Submarine slope channel-fills form complicated stratigraphy and lithofacies distributions through repeated phases of erosion and deposition. This provides a challenge to accurate 3D modelling, particularly in representing lithofacies transitions within sand-poor areas. In this paper, traditional (sedimentary logs, palaeocurrent measurements, architectural panels) and non-conventional technologies (Light Detection and Ranging; Ground Penetrating Radar) were integrated to quantitatively describe lithofacies distributions and sedimentary architectures from two large-scale outcrops, one base of slope, high sandstone content system (Unit B) and one from a mid-slope, more mixed lithology system (Unit C), in the Laingsburg Formation, Karoo Basin, South Africa.
The workflow described in this study combines digital structural restoration and extrapolation of major stratigraphic surfaces, grouped palaeocurrents and architectural geometries observed at outcrop to create 3D digital models. The model was divided into zones along major stratigraphic discontinuities and populated using lithofacies associations that were adjusted for outcrop rugosity and palaeodispersal direction. Observed channel margin asymmetries, distribution of lithofacies and stacking patterns were all honoured in the digital models.
The Unit C slope-channel system differs from many exposed submarine channels due to the low proportion of sandstone present within the infill. Thin-bedded channel margin lithofacies are preserved through the lateral stepping of channels and allow the correlation of stratigraphy from channel axis to margin and on to overbank areas. In the older, sandier Unit B base-of-slope system, the stratigraphic change in stacking pattern, channel aspect ratio, lithofacies of channel-fills and stratigraphic hierarchy were all captured. This research captured the architectural complexity observed at outcrop to generate more realistic models than could be constructed normally using limited subsurface data.