This Field Excursion will visit outcrops of the fluvial-deltaic Upper Cretaceous (Turonian) Ferron Sandstone Member of the Mancos Shale, known as the Last Chance delta or Upper Ferron Sandstone. This field guide and the field stops will outline the architecture and depositional sequence stratigraphy of the Upper Ferron Sandstone clastic wedge and explore the stratigraphic positions and compositions of major coal zones. The implications of the architecture and stratigraphy of the Ferron fluvial-deltaic complex for coal and coalbed methane resources will be discussed. Early works suggested that the southwesterly derived deltaic deposits of the the upper Ferron Sandstone clastic wedge were a Type-2 third-order depositional sequence, informally called the Ferron Sequence. These works suggested that the Ferron Sequence is separated by a type-2 sequence boundary from the underlying 3rd-order Hyatti Sequence, which has its sediment source from the northwest. Within the 3rd-order depositional sequence, the deltaic events of the Ferron clastic wedge, recognized as parasequence sets, appear to be stacked into progradational, aggradational, and retrogradational patterns reflecting a generally decreasing sediment supply during an overall slow sea-level rise. The architecture of both near-marine facies and non-marine fluvial facies exhibit well defined trends in response to this decrease in available sediment. Recent studies have concluded that, unless coincident with a depositional sequence boundary, regionally extensive coal zones occur at the tops of the parasequence sets within the Ferron clastic wedge. These coal zones consist of coal seams and their laterally equivalent fissile carbonaceous shales, mudstones, and siltstones, paleosols, and flood plain mudstones. Although the compositions of coal zones vary along depositional dip, the presence of these laterally extensive stratigraphic horizons, above parasequence sets, provides a means of correlating and defining the tops of depositional parasequence sets in both near-marine and non-marine parts of fluvial-deltaic depositional sequences. Ongoing field studies, based on this concept of coal zone stratigraphy, and detailed stratigraphic mapping, have documented the existence of at least 12 parasequence sets within the Last Chance delta clastic wedge. These parasequence sets appear to form four high frequency, 4th-order depositional sequences. The dramatic erosional unconformities, associated with these 4th-order sequence boundaries, indicate that there was up to 20-30 m of erosion, signifying locally substantial base-level drops. These base-level drops were accompanied by a basin ward shift in paleo-shorelines by as much as 5-7 km. These 4th-order Upper Ferron Sequences are superimposed on the 3rd-order sea-level rise event and the 3rd-order, sediment supply/accommodation space driven, stratigraphie architecture of the Upper Ferron Sandstone. The fluvial deltaic architecture shows little response to these 4th-order sea-level events. Coal zones generally thicken landward relative to the mean position of the landward pinch-out of the underlying parasequence set, but after some distance landward, they decrease in thickness. Coal zones also generally thin seaward relative to the mean position of the landward pinch-out of the underlying parasequence set. The coal is thickest in the region between this landward pinch-out and the position of maximum zone thickness. Data indicate that the proportion of coal in the coal zone decreases progressively landward from the landward pinch-out. The effects of differential compaction and differences in original pre-peat swamp topography have the effect of adding perturbations to the general trends. These coal zone systematics have major impact on approaches to exploration and production, and the resource accessment of both coal and coalbed methane.
Additional publication details
Depositional sequence stratigraphy and architecture of the cretaceous ferron sandstone: Implications for coal and coalbed methane resources - A field excursion