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Abstract

This paper provides documentation of unexpectedly high-reservoir-quality glaciomarine sands found in the Cenozoic succession beneath McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, as an analogue study for evaluations of hydrocarbon prospectivity in basins elsewhere. The Oligocene to Lower Miocene succession of the Victoria Land Basin, an extant portion of the West Antarctic Rift System, comprises diamictites, mudrocks and sandstones with minor conglomerates. These lithologies are arranged in repetitive stacking patterns (cycles), interpreted to record repeated advance and retreat of glaciers into and out of the basin, with attendant eustatic and isostatic effects. Phases of ice retreat within the cycles comprise an array of mudrocks, sandy mudrocks and sandstones, deposited mainly during relative sea-level highstands. Clean, well-sorted, unconsolidated and porous sands <25 m thick from such intervals, which are interpreted to be mainly deltaic in origin, were encountered. Some of these sands, which have visible porosity as high as 41%, flowed into the well bore together with significant volumes of cold formation water. Diagenetic modification of sands in these intervals is minimal, which can be attributed to the low-temperature nature of the subsurface environment. Accordingly, glaciomarine sands in near-field glaciogenic successions should be considered as potential reservoir facies in prospectivity assessments.

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