Characteristics of Paleozoic tight gas sandstone reservoir: integration of lithofacies, paleoenvironments, and spectral gamma-ray analyses, Rub’ al Khali Basin, Saudi Arabia

  • Abdullah AlqubaleeEmail author
  • Osman Abdullatif
  • Lameed BabalolaEmail author
  • Mohammad Makkawi
Original Paper


The glaciogenic Sarah Formation (Hirnantian) is a potential tight gas sandstone reservoir in the Rub’ al Khali Basin and other basins in Saudi Arabia. This study investigated the facies heterogeneity and paleoenvironments of the Sarah Formation using cores, petrographic thin sections, and spectral gamma-ray (SGR) analyses. The study revealed four facies associations (FAs), including massive to ripple-laminated sandstone (FA1), gray massive sandstone (FA2), diamictites (FA3), and partially deformed, massive-graded sandstone (FA4), interpreted to have been deposited in fluvial, glaciofluvial, glaciolacustrine delta, and subglacial outwash environments, respectively. The sandstone varies from fine-, to medium-, and coarse-grained and is a moderately to poorly sorted quartz arenite, subarkose, and to sublithic arenite. The integration of facies analysis with SGR analysis allowed us to classify the facies further into low matrix and argillaceous sandstones in the fluvial and glaciofluvial facies, mixed sandstones in the glaciolacustrine delta facies, and clast-supported and matrix-supported diamictites with shales in the subglacial facies. The results of this study might provide guidelines for facies identification and the prediction of reservoir-quality targets in the tight sandstone in the subsurface. This classification could facilitate the identification of and distinction between the glaciogenic lithofacies of tight gas reservoirs in the subsurface and provides a tool for correlating the lithofacies. This work might also provide guidelines for the exploration and development of Paleozoic tight gas sandstone reservoirs in the subsurface that are deeply buried and show a wide range of facies, paleoenvironments, and paleogeographic settings.


Glaciogenic deposits Spectral gamma ray Tight sandstone Sarah Formation Late Ordovician 



The technical advice provided by Dr. Abdulaziz A. Al-Laboun, Geology Department at King Saud University, is duly appreciated. The immense contribution and effort made by the former PI of the above-named project, Dr. Ali Sahin (deceased), are also acknowledged.

Funding information

We sincerely acknowledge the support provided by King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM). This work was supported by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology as part of the National Science, Technology, and Innovation Plan (NSTIP Project # 14-OIL468-04) through the Science and Technology Unit at KFUPM. The core samples utilized for this study were provided by the Ministry of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources, Saudi Arabia. Support of these organizations at every stage of the work is fully acknowledged.


  1. Abu-Ali MA, Rudkiewicz JLL, McGillivray JG, Behar F (1999) Paleozoic petroleum system of central Saudi Arabia. GeoArabia 4:321–336Google Scholar
  2. Adams J, Weaver C (1958) Thorium-to-uranium ratios as indicators of sedimentary processes: example of concept of geochemical facies. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 42:387–430. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Al-Ajmi HF, Keller M, Hinderer M, Filomena CM (2015) Lithofacies, depositional environments and stratigraphic architecture of the Wajid Group outcrops in southern Saudi Arabia. GeoArabia 20:49–94Google Scholar
  4. Al-Harbi OA, Khan MM (2011) Source and origin of glacial paleovalley-fill sediments (Upper Ordovician) of Sarah Formation in central Saudi Arabia. Arab J Geosci 4:825–835CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alqubalee A, Abdullatif O, Babalola L (2017) Application of spectral gamma ray for lithofacies and paleo-environmental interpretation: a case study from the Late Ordovician glaciogenic deposits, Saudi Arabia. EGU General Assembly 2017. EGU2017-16887, Vienna, Austria, p 16887Google Scholar
  6. Andersson POD, Worden RH (2004) Mudstones of the Tanqua Basin, South Africa: an analysis of lateral and stratigraphic variations within mudstones, and a comparison of mudstones within and between turbidite fans. Sedimentology 51:479–502. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Babiker JMA, Hariri MM, Abdullatif O, Korvin G (2017) Types and nature of fracture associated with Late Ordovician paleochannels of glaciofluvial Sarah Formation, Qasim region, central Saudi Arabia. Arab J Geosci 10:146. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bassis A, Hinderer M, Meinhold G (2016) Petrography and geochemistry of Palaeozoic quartz-rich sandstones from Saudi Arabia: implications for provenance and chemostratigraphy. Arab J Geosci 9.
  9. Benn D, Evans D (2010) Glacigenic sediments and depositional processes. In: Glaciers and glaciation, 2nd edn. Hodder Education, pp 363–441Google Scholar
  10. Boggs SJ (2011) Physical properties of sedimentary rocks. In: Principles of sedimentology and stratigraphy, 5th edn. Pearson Education Limited, New Jersey, pp 43–100Google Scholar
  11. Briner APAP, Hulver M, Azzouni A, Harvey C (2010) Regional reservoir quality of a tight gas play: the Ordovician Sarah Formation in the Rub’Al Khali Basin of Southern Saudi Arabia. In: Second EAGE Middle EastGoogle Scholar
  12. Cantrell DL, Nicholson PG, Hughes GW et al (2014) Tethyan petroleum systems of Saudi Arabia. AAPG Mem 106:613–639. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clark-Lowes DD (2005) Arabian glacial deposits: recognition of palaeovalleys within the Upper Ordovician Sarah Formation, Al Qasim district, Saudi Arabia. Proc Geol Assoc 116:331–347. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Collinson JD (1996) Alluvial Sediments, 3rd edn. Blackwell PublishingGoogle Scholar
  15. Craigie NW, Rees AJ (2016) Chemostratigraphy of glaciomarine sediments in the Sarah Formation, northwest Saudi Arabia. J Afr Earth Sci 117:263–284. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Craigie NW, Rees A, MacPherson K, Berman S (2016) Chemostratigraphy of the Ordovician Sarah Formation, North West Saudi Arabia: an integrated approach to reservoir correlation. Mar Pet Geol 77:1056–1080. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Doveton JH (1991) Lithofacies and geochemical facies profiles from nuclear wireline logs: new subsurface templates for sedimentary modeling. Kansas Geol Surv Bull 223:101–110Google Scholar
  18. El-Deek I, Abdullatif O, Korvin G (2017) Heterogeneity analysis of reservoir porosity and permeability in the Late Ordovician glacio-fluvial Sarah Formation paleovalleys, central Saudi Arabia. Arab J Geosci 10:400. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eltom H, Abdullatif O, Makkawi M, Yasin M (2013) Integration of spectral gamma-ray and geochemical analyses for the characterization of the upper Jurassic Arab-D carbonate reservoir: outcrop analogue approach, central Saudi Arabia. Pet Geosci 19:399–415. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Evans JD (1996) Straightforward statistics for the behavioral sciences. Brooks/ColeGoogle Scholar
  21. Evans DJA, Benn ID (2004) A practical guide to the study of glacial sediments. In: Edward Arnold. London, p 266Google Scholar
  22. Evans DJA, Phillips ER, Hiemstra JF, Auton CA (2006) Subglacial till: formation, sedimentary characteristics and classification. Earth Sci Rev 78:115–176. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fabricius I, Fazladic L, Steinholm A, Korsbech U (2003) The use of spectral natural gamma-ray analysis in reservoir evaluation of siliciclastic sediments: a case study from the Middle Jurassic of the Harald Field, Danish Central. Geol Surv Denmark Greenl Bull Denmark 1:349–366Google Scholar
  24. Folk RL (1980) Petrology of sedimentary rocks: Austin. Hemphill Publishing Company, TexasGoogle Scholar
  25. Ghienne J-F, Le Heron DP, Moreau J et al (2007) The Late Ordovician glacial sedimentary system of the North Gondwana Platform. In: Glacial Sedimentary Processes and Products. pp 295–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gould KM, Piper DJW, Pe-Piper G, MacRae RA (2014) Facies, provenance and paleoclimate interpretation using spectral gamma logs: application to the Lower Cretaceous of the Scotian Basin. Mar Pet Geol 57:445–454. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hayton S, Heine C, Gratto BE (2010) Tight gas exploration in Saudi Arabia. In: SPE deep gas conference and exhibition. Society of Petroleum EngineersGoogle Scholar
  28. Hirst JPP (2012) Ordovician proglacial sediments in Algeria: insights into the controls on hydrocarbon reservoirs in the In Amenas field, Illizi Basin. Geol Soc Lond Spec Publ 368:319–353. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Keller M, Hinderer M, Al-Ajmi H, Rausch R (2011) Palaeozoic glacial depositional environments of SW Saudi Arabia: process and product. Geol Soc Lond Spec Publ 354:129–152. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Klaja J, Dudek L (2016) Geological interpretation of spectral gamma ray (SGR) logging in selected boreholes. Nafta-Gaz 72:3–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Koehn D, Rood MP, Beaudoin N, Chung P, Bons PD, Gomez-Rivas E (2016) A new stylolite classification scheme to estimate compaction and local permeability variations. Sediment Geol 346:60–71. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Konert G, Afifi AM, Al-Hajri SA et al (2001) Paleozoic stratigraphy and hydrocarbon habitat of the Arabian Plate. AAPG Mem 74Google Scholar
  33. Laboun AA (2010) Paleozoic tectono-stratigraphic framework of the Arabian Peninsula. J King Saud Univ—Sci 22:41–50. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Le Heron DP, Craig J, Etienne JL (2009) Ancient glaciations and hydrocarbon accumulations in North Africa and the Middle East. Earth Sci Rev 93:47–76. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCarroll D, Rijsdijk KF (2003) Deformation styles as a key for interpreting glacial depositional environments. J Quat Sci 18:473–489. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McClure HA (1978) Early Paleozoic glaciation in Arabia. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 25:315–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Melvin J (2015) Lithostratigraphy and depositional history of Upper Ordovician and lowermost Silurian sediments recovered from the Qusaiba-1 shallow core hole, Qasim region, central Saudi Arabia. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 212:3–21. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Miall AD (1996a) Methods of architectural-element analysis. In: The geology of fluvial deposits: sedimentary facies, basin analysis, and petroleum geology, 4th edn. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, pp 75–98Google Scholar
  39. Miall AD (1996b) Lithofacies. In: The geology of fluvial deposits: sedimentary facies, basin analysis, and petroleum geology, 4th edn. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp 99–130Google Scholar
  40. Miall A (2000) Facies analysis. In: Principles of sedimentary basin analysis, 3rd edn. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 141–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Michael NA, Zuhlke R, Hayton S (2017) The palaeo-valley infilling glaciogenic Sarah Formation, an example from Rahal Dhab palaeo-valley, Saudi Arabia. Sedimentology 65:851–876. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Miller J (1996) Glacial sediments. In: Reading HG (ed) Sedimentary environments: processes, facies and stratigraphy, 3rd edn. Blackwell Publishing, p 455Google Scholar
  43. Owen G (2017) Origin and significance of soft-sediment deformation in the Old Red Sandstone of central South Wales, UK. Proc Geol Assoc 128:422–430. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sahin A (2013) Unconventional natural gas potential in Saudi Arabia. In: SPE Middle East Oil and Gas Show and Conference. Society of Petroleum EngineersGoogle Scholar
  45. Schultz AW (1984) Subaerial debris-flow deposition in the Upper Paleozoic Cutler Formation, western Colorado. J Sediment Petrol 54:759–772. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Senalp M, Al-Laboun A (1996) Stratigraphy and age of the glacial deposits in Qasim Region, Central Arabia. In: 2nd Middle East Geosciences Conference. GeoArabia, Bahrain, pp 192–193Google Scholar
  47. Senalp M, Al-Laboun A (2000) New evidence on the Late Ordovician glaciation in central Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco J Technol Spring 11–40Google Scholar
  48. Šimíček D, Bábek O (2015) Spectral gamma-ray logging of the Grès d’Annot, SE France: an outcrop analogue to geophysical facies mapping and well-log correlation of sand-rich turbidite reservoirs. Mar Pet Geol 60:1–17. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Šimíček D, Bábek O, Leichmann J (2012) Outcrop gamma-ray logging of siliciclastic turbidites: separating the detrital provenance signal from facies in the foreland-basin turbidites of the Moravo-Silesian basin, Czech Republic. Sediment Geol 261–262:50–64. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sohn YK, Choe MYM, Jo HRH (2002) Transition from debris flow to hyperconcentrated flow in a submarine channel (the Cretaceous Cerro Toro Formation, southern Chile). Terra Nova 14:405–415. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. SSC (2013) Phanerozoic stratigraphy of Saudi Arabia. Part 1, first edit. Saudi Geological SurveyGoogle Scholar
  52. Sutcliffe OE, Dowdeswell JA, Whittington RJ, Theron JN, Craig J (2000) Calibrating the late Ordovician glaciation and mass extinction by the eccentricity cycles of Earth’s orbit. Geology 28:967–970.<967:CTLOGA>2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Van der Wateren FM, Kluiving SJ, Bartek LR (2000) Kinematic indicators of subglacial shearing. Geol Soc Lond Spec Publ 176:259–278. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vaslet D (1990) Upper Ordovician glacial deposits in Saudi-Arabia. Episodes 13:147–161Google Scholar
  55. Vaslet D, Kellogg KS, Berthiaux A, et al (1987) Explanatory notes to the geologic map of the Baq’a Quadrangle, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Geosci Map GM-116 C, Scale 1250,000 1–45Google Scholar
  56. Williams PL, Vaslet D, Johnson PR, et al (1986) Geologic map of the Jabal Habashi quadrangle, sheet 26F. Kingdom Saudi Arab Saudi Arab Deputy Minist Miner Resour Geosci Map-GM-98 A, Scale 1250,000Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Saudi Society for Geosciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Integrative Petroleum Research, College of Petroleum Engineering and GeosciencesKing Fahd University of Petroleum and MineralsDhahranSaudi Arabia
  2. 2.Geosciences Department, College of Petroleum Engineering and GeosciencesKing Fahd University of Petroleum and MineralsDhahranSaudi Arabia

Personalised recommendations