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Late Carboniferous Fluvio-Deltaic Deposits (SE Kentucky, USA): Sedimentary Patterns and 3-D Digital Outcrop Reconstructions


The exploration of coal-bearing reservoirs for hydrocarbon resources, both conventional and unconventional worldwide, has increased the interest in similar fluvial/estuarine successions. In this context, East Kentucky offers excellent outcrop analogues for Carboniferous fluvial-dominated deltaic where facies associations, depositional environments and sequence-stratigraphic patterns can be observed in detail. Extensive roadcuts and a huge database of well/core data (coal and gas exploration), available at the KGS (Kentucky Geological Survey) make of East Kentucky an excellent field laboratory for studying clastic sedimentology and stratigraphy in coal-bearing successions. The middle Pennsylvanian Pikeville and Hyden Formations are very well exposed along the US highways 23 and 119 in Pike County (SE Kentucky). The local stratigraphy is well known thanks to numerous studies focused on very extensive Pennsylvanian coal beds, used as stratigraphic markers for outcrop correlation. Both formations were deposited in a foreland basin adjacent to the then-active Appalachian orogeny. Traditionally outcrop analogs and field studies are done by picking field measurements for dip, thickness and visual analysis based on photos and panoramic. 3D interpolation and correlation are done by interpreters with some limitations in complex cases. During the last decade, stereo reconstruction technology became fully operational. From a set of stereo images, algorithms can build 3D digital models recovering the geometry and getting high resolution by texturing them with the images. Using such technology allows a full 3D digital outcrop representation and opens a field of new interpretation tools using image and geometry processing to get true quantitative measurements. Combining such numerical geologic interpretation between various geolocated object in a study area can also help in the most complex case to get a valid 3D interpolation. Finally integrating such interpretation tools in an interpretation and geomodeling tool chain allow a full outcrop interpretation from geology to reservoir modeling to build 3D analog databases for training or scenario testing purpose.