Comparison of the morphology, facies, and reservoir quality of regional channel bodies


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Composite channel bodies in the McMurray Formation compose the main reservoirs in the southern Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR). Despite the economic importance of the vast bitumen resources they contain, a comprehensive regional analysis of their extent and morphology is lacking. An exceptional dataset composed of 190+ drill cores, core photographs from over 1,000 wells, wireline logs from more than 14,000 wells, and 3-D seismic data were used to document the regional extent and morphology of four McMurray Formation parasequence sets and associated channel bodies in the southern AOSR. Additional goals included establishing if channel-body characteristics are linked to reservoir distribution, and exploring for sedimentological trends within and amongst individual channel bodies of differing stratigraphic age.

To determine if some regional channel-body deposits are better SAGD reservoirs than others, average reservoir parameters were calculated and compared. The results indicate that although channel-body thickness and average net sandstone thickness vary, the facies distribution, sandstone average porosity, and channel-body shale volume are constant between channel bodies.

The McMurray Formation stratigraphic framework and mapped channel bodies can be employed to map point-bar deposits and understand facies changes in a formation that is particularly heterolithic and laterally discontinuous; this will aid the prediction of sandstone trends while planning future reservoir delineation programs. Furthermore, future investigations of upstream-downstream sedimentological, ichnological, and morphological trends within the channel bodies that may provide additional insights into the McMurray Formation’s depositional environment. In terms of predicting SAGD success, identifying the stratigraphic origin of a channel body is apparently unnecessary; once the point-bar deposits have been delineated and the sweet spots identified, projects in all the various channel bodies can be successful.

Your Instructor

Cynthia Hagstom, PhD, CSPG
Cynthia Hagstom, PhD, CSPG

An enthusiastic geologist, Cynthia has 16 years of industry experience in a variety of technical roles, including 6 years spent mapping Nexen’s oil sands assets. During her time as an oil sands geologist, she was intrigued by the regional stratigraphic relationships within the McMurray Formation and was inspired to learn more about fluvial stratigraphy and sedimentology. Earlier this year she completed a Ph.D. from the University of Calgary, which focused on the stratigraphic architecture and lithofacies distribution in meander-belt and point-bar deposits of the McMurray Formation and the modern South Saskatchewan River. She holds a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Geology from the University of Alberta and is presently a sedimentologist exploring offshore Atlantic Canada with CNOOC International.