The results of well-constrained seismic interpretation and new mapping of three-dimensional (3D) seismic data volumes demonstrates that the North Falkland Basin consists of two superimposed failed rift basins: a Late Jurassic NW–SE-striking Southern Rift Basin (SRB); and an Early Cretaceous north–south-striking Northern Rift Basin (NRB).

The SRB is best developed in coastal waters of the Falkland Islands, where it comprises a series of extensional sub-basins that are transected by faults belonging to the more substantive NRB. Regional interpretation demonstrates that the NRB consists of a southward-tapering, asymmetric extensional basin containing a thick (in excess of 10 km) sequence of sediments. Its syn-rift subsidence history was controlled by a major west-dipping normal fault array comprising several fault segment precursors, which, together with corresponding antithetic faults, effectively subdivides the hanging wall into a series of sub-basins throughout its length.

The NRB initially developed in a fluvial and later lacustrine environment before becoming predominantly marine in the Tertiary. A prograding delta system filled the basin from the north during the early post-rift phase. Contemporaneously, sediment was shed off the segmented basin-bounding fault via long-established feeder drainage systems through breached relay ramps into the depocentre. The resultant sediment dispersal led to deposition of numerous lacustrine turbidites that created the Sea Lion fans and its affiliates, the location of which mimics, and is thus interpreted to have been controlled by, the underlying syn-rift sub-basins.

Post-rift subsidence was punctuated by an important, but short-lived, phase of basin inversion during the Aptian that created a large, broad and gentle north–south-striking anticline that runs along the central basin axis. Whilst the episode of basin inversion arrested subsidence, it did not inhibit petroleum prospectivity. The syn-rift lacustrine source intervals did subsequently pass through the critical moment in the Cretaceous leading to hydrocarbon maturation and the migration of waxy oil, a process that continues to the present day.

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