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A basic understanding of the structural evolution and timing of trap development in the deep water Paleogene play is critical in prospect risk assessment. In this paper, regional and prospect scale interpretations and restorations are used to illustrate structural styles and evolution of common traps associated with the Paleogene play in the north-central and northwest deep water Gulf of Mexico. In this area, the interplay between salt tectonics and depositional systems throughout Late Mesozoic and Tertiary time has resulted in complex scenarios of structural trap development—which can be quite variable in style and timing. Processes typically involved in the formation of these traps are discussed, including: (A) subsidence of sedimentary depocenters into an autochthonous salt layer and synchronous salt canopy emplacement via a salt stock feeder network that borders the depocenters; (B) a component of regional, downdip contraction above the autochthonous salt layer (the magnitude of which is variable, often relatively small—but large enough to squeeze the salt stock feeder system, and generate frontal fold structures at the downdip limit of the salt basin), and (C) weld development through displacement of salt within large salt features (salt features that are part of the canopy system, or large salt features that are rooted to the autochthonous salt layer) by relatively late deposition. Several structural case studies of common trap styles (generated by the processes listed above) are used to illustrate the complexity and dynamic history of trap formation. Examples of Paleogene play trap types discussed include: (1) three-way dip closed structures bounded by salt stocks, squeezed salt stocks, or salt welds, and (2) four-way dip closed anticlinal structures, which are formed either in response to contraction or subsidence of a sedimentary depocenter onto a base of autochthonous salt surface.

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