The northern deep-water Gulf of Mexico is one of the most active deep-water petroleum provinces in the world. This paper introduces the regional geologic setting for the northern deep-water Gulf of Mexico and briefly discusses the importance of technology in developing the area’s resources. Exploration has focused on four major geologic provinces: Basins, Subsalt, Fold Belt, and Abyssal Plain. These provinces formed from the complex interactions between Mesozoic–Cenozoic sedimentation and tectonics. Improved understanding of the geology of these provinces has largely been accomplished by improvements in seismic acquisition and processing. In addition, advances in drilling technology have permitted drilling and field development in increasingly greater water depths.
The 226 oil and gas fields and discoveries in the northern deep-water Gulf of Mexico are summarized in terms of their exploration and development history, producing facility, ages of reservoirs (Upper Jurassic, upper Paleocene–lower Eocene, Oligocene, lower Miocene–upper Pleistocene), and trap type (structural, combined structural-stratigraphic, and stratigraphic). In addition, the interpreted regional distribution of Upper Jurassic and possible Lower Cretaceous source, source rocks is shown, in part based on the 26 wells that have penetrated these source rocks.
The eight papers in this special issue review the geology of the Mississippi Canyon and northern Atwater Valley protraction areas. The first five papers review the subregional structural setting and the evolution of its tectonics and petroleum systems. The final three papers summarize the geologic evolution of two economically important intraslope basins—Thunder Horse and Mensa—in terms of their stratigraphy, structural evolution, and petroleum systems. These two basins contain two of the larger oil and gas fields, respectively, in the northern deep-water Gulf of Mexico.