Abstract

Three-dimensional seismic-reflection data are used in the analysis of submarine channel systems in the Espírito Santo Basin, Brazil. The exceptional quality of the studied data set allows the detailed documentation of the geometry, regional distribution, and statistical parameters of salt-related normal faults, and their effect on the Rio Doce Canyon system (RDCS). On the Espírito Santo continental slope, normal faulting was triggered during early halokinesis (stage A) but barely controlled the initial evolution of the RDCS, which incised the continental slope axially within a salt-withdrawal basin. However, in a second stage (stage B), crestal or radial faults controlled erosion over growing salt structures, whereas synclinal and channel-margin fault sets dissected overbank strata to the RDCS. In the later part of stage B, channel sinuosity decreased sharply in response to fault activity and associated sea-floor destabilization. Vertical propagation of blind faults was triggered in a third stage (stage C), in association with crestal collapse of buried salt anticlines and regional diapirism, but synclinal and channel-margin faults did not propagate vertically above a regional unconformity marking the base of stage C strata. Statistical analyses of observed fault sets demonstrate that synclinal faults are in average 2.3 times longer than the crestal or radial types but record 60% of the throw (average 83 m [272 ft]) experienced by the latter. In addition, the fault sets are shown to have contributed to local cannibalization of the sea floor, vertical stacking of channel-fill strata, and structural and depositional compartmentalization of potential reservoir successions. As a result, channel systems show marked differences in mean values for sinuosity, height, and width in relation to five main phases of channel development. The structural setting in the study area differs from productive areas offshore Espírito Santo (e.g., Golfinho field), west Africa, and Gulf of Mexico, revealing in distal parts of the Brazilian margin the existence of local controls on submarine channel architecture and structural compartmentalization prior to the main stages of diapirism.

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