Abstract

In the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, Upper Jurassic Smackover inner ramp, shallow-water thrombolite buildups developed on paleotopographic features in the eastern part of the Mississippi Interior Salt basin and in the Manila and Conecuh subbasins. These thrombolites attained a thickness of 58 m (190 ft) and were present in an area of as much as 6.2 km2 (2.4 mi2). Although these buildups have been exploration targets for some 30 yr, new field discoveries continue to be made in this region. Thrombolites were best developed on a hard substrate during a rise in sea level under initial zero to low background sedimentation rates in low-energy and eurytopic paleoenvironments. Extensive microbial growth occurred in response to available accommodation space. The demise of the thrombolites corresponded to changes in the paleoenvironmental conditions associated with an overall regression of the sea. The keys to drilling successful wildcat wells in the thrombolite reservoir play are to (1) use three-dimensional seismic reflection technology to find paleohighs and to determine whether potential thrombolite reservoir facies occur on the crest and/or flanks of these features and are above the oil-water contact; (2) use the characteristics of thrombolite bioherms and reefs as observed in outcrop to develop a three-dimensional geologic model to reconstruct the growth of thrombolite buildups on paleohighs for improved targeting of the preferred dendroidal and chaotic thrombolite reservoir facies; and (3) use the evaporative pumping mechanism instead of the seepage reflux or mixing zone models as a means for assessing potential dolomitization of the thrombolite boundstone.

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