Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Carbonates

Carbonate Reservoir Architecture and Applied Carbonate Sequence Stratigraphy (West Texas and SE New Mexico, USA)

Course Code: N091
Instructors:  Steve BachtelArt Saller
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration
6 days


This field course is aimed at geoscientists and engineers (especially in teams) exploring for and developing carbonate reservoirs and has particular relevance to those working in the Permian Basin. This trip visits world-class carbonate outcrops in southeast New Mexico and west Texas and relates them to subsurface examples from the Permian Basin as well as other basins around the world.  After taking this course, participants will have an improved knowledge of carbonate stratigraphy and the distribution of carbonate facies which control variations of porosity, permeability and production in the subsurface reservoirs. Understanding the vertical and lateral changes in porosity and permeability in the subsurface is critical for cost-effective development of carbonate reservoirs during primary production, waterfloods and tertiary recovery. All major types of carbonate systems are viewed during this trip while examining thick and laterally extensice (seismic-scale) outcrops and interpreting oil field examples. 


One of the best field courses I have ever attended. Very knowledgeable instructors who communicated their knowledge very clearly.

Duration and Training Method

This is a six-day field course in west Texas and SE New Mexico, USA. There is a brief classroom introduction to carbonate grains and systems and to the field area, but 90% of the course is conducted in the field, with long days (typically 10+ hours).

Course Overview

Particpants will learn to:

  1. To interpret carbonate shelf (ramp) to basin systems to predict the distribution of reservoir and non-reservoir facies in well and seismic data.
  2. The relationship of depositional environments to depositional textures and see how they control the distribution of subsurface porosity, permeability and hydrocarbon production.
  3. Where subaerial exposure, freshwater diagenesis, marine diagenesis, and early near-surface dolomitization occur and how they affect subsurface porosity,  permeability and the  overall geometry of reservoir carbonates.
  4. To use sequence stratigraphic concepts to predict the distribution of shallow water carbonate and basinal facies in well logs and seismic data and see how those affect hydrocarbon production.
  5.  How variations in climate and amplitude of sea-level fluctuations cause predictable variations in reservoir facies and early diagenesis that controls porosity.
  6. To interpret mixed carbonate and siliciclastic systems using sequence stratigraphic analyses of outcrops, well logs, and seismic data and see how they are a fundamental
    control of basinal facies.

The mountains of west Texas and southeast New Mexico contain world-class exposures of carbonate shelf to basin systems with little or no structural deformation. Those exposures are used in this course to relate carbonate depositional facies to seismic-scale geometries and sequence stratigraphy.

The class will visit seismic-scale outcrops, characterize their large-scale geometries, document their facies, and show how similar systems appear in the subsurface. We will also illustrate similar carbonate reservoir facies in core and logs. In addition, participants will view the results of subaerial exposure, marine diagenesis and early near-surface dolomitization and discuss how these processes can affect ultimate reservoir porosity and permeability in subsurface carbonates.



Day 0:

Participants travel to El Paso, Texas.

Day 1:

Start in El Paso.

  • AM: Orientation and review of carbonate facies, sequence stratigraphy, and diagenesis.
  • PM: Drive to Cloudcroft, New Mexico and examine Mississippian carbonate pinnacle   “reefs” (bryozoa boundstones flanked by crinoidal grainstones).

Day 2:

Pennsylvanian reefal mounds and carbonate-clastic interactions: Classic shelf-margin to shelf-interior profile at Dry Canyon in the Sacramento Mountains of southeast New Mexico.

  • Stop 1: Cyclic carbonates and clastics. A roadcut allows excellent exposure of interbedded shelf-interior limestones, shales, and sandstones that are correlative to shelf-margin carbonates.
    Comparison to subsurface. Similar rocks are prolific producers of oil 200-400 miles to the east in the Midland Basin. Participants will relate subsurface cores, wireline logs and seismic to the outcrops that will be seen later in the day.
  • Stop 2: Cclastic lowstand-dominated environment basinward of the shelf margin and traverse onto carbonate reefs on the shelf margin. Variations in facies are related to high-amplitude sea-level fluctuations across the basin-shelf transect.
  • Conclude day by driving to Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Day 3:

West Face of the Guadalupe Mountains. Spectacular exposure of a Permian carbonate shelf margin and onlapping deepwater sands of the Brushy Canyon Formation.

  • Interpret seismic data of this shelf margin 
  • Overview of the >1000 m high and 10 km long outcrop. Participants will sketch outcrop geometries and relate to seismic data
  • Walk up Shumard Canyon trail and observe
    • slumped deep water carbonate mudstones,
    • grading up to shelf margin wackestones, and packstones,
    • classic unconformity with lowstand sands onlapping the carbonate slope

 Day 4:

San Andres Permian Reservoir System on Algerita Escarpment and Last Chance Canyon.

  • Walk down and up Algerita Escarpment at Lawyer Canyon noting vertical and lateral variations in reservoir properties of the Permian dolomite reservoir.
  • This is a well-documented, large shallowing-upward ramp system composed of numerous meter-scale cycles in a ramp interior setting.
  • Relate to subsurface and production data.
  • Last Chance Canyon: Overview of the San Andres prograding shelf margin. The walls of this canyon contain a “textbook” sequence boundary with toplap, erosion truncation and onlap in both outcrop and equivalent seismic data. Outcrops also illustrate geometry of inclined flow units.

Day 5:

McKittrick Canyon- Permian Reef Trail.

  • Classic facies transect with a consistent upward-shallowing trend. Facies include:
    • basin floor mudstone, 
    • slope to fore-reef with a mixture of conglomerates, mud, wacke, and packstones
    • reefal boundstones of the Capitan Formation
    • shelf-top shallowing-upward cycles of subtidal wackestone to shoal grainstone to laminated tidal flat rocks
  • This hike allows viewing of facies on beautifully etched surfaces along the trail, and viewing the larger scale geometries on adjacent canyon walls. Perhaps the best one-day carbonates hike in the world.
  • Participants will conclude by interpretation of wireline logs and seismic from the Capitan system in the subsurface.

Day 6:

  • Outcrops of restricted lagoonal environments equivalent to the Capitan Reef including cyclic unfossiliferous dolomites, and evaporites
  • Platform margin wackestone to grainstone to tidal flat cycles in the Capitan backreef
  • Karstification associated with Carlsbad Caverns
  • Roadcut of the basin-filling deepwater evaporites of the Upper Permian Castile Formation
  • Roadcut of debris flow with shelfal carbonate clasts in basinal sandstone
  • Roadcut of channel and levee deposits of Brushy Canyon sandstones.

Day 7:

Participants depart El Paso, Texas.

This course is designed for experienced geoscience professionals who need to expand their knowledge of carbonate reservoir systems and has a particular relevance to those working in the Permian basin. 

Steve Bachtel

Steve is employed by AIMGeoanalytics as a Principal Geologist. He is working on reservoir studies of basinal Strawn/Wolfcamp/Sprayberry facies including core, log and petrographic studies. Also investigating methods of integrated mapping of karst facies for Arbuckle SWD targets in 3D seismic and image logs.

Steve completed B.S. and M.S. degrees (1982 and 1984) from the University of Idaho where he focussed on cyclostratigraphy of Mississippian carbonate strata in the Overthrust Belt of Idaho and Wyoming. He completed his PhD in 1995 on the sequence stratigraphy of Mississippian carbonate strata in the Sacramento and San Andres Mountains of New Mexico. After his M.S. degree he worked as a development and exploration geologist on Midcontinent assests (clastics and carbonates)  for Phillips Petroleum in Denver, Oklahoma City, and Houston. After his PhD, he worked at ExxonMobil’s Research Lab (1995-2005) in the Carbonate Stratigraphy and Reservoir Group. Major projects completed there include Tertiary SE Asia, Middle East carbonates, and Paleozoic in Tengiz Field, Kazakhstan.  He also worked for ConocoPhillips (2006-2009; Paleozoic Permian Basin, Paleozoic Russia,  and Tertiary SE Asia) and Chevron (2009-2017; Middle East carbonates, Paleozoic Tengiz and Karachaganak Fields).

Steve lives with his family in Bend, OR and maintains his carbonate research interests through an Adjunct Faculty appointment at The University of Texas. He taught Carbonate Petrology in the Fall of 2017 and likes to keep up with student research in the subsurface, outcrop, and Modern settings. Steve likes the challenge of designing and executing integrated studies in carbonate and clastic reservoirs using seismic and well data (including core, petrography, and image logs). Seismic imaging of carbonate depositional features is also a strong interest of his. He has enjoyed teaching field schools at each oil company throughout his career.

In his spare time, Steve enjoys photography, hiking, fly fishing, and cross country skiing.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Texas A&M University - Geology
M.S. University of Idaho - Geology
B.S. University of Idaho - Geology

Courses Taught
N091: Carbonate Reservoir Architecture and Applied Carbonate Sequence Stratigraphy (West Texas and SE New Mexico, USA)

Art Saller

Art Saller has worked for more than 30 years as a sedimentologist, stratigrapher, and exploration geologist on teams drilling in the Permian Basin, Indonesia, Canada, the Gulf of Mexico, and Angola. He attended the University of Kansas (B.S., 1977), Stanford University (M.S., 1980), and Louisiana State University (Ph.D., 1984). Art had the pleasure of working for Cities Service Oil and Gas in Tulsa (1984-86), Unocal in Brea, California and Houston (1986-2005), Chevron in Houston (2005-2012), and Cobalt International Energy in Houston (2012-2018).

He has published articles and taught many courses and field trips related to carbonate deposition, diagenesis and reservoir quality as well as siliciclastic depositional systems.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Louisiana State University - Geology
MS Stanford University - Geology
BS University of Kansas - Geology
AAPG Distinguished Lecturer (2012-2013)

Courses Taught
N091: Carbonate Reservoir Architecture & Applied Carbonate Sequence Stratigraphy (West Texas & SE New Mexico, USA)


CEU: 4.8 Continuing Education Units
PDH: 48 Professional Development Hours
Certificate: Certificate Issued Upon Completion
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