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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists


The Mountain Geologist
Vol. 53 (2016), No. 3. (July), Pages 119-223

High-Resolution Stratigraphy of the lower portion of the Green River Formation at Raven Ridge and Red Wash Field, NE Uinta Basin, Utah, Colorado, USA: Facies and Stratigraphic Patterns in a High-Gradient, High-Energy Lacustrine System

James M. Borer


Lacustrine strata of a portion of the Green River Formation studied in outcrops along Raven Ridge and in the subsurface around Red Wash Field in the northeastern Uinta Basin represent cyclic storm-dominated shoreface to deep lake deposition within a syntectonic embayment on the margin of Eocene Lake Uinta. The study interval consists of the lower Green River Formation, including the Douglas Creek, Garden Gulch, and lower Parachute Creek members, from the top of the underlying Wasatch to the Mahogany Zone of the Parachute Creek Member. Data consists of 11,900 ft (3627 m) of section measured at 23 locations across Raven Ridge, including 7,800 ft (2377 m) of hand-held gamma-ray scintillometer measurements, and over 500 wells in the greater Red Wash Field area, including pay zone analysis correlated to stratigraphy in the field. Facies analysis, as the basis for an integrated stratigraphic approach, reveals a seven-fold hierarchy of stratigraphic cycles ranging from two orders of large-scale cycles to five orders of progressively higher-frequency (smaller scale) shoreface-lake cycles across an 18-mile (29 km) long and 1900-ft (579 m) thick dip-oriented stratigraphic transect.

This study recognized twenty-two facies grouped into eight facies tracts using Walther’s Law for two composite shoreface successions: one for a siliciclastic storm-graded shoreface profile that was dominant during times of regression and one for a carbonate profile that dominated in times of transgression. Two important regional facies trends across Raven Ridge include: 1) greater proportions of mudstone facies present in the southern, upper portion of the Green River Formation; and 2) significantly higher proportion of bioturbated sandstone in the northern, lower portion of the formation. The long-term 2nd-order transgression of Lake Uinta from base to top of the study interval results in an evolution from a low-gradient shoreline with marshes, ponds, and sand/mud flats to a high-gradient high-energy profile composed of spits and shorefaces that grew southward away from the emergent highlands. A composite storm-graded shelf profile shows how trough, hummocky, and swaley cross stratification type and amalgamation style change offshore proportionally to contain mud-dominated tempestites, erosional storm furrows, and oil shale. In the most offshore positions, diastasis cracks caused by differential loading are common.

The lacustrine shoreface profile is compressed in the Green River Fm. in the study area with narrow facies tracts and large local gradient changes as a result of different responses to sediment supply. As a lake grows and shorelines migrate, the increase in accommodation is balanced, or in-phase, by a corresponding increase in sediment supply resulting in shoreface progradation keeping up with lake-level rise. As the shoreface stacks vertically during the rise, over steepening and failure of the profile generates gravity-flow sandstone facies. Little reworking of hummocky cross stratification high on the profile was observed, probably because wave power was limited by a shallow fair-weather wave-base. These differences also result in more symmetrical lacustrine shoreface cycles, with a large proportion of sediment partitioned into rise hemicycles, as opposed to the classical fall-asymmetric marine para-sequence which tends to have little to no strata preserved in the rise hemicycle along most of the shoreface profile.

Landward-stepping lacustrine shoreface cycles are more common during the early rise portions of larger-scale 3rd-order megacycles for similar reasons.

Strata at Raven Ridge support the concept that Eocene Lake Uinta was chemically stratified, or meromictic, at least during certain periods. The equable subtropical Eocene paleoclimate is interpreted to be the most important control on meromixis. Chemical stratification played a critical role in the development and preservation of organic matter, as evidenced by oil shale facies. The equable climate, however, might also have made the lake prone to thermal stratification. A paradox exists in the storm dominance of the lacustrine shorefaces and the coeval lake stratification: wave energy apparently was insufficient to break through the strong chemocline.

Red Wash Field, directly downdip from the Raven Ridge outcrop belt, is an example of an oil field in a setting where the lake margin is not coincident with a structural feature: a “non-coincident” margin. Reservoirs mostly are present in the 6th-order aggradational shoreface cycles that are interpreted to have accumulated in the rise portions of 3rd-order megacycles. The best reservoir facies are trough, hummocky, and swaley cross-stratified sandstone deposited by storm processes and structureless sandstone probably derived from over steepening and failure of the shoreface during transgression. A petroleum accumulation model encompassing the Red Wash-Raven Ridge area proposes that lacustrine-sourced petroleum originated from an over-pressured mature cell in the Altamont-Bluebell field region. Oil migrated updip through leaky seals and became trapped in reservoirs within the non-coincident lake margin strata. An irregular shoreline configuration and compaction folds at Red Wash Field trapped petroleum. After reaching spill point at Red Wash Field, oil migrated farther updip to Raven Ridge and Asphalt Ridge, forming tar sand accumulations.

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