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AAPG Bulletin


(Begin page 1583)

AAPG Bulletin, V. 85, No. 9 (September 2001), P. 1583-1608.

Copyright ©2001. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Detailed internal architecture of a fluvial channel sandstone determined from outcrop, cores, and 3-D ground-penetrating radar: Example from the middle Cretaceous Ferron Sandstone, east-central Utah

Rucsandra M. Corbeanu,1 Kristian Soegaard,2 Robert B. Szerbiak,3 John B. Thurmond,4 George A. McMechan,5 Deming Wang,6 Steven Snelgrove,7 Craig B. Forster,8 Ari Menitove9

1University of Texas at Dallas, 2601 N. Floyd Road, Richardson, Texas, 75080; email: [email protected]
2E&P Research Centre, Norsk Hydro ASA, N-5020 Bergen, Norway; email: [email protected]
3University of Texas at Dallas, 2601 N. Floyd Road, Richardson, Texas, 75080
4Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, 54-913, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02139
5University of Texas at Dallas, 2601 N. Floyd Road, Richardson, Texas, 75080; email: [email protected]
6University of Texas at Dallas, 2601 N. Floyd Road, Richardson, Texas, 75080
7University of Utah, 423 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84108
8University of Utah, 423 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84108; email: [email protected]
9University of Utah, 423 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84108


Rucsandra M. Corbeanu received her B.Sc. degree in geoscience from the University of Bucharest, Faculty of Geology and Geophysics, Romania, in 1991 and is currently working toward her Ph.D. in geology at the University of Texas at Dallas. Rucsandra's interests include all aspects of reservoir characterization, geostatistics, and ground-penetrating radar applications.

Kristian Soegaard received his high school degree in Denmark in 1974, his B.Sc. honors degree in geology from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1980, and his Ph.D. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia, in 1984. Kris's interests are in description and interpretation of sedimentary systems at all scales and of all ages.

Robert Szerbiak received his B.S. degree (1971) in geoscience at Michigan State University and an M.S. degree (1980) in geophysics from Texas A&M University and is currently working toward his Ph.D. in geophysics at the University of Texas at Dallas. His interests include reservoir characterization and shallow geophysics, fluid-flow modeling, geostatistics, ground-penetrating radar, and effective medium theory.

John Thurmond is currently working on his Ph.D, in carbonate sedimentology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his B.S. degree in geology with highest honors from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1997. His work currently involves 3-D mapping of carbonate stratigraphy to understand evolving morphologies and the processes that control them.

George McMechan received a B.A.Sc. degree in geophysical engineering from the University of British Columbia in 1970 and an M.Sc. degree in geophysics from the University of Toronto in 1971. His main research interests are wavefield imaging, 3-D seismology, reservoir characterization, and ground-penetrating radar.

Deming Wang received a B.S. degree with honors (1986) in exploration geophysics from Hefei Polytechnic University, China, an M.S. degree (1993) in geophysics from Peking University, China, and an M.S. degree (2000) in geosciences from the University of Texas at Dallas. He has done research on prestack imaging and crosshole imaging.

Stephen H. Snelgrove received a B.S. degree in geophysics and an M.S. degree in geological engineering from the University of Utah. He is currently completing his Ph.D. in civil engineering at the University of Utah. His research interests include characterization of aquifers and petroleum reservoirs using geophysics and geostatistics, and numerical modeling of subsurface flow.

Craig Forster holds degrees in geology and hydrogeology from the University of Waterloo, Canada (M.S. degree), and the University of British Columbia (B.S. degree and Ph.D.). His current research program employs interdisciplinary outcrop-to-simulation studies to assess how geologically derived permeability heterogeneity should be incorporated in numerical models of subsurface fluid flow, mass transport, and heat transfer.

Ari Menitove is currently working as a geological engineer for Kleinfelder, Inc., in Salt Lake City, Utah. He received his B.S. degree in geophysics from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, in 1993 and his M.E. degree in geological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, in 2000.


The research leading to this article was funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract DE-FG03-96ER14596 to McMechan and Soegaard with auxiliary support from the University of Texas at Dallas Ground-Penetrating Radar Consortium. The migrated GPR data were interpreted using the PC-based seismic interpretation software WinPICS of Kernel Technologies Ltd. The geostatistical analysis was done using the Geostatistical Software Library (GSLIB) programs. The outcrop gamma-ray scintillometer was provided by ARCO, and gamma-ray measurements on split cores and Hassler cell permeability/porosity testing were performed by Terra Tek Labs in Salt Lake City.

Gerard "Neil" Gaynor initiated the use of GPR on outcrop of the Ferron Sandstone for reservoir analog studies. We thank John S. Bridge for his insight into the fluvial barform in the upper 5 m of the channel complex and Coco van den Bergh and Jim Garrison from The Ferron Group Consultants for discussions in the field and for providing insight into the position of the Coyote basin site in the greater depositional framework of the Ferron Sandstone. We acknowledge Marie D. Schneider for help in integrating geologic outcrop and geophysical data. We also thank Janok Bhattacharya for his review of an earlier version of the manuscript. AAPG reviewers Bruce S. Hart, Peter J. McCabe, and Keith W. Shanley provided many comments that improved the final version of the article. This article is contribution No. 927 from the Geosciences Department of the University of Texas at Dallas.


Ideally, characterization of hydrocarbon reservoirs requires information about heterogeneity at a submeter scale in three dimensions. Detailed geologic information and permeability data from surface and cliff face outcrops and boreholes in the alluvial part of the Ferron Sandstone are integrated here with three-dimensional (3-D) ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data for analysis of a near-surface sandstone reservoir analog in fluvial channel deposits. The GPR survey covers a volume with a surface area of 40 x 16.5 m and a depth of 12 m. Five architectural elements are identified and described in outcrop and well cores, using a sixfold hierarchy of bounding surfaces. Internally, the lower four units consist of fine-grained, parallel-laminated sandstone, and the upper unit consists of medium-grained, trough cross-bedded sandstone. The same sedimentary architectural elements and associated bounding surfaces are distinguished in the GPR data by making use of principles developed in seismic stratigraphic analysis.

To facilitate comparison of geologic features in the depth domain and radar reflectors in the time domain, the radar data are depth migrated. The GPR interpretation is carried out mainly on migrated 100 MHz data with a vertical resolution of about 0.5 m. Measures of the spatial continuity and variation of the first- and second-order bounding surfaces are obtained by computing 3-D experimental variograms for each architectural element (each radar (Begin page 1584) facies). The maximum correlation length of the dominant internal features ranges between 4 and 6 m, and the anisotropy factor ranges between 0.6 and 0.95.

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