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Upper Jurassic Norphlet sediments in southwestern Alabama and the adjacent coastal water area accumulated under arid climatic conditions. The Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States extended into southwestern Alabama, providing a barrier for air and water circulation during Norphlet deposition. These mountains not only contributed to the arid climate but also affected sedimentation. Norphlet paleogeography was dominated by a broad desert plain rimmed to the north and east by the Appalachians and to the south by a developing shallow sea. The desert plain extended westward into eastern and central Mississippi.
Initiation of Norphlet sedimentation was a result of erosion of the southern Appalachians. Norphlet conglomerates were deposited in coalescing alluvial fans in proximity to an Appalachian source. The conglomeratic sandstones grade downdip into red-bed lithofacies that accumulated in distal portions of alluvial fan and wadi systems. Quartzose sandstones (Denkman Member) were deposited as dune and interdune sediments on a broad desert plain. The source of the sand was the updip and adjacent alluvial fan, plain, and wadi deposits. Wadi and playa lake sediments probably also accumulated in the interdune areas. A marine transgression was initiated late in Denkman deposition, resulting in the reworking of previously deposited Norphlet sediments.
Norphlet hydrocarbon potential in southwestern and offshore Alabama is excellent with four oil and gas fields already established. Petroleum traps discovered to date are primarily structural traps involving salt anticlines, faulted salt anticlines, and extensional fault traps associated with salt movement. Reservoir rocks consist of quartzose sandstones, which are principally eolian in origin. Porosity types include both intergranular and secondary dissolution. Smackover algal carbonate mudstones were probably the source for the Norphlet hydrocarbons.
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