Abstract

The Upper Cretaceous section of the southern Powder River Basin of the Rocky Mountain region includes the Niobrara Formation, which is one of the most significant source rocks of the Western Interior Cretaceous Seaway, and it is overlain by the lower Pierre Shale interval. The lower Pierre Shale is divided into eight members, which are the progradational highstand deposits of the Gammon Ferruginous Member; lowstand prograding wedge deposits of the Shannon Sandstone, the Unnamed Member, and the Sussex Sandstone; transgressional Ardmore Pedro Bentonite Beds and Sharon Springs members; and highstand deposits of the Mitten Black Shale and Red Bird Silty members. The Shannon and Sussex Sandstone members are known targets for oil production. Based on integrated research of 1490 well logs with two cores, this study demonstrates that the lower Pierre Shale interval is a Type 1 Ramp Margin Sequence. Although previous studies primarily focused on individual sandstone members or parts of the lower Pierre Shale section in relatively limited areas, this study provides an in-depth sequence stratigraphic analysis of the lower Pierre Shale interval. A depositional model was created, which demonstrates that the Shannon Sandstone, Unnamed, and Sussex Sandstone Members were deposited as an encased lowstand prograding wedge between the progradational Gammon Ferruginous Member and the transgressional Ardmore Pedro Bentonite Beds and Sharon Springs members hundreds of miles basinward from the stratigraphically equal Mesaverde lowstand sandstones of the Bighorn Basin. The shift of facies across long distances is explained with a forced regression that has taken place during the deposition of the uppermost Gammon Ferruginous Member and the following deposition of the Shannon and Sussex sandstone members. Rapid eastward progradation of the clastic sediments of the lower Pierre Shale and the following rapid forced regression effectively terminate the deposition of the Niobrara Formation carbonates in the Western Interior Seaway.

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