Controls on lateral structural variability along the Keping Shan Thrust Belt, SW Tien Shan Foreland, China
Sebastian A. Turner, John W. Cosgrove, Jian G. Liu, 2010. "Controls on lateral structural variability along the Keping Shan Thrust Belt, SW Tien Shan Foreland, China", Hydrocarbons in Contractional Belts, G. P. Goffey, J. Craig, T. Needham, R. Scott
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Lateral structural variability and partitioning of fold–thrust belts often reflects lateral variations in the stratigraphy of the deforming foreland and interaction with inherited structures. The Keping Shan Thrust Belt, NW China, was initiated during the late Cenozoic and is a spectacular example of contractional deformation in a foreland setting. The belt is characterized by a series of imbricate thrusts which form a broadly arcuate salient and deform the thick (3–6 km) Phanerozoic sedimentary succession of the NW Tarim Basin (SW Tien Shan foreland). Abrupt lateral changes in the thickness of the sedimentary succession are associated with a series of major pre-existing basement faults which cross-cut the belt and which were probably initiated during early Permian times. These lateral variations in the basin template have impacted strongly on the structural architecture of the superimposed thrust belt. Variations in the thickness of the sediment pile affect the spatial distribution of thrusts, which increase in abundance where the sediment is thinnest. The inherited cross-cutting basement faults and the associated abrupt changes in sediment thickness combine to generate partitioning of the thrust belt.
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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.