Analysis of high-resolution three-dimensional seismic data from the Cold Lake Production Project (CLPP) of central Alberta, Canada, has resulted in a new sequence stratigraphic interpretation and depositional model for the upper Albian Clearwater Formation of the Mannville Group. Specifically, we document the presence of one sequence boundary within the Clearwater Formation that (1) separates older, deltaic deposits from a younger fluvial-dominated, terraced incised valley fill succession and (2) ties to a lowstand shoreline approximately 100 km (62 mi) to the north of the CLPP. Although this interpretation is far simpler than previous stratigraphic interpretations of this area, the sedimentologic record within the Clearwater Formation remains very complex because of the vertical stacking of high-energy fluvial to fluvial–estuarine deposits that are scour based. The composite sequence boundary identified here is associated with an extended period of landscape degradation and the formation of a moderately large valley that is complexly defined by a series of terraced fluvial deposits. Because individual channels eroded vertically and migrated laterally during both the fall and ensuing rise of sea level, the resulting valley-shaped stratigraphic sand body is (1) substantially wider than the true topographic valley (i.e., landform that is constrained by subvertical to near-vertical walls, open to the air, and typically resulting from degradation of the landscape via vertical and lateral erosion by a fluvial channel or channels) within which the lowstand channels flowed, (2) formed by both fluvial and marine processes that can be allogenic and/or autogenic in nature, and (3) defined by a composite surface that formed during the descending limb of a base level cycle and was partially modified during the subsequent base level rise and is thus of minor chronologic significance. We attempt to define the time of maximum topographic valley development, but younger erosion has removed much of the record of this valley. However, we estimate that the Clearwater Formation topographic valley had a maximum incision depth of greater than 60 m (>197 ft) and a width of approximately 20 km (12 mi). These dimensions correlate very well to incised valleys observed in the Quaternary. Analysis of core and log results within our seismic stratigraphic framework indicates that a fluviodeltaic model best explains the lithofacies distributions and geometries within the CLPP. Furthermore, finer-scale seismic mapping was used to encapsulate packages of sediment—which we refer to as genetic sedimentary bodies—whose reservoir properties could then be defined using core results. A genetic body approach to defining stratal architectures has resulted in (1) a predictive model for reservoir types and distributions across the CLPP; (2) accurate paleoenvironmental interpretations; and (3) a simple, yet robust sequence stratigraphic model of this area that is aligned with recent results reported from the study of similar systems in the Quaternary, recent morphologic observations from small-scale, physical sand box experiments, and the most up-to-date models of coastal fluvial erosion, deposition, and stratigraphic surface formation.

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