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The current emphasis in petroleum exploration includes going deeper in mature basins such as Gulf of Mexico, West Africa and elsewhere, or looking for unconventional hydrocarbon accumulations. While the fundamentals of the exploration process (i.e., evaluating risk and resources of target areas) remain constant, the questions that are asked for each of the above continue to change in the order of complexity. The fundamental step of basin modeling work flow involves capturing evolution of the structural geometry (and kinematics) through time starting with the present day subsurface geometry. Recent advancements in fields of geomechanics and structural geology have given rise to geomechanics based structural restoration. An example study in the deep-water Nigeria fold-thrust belt illustrates the strength of the approach in that it utilizes rocks having distinctive mechanical properties to arrive at structural configuration through time in a manner similar to kinematic restorations. Results indicate the usefulness of the approach in validating interpretation, re-constructing structural history, and gather insight into the deformation mechanisms and rock property evolution. The primary advantage of this technique over the more conventional methods is that no kinematic model is imposed as an input. In addition, several quantitative deformation parameters can be output to help understand structural genesis and potential impact on petroleum system. In the future, quantitative estimates of deformation and stress may be used to better answer challenging questions related to trap history, evolution of reservoir and seal, and permeability heterogeneity within reservoirs.

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