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A structural model encompassing the southern North Sea Basin west of the Central Graben has been developed that combines gravity gliding of the postsalt cover with basement tectonics. The basin differs from many salt basins in that it forms a closed system. Section construction and balancing through the cover of the North Sea need to take into account thin-skinned and thick-skinned extensions and contractions. The North Sea salt formed in Permian time in two large oval basins separated by the Mid North Sea High. The shape of these basins reflects variable patterns of thermal subsidence. Subsequent salt tectonics was governed by local graben structures and by regional uplift and subsidence.

Rifting initiated during the Triassic and allowed reactive and locally passive diapirs to develop in the post-salt cover. In the southern North Sea, the Dowsing graben system in the cover is offset from the Dowsing fault zone below the salt. This offset in extensional structures probably relates to the salt thickness and to the position of the surface hinge line that controlled the onset of gravity gliding in the postsalt section. Gravity gliding of the cover into the Triassic-Jurassic Sole Pit trough and away from zones of rift flank uplift was associated with Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous extension in the Central North Sea; gliding caused asymmetric compressional pillows to develop downslope. Gravity spreading of the cover during the Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary was associated with tilting during thermal subsidence of the southern North Sea Basin, enhanced by pulses of tectonic inversion in the southern North Sea basement. The resultant glide tectonics formed new small grabens upslope and compressional pillows downslope. Where the compressional pillows were eroded sufficiently or faulted later, the salt broke through the thinned cover to produce new active and then passive diapirs, which drained the pillows to produce new rim synclines.

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