The Ardath Shale and Scripps Formation exposed along Black’s Beach north of La Jolla, California, record a deep-water channelized slope system of an Eocene forearc basin. The outcrop exposure, which is approximately 100 m (330 ft) high by 1.7 km (~1 mi) long, offers insight into reservoir distribution and connectivity within coarse-grained, confined, deep-water channel systems. To use this outcrop as a quantitative subsurface analog, a detailed two-dimensional lithologic model was constructed from measured sections and interpreted photopanels. Elastic rock properties, including compressional-wave velocity, shear-wave velocity, and density typical of shallow offshore west African reservoirs were used to construct an impedance model. This model was convolved with 15-, 25-, and 50-Hz quadrature-phase Ricker wavelets to generate near- and far-angle stack one-dimensional and two-dimensional synthetic seismic reflection models. Because deep-water lithofacies have distinct amplitude-variation-with-offset behaviors and the interpretation of surfaces is intimately coupled with predicting lithofacies, simple bed interface models of conglomerate, sandstone, interbedded sandstone and mudstone, and muddy sandy debrite were used to build a template for successful interpretation.

Interpretation of these forward seismic models demonstrates (1) the limits of and uncertainty associated with the interpretation of seismic data at different frequencies commonly encountered in the exploration, development, and production of deep-water reservoirs; and (2) how the combination of near- and far-angle seismic data can be used to interpret channel-fill lithofacies and improve seismic interpretation. Large-scale channel complex set surfaces with significant impedance contrast (e.g., conglomerate overlying interbedded sandstone and mudstone) are readily interpretable at all frequencies with an increasing vertical error of 5 to 30 m (16 to 98 ft) from 50 to 15 Hz, respectively. Channel and channel complex surfaces can only be accurately mapped on the 50-Hz data, albeit with significant uncertainty. Near- to far-angle stack changes enable the identification of upward-fining, amalgamated, and fine-grained channel-fill lithofacies. Far-angle seismic reflections can provide a more detailed image of boundaries defining channel architecture and reservoir facies distribution.

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