The Miocene and Pliocene interval of the Veracruz Basin, southeast Mexico, experienced an evolving array of shortening, strike-slip, and volcanic forces in response to plate-scale interactions. The basin is divided into six structural domains that define regions of comparable timing and type of structural deformation, and the basin fill is separated into two long-term depositional phases, each of which can be tied to a waning and then waxing of major basin-bounding tectonic events. The first phase of deposition took place from the early to late Miocene and is tied to the waning effects of the Laramide orogeny. The Miocene basin inherited a tectonically steepened basin margin, across which deep canyons were carved and variably filled with mudstone and thin remnants of coarse sandstone and conglomerate. This zone of erosion and bypass grades into thick, sandstone-rich basin-floor fans. Later in phase I, subaqueous volcanoes, tied to distant plate subduction, developed offshore and formed a bathymetric barrier that prevented turbidity currents from entering the ancestral Gulf of Mexico. The volcanoes also served as immovable buttresses, around which intrabasinal thrust belts developed in response to regional shortening.
The second depositional phase is tied to the onset of internal basin shortening and uplift of the north basin margin known as the trans-Mexican volcanic belt. This uplift caused a dramatic reconfiguration of the sediment-dispersal system, whereby large shelf clinoforms prograded from north to south across the basin. In contrast to the onlapping stacking pattern of phase I units, phase II units stack in a strongly offlapping pattern.
Proven and postulated reservoir-trap combinations, ranging from four-way to three-way combination (stratigraphic), to pure stratigraphic traps are common. Four-way closures mapped from the two-dimensional and three-dimensional seismic data are large (P50: 5000 km2) and are covered with thick, lower Miocene fan sandstones. Traps that depend on a stratigraphic component are thinner and smaller in size (P50: 1000 km2), but more numerous than the four-way closures. Because many structures have experienced prolonged pulses of compression, top seal is considered an important geologic risk to the retention of substantial gas-column heights.