ABSTRACT

We use finite element modeling to show that upbuilding can be a significant component of salt diapir growth in tectonically stable systems when basin sediments are elastoplastic mudrocks. The ability of such sediments to deform plastically and the dependence of their strength on confining pressure enable structural thinning, which allows salt to pierce through a relatively thick roof. Once pierced, the originally continuous roof uplifts to form a megaflap. We show that the evolution to an upturned megaflap adjacent to a salt stock causes shortening of the bedding layers in the radial and vertical directions and extension in the hoop (circumferential) direction. These deformations lead to significant shear strains within the sediments; as a result, in some areas within the upturned megaflap, mudrocks have reached their maximum level of shear resistance and are failing. Thinning and shear failure of sediments are also significant near salt walls, despite the absence of out-of-plane deformation. We illustrate that cross-sectional area and bedding line lengths are not necessarily preserved. Based on our results, we re-evaluate traditional assumptions of kinematic restoration and show that established workflows may not properly restore salt systems that interact with shallow plastic sediments. Finally, we show that when wall rocks are deformable, salt diapir shapes are not necessarily a simple function of sedimentation and salt flux rates (qfx/Å) and that the diapir hourglass shape might result from lateral deformation of the megaflap.

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