New Insight on the Depositional Environment and Facies Atlas of Aptian in a Super Giant Carbonate Field in the Middle East
The authors gratefully acknowledge the management of the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO) and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) for permission to publish this manuscript.
The 3D architecture of flow units is a key parameter influencing production and recovery from oil reservoirs. Depositional facies and their 3D stacking patterns are commonly fundamental building blocks of flow units. Hence, the recognition of facies, and their placement in conceptual depositional environments is the basic requirement to establish 3 dimensional architectural models of reservoirs.
In order to establish facies, facies stacking patterns and the 3D architecture of a super giant field contained in the Aptian in onshore Abu Dhabi , detailed sedimentological and petrographic core description have been carried out using about 13000 ft of core from a total of 49 cored wells. In total 27 facies have been established using fabric and bio content. They have been placed into conceptual depositional models following an evolving platform to basin topography during transgressive, early highstand and late highstand phases of carbonate platform development during the Aptian. This paper presents a comprehensive facies atlas that contains for each facies a detailed description of fabric and bio content, core and thin section pictures, petrophysical summaries and an interpretation of depositional environment. The large areal distribution of core coverage over more than 800 square km paired with the location of the reservoir transgressing platform interior to basinal settings ensures a comprehensive coverage of facies typical for most of the Aptian.
The study developed an updated and unified facies scheme embedded in the existing interpretation of the depositional environments and high resolution sequence stratigraphy, and completed the core facies scheme definition which is understood as a fundamental criteria for the population of 3D static and dynamic model, in order to effectively enhance future reservoir development.
Facies and their distribution in space are key building blocks to determine the depositional architecture of hydrocarbon reservoirs. A comprehensive review of facies and depositional environments has been conducted for one of the super giant carbonate fields in the Middle East (Field-A, United Arab Emirates) to support the construction of a new 3D static and dynamic model. Giant field A is located 200 km southeast of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The field was discovered in 1962 and produces oil from a fourway dip closure containing porous and permeable shallow marine limestone of Early Cretaceous Aptian age.
Previous studies have established an overall complex internal architecture with a central platform area developed in the southern part, a prograding platform margin in the central region, a seismically well defined clinoform belt to the north of the central region and a basinal are in the northern extremes of the field (Fig. 1 – Russel, et al., 2002; Yose et al 2006, 2010; Lawrence et al., 2010). Detailed analysis of seismic attributes and production characteristics have clearly established that facies and their 3D distribution and stacking has a profound impact on production patterns in this reservoir (Yin et al., 2010). In order to support the construction of new static and dynamic reservoir models a detailed core evaluation has been initiated to document a comprehensive set of all reservoir and non reservoir facies in the overall sequence stratigraphic context of the field (Fig. 2). The result is a detailed illustrated atlas of facies encountered in this reservoir. The atlas has likely a wider application for the Aptian of the region because of the large areal extent of the reservoir over more than 800 km2 and the wide array of depositional environments encountered.
Figure 1: Seismic isochron slice (A.) and seismic discontinuity map (B.) highlighting the main palaeogeographic & stratigraphic elements of “S” Formation (Aptian) in the studied field -A. (from Yose et. al. 2006)
Figure 2a: Cross-section from amplitude seismic in depth across the platform margin showing sequence stratigraphic correlations (A.). Note that surfaces are constrained by well data and guided by seismic geometries (all 3rd Order surfaces and 4th Order MFS’s are shown). The facies association variation are shown in the rreservoir architecture (B.) across the northern clinoforms (Apt 4a, 4b Sequences) and the Basin.. Cored wells are indicated in pink. Note that all 3rd Order surfaces are shown, together with 4th Order MFS’s in the Apt 4a and 4b Sequences (Laurence et al, 2010).
Figure 2b: Barremian – Albian Chronostratigraphy of the Arabian Plate (after Van Buchem et al., 2010).
Facies and depositional environment
On the basis of texture, grain types and their sizes, sedimentary structure, faunal contents, and lithologic composition, twenty seven lithofacies types were defined covering and further enhancing definitions previously proposed by Russel et al. (2002) Yose et al. (2004, 2006) and Strohmenger et al. (2008), for this Aptian formation. Fifteen lithofacies types (F1 to F 15) represent the reservoir facies (Figs 7-21) and twelve lithofacies types represent the poor to non reservoir facies (Figs. 22-33). Good and poor-to non reservoir quality lithofacies are encountered along the evolving depositional profiles in each system tract of the large scale 2nd order cycle (Figs. 2b and 4-6). However, clear differences in facies composition and distribution were observed during the overall evolution of the platform in the Aptian. Hence facies distributions and depositional profiles were put initially into the context of the main systems tracts of the 2nd order cycle, which gave rise to the deposition of most of the formation (Figs. 4-6). Subsequently, facies distributions were established for six 3rd order cycles (Apt1, 2, 3, 4a, 4b, 5) that have been established for the Aptian (Van Buchem et al., 2010).
The sequence stratigraphy context
Second Order Cycle
After an initial flooding of the pre-existing flat topography the platform evolved from a shallow gently sloping ramp in its initial phases (2nd order TST – Fig. 4) to a pronounced platform to basin topography (2nd order early HST – Fig. 5). Infill of accommodation space over the aggrading platform during the early HST led to a profound change in platform geometry. During the early HST the shallow water platform area in the southern part of the field was very large. Sediments mainly aggraded infilling available accommodation space. Only during the latest phase of the early HST did the platform margin start to significantly prograde into the basin (prograding platform margin of Fig.1). During the later phases of the 2nd order cycle (late HST- Fig. 6) accommodation space over the southern Central Platform area (Fig.1) was already filled and provided no or little space for additional sediment production. Hence, the area for sediment production became limited to a small sliver along the platform/basin margin (clinoform belt - Fig. 1) resulting not only in a change of some of the facies but also into a distinct change of clinoform composition and hence flow characteristics.
Third Order Cycles
This 3rd order sequence represents the early stages of the larger scale 2nd order transgressive systems tract (TST). The initial stages of the 3rd order TST (early TST) are characterized by a number of thin shallow water cycles with evidence for frequent intermittent exposure. The sediments are dense, of non reservoir quality and regionally known as the early Aptian 'Hawar Member' of the underlying formation. . Lithologically this dense unit consists of wispy-laminated and burrowed bioturbated Orbitolinid-rich skeletal wackestones and packstones lithofacies (WBOSW, BBOSW, WBOSP and BBOSP). As the topography of the depositional environment was nearly flat there is a homogeneous and similar depositional pattern throughout the field. Overlying the Hawar Dense' interval are reservoir facies that represent the later stages of transgression (late TST) and relatively thin interval attributed to a sea level highstand (HST). These sediments are commonly separated from the 'Hawar Dense' unit by a sharp contact. The succession comprises skeletal peloidal wackestone to packstone and packstone (SPWP and SPP), orbitolinid skeletal packstones (OSP) and algal skeletal floatstones to boundstones (ASFB). These lithofacies were deposited during continued transgression on a low topography platform in a proximal mid-ramp setting. The maximum flooding surface (Apt1 MFS) is associated with the base of the first foraminiferal skeletal wackestones interval (FSW), which marks the deepest and most diverse reservoir facies within the Apt1 Sequence, but no major surfaces are observed. The overlying HST succession displays a subtle cleaning-upward trend and is dominated by OSP and slightly coarser SPWP lithofacies.
The Apt2 Sequence represents the turn-around phase of the larger-scale (2nd order) cycle from the TST to early HST. It is characterized by the development of a low relief platform as carbonate production increased. At this stage in the overall depositional evolution the Bab basin is established. The shallowest conditions occur in the southern part of the field, the embryonical platform margin broadly corresponds to the central area, while the northern area is characterized by a more distal low relief ramp environment.
Apt2 Sequence - Southern Area
In the southern part of the field the APt2 SB is picked mainly at the stylolitic and rarely burrowed Glossifungites contact between OSP/SPP and SPWP lithofacies. The overlying succession is dominated by algal/stromatoporoid skeletal floatstones to boundstones (ASFB and AStFB) with interbedded units of OSP, SPP and SPWP lithofacies, deposited in suitable conditions for algae and stromatoporoids to grow, probably between upper to lower shoreface settings. The Apt2 Sequence preserved in the southern area of the field is thicker (ca. 185ft) than that preserved in other areas (ca. 46ft in the north). During the sea level rise (TST), OSP, SPWP, SPP beds are common at the base of the succession and grade-upwards into algal-rich skeletal floatstone and thick intervals of boundstone lithofacies (ASFB), which progressively intercalate with algal, stromatoporoid, skeletal floatstones and boundstones lithofacies (AStFB), which locally dominate the top of the TST. Production of these algal-rich lithofacies 'kept pace' with rising sea level by filling- in the accommodation space created, and they are likely to develop as in situ layers and localized domical biostromes. The Apt2 MFS is commonly identified at the base of coral-rich algal/stromatoporoid lithofacies (AStFB(c) as this unit is likely to represent clear, open marine conditions associated with a flooding maximum that was favourable for coral development. Dissolution has dissolved much of the corals creating vugs, moulds and cavities, although a later phase of cementation by blocky calcite has partially occluded these pores. The overlying HST is associated with relative sea level fall as accommodation space is superseded in proximal areas and the depositional system progrades. The HST succession displays a slightly upward-cleaning trend composed of further algal-prone lithofacies, ASFB, AStFB and minor rudist-rich lithofacies (e.g. RSFR, RCpBF).
Apt2 Sequence - Central Area
In the central part of the Field the Apt2 SB is typically picked between SPWP and OSP lithofacies, similar to the southern areas. The tract comprises dominantly of SPP, OSP and SPWP lithofacies interbedded with ASFB and AStFB lithofacies. The TST is characterized by an overall algal/stromatoporoid-rich lithofacies to SPP, OSP and SPWP lithofacies, reflecting deepening from a proximal to relatively distal mid-ramp setting. The maximum flooding surface is likely to coincide with the top of, or within an SPP lithofacies, although, as no discrete surfaces are observed in core the pick is mainly defined on the wireline log data, and remains an uncertainty. During the following relative sea level fall, associated with the overlying HST, the succession demonstrates an overall cleaning-upward trend characterized by an increased number of SPP units that become grainier up-section and thicker compared to SPWP beds. In the central part, the Apt2 TST is thinner compared to the southern area and the HST shows lateral variation from the algal/stromatoporoid-rich ASFB/AStFB lithofacies in the southern part to SPP/SPWP lithofacies in the central field area.
Apt2 Sequence - Northern Area
The Apt2 sequence boundary in the northern part of the Field is dominantly picked at a stylolitic contact between SPWP/OSP lithofacies, similar to the scenario occurring in the southern and central area of the field. In terms of stacking patterns, the Apt2 TST is characterized by a shallowing/cleaning-upward motif from dominantly OSP facies towards the base to algal/stromatoporoid-rich lithofacies (ASFB/AStFB) towards the upper portion of the TST. Only the uppermost part of the TST above a significant hardground surface marks an abrupt deepening of depositional environment from proximal mid-ramp to deep ramp setting prior to the development of the Apt2 MFS. The MFS is commonly laced at the top of a PFSM bed, normally at a stylolitic (rarely Glossifungites) contact. The subsequent HST remains within this deep environment and is dominated by basinal lithofacies that display a slight cleaning-upward trend from more argillaceous poor reservoir deposits (BPFSW, BGSM/BCSM) to cleaner PFSM lithofacies.
The Apt3 Sequence is superimposed on the larger scale, 2nd order HST and represents the start of progradational clinoform development, due to considerable carbonate production in proximal areas combined with a reduction in the rate of accommodation space generation. As such, it has different composition in the southern, central and northern parts of the Field as a result of a change in palaeotopography and differentiation of platform, slope and basin settings.
Apt3 Sequence in the Southern Area
In the southern part of the field, the Apt3 SB is defined mainly by a burrowed Glossifungites surface situated at the base of the rudist-prone interval that dominates much of the Apt3 Sequence. Such intervals are characterised by rudist caprotinid and carprinid-rich floatstones, rudstones and boundstones with common rudist skeletal floatstones to boundstones and rudstones to boundstones (RCnBR, RCpBF, RSFR and RSR). These facies are likely to originate from rudist biostromes (build-ups and in situ boundstones) and associated reworked inner platform deposits. Significant carbonate production, prompted by favourable conditions during the TST, enabled the rudists facies to 'keep pace' with accommodation space generated by relative sea level rise. These facies host some of the best reservoir quality owing to partial to complete dissolution, which created vugs within the internal shell structure of the rudists, particularly the caprinid-rich intervals, whose internal shell canals contributed to fluid flow. The Apt3 MFS is commonly positioned at a gradational contact at the base of the first SPP lithofacies as it represents a significant landward shift in facies belts. As progradation continued during the later phases of the 3rd order HST, platform interior lithofacies (SPP, SPWP, RSFR, RCpBF and minor RSR) advanced over the area and rudist biostromes were likely to be located further basinward on the clinoform crest. Within this part of the reservoir, a ca. 9-10ft thick dense unit occurs and comprises BBSP, BBSW, WBSP, WBSW lithofacies, which reflect episodic disconnection of the platform interior from the open sea (lagoonal setting or local ponds). This interval is not observed in the central and northern areas of the field, suggesting that this dense interval pinched-out in a northerly direction.
Apt3 Sequence in the Central Area
The Apt3 SB is represented by a thick skeletal peloidal packstone (SPP) interval in the majority of the central wells, although there is no significant surface identified. However, in few wells, the Apt3 SB is defined by a stylolitic and sharp surface at the base of skeletal peloidal wackestone and packstone and RSFR lithofacies. The TST has a variable thickness between ca. < 2-40ft, and thins in the northern part of the field. Apt3 Sequence is composed of packstones and wackestones, which grade-upward to more algal-rich, orbitolinids and rudistprone lithofacies reflecting deposition in the platform margin to proximal lower slope depositional settings. In the platform margin setting, that defines the central area of the field during this time, different stacking patterns are observed during the 3rd order TST. The TST either comprises a thick SPP interval or is composed of interbedded SPP and SPWP units with minor algal skeletal floatstone to boundstone (ASFB) and Orbitolinid skeletal packstone intervals (OSP) depending on the TST thickness and its proximity to the southern or northern part of the field. The Apt3 MFS usually falls within a thick SPP lithofacies with no significant surface and in rare cases, it is picked at the top of SPP at a burrowed Glossifungites or at the base of the first RSFR interval at a sharp contact. The HST is not completely cored in the 6 central wells and there is some uncertainty about the position of its bounding surfaces. It shows an overall cleaning-upward trend characterized by a wide range of lithofacies. Basal SPWP, OSP and SPP lithofacies grade upward into cleaner and shallower skeletal peloidal grainstones, algal skeletal floatstones to boundstones, rudist (carprinid and caprotinid) skeletal rudstone and floatstone to boundstone and rudist Orbitolinid skeletal grainstone to rudstone lithofacies (SPP, OSP, SPG, ASFB, RSR, RSFR, RCpBF, RCnBR and ROGR).
Apt3 Sequence in the Northern Area
In the more basinal, northern area the Apt3 SB is marked by a stylolitic or rarely burrowed Glossifungites surface at the top of planktonic foraminifera-rich skeletal mud to wackestone (PFSM and BPFSW) of the underlying Apt2 Sequence. The Apt3 Sequence is mainly composed of deep planktonic rich-mudstones and wackestones lithofacies (BPFSW, PFSM, BGSM/BCSM), which grade-upward to the cleaner, shallower fine-grained skeletal wackestone and packstone lithofacies (FSW, SPWP and SPP). This trend is locally interrupted by relatively minor, dense intervals of BBSW/WBSW and BBSP/WBSP in the more proximal wells, which grade laterally northward to more basinal deposits (PFSM, BPFSW, BCSM). The Apt3 TST is represented by a succession of lower slope to basinal sediments characterized by PFSM and BPFSW lithofacies with minor argillaceous BGSM/BCSM deposits. The Apt3 MFS is picked at the top of PFSM and BPFSW lithofacies where they grade-upwards into the cleaner lithofacies, typically foraminifera skeletal wackestones, skeletal peloidal wackestones to packstones, Orbitolinid skeletal packstones and skeletal packstones (FSW, SPWP, OSP and SPP). However, further to the north of the field, the MFS is placed within the deep depositional environment and both the TST and HST of the Apt3 Sequence fall within the deeper basinal setting with a slightly cleaning-upward trend inferred from the dominance of clean PFSM lithofacies towards the late TST and during the HST portion of the sequence.
The Apt4 sequence is only recorded in the northern area of the field and represents deposition during the late 2nd order highstand and is characterized by rapid progradation of the platform. The Apt4 SB is commonly identified by a stylolitic contact at the base of a thick (ca. 80ft) dense interval of BBSP, BBSW, WBSP and WBSW lithofacies and more rarely at the base of a BCSM, BGSM and PFSM interval. Core recovery is limited for the Apt4 Sequence, which captures two clinoforms, of which the second, younger clinoform is particularly poorly represented. The transgressive base of the Apt4 Sequence is dominated by dirty, tight intervals, which grade upwards into the cleaner and grainier skeletal packstones and grainstones, algal and rudist-rich grainstones, rudstones and floatstones lithofacies that represent deposition in distal upper slope to lower slope and basinal depositional settings. The basal TST (dense interval) is getting thinner toward the second clinoform, but was not cored in that area. The Apt4 MFS is marked by a gradational or stylolitic contact at the top of a dense unit, which represents a transition zone grading from dirty intervals to the upward-cleaning lithofacies. The overlying HST is associated with relative sea level fall and as characterised by cleaner and grainier lithofacies deposited mainly in a platform margin to upper slope setting and rarely in the lower slope depositional environment. This part of the sequence is composed of algal and rudist skeletal floatstones to rudstones and grainstones to rudstones, rudist skeletal floatstones and rudstones, skeletal peloidal grainstones and packstones (which may have considerable thicknesses in some wells and minor foraminifera skeletal wackestones and skeletal peloidal wackestones to packstones lithofacies. Higher, 4th or 5th order cyclicty is also apparent within the Apt4 HST, which is mainly identified by burrowed bioturbated and wispy laminated skeletal wackestones and packstones that represent flooding events associated with sea level fluctuation during this period. As the second clinoform in the Apt4 is rarely cored there is not sufficient data for inclusion in this report.
The Apt4b Sequence represents continued deposition in the larger scale, 2nd order late highstand, where the platform is represented by a series of prograding clinoforms. The Apt4b Sequence was only recovered in the wells located in the second clinoform, and in the majority of the cases only the HST part of the sequence was cored. The Apt4b SB is considered to occur at the base of a dense unit composed of burrowed bioturbated, wispy-laminated skeletal wackestones and packstones lithofacies (BBSP, BBSW, WBSP and BBSW) deposited in the distal upper slope to lower slope environments. However, in wells toward the northernmost part of the clinoform a dense interval is formed by distal, lower slope to basinal deposits including clay and argillaceous-rich skeletal wackestone to mudstones lithofacies (BCSM and BGSM). These dirty and deep water sediments represent deposition during relative sea level rise (TST). The Apt4b maximum flooding surface is marked at the top of this dense unit, where it grades-upwards into cleaner and shallower deposits. The overlying HST is represented by a shallowing-upward cycle formed by cleaner lithofacies including variably algal, rudist (both, caprotinid-prone and caprotinid-prone), stromatoporoid-rich skeletal grainstones and floatstones, boundstones and rudstones (ARSR, RASGR, ASFB, AStFB, RSR, RSFR, RCpBF) and rudist, orbitolinid, foraminifera, skeletal grainstones to rudstones, (ROGR, SPG, SPP, OSP SPWP and FSW). In some wells there are more than four dense intervals with variable thickness composed of burrowed-rich and wispy laminated orbitolina-rich (mainly in the upper part of the succession) skeletal wackestones and packstones (WBOSP, BBOSP, WBSW, BBSW and BBSP). These are likely to represent the transgressive events of 4th or 5th order sequences with sea level fluctuations between the platform margin to the lower slope settings.
The Apt5 Sequence is the final sequence recorded in the field, and represents the lowstand of the larger scale 2nd order depositional cycle that fills the Bab Basin. This sequence was only recovered in one well where cores from the lower part of the TST are preserved, which limits the overall environmental interpretation of this succession. The Apt5 SB is positioned at the base of a deep water, basinal, dark grey fissile shale (DGFS) unit, which is interbedded with burrowed, bioturbated and wispy laminated, orbitolinids/skeletal packstones and wackestones, and rarer orbitolinid skeletal packstone (OSP). These OSP lithofacies represent the reservoir intervals in the lower part of the succession and are a result of subtle shallowing to an upper slope environment. The uppermost part of the preserved succession mainly comprises a thick interval (ca. 8ft) of rudist Orbitolinids skeletal grainstones to rudstones, which show a significant cleaning-upward trend suggesting depositional shallowing. The Apt5 MFS and the HST section of this sequence were not recovered in the wells of this study.
This paper presents a comprehensive facies atlas that contains for each facies a detailed description of fabric and bio content, core and thin section pictures, petrophysical summaries and an interpretation of depositional environment. The large areal distribution of core coverage over more than 800 square km paired with the location of the reservoir transgressing platform interior to basinal settings ensures a comprehensive coverage of facies typical for most of the Aptian. The study developed an updated and unified facies scheme embedded in the existing interpretation of the depositional environments and high resolution sequence stratigraphy, and completed the core facies scheme definition which is understood as a fundamental criteria for the population of 3D static and dynamic model, in order to effectively enhance future reservoir development.
In general, the best reservoir quality is observed in the rudist and algal-stromatoporoid-rich lithofacies (RCnBR, RCpBF, RSR, ARSR, RASGR, ROGR, RSFR, AStFB and ASFB) which are dominated by dissolution related mouldic and vuggy macropores. Grain-supported textures demonstrate better overall reservoir quality (B, R, F, G and PG) as a result of more abundant interparticle and intraparticle pores and enhanced macro/vuggy porosity created by leaching. However, some poor reservoir quality is observed in these grainy facies owing to a variable degree of cementation. The SPP, OSP, SPWP, FSW and PFSM lithofacies show moderate to low reservoir properties due to increased micrite matrix content and associated micropores. Additionally, they also host less solution enhanced macropores (influenced by leaching of the unstable grains), and a higher degree of cementation. Some of the burrowed bioturbated and wispy laminated, argillaceous or clay-rich and shaly lithofacies (BBSP, WBSP, BBSW, WBSW, BCSM, BGSM, BPFSW, DGFS) lithofacies that characterize the dense/tight intervals have poor reservoir or negligible poroperm values, owing to their tight nature, high degree of cementation and increased argillaceous content.
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