Abstract

Submarine-fan sandstones of the Great Valley sequence west of the Sacramento Valley, California, have low porosities and permeabilities (64 samples averaged 10.1% porosity and 0.87 millidarcies permeability). However, petrography and scanning electron microscope studies indicate that most sands in almost all submarine fan environments are originally porous and permeable. Thin turbidite sandstones deposited in areas dominated by shale in outer-fan, basin-plain, and overbank environments are cemented mainly by calcite; shale dewatering is inferred to contribute to rapid cementation early in the burial process. Sands deposited in inner- and middle-fan channels within interchannel and fan-fringe environments that contain only thin shale beds have small percentages of intergranular matrix or cement. The original porosity is substantially reduced mechanically at shallow depths and by pressure solution at deeper levels. Permeability decreases systematically with increasing age of the rocks, presumably as a result of increasing burial depths. Computer-run stepwise regression analyses show that the porosity is inversely related to the percentage of calcite cement. Such parameters as the contents of quartz, feldspar, and unstable rock fragments have no correlative effect on either porosity or permeability. The results reported here indicate original porosity and permeability can be high in deep-water submarine fans and that fan environments dominated by sand (with high sand/shale ratios) are more likely to retain higher porosity and permeability to greater depths than sand interbedded with thick shale sequences.

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