Stratigraphic trapping at pinch-out margins is a key feature of many turbidite-hosted hydrocarbon reservoirs. In systems confined by lateral or oblique frontal slopes, outcrop studies show that there is a continuum between two geometries of pinch-out configuration. In type A, turbidites thin onto the confining surface—although the final sandstone pinch-out is commonly abrupt—and individual beds tend not to erode into earlier deposits. In type B, turbidite sandstones commonly thicken toward the confining slope, and beds may incise into earlier deposits. These two types may occur in combination, to give a wide spectrum of pinch-out characteristics. Our analysis suggests the principal control in determining pinch-out character is flow magnitude, with smaller flows producing type A and larger flows producing type B.
In areas of poor seismic control it can be difficult to assess either pinch-out character or the proximity of wells to confining slopes. Because estimates of paleoflow magnitude can be made from core or high-quality log image data, however, it is possible to make reasonable estimates of pinch-out character even from wells such as exploration wells, which may be placed conservatively, away from the field margins. Furthermore, systematic paleoflow variations and thickness trends are commonly seen in individual turbidite sandstones as they approach confining slopes. For example, dispersal directions indicate flow deflection parallel with the strike of confining topography; beds thin toward type A onlaps and thicken toward type B onlaps. These relationships can be exploited via analysis of vertical successions to constrain well position with respect to the slope. Similarly, the presence, location, and frequency of locally derived debrites can provide information on the presence and proximity of confining slopes.