ABSTRACT

Intrasalt carbonates of the Ediacaran–Cambrian Ara Group constitute a significant reservoir element of the intrasalt “stringer” play in Oman, in which dolomitic carbonates are encased in salt at depths of 3 to 7 km (1.9 to 4.3 mi). These reservoir carbonates have significant microbial influences. Although Ara Group reservoirs are mostly latest Precambrian, the models developed here may be applicable to younger microbially dominated carbonate reservoirs in basins of higher salinity when higher organisms are excluded, in lacustrine settings where calcified invertebrates are not a significant source of carbonate, or after periods of mass extinction before faunal recovery. A broad range of carbonate facies provides the context in which to understand the origin of the microbialite-dominated reservoirs developed across both ramp and rimmed shelf profiles. Major facies associations include carbonate-evaporite transition zone, deep ramp and slope, subtidal microbialites, clastic-textured carbonates, and restricted peritidal carbonates. Microbialites are subdivisible into a number of facies that all have significance in terms of understanding environmental history as well as reservoir properties, and that help in predicting the location of reservoir fairways. Microbially influenced facies include shallow subtidal thrombolites with massive clotted textures and very high initial porosities (>50%), shallow subtidal pustular laminites with cm-scale variability of lamina morphology, deeper subtidal crinkly laminites that show mm-scale variability of lamina morphology, and intertidal tufted laminates that show mm- to cm-scale tufted textures. Other reservoir facies are more conventional grainy carbonates including ripple cross-stratified grainstone–packstone, hummocky cross-stratified grainstone–packstone, flat pebble conglomerate, ooid and intraclast grainstone–packstone, and Cloudina grainstone–packstone. These facies are almost invariably dolomitized and all have moderate to excellent reservoir quality. These facies comprise carbonate platforms, broken up during salt tectonics, that range up to 160 m (525 ft) in thickness and extended laterally, prior to halokinesis, for tens to over 50 km (31 mi). The distribution of reservoir facies follows sequence stratigraphic predictions, with microbialites occurring in every accommodation profile. Late highstand and early transgressive systems tracts favor greater lateral extent of thrombolite build-ups, whereas later transgressive to early highstand system tracts favor greater lateral discontinuity and compartmentalization of buildup reservoir facies. Pustular laminites occur in close association with thrombolite buildups but form laterally extensive sheets in late transgressive to late highstand periods. Crinkly laminites form during late transgressive to early highstand systems tracts and may represent maximum flooding intervals when the flux of carbonate sediment was greatly reduced allowing pelagically derived organics to accumulate.

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