ABSTRACT

Stratal geometry and lithofacies architecture from carbonate outcrops provide critical information for subsurface prediction of rock types, their spatial distribution, and reservoir quality. Such observations guide and support exploration, appraisal, development, and production strategies. The Pennsylvanian Sierra del Cuera (SDC) carbonate platform outcrop of the Cantabrian Mountains in north Spain offers such information through a seismic-scale cross section of a microbial, unrimmed, and high-relief platform to basin transect, deposited during an icehouse period. The SDC outcrops provide alternative platform margin models to those developed from coral–algal-dominated Neogene carbonate systems and serve as direct analogs for supergiant fields such as Tengiz, Kashagan, and Karachaganak in the Pricaspian Basin of Kazakhstan and potentially for other high-relief platforms with microbial margins. Key features of the SDC platform are (1) a flat-topped platform with a rollover into a steep (30°–40°) and high-relief (600–850 m [1960–2790 ft]) depositional slope and (2) the presence of a microbial boundstone factory from the platform break to nearly 300 m (984 ft) paleowater depth on the slope, stabilized by pervasive marine cementation. The SDC represents a nonactualistic type of carbonate platform margin where the microbial carbonate factory on the upper slope controlled the rate of progradation instead of the platform top–sourced sediment input. These features have significant implications for the interpretation of the evolution and controlling factors of carbonate depositional systems in outcrops and in the subsurface.

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