Abstract

The recognition of paleokarst in subsurface carbonate reservoirs is not straightforward because conventional seismic interpretation alone is generally not sufficient to discriminate karstified areas from their surroundings. In the Loppa High (Norwegian Barents Sea), a protracted episode of subaerial exposure occurring between the late Paleozoic and mid-Triassic—Late Permian to Anisian—resulted in a significant overprinting of the previously deposited carbonate units. Here, we map the extension of the karstified areas using an integrated approach consisting of (1) a core study of critical paleokarst intervals, (2) a three-dimensional (3-D) seismic stratigraphic analysis, and (3) a 3-D multiattribute seismic facies (SF) classification. A core retrieved in the flat-topped Loppa High revealed breccia deposits at least 50 m (164 ft) thick, which probably resulted from cave collapses following the burial of the karst terrain. The SF classification was tested on a 3-D cube to (1) discriminate the respective SF related to the breccia deposits compared with other SF and (2) to estimate their spatial extent. Seismic-facies analysis suggests that breccias occupied the topmost area of the structural high, extending up to 12 km (7 mi) in width, 46 km (29 mi) in length, and tens of meters in thickness. The inference of such a large amount of breccia suggests that a significant part of this terrain was derived from the amalgamation of successive cave-development events—including periods of subaerial exposure and subsequent burial and collapse—resulting in a coalesced collapsed paleocave system. Previous observations from the Loppa High revealed the presence of karst plains associated with sinkholes, caves, and other dissolution phenomena associated with the breccia facies, further suggesting that a large volume of carbonate rocks in this area was affected by subaerial exposure and karstification. Our integrated approach and proposed karstification model could be applied to similar sedimentary basins that accommodate deeply buried carbonate successions affected by protracted episodes of subaerial exposure, where only few wells as well as 3-D seismic data are available.

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