The Triassic Yanchang Formation contains the main oil-bearing strata in the Ordos Basin, central China. But the sedimentology of the Upper Triassic is still under debate, and flood-generated, hyperpycnal-flow deposits and their implications for unconventional petroleum development have long been overlooked. Our study indicates that hyperpycnites are well developed in the seventh oil member of the Yanchang Formation. They are characterized by couplets of upward-coarsening intervals and upward-fining intervals, separated by microscale erosion surfaces. The origination of hyperpycnal flows was controlled mainly by episodic tectonic movements and the humid climate. The deposits extend from distributary estuaries into the deep lake, have intercalations of dark shales and tuffs, and coexist with debrites and turbidites as a result of the progradation of subaqueous fans. The hyperpycnites have implications for unconventional petroleum reservoirs, because the flows supplied not only large amounts of coarse grains and organic material to the deep-water, fine-grained central lake sediments but also affected the ecosystems, resulting in a higher total organic carbon content in the sediments.

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