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Depositional Environments of the White Rim Sandstone Member of the Permian Cutler Formation, Canyonlands National Park, Utah


The White Rim Sandstone Member has major petroleum reserves and contains the largest tar-sand deposit in the United States (Ritzma, 1980). Campbell and Ritzma (1979) have estimated the tar sands may contain up to 16 billion barrels of oil in place. These deposits are found west of the study area in the Elaterite Basin region (fig. 1), and are mostly either part of national parkland or proposed wilderness areas. The oil is trapped by the updip pinchout of the White Rim on the northwest plunge of the Monument upwarp (Campbell and Ritzma, 1979). According to Baars and Seager (1970), the most likely source for petroleum was the Permian Kaibab Limestone because of its stratigraphic position adjacent to the White Rim.

There is some evidence suggesting that petroleum migrated through the White Rim in the study area. The normally reddish-brown sandstone unit overlying the White Rim is bleached at sections BB and BC (fig. 3), indicating reduction by migrating petroleum. Also, a number of White Rim samples contain possible accumulations of dead oil (Steele-Mallory, 1981b, 1982).

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Last Updated: 09-Nov-2009