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Depositional models of clastic rock sequences provide a valuable insight into many exploration and production problems in the energy business. The size, shape, lateral relations, and physical properties of sedimentary bodies have obvious and well-recognized relevance to searching for and developing petroleum, coal, and some ores. Acknowledgement of the value of depositional models by industry stimulated incisive research beginning more than 30 years ago and has sustained a very active and growing interest throughout the scientific community. As a result, today we face the blessing and the perlexity of a large and rapidly expanding fund of data.
No person can now really cope with assimilating the literature, past and present, on clastic depositional models, especially a person busy searching for mineral resources. My goal is to review some of the important advances that have happened, may be happening now, or should be promoted. These views are certainly personal and biased. As examples of my opinion, marine shelf and slope models are very poorly understood; knowledge of modern processes, Holocene deposits, and ancient examples has not led to unifying principles that can bolster exploration predictions in these general depositional environments. At the other end of the information spectrum, stream deposits are well known from many studies of modern and ancient examples and considerable experimental data. Yet embarrassing gaps in understanding remain because of accidents of geography, climate, or scale. Clastic depositional models from outcrop and subsurface provide case histories of fluvial, marine-shelf, and basin-slope environments that illustrate the state of the art and applications to practical oil exploration problems.
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