The influence of active salt tectonics on the development of Plio-Pleistocene deepwater slope channel and canyon systems, NE Gulf of Mexico.

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Earth Science and Engineering


This research project aims to evaluate how salt deformation has influenced (a) the formation the Late Pleistocene Mississippi canyon and (b) the distribution of Plio-Pleistocene submarine channel-levee systems in time and space which cross, or are deflected, by active salt diapirs. We will develop improved models for channel and salt structure interaction to serve as analogues for the more economically significant deeper subsurface areas, where similar processes occur, but may be more poorly imaged due to lower resolution seismic data or location beneath extensive salt canopies. The aims will be achieved by mapping salt bodies, structures and sedimentary depositional environments on an extensive merged 3-dimensional seismic dataset from the NE Gulf of Mexico. The evolution of the salt structures and sedimentary deposits will be reconstructed through space and time with 3D structural reconstructions and construction of palinspastically restored sedimentary facies maps. The project directly addresses the important scientific problem of understanding how sedimentary systems interact with tectonic processes, which to date has been little studied in deforming slope/deepwater passive margin environments affected by salt tectonics. We think that there are a number of advantages to investigating this general problem within a slope and deepwater sedimentary environment, using subsurface data. Firstly the 3-dimensional nature of the high quality seismic datasets offers a 3D spatial resolution of structural and stratigraphic geometries that is complementary to outcrop studies. Secondly low amplitude eustatic sea-level fluctuations have less direct control on the sedimentary response to structural growth at a local scale in slope/deepwater settings. This contrasts with the added complexity of sea-level induced base-level changes when examining terrestrial and shallow marine systems. The project has economic importance as deepwater exploration off the continental margins continues to be the main focus for the major oil companies and the results will have direct applicability within the hydrocarbon industry and thus contribute to wealth creation of UK industry. More specifically the results will be useful to hydrocarbon activity in the UK sector of the North Sea where the oil companies seek to exploit remaining reserves in the North Sea salt basins.


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