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Seismic Expression and Recognition Criteria of Ancient Submarine Fans

  • H. W. Posamentier
  • R. D. Erskine
Part of the Frontiers in Sedimentary Geology book series (SEDIMENTARY)

Abstract

The seismic expression of submarine-fan deposits within the lowstand-fan systems tract is documented from the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, Arctic Beaufort Sea, Permian Basin of Texas, and Exmouth Plateau of Australia. Lowstand fans appear to have the same general seismic characteristics from basin to basin. The key recognition criteria include (1) identification of lateral pinchout geometry, (2) high-amplitude continuous reflections onlapping paleobathymetric highs, (3) internal bidirectionally downlapping reflections, (4) low-relief external mounding, and (5) association with Type 1 unconformities basinward of the shelf edge. The most important caveats regarding seismic recognition of submarine fans identification include (1) lowstand-fan deposition typically does not occur within submarine canyons, (2) apparent seismic mounding is not always submarine-fan related (in addition to data noise such as multiples, diffractions, and statics problems, seismic mounding may also be indicative of slump, contourite, and deltaic deposits, as well as erosional remnants), and (3) prediction of reservoir facies occurrence within fans in sand-poor systems can be problematic.

The seismic expression of submarine-fan deposits within the lowstand-fan and lowstand-wedge systems tracts is compared. Both the lowstand fan as well as the slope and basin depositional systems of the lowstand wedge may be typically “fan-shaped” or lobate in plan view and mounded in cross section. The principal factor that results in differences between these two units is the sand-to-mud ratio of the sediment supply, which is higher within the lowstand fan than within the lowstand wedge. The proportionately higher mud content within the lowstand wedge results in a greater tendency toward development of Type II turbidite systems (Mutti, 1985) rather than Type I turbidite systems more typical of the lowstand fan. Moreover, the increased mud content of the lowstand wedge enhances the likelihood of mass movement processes occurring. In many instances, mass movement deposits within the lowstand wedge break up its seismic continuity. Consequently, the seismic stratigraphic response of the lowstand wedge in the deep-water setting is commonly a contorted/chaotic seismic facies, in contrast with the more continuous higher amplitude reflections within the lowstand fan. Nonetheless, deposition by gravity flows still plays a sufficiently important part in submarine-fan deposition within both the lowstand fan and lowstand wedge that the two depositional units may share a conformable contact.

Keywords

Seismic Reflection Seismic Line Submarine Canyon Seismic Facies Lowstand System Tract 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. W. Posamentier
  • R. D. Erskine

There are no affiliations available

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