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Geological Society of Malaysia Annual Geological Conference 2001

June 2-3 2001, Pangkor Island, Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia

Wrench tectonics in Sundaland - Subsurface and offshore evidence

H.D. TnA

PETRONAS Research & Scientific Services Sdn Bhd

Lots 3288 & 3289 Off Jalan Ayer ltam, Bangi Institutional Area, 43000 Kajang

Abstract: Wrenching is widespread in Sundaland. Convincing evidence from onshore mapping is now combined with
lesser known information from the subsurface and from the offshore. Maximum principal stress (SH) directions were
determined from wrench patterns, well-bore breakouts, and first-motion of major earthquakes occurring in the last
century. Most of Sundaland is currently subjected to north-south Sw Towards its margins the stress trajectories deviate
from the meridian, probably as result of interference with SH of the convergence of adjoining megaplates and the
southeast extrusion of Indosinia. From at least the late Oligocene onward Sundaland has been the focus of converging
plates and subplates. Fracture zones that are suitably orientated with respect to the convergence direction in various parts
of the region responded by wrenching. Until approximately the onset of Mid-Miocene most wrenching was transtensional
forming pullapart depressions and modifying the structuration of the large depocentres: the backarc basins of Sumatra-
Java, the aulacogens Malay-Penyu-West Natuna, and the forearc/marginal basins Soikang-Sarawak- NW Sabah-East
Kalimantan. Cessation of spreading in the Philippine Sea and Caroline basins by Mid-Miocene changed the wrenching
into transpressional structures that was accompanied by slip-sense reversals and substantial structural inversion.

Abstrak: Sesaran mendatar adalah umum di Tanah Sunda. Buktinya yang diperoleh menerusi pemetaan di darat telah
dipadukan dengan maklumat daripada bawah-tanah dan lepas pesisir. Tegasan utama maksimum (SH) dapat ditentukan
berdasarkan corak sesaran mendatar, bujuran lubang gerudi serta gegaran perdana gempabumi gadang yang berlaku di
kurun lepas. Semasa ini hampir seluruh Tanah Sunda mengalami SH berjurus utara-selatan. Penyimpangan arah SH
berlaku berhampiran tepian Tanah Sunda di mana pengaruh penumpuan keping-keping raksasa dan ekstrusi Indosinia
ke tenggara dipercayai sedang berlaku. Sejak sekurang-kurangnya penghujung Oligosen Tanah Sunda telah menjadi
tumpuan pergerakan keping-keping litosferajiran. Jalur-jalur retakan yang berjurus sesuai terhadap arah penumpuan di
masing-masing sektor Tanah Sunda telah bertindak sebagai sesar mendatar. Pada permulaan sesaran mendatar berupa
transtensi yang menerbitkan lekukan"pullapart" dan meminda penstrukturan deposenter besar lainnya seperti lembangan-
buri-arka Sumatra-Jawa, aulakogen Melayu-Penyu-Natuna Barat, lembangan-hadapan/tepian Soikang-Sarawk-Sabah
Baratlaut-Kalimantan Timur. Selepas tamatnya pemuaian lembangan Filipina and Carolin sekitar Miosen Tengah,
sesaran mendatar di rantau ini bertukar sifat kepada transpresi yang disertai pembalikan arah sesaran dan penyongsangan
struktur yang jelas.

INTRODUCTION the oldest set of faults (Geological Survey of Malaysia,

summaries in its annual reports, e.g. 1973). Perhaps theN-
Sundaland is the geological region compnsmg the S faults existed since early Jurassic and some have
large islands Borneo/Kalimantan, Sumatra and Java, further subsequently experienced reactivation (Tjia, 1978). Wood
the Malay Peninsula, the Sunda Shelf and its smaller islands (1985) extended land-based regional faults into the offshore
and island groups (Figure 1). To biologists, Sundaland is using generally proprietary material acquired by offshore
the Southeast Asian region west of Strait Makassar. On hydrocarbon exploration. The theory of plate tectonics
almost all sides Sundaland extends to the 200-m isobath of requires lithospheric plates to move laterally. At convergent
the Indian Ocean, Strait Makassar, South China Sea, and and transform plate boundaries the movements create stress
the Andaman Sea. The northern boundary is artificial and regimes where the maximum principal stress is horizontal.
uncertain but it may be considered to partly coincide with The convergence angle mainly determines if thrusting
the Thailand-Malaysia international boundary. The Sunda (including subduction) or transcurrent faulting occurs.
Platform is a smaller entity that comprises the pre-Tertiary Transcurrent faulting takes place at oblique convergence,
outcropping areas within Sundaland. The structural grain and wrenching is possibly most easily achieved where the
of Sundaland is semicircular and approximately centred convergence angle is in the region of 30 degrees, as shear
about the South China Sea Basin. This structural pattern failure laboratory experiments by Donath (1961) seems to
has been highlighted in van Bemrnelen's undation theory indicate. At local scale, decoupling of stress systems
(1977, update of his original1933 theory) and updated in probably occurs and the pattern of stress tensors across the
Katili's (1973) plate tectonic outline of the Indonesian plate boundary may seem inconsistent. On a regional scale
Archipelago. The western and southern half of Sundaland the motion-sense of the neighbouring plates has been shown
is dominated by regional, north-south fracture zones. North- to extend far into the Southeast Asian region (Tjia, 1973).
south fractures in Peninsular Malaysia have been considered This paper presents less known evidence of the
72 H.D. TJIA






Figure 2. In the North Sumatra Basin, northerly striking regional

faults have dextral slip sense, except the Pe.usangan fault which is
sinistral. Motion sense on the latter is probably controlled by the
spreading direction (solid arrow) of the Andaman Basin.

Sumatra, geophysical evidence for a so-called Mentawai

dextral wrench fault was reported by Diament et al. ( 1992).
This regional fault is strikes parallel to the SFZ and occupie
LUPAR the forearc basin.
(Sa) AXIAL MALAY (6) MAE PING (9) WEST BARAM (1 0).BALABAC Regional mapping in the late 1970s and early 1980s by
cooperative efforts of the Indonesian Geological Survey
and British Overseas Geology Department recognised the
Figure 1. Tectonic framework of Sundaland and adjacent regions. existence of a good number of strike-slip faults in the
northern half of Sumatra (see Cameron et al., 1980).
significant role of wrench faulting since the Jurassic in Hydrocarbon exploration contributed a fair share of the
shaping and modifying Sundaland. Most of the present growing understanding on the role played by lateral fault
illustrations originate from hydrocarbon exploration but displacements (Situmorang and Barlian Yulihanto, 1985;
for obvious reasons are restricted to nonproprietary material. Sosrornihardjo, 1988; Yarmanto and Aulia, 1988; Wajzer
et al., 1991; Ryacudu et al., 1992; Barlian Yulihanto, 1997).
REGIONAL STRIKE-SLIP FAULTS Wrench motion on the Sumatran faults is most often dextral
(Figure 4b) and this takes place along northerly and
northwesterly strikes. The NW-striking Sumatra fault zone
Sumatra is a prime example. The Bengkalis depression in Central
Before the acceptance of plate tectonics, least as a Sumatra strikes north-south and has notable dextral strike-
working hypothesis and by most geologists as full-fledged slip segments (see Eubank and Makki, 1981; Villaroel,
theory, part of the Sumatra Fault zone, its so-called "Oeloe 1985). An exception is the northerly striking Peusangan
Aer" (Ulu Air) segment in the northern half of the island, fault that shows left-lateral displacements in the order of
was recognised by Durham (1940) to possess significant 20 km (Figure 3). East of the Peusangan fault zone in North
lateral displacements. By publication Katili and Hehuwat Sumatra, the other northerly striking faults Arun, 98 ,
(1967) and Katili (1970) placed the entire 1600-km long Tanjungpura and Tanjung Morawa have notable dextral
Sumatra fault zone on the world geology map. Dextral displacements (Figure 2). Examples of wrenching in the
displacement ranges from about 42 km (Hahn andWeber, three Sumatran petroleum basins follow. The Rantau field
1981) for Middle Miocene(?) granitoids to several metres of the North Sumatra basin is represented by the depth
during earthquake events. Hamilton (1979, p. 82) classifies structure map of the upper Miocene Keutapang Formation
the Sumatra fault zone (SFZ) as a dextral transform that (Figure 4a). It consists of a faulted anticline striking ESE-
extends northward and across the Andaman spreading ridge WSW. The en echelon pattern of the normal faults suggest
continues as the Sagaing dextral transform into Myanmar. sinistral wrenching parallel to the anticlinal trend . Figure
Evidence of lateral slips on both transforms were referred 4b shows the two major structural trends in the Central
to by Harding (1974) while expounding on the seismic Sumatra basin, NW (Lirik trend) and N (Merbau trend).
characteristics of wrench faults. In the south, in the vicinity Both have reportedly dextral displacements. The Benakat
of Strait Sunda, the SFZ possibly ends into the Sunda field of the South Sumatra basin at the Miocene Talangakar
subduction trench. Offshore the western shoreline of horizon shows two zones of en echelon fault patterns (Figure

Geological Society of Malaysia Annual Geological Conference 2001

I ...
.. /
~ "\

/ .·

\ I
\ \

Figure 4a. En echelon faults across the Rantau anticline, North

Sumatra Basin. Simplified after Courteney et al. (1989).


Figure 3. The Peusangan fault and its indicators in North Sumatra.

4c). The zones strike NNE and easterly and correspond

with dextral and sinistral wrenching, respectively. The
regional maximum principal stress that produced the wrench
patterns in the Sumatran oil basins is interpreted to have
operated in NNE-SSW direction.

Strait Melaka
Exploration for hydrocarbon on the Malaysian side of
the Strait of Melaka discovered more than ten faulted
depressions, each in the order of 50 km x 25 km. The
faulted depressions are grabens and half-grabens (Figure
Sa). The structures seem associated with N-S fault zones in STRUCTURES, SOURCE KITCHEN IN TH E SOUTHERN CENTRAL SUMATRA BASIN
the pre-Tertiary basement (Liew , 1994, 1997). En echelon S.P. Todd et al. (1997) Geol. Soc. Spec. Publ. 126

arrangements of many of these depressions suggest 0 SOURCE KITCHEN AREA

• OIL FIELD Figure 4b

formation in an early Palaeogene transtensional regime
where the regional compression acted in N30°E (Tjia 2000). Figure4b. N-S and NW -SE structural trends in the Central Sumatra
Structural inversion in early to middle Miocene deformed Basin. Both possess dextral slip. After Todd et al. (1997).
the graben-filling sediments and indicate a corresponding
transpressional stress regime, that was still dominated by strike-slip representative with dextral displacement (Burton,
N30°E regional compression. 1965). The northerly striking Bentong Suture has
sli ckensided surfaces corresponding with dextral slip. Its
Peninsular Malaysia interpreted extension in Central Sumatra, the north-striking
The large fracture zones onshore Peninsular Malaysia Bengkalis Trough, is also marked by dextral displacement
have established lateral displacements. A recent study and of lower Neogene geological contacts. However, the fracture
review was by Zaiton Harun (1992). In descending order of zones representing the Bentong Suture and other regional
total length and frequency the strike large fracture zones fau lts onshore the Peninsula were active only up to the
cluster about north, north-northwest, northwest and west- Middle Eocene. This assumpti on is based on probably reset
northwest. The Ma'Okil fault striking is the sole known , K/Ar ages of fault breccia and my lonite (Zaiton Harun,
June 2-3 2001, Pangkor Island, Malaysia
74 H.D. TJIA

103 .ca in the pre-Tertiary basement. These depressions acted a

satellite depocentres of the large Malay basin. The regional
stress field became transpressional, mainly in Middle
Miocene, as result of changing plate dynamics. The AMF
then moved dextrally and the sedimentary half-graben fill
were squeezed into fo lds whose orientations were essentially
controlled by the original tre nd of the depressions , that is,
east-west. Inversion tecton ics are also demonstrated by
younger reverse motion on large growth fa ults, and by
rhomboid pullaparts that are incongruent with the occunence
of anticlines bu ilt of their sedimentary fil ings (Figure 6).
The plans of the Berantai-C pullaparts along the Western
Hinge Line fau lt zone and the associated en echelon faults
indicate dextral wrenching in a transtensional stress regime.
However, their sedimentary fills were deformed in to folds
in a subsequent transpressional stress f ield and indicate
reversal of sense in strike-s lip motion. The en echelon
fa ults of the Besar f ie ld also reflects this.

Java Sea West

In the SW corner of Sundaland are the Asri and Sunda
Cenozoic basins. Wrench fau lting is shown by discrete
zones of en echelon fau lts (Figure 7). Left and right-lateral
BENAKAT FIELD, SOUTH SlJMATRA wrench zones appear to have responded to a regional
Structure Top Talang Akar- c.i. 50 m
compression in abo ut N020°E direction. This is also the
Figure4c. Benakat field, South Sumatra Basin. Dextral and sinistral approximate trend of the Thousand Islands fa ult zone, and
slip sense as ind icated by en echelon fault patterns. The generating two other fau lt zones to the west of Kartini and Karmila
maximum principal stress direction is approximately NE-SW. fie lds, whose fau lt patterns are anastomosing. These
Simplified after Courteney et al. ( 1990).
relatively wide zones compri sing curv ing fault plan s are
1992). The latest strike-slip motions on the Peninsular consistent with extens ion parallel to the regional maximum
regional faults together with other directions of geological principal stress direction (SH) . T hi s stress is interpreted to
transport cones pond to tectonic compression that operated have operated in NNE - SSW direction.
about 070° - 250°.
Northwestern Borneo
Malay Basin The northwestern side of Borneo has structural trends
Lateral slips on the major fa ult zones in the Malay that are disturbed by regional fracture zones (Figure 8).
Basin are common. The youngest sed imentary units affected W renching is shown by a few of these fract ure zones; the
are of the Middle Miocene. Time sli ces down to near pre- vari ous slip senses are indicated on the figure. The sinistral
Tertiary basement of the Sotong fie ld show a rhombic displacement on the Tubau fau lt amounts to about 25 km
pullapart, actual offset of a geological structure (Mastura (Tj ia et al., 1998) The northerly trending Belait belt and
Abdul Malik and Tjia, 1998) beside the more common en Jerudong-Morris fault are regional fractures. Abrupt change
echelon patterns indicative of transcurrent motion. In of the structural grain occurs across these regional fau lts;
se is mic sections, flower structures can be clearly left lateral drag is indicated. The West Baram Line figured
demonstrated. The Malay Basin probably began as one of prominently in the offshore palaeobathymetry and separated
three rift arms (the other two being the Penyu and West deep marine conditions to the east fro m shall ow-m arine
Natuna depressions) in the Late Cretaceous when a hot environments to its west.
spot developed in central Sundaland. The triple junction of
the ensuing Malay Dome marked the area where the three Eastern Borneo
rifts come together. A SE extension of the Three Pagodas The Attaka fie ld of the Kutei basin in East Kalimantan
fault is beheved to control the NW grain of the Malay shows the structure of the upper M iocene deltaic cl astics as
basin. This basement fault is named as Axial Malay fault in Figure 5b. It is a faulted anticl ine striking Nl0°W
(AMF). The extrusion of Indos ini a according to transected by NW -SE normal faults. These faults down throw
Tapponnier's et al. (1982) tectonic hypothesis caused the between 150 m and 300 m to the NE and are en echelon..
AMP to slip left-laterally during the Late Oligocene. The Sinistral wrenching is indicated for the northerly trending
regional stress field was then transtensional and E-W zone occupied by the anticline. The interpreted maximum
oriented half-grabens associated with the AMF developed pri ncipal stress direction operated in the NW quadrant.

Geological Society of Malays ia Annual Geological Conference 2001




I I Depth in 1000 feet, Late Miocene 44-7 Sand
c.i. 0.2sTWT Central anticlinal area is approx. 25 km 2

Figure 5a. Central and Southern grabens are Cenozoic depressions Figure 5b. The Attaka structure in the Kutei Basin, East Kalimantan.
on the Malaysian side of Strait Melaka. The en echelon fault Simplified after Schwartz et al. (1973).
patterns suggestNE-SW maximum principal stress direction. After
Liew (1997).

The earlier mentioned examples for major wrench
faulting in Sundaland comprise but a small part of the
known indications of strike-slip deformation that has
affected Sundaland during the Cenozoic. The available
information combined with movements of adjacent
megaplates, well-bore breakout directions (Tjia and Mohd
Idrus Ismail, 1994) and earthquake SH directions (Tjia,
1983) has resulted in Figure 9 which represents the current
stress field of Southeast Asia. For the region proper, Strait
Makassar appears as a major geotectonic boundary. Stress
trajectories to its east are clearly influenced by the WNW-
ward convergence of the Pacific Plate. The core of
Sundaland experiences northerly SH that deviates
significantly towards its margins. In the northwest the
deviation can be attributed to the opening direction of the
Andaman Basin; towards the geotectonic line in the
Makassar Strait, the influence of the Pacific Plate convergent
direction increases in strength. The stress trajectories in the
SW and southern margins of Sundaland probably bend in
Figure 6. Pullapart depressions and en echelon fault patterns are
accordance with the convergent direction of the Indian
products of transcurrent motion along the Western Hinge Line fault.
Ocean-Australian plate.
The wrenching had opposite sense during different deformation
episodes (see text). Adapted from Tjia and Liew (1996).

June 2-3 2001, Pangkor Island, Malaysia

76 H.O . TJIA

106"30' E.





10km Figure 8. Major wrench zones in the Sarawa.k Basin region.


Figure 7. Asri and Sunda basins, Java Sea-West. The maximum

principal stress in NNE-SSW direction was responsible for the
wrench zones (en echelon fault pattern). Simplified after Fainstein
and Prarnono (1985) and Wight et al. (1997).
Figure 9. The current stress field of Southeast Asia.


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