N302 Deepwater Reservoir Presence and Architecture: Permian Brushy Canyon Formation, Guadalupe and Delaware Mountains (West Texas, USA)

Course Facts

Course Code:
5 days
Physical Demand:
4.8 Continuing Education Units
48 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


This multidiscipline course demonstrates how deepwater stratigraphic prediction is possible by understanding the distribution of sedimentary attributes within a temporal and spatial framework. The continuous shelf-to- basin exposures of the Brushy Canyon Formation enable time-stratigraphic correlation of variations in sedimentary patterns to their position in a longitudinal depositional profile. Lessons learned from this dataset are considered applicable to all deepwater systems.

Dr. Gardner directed a multidisciplinary team during the Slope and Basin Consortium Modeling Project (2002-2005), which converted 55% of the Brushy Canyon outcrop into high-resolution, geo-referenced geocellular models of Permian deepwater architecture. The applied research, from this project, focused on identifying and interrogating the multivariate geological parameters necessary and sufficient to reproduce and predict common and repeatable deepwater reservoir patterns. Subsurface workflows, best practices and geological rules developed from this research and featured in the course will assist the participants in the identification of new plays and prospects, reducing risk and adding reserves.

Duration and Training Method

A six-day course comprised of field work (85%) and classroom lectures (15%). Almost every field stop includes exercises that illustrate and reinforce the key concepts and methods discussed in lectures and documented in the course notes.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Characterize source-to-sink controls on deepwater systems.
  2. Evaluate the stratigraphic evolution of lithology and thickness distributions in deepwater systems.
  3. Predict stratigraphic modulation of deepwater reservoir architecture.
  4. Assess sedimentary patterns that form different reservoir types and change systematically along the longitudinal profile of deep-marine systems.
  5. Evaluate the role of seafloor topography on deep-marine sedimentary patterns.
  6. Select methods in stratigraphic correlation of deep-marine systems.
  7. Characterize the significance of turbidite event beds and component process facies.
  8. Validate the techniques for retention of geologic data in reservoir modeling.
  9. Propose the optimal workflow for subsurface interpretation of different scales of deep-marine geologic data.

The seismic-scale outcrops of the Brushy Canyon Formation and associated Permian strata provide continuous exposures across a deep-marine longitudinal profile from submarine canyons incised into a carbonate shelf margin, to weakly confined distributive, fan fringe sandstones that thin and pinch out onto a basin margin far removed from siliciclastic sediment sources. Stratigraphic correlations and mapping across multiple cliff faces provide unprecedented documentation of sedimentary architecture in three dimensions. This field course focuses on exposures that illustrate the nature of deep-marine slope and basin-floor reservoir architecture in a fine-grained, sand- rich system.

Overall themes focus on sharpening the tools needed for subsurface prediction of deep-marine reservoir presence and architecture. The course illustrates how a hierarchy of sedimentary attributes, used to define reservoir-scale patterns, correlates to formative processes operating at different temporal and spatial scales (e.g., subaqueous flow velocity, event magnitude, state of flow confinement, and local and regional gradient). The Brushy Canyon outcrops provide uncommon control on the correlation of channel type, profile position, and sediment composition to gradient and flow-scale processes within a stratigraphic hierarchy of deep-marine episodes mapped across a basin.

The first two field days focus on distributive channel and lobe architecture on the basin floor in a fan fringe setting. Outcrops in the southern Delaware Mountains expose deposits that are the most distant from their sediment source. The conformable stratigraphy and widespread sand distribution here conspicuously contrasts with the disconformable patterns exposed in outcrops along the northwestern basin margin.

The following three field days examine submarine canyon and deep-marine slope strata along the spectacular kilometer high outcrops of the Western Escarpment of the Guadalupe Mountains. The evolution from an inherited carbonate ramp, incised by submarine canyons, to depositional outbuilding of a siliciclastic slope records the change from under- to over-filled conditions across slope channel fairway and interfairway regions. The architecture of multistory channels, as well as, the fill of intraslope depressions is correlated to stratigraphic modulation of under- and over-supplied conditions describing the relationship between subaqueous flow size and the size of the receiving basin. The continuous exposures permit stratigraphic correlation of time-significant surfaces, on the higher gradient slope, to time-equivalent strata on the lower gradient basin floor. These surface-to-rock correlations are illustrated in seismic models and detailed three-dimensional reservoir models of the outcrop, which form the basis for field exercises that reinforce important conceptual models and methods in hierarchical sedimentary geology. 

Itinerary (subject to change)

Day 0:

Arrive in El Paso, Texas.

Day 1:

Morning: Introductory lecture and safety briefing.
Afternoon: Depart El Paso, 2-hour drive to Van Horn, Texas.
Evening overview lecture and dinner.

Day 2:

Recognition and Characterization of Distributive Deepwater Reservoir Architecture. Brushy Canyon Formation, Southern Delaware Mountains.
Delaware Mountain Ranch - 2 hour drive from hotel.

  • Stop 1.1 Overview of Brushy Canyon Outcrops forming 10+ kilometre-wide Continuous Sandstone Intervals along the Southern Basin Margin, Southern Delaware Mountains (2 hrs)
  • Stop 1.2 Establish Stratigraphic Framework and Threefold Hierarchy for Sandstone-rich Succession from Vertical Profiles, Upper Brushy Canyon: Terminator Canyon (4 hrs)

Overnight: Van Horn, Texas.

Day 3:

Multiple Scales of Reservoir Heterogeneity in Distributive Deepwater Systems. Upper Brushy Canyon Formation, Southern Delaware Mountains.
Delaware Mountain Ranch - 2 hour drive from hotel.

  • Stop 2.1 Hierarchy of Sedimentary Elements in Continuous and Sandstone-rich Reservoir Analogs, Upper Brushy Canyon: Carol Canyon (5 hrs)
  • Stop 2.2 Stratigraphic Modulation and Evaluation of 3D Variations in Reservoir Architecture from Correlations across Multiple Fault Blocks: Consideration of Differences along Depositional Dip and Strike (3 hrs)

Overnight: Van Horn, Texas.

Day 4:

Sandstone Pinch Outs and Sediment Bypass along Basin Margin Rimmed by Steep and Fixed
Carbonate Platform.
Lower and Middle Members of the Brushy Canyon Formation.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

  • Stop 3.1 Western Escarpment Overview: Basin Margin Evolution and Slope Sedimentation patterns, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  • Stop 3.2 Slope Facies and Architecture, Rest Area Gully
  • Stop 3.3 Mass Transport Deposits of the Lower Brushy Canyon Formation, Rest Area Gully
  • Stop 3.4 Thin-bedded sandstone architecture, Lower Brushy Canyon, Rest Area Gully

Overnight: Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Day 5:

Submarine Canyon and Upper Slope Systems: Slope Discordances and Canyon Fills.
Brushy Canyon Formation. Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

  • Stop 4.1 Facies and architecture of submarine canyon fill: All day traverse through Bone-Shumard Canyons, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Overnight: Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Day 6:

Upper Slope Channel Fairways and Intraslope Mini-Basins in Depositional Outbuilding of Basin Margins.
Upper Member of Brushy Canyon Formation. Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

  • Stop 5.1 Mudstone drapes at the Base of Slope Discordances, Getaway Limestone, Highway 62/180 Road cut
  • Stop 5.2 Architecture of Ponded Sandstones Perched Along the Fairway Margin, Salt Flat Bench
  • Stop 5.3 Aggradational Upper Slope Channel Fairway Axis, Guadalupe Canyon

Overnight: El Paso, Texas.

Day 7:

Fly home from El Paso.

Who should attend

N302 is essential for reservoir engineers, development geologists, geophysicists, petrophysicists, geocellular modelers and team managers involved in the maintenance and development of conventional and unconventional deepwater reservoirs and wish to broaden and deepen their knowledge of deep marine clastic plays.

Prerequisites and linking courses

Participants should understand the fundamental processes and terminology of sedimentology before attending the class. This can be gained on Basic Application Level courses N155 (Introduction to Clastic Depositional Systems: a Petroleum Perspective) and N156 (Clastic Depositional Systems in a Basinal Framework: Exploration and Reservoir Implications, Pyrenees, Spain).

Several other field and classroom courses address deepwater clastic systems at Skilled Application Level, including N009 (Sedimentology, Stratigraphy and Reservoir Geology of Deepwater Clastic Systems, County Clare, Ireland). Those interested in understanding the influence of structural controls on deepwater clastic systems may wish to attend N028 (Sand-rich Turbidite Systems and Megaturbidites: From Slope to Basin Plain. Facies, Stacking Patterns and Controlling Factors, Pyrenees, Spain).  N033 (Characterisation, Modelling, Simulation and Development Planning in Deepwater Clastic Reservoirs, Tabernas, Spain) focuses on modeling and development planning in deepwater systems. The N442 filed course (Reservoir Architecture of Deep Water Systems, in California) focuses on the role of submarine channels and fans in deepwater sedimentation. The common deepwater architectural elements of the Pennsylvanian-age Jackfork Group are examined in N292 (Deepwater Depositional System Stratigraphy for Exploration and Development; Arkansas, USA).

The physical demands for this class are HIGH according to the Nautilus Training Alliance field course grading system. Participants should anticipate long field days with an average of 10-12 hours away from lodging facilities. Attendees must be prepared for long (3-6 km; 2-4 mile) hikes across rough and sometimes steep terrain. The five field days will involve long traverses away from the vehicles. The field area is at an elevation of approximately 1500 m (5000 ft). This fairly high elevation in combination with hot temperatures and dusty conditions may lead to unexpected fatigue or shortness of breath for some participants. In order to gain the full benefit of this class, participants should be fit enough to complete these hikes under these conditions.

Transport on the course will be by SUVs. Most of the driving is on black-top roads, with some driving on graded dirt roads. Two days include long 17 mile off-road track driving on rough, rocky trails.


Learn how RPS manages safety

Click on a name to learn more about the instructor

Mike Gardner

Related Subjects