Subsurface mapping of several relay ramps from a raft-related fault array in the lower Congo Basin, offshore Angola, reveals a full spectrum of fault linkage styles. A comprehensive three-dimensional geometric and kinematic appraisal of a more complex relay system within the fault array, the Sembo relay system (SRS) highlights differences with current structural models of relay ramp genesis, evolution, and breaching. The SRS is a rearward (upper ramp) breached relay system with a maximum fault overlap and spacing of 9500 and 3600 m (~31,000 and 11,800 ft), respectively. This system is characterized by a structural geometry that becomes increasingly complex with depth as the relay system is gradually assimilated into the structural architecture of a separate and structurally deeper fault system.
A detailed kinematic appraisal of the SRS indicates that the throw patterns on the frontal and rearward segments are intrinsically different. Throw backstripping reveals different initiation ages for the rearward and frontal segments of about 5.5 and 2.5 Ma, respectively. Mutual overlap is estimated to first occur about 2.5 Ma at the 5.0 Ma structural level, with fault linkage and ramp breaching occurring subsequently.
The SRS therefore represents a complex amalgamation of faults that have each developed independently at different times. The genesis and evolution of the SRS have been governed through time by both salt withdrawal and associated fault detachment histories, in conjunction with increased Congo Fan progradation and sedimentation rates and phases of tectonic tilting of the underlying salt detachment surface.