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Abstract

The Ferron Sandstone has, at least by North American standards, a long and rich history of study. Early interest in the Ferron was based on the fact that it contains substantial amounts of mineable coal, the presence of which was noted in the geological literature as early as 1874. A comprehensive documentation of the many coal seams of the Ferron was published in 1916.

Several studies published in the late 1800s and early 1900s established basic correlations between the Ferron outcrops in Castle Valley and equivalent strata in other areas. Initial correlations were done entirely on the basis of similarity of sections — by means of what is commonly called “jump correlation.” This approach led to some errors that were subsequently corrected as the role of biostratigraphy in stratigraphic correlation became increasingly important.

Early attempts to interpret the paleogeographic setting of the Ferron led to interesting but erroneous results. A model of Ferron deposition published in the 1920s evoked southward transport of clastics to form a large, elongated sand-rich body or “plume” centered on Castle Valley. The interpretation was incorrect, stemming from a miscorrelation between Castle Valley and scattered outcrops on the western side of the Wasatch Plateau, but it heralded a theme that would be recurrent in the interpretation of the Ferron.

Discovery of a significant accumulation of natural gas in the Ferron Sandstone at Clear Creek field on the Wasatch Plateau in 1951 accelerated the pace of Ferron study. The Ferron was described in much greater detail, but a correct interpretation of Ferron paleogeography remained elusive. The concept that Ferron strata were deposited by prograding deltas and on adjacent strand plains became firmly established in the 1970s and was substantiated in the literature by well documented sedimentological data. Cyclicity was recognized and the issue of whether the cycles resulted from auto- or allocylic processes was raised.

The basic stratigraphic framework of the Ferron, as we know it today, was constructed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Recent studies have addressed the details and the numerous Ferron studies completed during the last 20 years, taken in their entirety, represent one of the most detailed stratigraphic and architectural frameworks available for any clastic unit in the world.

Many recent studies make use of the detailed stratigraphic framework to focus on the petroleum reservoir properties of the various facies recognized in the Ferron, which provides a wealth of well exposed and well understood analogs for petroleum reservoirs elsewhere. At the same time, the Ferron has become an important producer of coalbed methane from the northern part of Castle Valley.

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