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ABSTRACT

Well, seismic, and outcrop data were used to constrain the timing and development of unconformities associated with uplift events, and to aid in the definition of lithostratigraphic units of the Eocene of the southern Maracaibo and west-central Barinas/Apure basins. Palynology provided the main control on age dating of the sections, and graphic correlation was used to illustrate the amount of missing time in the lithostratigraphic record.

An integration of biostratigraphic and lithostratigraphic data from wells and outcrops shows that deltaic to shallow marine conditions prevailed over most of the Maracaibo and west-central Barinas/Apure basins during the middle Eocene. Fluvial sedimentation dominated in areas of high standing basement features, and was accentuated by the development of incised valleys and their subsequent marine fill sequences along the southern and southeastern margins of the Maracaibo Basin. The main controls governing depositional facies, and the presence or absence of unconformities were differential structural motion and, to a lesser extent, relative sea level fluctuations.

A basal Eocene to late Paleocene unconformity, as well as several intra-middle Eocene unconformities appear to have been primarily caused by a drop in base level (sea level + structural subsidence), forming incised valleys over most of the study area. Biostratigraphic (palynological) data, as well as field observations and subsurface mapping indicate that other unconformities within the upper middle Eocene, and between middle and upper Eocene strata are ravinement surfaces caused by transgressive marine re-working of pre-existing units.

Sequence boundaries caused by incised valleys often overlie transgressive deposits, and can merge with ravinement surfaces and other sequence boundaries in areas of intense erosion. This is especially true for the multiple intra-middle Eocene unconformities and sequence boundaries observed and inferred for the eastern part of the Maracaibo Basin; these are not reflected in the outcrop belt to the south because the rate of accommodation space was not rapid enough to allow their preservation. Nevertheless, marine transgressive deposits in the southern part of the basin can be clearly recognized (where they are preserved) because of their contrast with otherwise dominant fluvio-deltaic strata; the recognition of specific transgressive events in the eastern part of the basin is less certain because they are less clearly differentiated within the mostly marginal marine strata of the area.

The presence of favorable reservoir facies in Eocene rocks in the study area is primarily a function of original sandstone composition, grain size, and burial depth. In the northeastern part of the study area, estuarine channels and transgressive marine/tidal bars have the best reservoir properties in the Misoa Formation. In the southern Maracaibo Basin, fluvial channels and transgressive marine/tidal bars are also the best reservoirs in the Mirador Formation. Transgressive marine/tidal bars within the Carbonera Formation also have favorable reservoir characteristics. Productivity of the best Eocene reservoirs is generally high.

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