Most submarine fans are supplied with both sand and mud, but these become segregated during transport, typically with the sand becoming concentrated in channels and channel-termination lobes. New data from high-resolution seismic reflection surveys and Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP)/Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) wells from a variety of fans allow a synthesis of the architecture of those submarine fans that have important sand deposits. By analyzing architectural elements, we can better understand issues important for petroleum geology, such as the reservoir properties of the sand bodies and their lateral continuity and vertical connectivity. Our analysis of fan architecture is based principally on the Amazon and Hueneme fans, generally perceived to be classic examples of muddy and sandy systems, respectively. We recognize depositional elements, for example, channel deposits, levees, and lobes, from seismic reflection data and document sediment character in different elements from DSDP/ODP drill cores. We show the utility for petroleum geology of evaluating sandy and muddy elements rather than characterizing entire fans as sand rich or mud rich. We suggest that fan classification should include evaluation of source-sediment volumes and grain size, as well as the probable processes of turbidity-current initiation, because these factors control the character of fan elements and their response to changes in sea level, sediment supply, and autocyclic changes in channel pattern. Basin morphology, controlled by tectonics, influences overall geometry, as well as the balance between aggradation and progradation.

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