The Aux Vases Sandstone (Mississippian) has contributed between 10 and 25% of all the oil produced in Illinois. The Aux Vases is not only an important oil reservoir but is also an important source of groundwater, quarrying stone, and fluorspar. Using sequence stratigraphy, a more accurate stratigraphic interpretation of this economically important formation can be discerned and thereby enable more effective exploration for the resources contained therein.
Previous studies have assumed that the underlying Spar Mountain, Karnak, and Joppa formations interfingered with the Aux Vases, as did the overlying Renault Limestone. This study demonstrates that these formations instead are separated by sequence boundaries; therefore, they are not genetically related to each other. A result of this sequence stratigraphic approach is the identification of incised valleys, paleotopography, and potential new hydrocarbon reservoirs in the Spar Mountain and Aux Vases.
In eastern Illinois, the Aux Vases is bounded by sequence boundaries with 20 ft (6 m) of relief. The Aux Vases oil reservoir facies was deposited as a tidally influenced siliciclastic wedge that prograded over underlying carbonate-rich sediments. The Aux Vases sedimentary succession consists of offshore sediment overlain by intertidal and supratidal sediments. Low-permeability shales and carbonates typically surround the Aux Vases reservoir sandstone and thereby form numerous bypassed compartments from which additional oil can be recovered. The potential for new significant oil fields within the Aux Vases is great, as is the potential for undrained reservoir compartments within existing Aux Vases fields.