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Hydrostratigraphic characterization of intergranular and secondary porosity in part of the Cambrian sandstone aquifer system of the cratonic interior of North America: Improving predictability of hydrogeologic properties

Sedimentary Geology

By:
, , ,
DOI: 10.1016/j.sedgeo.2005.11.006

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Abstract

The Upper Cambrian interval of strata in the cratonic interior of North America has a long history of inconsistent hydrogeologic classification and a reputation for marked and unpredictable variability in hydraulic properties. We employed a hydrostratigraphic approach that requires hydraulic data to be interpreted within the context of a detailed characterization of the distribution of porosity and permeability to arrive at a better understanding of these rocks. As a first step, we constructed a framework of hydrostratigraphic attributes that is a depiction of the spatial distribution of both rock matrix and secondary porosity, independent of hydraulic data such as pumping-test results. The locations of hundreds of borehole geophysical logs and laboratory measurements of rock sample matrix porosity and permeability were mapped on detailed (mostly 1:100,000 or greater), conventional, lithostratigraphic maps. Stratigraphic cross-sections, based on hundreds of natural gamma logs and thousands of water-well records, have provided a markedly improved depiction of the regional distribution of rock matrix hydrostratigraphic components. Borehole, core and outcrop observations of secondary porosity were also tied to detailed stratigraphic sections and interpolated regionally. As a second step, we compiled and conducted a large number of hydraulic tests (e.g., packer tests and borehole flowmeter logs) and analyzed thousands of specific capacity tests (converted to hydraulic conductivity). Interpretation of these data within the context of the hydrostratigraphic attributes allowed us to produce a new hydrogeologic characterization for this stratigraphic interval and gain important insights into geologic controls on hydraulic variability. There are a number of assumptions in herent in most previous hydrogeologic investigations of these strata, such as equivalency of lithostratigraphic and hydrogeologic units and the dominance of intergranular flow in sandstone, that are not consistent with our results. A particularly important outcome of our study is recognition of regionally extensive bedding-plane fracture clusters. Such exceptionally high hydraulic conductivity features dominate the hydraulics of aquifers and confining units in these siliciclastic-dominated strata, including within intervals consisting largely of friable sandstone with high intergranular conductivity. Furthermore, our results provide some measure of fracture predictability, by correlating their abundance and hydraulic importance to specific stratigraphic positions and particular depths of burial beneath younger bedrock. A discrete, consistent stratigraphic interval of fine-grained siliciclastic beds also is apparently resistant to the development of vertically interconnected fractures, making the location of this regionally extensive confining unit predictable. Our more rigorous approach of interpreting typical hydraulic tests as well as relatively new techniques of borehole flowmeter logging, within the context of a hydrostratigraphic framework, results in improved definition of individual aquifers and confining units. It also enables quantification of their hydraulic properties, which leads to improved prediction of groundwater flow paths and time-of-travel. ?? 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Hydrostratigraphic characterization of intergranular and secondary porosity in part of the Cambrian sandstone aquifer system of the cratonic interior of North America: Improving predictability of hydrogeologic properties
Series title:
Sedimentary Geology
DOI:
10.1016/j.sedgeo.2005.11.006
Volume
184
Issue:
3-4
Year Published:
2006
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
First page:
281
Last page:
304
Number of Pages:
24