Abstract

The Upper Devonian Grosmont Formation in northeastern Alberta, Canada, is a shallow-marine carbonate platform complex that was subaerially exposed for hundreds of millions of years between the Mississippian(?) and Cretaceous. During this lengthy exposure period, an extensive karst system developed that is characterized by an irregular erosional surface, meter-size (several feet) dissolution cavities, collapse breccias, sinkholes, paleosols, and fractures. The karsted Grosmont Formation, which contains giant reserves of bitumen, subcrops beneath Cretaceous clastic sediments of the giant Athabasca tar sands deposit. The paleokarst in the Grosmont Formation can be recognized on wireline logs in relatively nonargillaceous carbonate intervals (<30 API units on the gamma-ray log) as excursions of the caliper log, off-scale neutron-density porosity readings, and severe cycle skipping of the acoustic log. The paleo-karst is more prevalent in the upper units of the Grosmont Formation, and the effects of karstification decrease toward stratigraphically older and deeper units. The paleokarst usually occurs within 35 m (115 ft) of the erosional surface. The reservoir properties of the Grosmont Formation (e.g., thickness, porosity, permeability, and seal effectiveness) are significantly influenced by karstification. Depending upon the location, karstification has either benefited or degraded the reservoir characteristics. Benefits include porosity values greater than 40% (up to 100% in caverns) and permeability values of 30,000 md in severely fractured intervals. Detrimental reservoir characteristics include erosion, porosity and permeability reduction, and seal ineffectiveness.

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