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Natural Resources Research

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 85–102 | Cite as

The Athabasca Oil Sands — A Regional Geological Perspective, Fort McMurray Area, Alberta, Canada

  • Frances J. HeinEmail author
  • Darrell K. Cotterill
OriginalPaper

Most of the bitumen in the Athabasca deposit is hosted within fluvial, estuarine, and marginal marine deposits of the Lower Cretaceous Wabiskaw-McMurray succession. The present study is an integration of recent outcrop and subsurface studies, mainly focused in the Fort McMurray area of northeastern Alberta. The basis of the regional geologic framework includes outcrop sections (78), detailed core descriptions (165), and a net of subsurface wire-line log sections (14), all framed within modern concepts of regional correlation and sequence-stratigraphy.

The paleogeographic evolution of the Athabasca Wabiskaw-McMurray succession includes five main phases: (1) Lower McMurray fluvial as lowstand deposits; (2) the lower part of the Upper McMurray fluvio-estuarine channel complexes which formed during early transgressive conditions; (3) the upper part of the Upper McMurray A sequences as relict bay-fill and marginal marine deposits formed during early and middle transgressive phases; (4) Wabiskaw D valley-fill developed during a relative sea-level drop at the end of McMurray time (valley-incision phase), which was backfilled during the ensuing transgression; (5) Wabiskaw D regional marine shale, deposited during widespread flooding of the main McMurray-Wabiskaw transgression; and (6) Wabiskaw C deposits formed during continued transgression or early regressive pulses.

The regional geological framework has both economic and academic significance, providing better documentation and understanding of the compartmentalization of the oil sands mainly the result of the inherent geological heterogeneity of the Wabiskaw-McMurray succession. Such regional correlation and framework will aid in predicting subsurface and surface reservoir quality and in increased understanding of marginal marine and non-marine sequence stratigraphy.

KEY WORDS:

Athabasca oil sands regional geologic stratigraphic model 

Notes

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks are given to the Energy Minerals Division of the AAPG who sponsored the oil sands/heavy oil sessions at the 2004 and 2005 AAPG annual conferences. We would like to thank the staff at the Alberta Geological Survey, Edmonton, and the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, Calgary, for their help and support during this project. Thanks are given to C. Hill, J. MacGillivray and Alv Eirik Lea for helpful suggestions to improve the manuscript, and to M. Berhane, J. Bourgaize, and D. Magee for digital graphics.

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Copyright information

© International Association for Mathematical Geology 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alberta Energy and Utilities Board/Alberta Geological SurveyCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Parallax Resources Ltd., Spruce GroveEdmontonCanada

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