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Submarine Channel Morphological Scaling Relationships: A Predictor for Architectural Heterogeneity and a Comparison to Subaerial/River Scaling Relationships


Submarine channels are common and persistent features in the modern seascape and stratigraphic record, and represent fundamental reservoir architectures in petroleum systems. Utilizing morphological, kinematic, and architectural (stratigraphic) data, this study documents planform and vertical scaling relationships for submarine channels. We also compare these scaling relationships to subaerial channels (i.e., rivers) to illustrate differences and similarities in morphology and architecture. Using modern bathymetric, high-resolution 3D seismic, core/well, and outcrop data, we have developed an extensive database of planform and vertical channel scales and measurement metrics for submarine channels. Multiple scales of channelized features were extracted and analyzed, including: the geomorphic channel form, oxbow-cutoffs, channel trajectory/mobility, and preserved deposit thickness. Geometric statistics resulting from these features were used to derive scaling relationships relevant to reservoir characterization. These scaling relationships are coupled with additional data (e.g., basin type, slope morphology, net-to-gross) to identify and highlight the first order physical controls on channel morphology, kinematics, and resultant architecture. These controls form the basis for a classification of submarine channels that is objective and quantitative. This classification system is process-based and allows for the prediction of scale, architecture, and heterogeneity of submarine channel deposits of all scales. Subaerial and and submarine channels exhibit qualitatively similar morphology, but their stratigraphic record is known to be quite different. Submarine channel scaling relationships use many of the same metrics as those developed for river systems, allowing for the quantification of differences and similarities. These scaling relationships are highly relevant in both exploration and development settings, where they aid in volumetric analysis as well as heterogeneity prediction and reservoir model construction.