Regional character of the lower Tuscaloosa formation depositional systems and trends in reservoir quality
For decades the Upper Cretaceous Lower Tuscaloosa Formation of the U.S. Gulf Coast has been considered an onshore hydrocarbon play with no equivalent offshore deposits. A better understanding of the Lower Tuscaloosa sequence stratigraphic and paleogeographic framework, source-to-sink depositional environments, magnitude of fluvial systems, regional trends in reservoir quality, and structural influences on its deposition along with newly acquired data from offshore wells has changed this decades-long paradigm of the Lower Tuscaloosa as simply an onshore play.
The mid-Cenomanian unconformity, underlying the Lower Tuscaloosa, formed an extensive regional network of incised valleys. This incision and accompanying low accommodation allowed for sediment bypass and deposition of over 330 m thick gravity-driven sand-rich deposits over 400 km from their equivalent shelf edge. Subsequently a transgressive systems tract comprised of four fluvial sequences in the Lower Tuscaloosa Massive sand and an overlying estuarine sequence (Stringer sand) filled the incised valleys. Both wave- and tide-dominated deltaic facies of the Lower Tuscaloosa are located at the mouths of incised valleys proximal to the shelf edge. Deltaic and estuarine depositional environments were interpreted from impoverished trace fossil suites of the Cruziana Ichnofacies and detailed sedimentological observations. The location and trend of valleys are controlled by basement structures.
Lower Tuscaloosa rivers were 3.8m – 7.8m deep and 145m – 721m wide comparable to the Siwalik Group outcrop and the modern Missouri River. These systems were capable of transporting large amounts of sediment indicating the Lower Tuscaloosa was capable of transporting large amounts of sediments to the shelf edge for resedimentation into the deep offshore.
Anomalously high porosity (>25%) and permeability (>1200md) in the Lower Tuscaloosa at stratigraphic depths below 20,000 ft. are influenced by chlorite coating the detrital grains. Chlorite coatings block quartz nucleation sites inhibiting quartz cementation. Chlorite coats in the Lower Tuscaloosa are controlled by the presence and abundance of volcanic rock fragments supplying the ions needed for the formation of chlorite. Chlorite decrease to the east in sediments derived from the Appalachian Mountains. An increase in chlorite in westward samples correlates with an increase of volcanic rock fragments derived from the Ouachita Mountains.