Facies variability in deep water channel-to-lobe transition zone : Jurassic Los Molles Formation, Neuquen Basin, Argentina
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This study focuses on the facies changes from the lower slope to toe-of-slope to basin floor over a 10 km outcrop belt, in down-dip and oblique-strike directions to the basin margin. The Jurassic Los Molles Formation in Neuquen Basin, Argentina represents the slope and basin floor of basin margin clinoforms, coeval with the shallow water and fluvial deposits named Las Lajas and Challaco formations respectively. The shallow and deep water deposits are diachronously linked in an Early-Mid Jurassic source-to-sink system developed in a back-arc basin during the incipient development of the Andes Mountains. Satellite images, high resolution panorama pictures and measured sections were used to correlate and interpret the spatial variability and overall geometry of the base of slope to basin floor units. The observations of this study refine the model for the channel-to-lobe transition zone with increase recognition and quantification of facies and architecture variability. The Los Molles basin margin was coarse grained and was ideal to observe changes in the geometry and depositional facies of channel-to-lobe deposits from updip to downdip continuous over an 8 km outcrop belt. The described channel-to-lobe transition zone clearly shows a downdip change in bed boundaries from dominantly erosive to non-erosional (bypass) to depositional and with a range of distinct facies changes. In the transition zone the sand to shale ratio is high (N:G: 65-70 %), with gutter casts and deep scours, with a high degree of amalgamation, gravel lags, mud rip-up clasts and laterally migrating beds. Within the same depositional unit (deep water lobe), at the base of the slope, the dominant sandstone beds change from amalgamated structureless and normal graded sandstone beds in the channelized lobe axis to parallel laminated and normally graded in the channelized lobe off-axis areas. Similar facies changes have been observed along proximal to distal direction. The lateral change of the dominant structures in the beds indicates changes in the flow regime and depositional style.