This study describes the detailed palynology of the Eagle Ford Group at Lozier Canyon, its principal outcrop reference section in west Texas. Prominent marine phytoplankton assemblages are consistent with a proposed depositional setting for Lozier Canyon on a submarine platform within the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway (KWIS) of the USA. The Lower Eagle Ford Formation (middle to upper Cenomanian) was deposited under restricted marine conditions with oxygen-deficient, probably anoxic bottom waters, as indicated by the black, organic-rich (ca. 1 to > 6% total organic carbon) shale lithology. The formation comprises two fourth-order stratigraphical sequences, each showing sedimentary evidence of increasing water depth during deposition. Palynomorph assemblages from the sequences are dominated by green algal prasinophyte phycomata in the lower parts and peridinioid dinoflagellate cysts in the upper parts. The productivity of these marine phytoplankton groups may have been stimulated by availability of ammonium (prasinophytes) and nitrite (peridinioids) from upwelling, or vertical expansion of the oxygen-minimum zone. The transition from prasinophyte- to peridinioid-dominated assemblages may reflect elevation of the photic zone to a level less regularly encroached by deeper, ammonium-enriched waters of the denitrification zone. The overlying Upper Eagle Ford Formation (upper Cenomanian to upper Turonian or Coniacian) was deposited under deeper, relatively open marine conditions, as indicated by a decrease in organic carbon content and an increase in carbonate content. This is supported by the presence of diversified dinoflagellate cyst assemblages, including inter-regional (high- to mid-latitude) marker events; in the upper Cenomanian, base and acme Cyclonephelium compactum-membraniphorum, top consistent and frequent Litosphaeridium siphoniphorum, and top Adnatosphaeridium tutulosum; in the middle to upper Turonian, range bases of Heterosphaeridium difficile and Senoniasphaera rotundata. The stratigraphical resolution offered by palynology indicates potential application to wellsite ‘geosteering’ of commercial shale oil and shale gas wells drilled in the Eagle Ford Group.
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Vol. 40 • No. 3