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Sequence Architecture and Lithofacies Assemblages of Submarine Fan Deposits in Los Molles Formation (Jurassic), Neuquen Basin, Argentina

James S. Dean

The Neuquen basin is a remnant of the Mesozoic back-arc basin trend that developed along the western margin of South America. It contains a thick, diverse sequence of Jurassic sedimentary strata, whose facies distribution was strongly influenced by syndepositional tectonism. The predominantly dark, laminated shales and siltstones of the Los Molles Formation range from Pliensbachian to Callovian in age and record the progradation of the outer shelf, slope, and basin-plain sediments deposited during the shoaling phase of the lowermost, or Cuyan, Jurassic cycle. Based on outcrop, well, and seismic data, several thick packages of sandstone and conglomerate within the Los Molles are interpreted to represent submarine fan deposits that developed during periods of relative sea l vel lowstand.

Sea level falls were probably related to local synchronous tectonic pulses rather than true eustatic fluctuations. The distribution of coarse-grained fan deposits was apparently strongly controlled by the location of major Jurassic fault trends that stabilized the position of the shelf-slope break through time.

Based on the geometry and sequence architecture, two distinct styles of fan development are recognized in the Los Molles sandstones. The most common style (type A) is characterized by sequences that have poorly defined, sand-poor lobes with well-developed channel-levee complexes. Some channels exhibit large-scale accretion surfaces, probably resulting from lateral migration. Thick-bedded arenite facies are limited to amalgamated channel fills, whereas thin-bedded classical turbidites are present as overbank deposits. Type A fans were built by turbidity and fluxoturbidity currents from submarine canyon point sources. The less common fan sequences (type B) lack channeling; they are dominated by thick, massive beds of internally featureless sandstone that are bounded by chaotic slump dep sits. Mass-wasting and grain-flow mechanisms associated with the episodic slope failure of a sand-rich shelf edge are responsible for type B fan sequences.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.