Abstract

Coast-perpendicular shale ridges are rare structural features worldwide, and their origin remains a subject of debate. We studied some coast-perpendicular shale ridges and faults within a minibasin located onshore in Refugio County in the Texas Gulf Coast. We used 3D seismic data, visualization tools, and seismic attributes to examine the geometry of coast-perpendicular diapiric structures associated subbasins (SBs) and faults, and coast-parallel listric faults. Our results indicated that the minibasin is subdivided into four SBs by five diapiric shale ridges that intrude through the fault heaves of down-to-the-basin (synthetic) and coast-perpendicular faults. Three of the SBs are oriented perpendicular to the coast, whereas the fourth has a curvilinear form trending northeast–southwest–southeast. Of the five diapiric shale ridges, three are coast-perpendicular. The other two are curvilinear to the coast. All five diapiric shale ridges are associated with coast-perpendicular faults that bound the flanks of the ridges. On the basis of our mapping results, we deduced that the origin of the coast-perpendicular faults in the study area are related to the coalescing of en echelon synthetic faults, as well as the coalition of synthetic and antithetic fault planes. We inferred that the origin of the shale diapirs is related to vertical loading and, possibly, local southwest–northeast lateral compression of interbedded, overpressured, shale-prone intervals. The coast-perpendicular faults within the Frio formed as a result of reactivation of the Eocene-Vicksburg coast-perpendicular faults. Synthetic faults dominate the pattern within the SB in the north where shale ridges are broad, whereas antithetic faults dominate the pattern in the south where shale ridges are narrow.

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