The Mensa and Thunder Horse intraslope minibasins in south-central Mississippi Canyon, northern deep-water Gulf of Mexico, had a linked structural evolution from the Early Cretaceous through the late Miocene. Analysis of the two minibasins illustrates the complexities of deep-water sedimentation and salt tectonics in intraslope minibasins. This study is based on the integration of a 378-mi2 (979-km2) three-dimensional seismic data set, wire-line logs, and biostratigraphic data.

These two minibasins comprise several structural features that affected their geologic evolution: basement faults, autochthonous salt, three allochthonous salt systems (top Barremian, top Cretaceous, and Neogene), a growth fault and raft system, three major turtle structures with associated extensive crestal faults, and strike-slip faults. Remnant allochthonous salt pillows are present above the 125 Ma horizon (approximate top Barremian system) and on the 66 Ma horizon (top Cretaceous system) throughout the Mensa minibasin, whereas the top Cretaceous allochthonous salt system is identified regionally by a salt weld in the Thunder Horse area. These allochthonous salt systems formed weld surfaces beneath the Mensa and Thunder Horse turtle structures.

Structural features and associated minibasins evolved during several discrete intervals. From the Early Cretaceous through the latest Oligocene (125 to 24 Ma), an extensive allochthonous salt canopy was present within the Mensa and Thunder Horse minibasins. During this interval, sediments loaded the salt, forming thin wedge- and sheet-form deposits in the Mensa area and a thick, northwest-trending trough in the Thunder Horse area. A secondary allochthonous salt system extruded at the Top Cretaceous level, as seen by remnant salt bodies. Salt withdrawal from these allochthonous salt systems provided accommodation for bowl- and trough-shaped external stratigraphic forms to develop during the Miocene. High sedimentation rates produced salt evacuation from these allochthonous salt systems and initiated diapirism that formed the Neogene allochthonous salt level. The prominent turtle structures in the two minibasins, critical to the formation of traps to the two major fields, developed at slightly different times: Thunder Horse at 14.35 and Mensa at 11.4 Ma.

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