This study presents results of outcrop characterization and modeling of lithologic heterogeneity within a well-exposed point bar of the Williams Fork Formation in Coal Canyon, Piceance Basin, Colorado. This deposit represents an intermediate-scale depositional element that developed from a single meandering channel within a low net-to-gross ratio fluvial system. Williams Fork outcrops are analogs to petroleum reservoirs in the Piceance Basin and elsewhere. Analysis and modeling of the point bar involved outcrop measurements and ground-based high-resolution light detection and ranging data; thus, the stratigraphic frameworks accurately represent the channel-fill architecture.

Two- and three-dimensional (2-D and 3-D) outcrop models and streamline simulations compare scenarios based on different lithologies, shale drapes, observed grain-size trends, petrophysical properties, and modeling methods. For 2-D models, continuous and discontinuous shale drapes on lateral-accretion surfaces result in a 79% increase and 24% decrease in breakthrough time (BTT), respectively, compared to models without shale drapes. The discontinuous shale drapes in the 2-D and 3-D models cause a 30% and 107% decrease, respectively, in sweep efficiency because they focus fluid flow downward to the base of the point bar. For similar reasons, 2-D models based on grain size exhibit 67–267% shorter BTT and 44–57% lower sweep efficiency compared to other model scenarios. Unlike the 2-D models, the continuous shale drapes in the 3-D models cause the fluid front to spread out and contact more of the reservoir, resulting in 42–53% longer BTT and 41–52% higher sweep efficiency compared to the other models. These results provide additional insight into the significance of intermediate-scale heterogeneity of fluvial reservoirs.

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