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Departments & Programs



The Stanford Project on Deep-water Depositional Systems (SPODDS) is a research program in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University focused on the study of ancient and modern deep-water deposits and depositional systems around the world. Affiliate members of this industrial consortium include numerous international energy companies that seek greater understanding of deep-water deposits as reservoirs for oil and gas.

P-Impedance horizon slice

Geostatistics and Rock Physics

Lisa Stright worked with data form the Puchkirchen Field in the Molasse Basin of Upper Austria. She has developed a novel calibration between well log and inverted seismic attributes for sub-seismic facies prediction. The goal of this research was to generate and apply a new methodology for predicting sub-seismic scale facies (or rock types) from a calibration between core, well logs and inverted seismic attributes. The product of the calibration is a prediction of the contributions (in proportions) of each facies, defined at the log scale, which contribute to the coarse-scale seismic response...

Numerical Modeling of Turbidite Systems (Past Projects)

Zeng, J., 1992
Numerical simulation of turbidity current flow and sedimentation: Ph.D. thesis, Stanford University, 300 p.

Felix, M., 2001
Two-dimensional turbidity current model: Ph.D. thesis, Stanford University, 193 p.

Salinas Basin California and South China Sea (Past Projects)

Salinas Basin California

Classical deep-water outcrops of California have been a focus of SPODDS since its inception in the early 90's. The sedimentary and stratigraphic architecture of channel, canyon fill and submarine fan deposits have been an important focus, as has the process sedimentological analysis of various types of sediment gravity-flow deposits. SPODDS supported dissertations focused at least partially on ancient gravity-flow deposits in California.

South China Sea

Mangzheng Zhu (2007) used seismic reflect data sets along the east coast of China in the South China Sea to explore migrating submarine canyons and mass transport deposits.

Offshore West Africa and North Sea, Canadian Maritime Province (Past Projects)

Offshore West Africa

Near-surface, high-resolution 3-D seismic datasets in the region of the Niger Delta, West Africa, provide an excellent means to assess and refine models of deep-water depositional systems due to their unparalleled resolution of deposits over large areas (Adedayo Adeogba, 2003). The application of Adedayo's work in near-surface seismic data interpretation is in gaining a better understanding of the distribution of reservoir facies in other, complex slope depositional settings. SPODDS research has also included a 3D seismic reflection-based study of the avulsion histories and evolution of channel systems on the sea floor and shallow subsurface of the Niger Delta continental slope (Dominic Armitage, 2009) and studies of the types and evolution of Cenozoic to modern submarine canyons off Equatorial Guinea (Zane Jobe, 2010).

Gulf of Mexico

The northern Gulf of Mexico (GoM) basin is an ocean basin that formed as a
result of sea-floor spreading associated with the break-up of Pangea between
the early to mid-Jurassic. Following the formation of the basin, the deposition
of the widespread “Louann Salt” took place during Callovian due to aridity and
restriction of connection to other oceans. Another remarkable time in the geologic
history of the GoM is the episodes of high sedimentation during the Miocene
related to the formation of uplands by the Laramide Orogeny which shed sediments
into the Mississippi river. The episodes of high sedimentation resulted in
rapid salt tectonism due to mobilization by sediments load. This resulted on a
complex structural framework reshaped by dynamic interplay between
sedimentation and salt movement.

Burqan Formation, NW Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, northern Red Sea

The Midyan peninsula is located at the junction of the northern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba in NW Saudi Arabia. It contains uplifted syn-rift sediments from the Lower Miocene, including a deep-water unit, known as the Burqan Formation.

Cody Trigg (PhD 2018) is working on the facies relationships and overall sedimentary mechanics in this proximal, coarse-grained system.

Redox depositional environments of unconventional targets

It has long been known that black shales (i.e., the targets in unconventional systems) were deposited under dysoxic to anoxic conditions. In the modern ocean, essentially all anoxic environments are characterized by the presence of free sulfide (euxinia), and this model has been explicitly or implicitly applied to most ancient shales. Recently, it has been recognized that many black shales were deposited under ferruginous (free ferrous iron) conditions. This fundamental feature of depositional redox state likely influences many parameters in the rock that are ultimately important for production, but these links have yet to be elucidated. The Sperling research group is conducting detailed case studies of selected unconventional targets to provide the most nuanced view possible of the depositional environments of these units. These studies comprise an integrated analysis of sedimentology, stratigraphy, and multi-proxy geochemistry (iron speciation chemistry, trace metals, organic carbon contents and isotopes, and pyrite sulfur isotopes). Studies are currently ongoing in the Exshaw/Patry, Horn River Group, Montney Formation, Wolfcamp Formation, Cline Shale, Barnett Shale, Eagle Ford Shale, Bakken Formation, Marcellus Shale, and Utica Shale.