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Geology and Hydrocarbon Resources of the Outer Western Carpathians and Their Foreland, Czech Republic

By
Frank J. Picha
Frank J. Picha
International Petroleum Consultant,Walnut Creek, California,U.S.A.
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Zdeněk Stránik
Zdeněk Stránik
Czech Geological Survey, Brno,Czech Republic
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Oldřich Krejči
Oldřich Krejči
Czech Geological Survey, Brno,Czech Republic
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Published:
January 01, 2006

Abstract

The Western Carpathians in the territory of Moravia (the eastern part of the Czech Republic) and northeastern (Lower) Austria represent the westernmost segment of the entire Carpathian orogenic system linked to the Eastern Alps. Based on differences in their depositional and structural history, the Carpathians are divided into two primary domains: the Inner Carpathians deformed and thrusted in the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous, and the Outer Carpathians deformed and thrusted over the European foreland during the Paleogene and Neogene. These two domains are separated by the Pieniny Klippen Belt, which bears signatures of both these domains and stands out as a primary suture in the Western Carpathians. Only the Outer Carpathians, including the thin-skinned thrust belt partly overlain by the Vienna basin and the undeformed Neogene foredeep, are present in the territory of Moravia and, as such, are subjects of our deliberation.

The foreland of the Carpathians in Moravia is represented by the Bohemian Massif, which is a part of the West European plate. It consists of the Hercynian orogenic belt and the late Precambrian (Cadomian) foreland terrane of the Brunovistulicum. The unmetamorphosed sedimentary cover of the cratonic basement of the Bohemian Massif in Moravia extends through two plate-tectonic cycles, the Paleozoic Hercynian and the Mesozoic to Cenozoic Tethyan-Alpine. The Bohemian Massif continues far below the Carpathian foredeep and the thin-skinned Outer Carpathian thrust belt. Various deep antiformal structures have been identified in the subthrust plate by seismic methods and drilling. Some of these structures apparently formed during the Hercynian orogeny, whereas others are related either to the Jurassic rifting or to the compressional Alpine tectonics extending from the Late Cretaceous to Miocene. During the Laramide uplifting of the European foreland, in the Late Cretaceous to early Paleogene, two large paleovalleys and submarine canyons were cut into the foreland plate and filled with deep-water Paleogene strata.

The Carpathian orogenic system, as we know it today, evolved during the late Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic through the divergent and convergent processes of the plate-tectonic cycle. In the Outer Western Carpathians of Moravia, the divergent stage began in the Middle to Late Jurassic by rifting, opening of Tethyan basins, and development of the passive margins dominated by the carbonate platforms and basins. Further rifting and extension occurred in the Early Cretaceous. The convergent orogenic process in the Outer Carpathians began in the Late Cretaceous by the subduction of the Penninic-Pieninic oceanic basin and collision of the Inner Carpathians with the fragmented margins of the European plate. Since the Late Cretaceous, a major foreland basin dominated by the siliciclastic shelf and deep-water flysch sedimentation has formed in the Outer Carpathian domain. The Carpathian foreland basin, especially during the Late Cretaceous to the early Eocene, displayed a complex topography marked by an existence of intrabasinal ridges (cordilleras) such as the Silesian cordillera. We interpret them as preexisting rift-related crustal blocks activated during the Late Cretaceous-early Paleocene uplifting as foreland-type compressional structures.

During the Paleogene and early Miocene, the Upper Jurassic to lower Miocene sequences of the Outer Carpathian depositional system were gradually deformed and thrusted over the European foreland. The tectonic shortening occurred not only in the decoupled thin-skinned thrust belt but also at the deeper crustal level, where various blocks of the previously rifted margins were apparently at least partly accreted back to the foreland plate instead of being subducted.

Since the early Miocene, the synorogenic, predominantly deep-water flysch sedimentation was replaced by the shallow-marine and continental molasse-type sedimentation of the Neogene foredeep, which remained mostly undeformed. Also during the Miocene, the Vienna basin formed in the Carpathian belt of southern Moravia and northeastern Austria as a result of subsidence, back-arc extension, and the orogen-parallel pull-apart strike-slip faulting.

During its entire history, the evolution of Outer Western Carpathians in Moravia was significantly affected by the existence of two main structural elements, the Western Carpathian transfer zone and the Dyje-Thaya depression. The southwest-northeast-trending Western Carpathian transfer zone actually separated the Alps from the Carpathians. During the divergent stage, in the Early Cretaceous, the dextral motion in this zone accommodated a significant extension in the Outer Carpathian domain. Conversely, during the convergent stage in the Paleogene and Neo-gene, the sinistral transpressional motion in this zone facilitated the northeastern translation (escape) of the Carpathian belt and the opening of the pull-apart depocenter in the Vienna basin.

The northwest-southeast-trending Dyje-Thaya depression, in southern Moravia and northeastern Austria, formed, or at least was activated, during the Jurassic rifting. Within the fault-bounded limits of this depression, thick, organic-rich marls were deposited in the Late Jurassic, shallow-marine clastic strata were laid down and preserved in the Late Cretaceous, two paleovalleys were excavated in the Late Cretaceous-early Paleogene, and finally, the Vienna basin formed in the Miocene. The complex structural and depositional history of the depression and its surroundings created one of the most prolific petroleum systems in the entire Carpathian region, from which more than 850 million bbl of oil has been produced to date. Historically, the Vienna basin has been the dominant producer in Austria and Moravia. More recently, however, the subthrust European platform with multiple hydrocarbon plays has become the main producing province in Moravia. Some of the identified deep subthrust structures represent significant exploration prospects, which yet have to be tested.

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Contents

AAPG Memoir

The Carpathians and Their Foreland: Geology and Hydrocarbon Resources

Jan Golonka
Jan Golonka
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Frank J. Picha
Frank J. Picha
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American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Volume
84
ISBN electronic:
9781629810379
Publication date:
January 01, 2006

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