Abstract

The discovery that major episodes of subhorizontal, allochthonous salt flow have occurred in the Gulf of Mexico Basin requires a means of quantifying the evolution of allochthonous salt and associated structures to conduct both basin and petroleum systems analyses. Sequential structural restorations of allochthonous salt systems provide an evolving structural framework for integrating stratigraphic, geophysical, and geochemical data sets. In this study, interpretation of more than 10,000 km (6200 mi) of multifold seismic data, and sequential restoration of eleven profiles, were used to determine the geometry and evolution of allochthonous salt structures within Ewing Bank and northern Green Canyon protraction areas. The results illustrate the complex geometry of the multilevel salt system and the types of interactions between counterregional and salt-stock canopy models of allochthonous salt system evolution. Sedimentary loading is accommodated by salt sheet extrusion, gravity spreading, gravity gliding, extension, salt evacuation, and contraction. Salt geometry commonly changes dramatically through time because it provides much of the accommodation for sediments and absorbs much of the extension and contraction within its overburden. The positioning and kinematics of extensional and contractional structures are controlled by salt body geometries, salt system interactions, and, most importantly, the topography of the base salt or equivalent salt weld. The structural restorations also constrain the timing of salt sheet and salt weld formation and document the positive correlation among sedimentation rates, salt flow, and structural deformation. Cross-sectional salt area generally decreases through time in areas of salt evacuation and minibasin formation, but increases in sections crossing growing salt bodies. Three-dimensional restoration is required to determine the three-dimensional kinematics and balance of allochthonous salt tectonics.

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