Abstract

Clinoform geometries and trajectories are widely used to predict the spatial and temporal evolution of sand distribution, but most analytical approaches underplay the significance of topset and shelf process regime in determining how and when sediment is conveyed downdip or stored on the continental shelf. We present an integrated study of clinoform rollover trajectory and detailed grain character analysis to assess the role of topset process regime in determining sand distribution and sediment character across clinothems. This study targets the topset, foreset, and bottomset deposits of four successive Miocene intrashelf clinothem sequences, which represent deposition under either river-dominated or wave-dominated conditions. Seismic reflection data was combined with core analysis and grain character data derived from 664 samples collected from three cored research boreholes. In river-dominated clinothems, the transfer of coarse-grained sediment occurs under both rising and flat-to-falling clinoform rollover trajectories, suggesting that process regime is more important in determining sediment delivery than clinoform trajectory; river-dominated systems are effective conveyors of sediment into deeper water. Wave-dominated clinothems deposited exclusively under rising clinoform rollover trajectories largely retain sand within topset and foreset deposits; wave-dominated systems are effective sediment filters. Notably, deposition under either river- or wave-dominated topset process regimes results in quantifiable differences in grain character attributes along clinoform profiles. Sediments in river-dominated systems are coarser, less well-rounded, and more poorly sorted, and show greater intersequence and intrasequence variability than those in wave-dominated systems; prediction of sediment character is more challenging in river-dominated systems. This study highlights the need for caution when attempting to predict downdip sand distribution from clinoform trajectory alone, and provides a novel perspective into downdip grain character profiles under end-member topset process regime conditions. The results of this study can be used to better constrain sediment grain-size and grain-shape distributions in process-based forward models, and have widespread applications in prediction of reservoir quality in both frontier and mature hydrocarbon basins.

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