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Mass-transport deposits are remobilized sedimentary successions that are common in the deepwater stratigraphie record. Because mass-transport deposits are typically mud-prone, few industry geoscientists consider sand-prone mass-transport deposits to merit significant attention. However, recent studies confirm that mass-transport deposits can act as significant reservoirs in oil and gas fields. Furthermore, these features can also represent geohazards that warrant consideration in deepwater drilling programs. Identifying and characterizing such deposits accurately in the subsurface allows better understanding of their spatial continuity, prediction of reservoir performance, and generation of models with representative rock properties away from control points. These implications are especially important given ever-increasing costs associated with the development of deepwater fields. Moreover, this underappreciated play type provides underexplored greenfield and brownfield potential in many continental-slope trends.

This paper uses personal observations, as well as published examples from producing fields, the seafloor and shallow subsurface, outcrops, and flume-tank experiments to illustrate specific criteria that aid in the recognition of sand-prone mass-transport deposits in the subsurface. None of these criteria is sufficient by itself to distinguish between a mass-transport deposit and a turbidite system; however, in aggregate, these criteria are sufficiently diagnostic to identify mass-transport deposits that are likely to be reservoir-prone. Specifically, mass-transport deposits can be differentiated from turbidites by seismic morphology, core-scale sand-body architecture, and petrophysical properties, while sand-prone mass-transport deposits can be differentiated from more common mud-prone mass-transport deposits by relative size, associated vertical facies assemblages, and well data.

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