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Salt Tectonics

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The Upper Jurassic Smackover formation in northern Louisiana and surrounding states has been explored and drilled for decades, but has only recently seen the sophisticated approach needed to decipher its challenging geology.

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Take a first hand look at the basic working tools to explore and develop hydrocarbons in salt basins. This introduction to salt tectonics is intended for geoscientists, engineers, and managers who need review or update on this constantly evolving field. The course is appropriate for those working in any salt basin globally and assumes abasic familiarity with structural geology concepts and terminology

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“Spectacular geology and history, together.” That’s how AAPG Honorary member Pinar Yilmaz of ExxonMobil set the scene for the upcoming International Conference and Exhibition (ICE), set Sept., 14-17 in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Thirty-seven mudstone samples were collected from the uppermost Lower Mudstone Member of the Potrerillos Formation in El Gordo minibasin within La Popa Basin, Mexico. The unit is exposed in a circular pattern at the earth's surface and is intersected by El Gordo diapir in the northeast part of the minibasin. Vitrinite reflectance (Ro) results show that samples along the eastern side of the minibasin (i.e., south of the diapir) are mostly thermally immature to low maturity (Ro ranges from 0.53% to 0.64%). Vitrinite values along the southern, western, and northwestern part of the minibasin range between 0.67% and 0.85%. Values of Ro immediately northwest of the diapir are the highest, reaching a maximum of 1.44%. The results are consistent with two different possibilities: (1) that the diapir plunges to the northwest, or (2) that a focused high-temperature heat flow existed along just the northwest margin of the diapir. If the plunging diapir interpretation is correct, then the thermally immature area south of the diapir was in a subsalt position, and the high-maturity area northwest of the diapir was in a suprasalt position prior to Tertiary uplift and erosion. If a presumed salt source at depth to the northwest of El Gordo also fed El Papalote diapir, which is located just to the north of El Gordo diapir, then the tabular halokinetic sequences that are found only along the east side of El Papalote may be subsalt features. However, if the diapir is subvertical and the high-maturity values northwest of the diapir are caused by prolonged, high-temperature fluid flow along just the northwestern margin of the diapir, then both of these scenarios are in disagreement with previously published numerical models. This disagreement arises because the models predict that thermal anomalies will extend outward from a diapir a distance roughly 1.5 times the radius of the diapir, but the results reported here show that the anomalous values on one side of the diapir are about two times the radius, whereas they are as much as five times the radius on the other side of the diapir. The results indicate that strata adjacent to salt margins may experience significantly different heat histories adjacent to different margins of diapirs that result in strikingly different diagenetic histories, even at the same depth.
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The results of regional deep seismic acquisition in the South Atlantic continental margins have shed new lights on the birth and development of sedimentary basins formed during the Gondwana breakup. Recent models of mantle exhumation as observed in the deep water Iberian margin have been applied extensively to the interpretation of several basins in the Eastern Brazilian and West African conjugate margins. However, the tectonic development of these basins is markedly different from the magma-poor margins, and in this lecture we emphasize the contrasts from the tectono-sedimentary features imaged in deep-penetrating seismic profiles that extend from the platform towards the oceanic crust, which indicate that the Red Sea constitutes a better analogue for the birth of divergent continental margins.

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Hydrocarbon exploration beneath the shallow allochthonous salt canopy of the ultra-deepwater central Gulf of Mexico has encountered three thick, sand-rich, submarine fan successions that punctuate an otherwise relatively condensed and fine-grained basin center stratigraphy. These sand-rich fans are Late Paleocene, Early Miocene, and Middle Miocene in age and each coincide with periods of very high sediment flux and basin margin instability. They are the primary exploration targets in most ultra-deepwater fields, recent discoveries, and failed exploration tests.

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Seismic correlations and well data confirm that deep-water carbonate beds of Mesozoic age have been found above the shallow allochthonous salt canopy in the northern Gulf of Mexico. These rafts of carbonate strata often overlie equivalent age Mesozoic carbonates in their correct stratigraphic position below the salt canopy. The presence of displaced Mesozoic carbonate rafts above the canopy raises two important questions: 1) how did Mesozoic strata get to such a shallow level in the basin statigraphy? and 2) what effect do high velocity carbonates have on seismic imaging below shallow salt?

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The Tarim Basin is one of the most important hydrocabon-bearing evaporite basins in China. Four salt-bearing sequences, the Middle and Lower Cambrian, the Mississippian, the Paleogene, and the Neogene, have various thickness and areal distribution. They are important detachment layers and intensely affect the structural deformation in the basin. The Kuqa depression is a subordinate structural unit with abundant salt structures in the Tarim Basin. Salt overthrusts, salt pillows, salt anticlines, salt diapirs, and salt-withdrawal basins are predominant in the depression. Contraction that resulted from orogeny played a key function on the formation of salt structures. Growth strata reveal that intense salt structural deformation in the Kuqa depression occurred during the Himalayan movement from Oligocene to Holocene, with early structural deformation in the north and late deformation in the south. Growth sequences also record at least two phases of salt tectonism. In the Yingmaili, Tahe, and Tazhong areas, low-amplitude salt pillows are the most common salt structures, and these structures are commonly accompanied by thrust faults. The faulting and uplifting of basement blocks controlled the location of salt structures. The differences in the geometries of salt structures in different regions show that the thickness of the salt sequences has an important influence on the development of salt-cored detachment folds and related thrust faults in the Tarim Basin.

Salt sequences and salt structures in the Tarim Basin are closely linked to hydrocarbon accumulations. Oil and gas fields have been discovered in the subsalt, intrasalt, and suprasalt strata. Salt deformation has created numerous potential traps, and salt sequences have provided a good seal for the preservation of hydrocarbon accumulations. Large- and small-scale faults related with salt structures have also given favorable migration pathways for oil and gas. When interpreting seismic profiles, special attention needs to be paid to the clastic and carbonate interbeds within the salt sequences because they may lead to incorrect structural interpretation. In the Tarim Basin, the subsalt anticlinal traps are good targets for hydrocarbon exploration.

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In-Person Training
Whanganui New Zealand 09 September, 2015 12 September, 2015 18996 Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/FT3-Pilo-Pleistocene-Shelf-hero.jpg?width=100&height=100&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=75amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true
Whanganui, New Zealand
9-12 September 2015

This four-day trip to the internationally-significant Wanganui Basin and North Taranaki coastal sections will examine Late Miocene to Pleistocene components of shelf- to basin-floor depositional systems deposited during an overall tectonically-controlled regressive phase. We will examine and discuss the interplay between tectonics and sea-level change, and the reservoir architecture and sequence stratigraphic framework of these well-exposed rocks. The outcrop geology will be supported by a range of seismic, well and supplementary industry data.

Melbourne Australia 17 September, 2015 22 September, 2015 19067 Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/FT9-Salt-Diapirs-and-Salt-Sheets-Thomas-Hearon-hero.jpg?width=100&height=100&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=75amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true
Melbourne, Australia
17-22 September 2015
This field trip will focus on outcrop exposures of Neoproterozoic salt diapirs, salt sheets and associated growth strata in the Central and Northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia.
Houston Texas United States 01 December, 2015 04 December, 2015 13554 Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/sc-Practical-Salt-Tectonics.jpg?width=100&height=100&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=75amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true
Houston, Texas, United States
1-4 December 2015
This course is designed to give participants the basic working tools to explore and develop hydrocarbons in salt basins. Because no two basins are alike, the focus is on understanding the processes and styles of salt-related deformation. At course completion participants should be able to under the depositional setting of layered evaporites, describe the mechanics of salt flow, interpret salt and stratal geometries associated with diapirs, salt welds, and minibasins, and assess more accurately the risks in the exploration of salt basins.
Online Training
15 March, 2012 15 March, 2012 1484 Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/oc-es-exploring-the-geopressure-risk-in-deep-water-frontier-plays.jpg?width=100&height=100&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=75amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true
15 March 2012

This e-symposium presents techniques for predicting pore pressure in seals by examining case studies from the Gulf of Mexico and incorporating the relationship between rocks, fluids, stress, and pressure.

01 January, 2013 01 January, 9999 1459 Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/oc-cc-giant-oil-and-gas-fields.jpg?width=100&height=100&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=75amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true
1 January 2013 - 1 January 9999

There are more approximately 1,000 oil and gas fields in the world that have been classified as "giant," containing more than 500 million barrels of recoverable oil and /or 3 trillion cubic feet of gas.

14 February, 3000 14 February, 3000 7817 Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/oc-es-generic-hero.jpg?width=100&height=100&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=75amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true
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