Abstract

Interpreting three-dimensional (3-D) seismic data is of great value in high-grading prospects in frontier exploration areas in the Gulf of Mexico. This technique is now routinely used to reduce the exploration and production risks associated with turbidite reservoirs. A subregional 3-D seismic data set was used in this study to describe the Pliocene-Pleistocene turbidite systems in three intraslope minibasins in the north-central Green Canyon protraction area of the Gulf of Mexico. The stratal geometries and lithology of the different turbidite elements were interpreted based on the integrated analysis of well-log data, seismic facies observed on the vertical seismic profiles, and amplitude distribution recognized on series of horizon slices and amplitude extraction maps (horizontal seismic facies). The lithologic interpretation, however, was limited by the lack of seismic velocity data; the wells were tied to the seismic data through synthetic seismograms created by integrating the sonic and density logs. Three turbidite elements were mapped in the selected upper Pliocene-lower Pleistocene interval of the study area: basin-floor fan (amalgamated depositional lobes), erosional and depositional channels, and overbank sediments. Lobe-shaped high-amplitude areas (onlapping high-amplitude continuous reflections on seismic profiles) indicate laterally continuous, sheetlike deposition, interpreted as turbidite lobes. Elongated sinuous high-amplitude areas (high-amplitude discontinuous reflections) correspond to depositional channel systems. Sinuous low-amplitude areas in generally high-amplitude areas (e.g., sequence boundaries) reflect the erosional channels. The depositional channels are interpreted to be filled with sands; the shale-filled erosional channels are interpreted as conduits for sediments bypassing farther downslope. The detailed 3-D seismic interpretation allowed description of the characteristics of the channel systems, analysis of their evolution through 2 m.y., and determination of the controls on the variations in turbidite deposition. Widespread low- to moderate-amplitude areas without dominant amplitude patterns are interpreted as overbank deposits. The turbidite elements identified in this study, including basin-floor fans (depositional lobes) and channel systems, form the reservoirs in the fields of the study area and in many other fields and discoveries of the northern Gulf of Mexico. The geometries of the sand-rich turbidite elements mapped in this study are considered to be good analogs for these producing fields and some exploration targets. The results of this study also can be used as analogs for the description of reservoir architecture in the subsalt trend of the Gulf of Mexico and in other deep-water exploration areas.

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