• Ireland;
  • Ross Formation;
  • spillover lobes;
  • turbidites;
  • turbidite channels

ABSTRACT The Upper Carboniferous deep-water rocks of the Shannon Group were deposited in the extensional Shannon Basin of County Clare in western Ireland and are superbly exposed in sea cliffs along the Shannon estuary. Carboniferous limestone floors the basin, and the basin-fill succession begins with the deep-water Clare Shales. These shales are overlain by various turbidite facies of the Ross Formation (460 m thick). The type of turbidite system, scale of turbidite sandstone bodies and the overall character of the stratigraphic succession make the Ross Formation well suited as an analogue for sand-rich turbidite plays in passive margin basins around the world. The lower 170 m of the Ross Formation contains tabular turbidites with no channels, with an overall tendency to become sandier upwards, although there are no small-scale thickening- or thinning-upward successions. The upper 290 m of the Ross Formation consists of turbidites, commonly arranged in thickening-upward packages, and amalgamated turbidites that form channel fills that are individually up to 10 m thick. A few of the upper Ross channels have an initial lateral accretion phase with interbedded sandstone and mudstone deposits and a subsequent vertical aggradation phase with thick-bedded amalgamated turbidites. This paper proposes that, as the channels filled, more and more turbidites spilled further and further overbank. Superb outcrops show that thickening-upward packages developed when channels initially spilled muds and thin-bedded turbidites up to 1 km overbank, followed by thick-bedded amalgamated turbidites that spilled close to the channel margins. The palaeocurrent directions associated with the amalgamated channel fills suggest a low channel sinuosity. Stacks of channels and spillover packages 25–40 m thick may show significant palaeocurrent variability at the same stratigraphic interval but at different locations. This suggests that individual channels and spillover packages were stacked into channel-spillover belts, and that the belts also followed a sinuous pattern. Reservoir elements of the Ross system include tabular turbidites, channel-fill deposits, thickening-upward packages that formed as spillover lobes and, on a larger scale, sinuous channel belts 2·5–5 km wide. The edges of the belts can be roughly defined where well-packaged spillover deposits pass laterally into muddier, poorly packaged tabular turbidites. The low-sinuosity channel belts are interpreted to pass downstream into unchannellized tabular turbidites, equivalent to lower Ross Formation facies.