathon Basin for a 3-day field trip that examined the development of the Guadalupian mixed-carbonate and siliciclastic southern margin of the Delaware Basin and to understand the role of pre-existing structural fabric on younger deformation events. The Glass Mountains are the stratotype locations of many of the Wolfcampian, Leonardian, and Guadalupian stratigraphic units. Exposures within the Glass Mountains are all located on private property and have been off limits for decades, so this field trip was a unique opportunity to compare the southern Delaware Basin Permian to the more studied northwestern exposures in the Guadalupe Mountains. Post-doc researcher Alex Hairabian along with RCRL researcher Xavier Janson led two-days of field examination of the margin to slope systems of the Early Permian which initiated the well-known Capitan Reef system of the Middle Permian. Spectacular dolomitized clinoforms up to 150 m high show the transition from the reef front to toe-of-slope. Unique to the southern Permian basin is the abundance of siliciclastic deposits on the slope and basin which is markedly different compared to the well-documented reciprocal sedimentation model of the Capitan system in the Guadalupe Mountains.

On the return drive to Austin, RCRL researcher Chris Zahm led field trip stop to examine the Permian expression of the Marathon-Ouachitan orogeny which examined the infamous Tesnus Formation which was the first accumulated sediments from the South American plate (Llanoria) being deposited within the closing Gondwana margin of the Early Permian. Examination of the main structural fabric highlights the discordance between Permian tectonics and the Mesozoic and Cenozoic fabric present today. After the Permian, erosion and denudation of the Ouachita-Marathon mountain belt left a flat landscape on which the Cretaceous seaway deposited significant carbonate strata. Late Cretaceous orogenesis (Laramide) caused reactivation of the Permian structures and is expressed in high-intensity, low-offset faulting in the foreland which was examined in a road cut exposure north of Sanderson, Texas.  The remainder of the day was spent covering the Cretaceous Comanche Shelf along the “miles and miles of Texas” heading into Austin on Friday evening.
 

RCRL Field Trip

Alex Hairibianand Xavier Janson present slope systems on the sponsors field trip.