Ductile duplexes as potential natural gas plays: an example from the Appalachian thrust belt in Georgia, USA
Brian S. Cook, William A. Thomas, 2010. "Ductile duplexes as potential natural gas plays: an example from the Appalachian thrust belt in Georgia, USA", Hydrocarbons in Contractional Belts, G. P. Goffey, J. Craig, T. Needham, R. Scott
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In a well-defined small-scale recess in the Appalachian thrust belt in northwestern Georgia (USA), two distinct regional strike directions intersect at c. 50°. Fault intersections and interference folds enable tracing of both structural strikes. Around the recess, tectonically thickened weak stratigraphic layers – shales of the Cambrian Conasauga Formation – accommodated ductile deformation associated with the folding and faulting of the overlying Cambrian–Ordovician regional competent layer. The structures in the competent layer are analogous to those over ductile duplexes documented along strike to the SW in Alabama, where gas production has been established from the deformed shale. The analogy with structures in Alabama suggests a ductile duplex and natural gas potential within the recess in Georgia.
The tectonic thickening of the weak-layer shales is evident in palinspastically restored cross sections, which demonstrate a nearly 100% increase in volume over the restored state cross sections. The dominant cause of the surplus shale volume is likely pre-thrusting deposition of thick shale in a basement graben that was later inverted. The volume balance of the ductile duplex is critical for palinspastic reconstruction of the recess, and for the kinematic history and mechanics of the ductile duplex.
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Onshore fold–thrust belts are commonly perceived as ‘difficult’ places to explore for hydrocarbons and are therefore often avoided. However, these belts host large oil and gas fields and so these barriers to effective exploration mean that substantial unexploited resources may remain. Over time, evaluation techniques have improved. It is possible in certain circumstances to achieve good 3D seismic data. Structural restoration techniques have moved into the 3D domain and increasingly sophisticated palaeo-thermal indicators allow better modelling of burial and uplift evolution of source and reservoirs. Awareness of the influence of pre-thrust structure and stratigraphy and of hybrid thick and thin-skinned deformation styles is augmenting the simplistic geometric models employed in earlier exploration. But progress is a slow, expensive and iterative process. Industry and academia need to collaborate in order to develop and continually improve the necessary understanding of subsurface geometries, reservoir and charge evolution and timing; this publication offers papers on specific techniques, outcrop and field case studies.