Abstract

Three aspects of basement structure and rift-related salt distribution have especially influenced the evolution of the deep-water northern Gulf of Mexico: (1) creation of a basement high (Toledo Bend flexure), separating a chain of interior basins from the central Louann salt basin, (2) segmentation of the central Louann salt basin by the Brazos transfer fault into eastern and central domains, and (3) salt provinces formed during basin opening.

The Toledo Bend flexure was reactivated as a hinge during the Cenozoic uplift of the North American craton. This uplift triggered gravity gliding, forming fold belts in the seaward parts of the continental margin. The geometry of the Toledo Bend flexure influenced the position of these fold belts.

The Brazos transfer fault separates the west sector of the study area from the central and east sectors. Most of the salt in the deep-water northern Gulf of Mexico lay in the central sector, which sourced most of the Sigsbee salt canopy. The western sector was narrower and was subdivided by the East Breaks basement high.

Splitting the Callovian salt basin in two as the gulf opened created a southward-thinning wedge of salt at the seaward end of the northern Gulf of Mexico. We divide this wedge into a series of provinces on the basis of the geometry of the base of the deep salt. Original salt thickness influenced diapir location, the geometry of the Sigsbee canopy, the geometry and style of later compressional fold belts, and petroleum systems.

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