AAPG Foundation 2019 Grants-in-Aid Projects

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Paleoecology of Late Devonian microbialite reef builders and implications for petroleum exploration


Over the last decade, lacustrine and marine microbial carbonates have been the subject of considerable attention because of their potential as both source rocks and reservoirs for hydrocarbon accumulations. The Middle to Upper Devonian carbonate rocks are exploration and production targets in the Canning Basin. However, lateral porosity variation within limestone reservoirs remains problematic. Many of these limestone reservoirs include microbial (stromatolitic) carbonate facies that remain underexplored. This project aims to understand the precipitation and subsequent (bacterial and diagenetic) degradation of these microbialites. This would primarily help to assess the (micro) porosity organization present in such deposits. On a larger scale, the Canning Basin reef complexes may represent an analogue where these findings can assist in assessing the petrophysical properties of other microbial deposits in similar settings worldwide. For my study, a fieldtrip to the Canning Basin will be undertaken to gain familiarity with the exhumed reef complex environments, collect samples from the abundant and various stromatolites exposed along the Lennard Shelf. Conventional microscopy, micro-computerized tomography (CT) as well as SEM, NanoSIMS and other geochemical characterization will be undertaken on samples to examine the microbial and algal composition of these microbialites. This project will establish relationships between stratigraphy, carbonate precipitation mechanisms, diagenesis and petrophysics to improve understanding of Devonian microbialite development. Additionally, it will shed light on how microbial deposits contribute to petroleum systems in the Canning Basin.