Geologists from Saudi Aramco, ASC, KFUPM, and Stanford University examine Permian carbonate exposures on the McKittrick Canyon geology trail.
There’s nothing like standing in the midst of outcrops — formed millions, even billions of years ago — to fully appreciate their origin and characteristics beyond the classroom.
Such was the experience of a team of geology students and faculty from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
(KFUPM) and Stanford University
, who, together with geologists from Saudi Aramco and Aramco Services Company
(ASC), recently participated in a geology field seminar conducted in west Texas and southeastern New Mexico. ASC facilitated the event.
The 25 geoscientists from Saudi Aramco, ASC, KFUPM, and Stanford gained hands-on experience in recognizing and interpreting siliciclastic, carbonate, and volcaniclastic rocks in a wide variety of geological environments.
The trip focused on three main geologic terranes — sandstones and carbonate rocks deposited during Cambrian time, Tertiary-age sediments related to volcanic activity, and Permian-age carbonate rocks.
During the final days of the trip, the group hiked the Permian Reef Geology Trail in McKittrick Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park to study the fossil reef that formed about 265 million years ago, when a tropical sea covered the region.
At that time, calcareous sponges, algae and other lime-secreting marine organisms formed an enormous reef. After the sea evaporated, the reef was buried beneath sediment for millions of years until uplift exposed it.
The trail was constructed in response to geologists from academia, industry and the U.S. Geological Survey who have studied the canyon’s depositional environments and sequence stratigraphy for decades.
On the final day of the trip, the group visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where the reef front is visible in parts of the cave that are not covered by recent cave deposits. The group even stopped to examine “teepee structures” in the parking lot. These structures form as sediment deforms during exposure at the earth’s surface.
Along the way, the group encountered undergraduate geologists from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, U.S., and geologists from various oil companies on a training course led by Nautilus.
The field seminar is part of a strategic alliance established in 2009 between Saudi Aramco, KFUPM and Stanford University to collaborate in geosciences and petroleum engineering education and scientific research.
Many members of the group have connected on Facebook so they can exchange photographs and keep in contact about projects of interest. The faculty members and ASC Upstream staff are already discussing plans for future activities such as short courses, research conferences and field seminars.
Geologists examine an exposure of Permian-age evaporites of the Castile Formation.