This paper aims to define the geological characteristics, lithofacies, and depositional setting of the sandstones in a Saudi Arabian formation based on an outcrop detailed study. The information gathered from the outcrop study is integrated with mechanical and geochemical parameters of sand grains. The sandstone succession of Saudi Arabia is exposed along the margins of the Arabian shield and extends from north to south. This succession exhibits sandstone, which was deposited mainly in continental-to-shallow marine environments (fluvial, glacial and pro-glacial, Aeolian, and shallow marine). Hence, it displays a wide range of lithofacies, including fine-grained, medium-grained, coarse-grained, pebbly, conglomeratic, bioturbated, and crossbedded massive sandstone facies. Representative samples from each facies were carefully acquired for laboratory studies of geomechanical and geochemical analysis.
A correlation of field and laboratory observations can help determine potential application of sands in the petroleum industry (e.g., fracturing and sand control operations). Geochemically and morphologically, these facies mainly consist of moderate-to-well-sorted and rounded-to-well-rounded silica-rich sandstone. There have been a number of studies performed on sands from Southeast Asia and North America; however, no such studies have been performed on the Middle East region sands, even though the region possesses significant sand reserves. Therefore, evaluation of the sand from the Saudi Arabian region is a significant step towards its use in various oilfield applications.
High-resolution geological properties in combination with geomechanical and geochemical properties of sandstone and sand can reveal their potential as fracturing sands. This study defines potential fracturing sand in Saudi Arabia based on geological characteristics, lithofacies, and depositional setting. This study can help operators and service companies design very cost-effective fracture jobs using sand from this region.