The Permian basin of West Texas and New Mexico is one of the premier hydrocarbon provinces of the world; nonetheless, little regional subsurface structural information about it has been published. Mapping at 1:250,000 on the Ellenburger horizon (Lower Ordovician), compiled for the Tectonic Map of Texas, discloses the overall geometry of Paleozoic deformation in the area.
The southern Permian basin is underlain by the NNW-trending Central Basin disturbed belt of Wolfcamp age (Lower Permian), the deep Delaware basin to its west, and the shallower Midland basin to its east. The disturbed belt is highly segmented with zones of left-lateral offset. Major segments from south to north are: the Puckett-Grey Ranch zone; the Fort Stockton uplift; the Monahans transverse zone; the Andector ridges and the Eunice ridge; the Hobbs transverse zone; and the Tatum ridges, which abut the broad Roosevelt uplift to the north. East-west compression is inferred, with shortening increasing from the Tatum ridges south to the Fort Stockton uplift. The segment boundaries and transverse elements are inferred zones of strike-slip faulting. These fault zones extend both southeast and west of the disturbed belt into discrete strike-slip faults with local uplifts in compressive bends (such as the Big Lake uplift). The Midland basin is much shallower than the Delaware basin, and the uplift-to-basin transition is gradual. A belt of subtle domes and anticlines, extending northeast from Andrews County, overlies a major basement discontinuity (the Grenville Front).
The disturbed belt may have originated along rift zones of either Precambrian or Cambrian age. The extent of Lower and Middle Pennsylvanian deformation is unclear; much of the Val Verde basin-Ozona arch structure may have formed then. The main Wolfcamp deformation overthrust the West Texas crustal block against the Delaware block, with local denudation of the uplifted edge and eastward-directed backthrusting into the Midland basin. Later in the Permian, the area was the center of a subcontinental bowl of subsidence—the Permian basin proper. The disturbed belt formed a pedestal for the carbonate accumulations which created the Central Basin platform.
The major pre-Permian reservoirs of the Permian basin lie in large structural and unconformity-bounded traps on uplift ridges and domes. Further work on the regional structural style may help to predict fracture trends, to assess the timing of oil migration, and to evaluate intrareservoir variations in the overlying Permian giant oil fields.