General Introduction The area of geologic study known as tectonics, or sometimes geotectonics, is best thought of as structural geology in its

broadest sense. It examines regional structural features-their interrelationships, evolution, and effects on sedimentation. The concept of "structural style" is based on comparative tectonics. Its greatest utility lies in identifying certain basic patterns of deformation that are repeated in geologic provinces throughout the world. Studies of structural style have the considerable advantage of relating these patterns to present-day plate tectonic habitats and thereby to predictive models of origin and evolution. This means that, prior to exploration, the types of source and reservoir rock, migration paths, and hydrocarbon traps can be predicted, or at least anticipated. In classical structural geology, surface mapping, well data, and laboratory experiments were the main sources of information for understanding tectonic features and their genesis. This has changed dramatically within the past several decades. Seismic reflection profiling has provided geologists with a tool that can reveal continuous structural data to considerable depths. It has opened up both submarine provinces and the deep continental subsurface to eager scrutiny.

Classification of Styles
As developed by Harding and Lowell (1979), Bally et al. (1983), Bally and Oldow (1983), and Lowell (1985), structural styles are first differentiated on the basis of whether basement is involved or uninvolved directly in deformation. In the case of noninvolvement, structures primarily develop within a ""detached" sedimentary cover. These two basic criteria are, in turn, applied to the four major types of tectonic provinces: (1) compressional; (2) extensional; (3) strike slip (wrench); and (4) intracratonal (vertical). For the most part, these last two types of province are thought to involve basement in nearly every case. Table 1 (below) lists the various structural styles currently used in exploration work.

Structural Style Extensional Extensional fault blocks Detached normal fault assemblages ("growth faults" and others)

Dominant Deformational Force

Transportation Mode


High to low-angle divergent dip slip of blocks and slab Subhorizonal to high-angle divergent dip slip of sedimentary cover in sheets, wedges, and lobes


Salt structures

Density contrast Differential loading

Vertical and horizontal flow of mobile evaporites with arching and /or piercement of sedimentary cover Dominantly vertical flow of mobile shales with arching and/or piercement of sedimentay cover Differential loading Downslope gliding on decollement

Shale structures

Density contrast Differential loading

Gravity structures

Slope instability

Compressional Compressive fault blocks and basement thrusts Decollement thrustfold assemblages Compression High to low-angle convergent dip slip of blocks, slabs, and sheets Subhorizontal to high-angle convergent dip slip of sedimentary cover in sheets and slabs Subhorizontal to high-angle convergent dip slip of sedimentary cover in sheets and slabs


Decollement thrustfold assemblages


Strike Slip Wrench fault Vertical Basement warps: arches, domes, sags Multiple deep-seated processes(thermal events, flowage, isostasy, etc) Primary Subvertical uplift and subsidence of solitary undulations Secondary Shear couple Strike slip of subregional to regional plates

Structural Styles Extensional Extensional fault blocks

Divergent boundaries:

Convergent boundaries

1. Completed rifts 2. Aborted rifts :
aulacogens Intraplate rifts

1. Trench outer slope 2. Arc massif 3. Stable flank of 4.
foreland and forearc basins Back-arc marginal

seas (with spreading) Transform boundaries:

1. With component of

2. Stable flank of
wrench basins Detached normal fault assemblages ("growth faults" and others) Salt structures Passive boundaries(deltas) Divergent boundaries: Regions of intense deformation containing mobile evaporite sequence

1. Completed rifts
and their passive margin sags

2. Aborted rifts;
aulacogens Shale structures Passive boundaries(deltas) Passive boundaries Regions of intense deformation containing mobile shale sequence Convergent boundaries:

Gravity structures

1. Trench outer slope 2. Fore-arc basins 3. Back-arc basins
Compressional Compressive fault blocks and thrusts basement Convergent boundaries: 1. Foreland basins 2. Orogenic belt cores 3. Trench inner slopes Decollement thrust-fold assemblages Convergent boundaries: Transform boundaries (with component of convergence) Transform boundaries (with component of convergence)

1. Mobile flank 2.
(orogenic belt) of forelands Trench inner slopes and outer highs

Strike Slip Wrench fault Transform boundaries Convergent boundaries: Foreland basins 2. Orogenic belts  Arc massif Divergent boundaries: 1. Offset spreading centers Vertical Basement warps arches, domes, sags Plate interiors Divergent, convergent, and transform boundaries Passive boundaries

Table 1: Structural styles and their various plate-tectonic habitats In our discussion, we will follow the basic organization in volumes II and III of A.W. Bally's excellent and extensive Seismic Expression of Structural Styles: A Picture and Work Atlas (1983). This series is itself a major contribution to contemporary comparative tectonics and should be consulted for more detailed and varied examples of each style. First of all, we need to define what is meant by "'basement." For petroleum geology, this is usually taken to be structural basement, which means rigid crystalline igneous or metamorphic rock. The degree and manner of its involvement in the creation of structures are important to understand, since these determine the overall context for structural entrapment in overlying sediments. In fact, in many hydrocarbon provinces, it is the basement structure that is the key to both overlying deformational and depositional patterns.

These provinces and the structural styles within them are related genetically to one or more of the following plate boundary classifications: 1. divergent, which includes intracontinental rifts, protooceanic (new ocean) basins, and oceanic basins; 2. convergent, which includes intra-oceanic arc (oceanic-oceanic) systems, continental margin arc (oceanic- continent) systems, closing ocean (continent-continent) basins, and both arc-continent and continent-continent collision zones; 3. transform, which includes ridge-ridge transform faults and wrench faults. Many of the new ideas about the relationship between orogenesis and plate interactions focus on the events that occur along convergent boundaries. These boundaries have been divided into two main types ( Figure 1 , A- and B-type subduction. Two types of A- subduction are shown.).

Figure 1

"B," or Benioff-type, subduction is said to characterize regions where oceanic lithosphere dips under an island arc or continental margin. These boundaries are Cenozoic in age and have Benioff zones of shallow-intermediate-deep focus

earthquakes. They most often "face" outward, i.e., oceanward, from the arc or continental margin beneath which lithosphere is subducted. "A," or Alpine-type, subduction has been invoked to explain many of the world's foreland fold and thrust belts (e.g., the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Western Overthrust Belt, the Himalayas, the Zagros Orogenic Belt, the Alps, the Appalachians), which are characterized by continental crust dipping beneath a regional decollement fold-thrust belt, usually toward a high-grade metamorphic core. A-type subduction zones generally face continentward; i.e., the direction of thrusting and overturning of folds within them is mainly toward the continental interior. They are primarily of Mid Paleozoic to Early Cenozoic age. Most examples have been explained as the result of continent-continent or continent- island arc collision, and thus as successors to B-type subduction. Several major provinces of this type, however-most notably the overthrust belts of western North America-have not been explained, and remain highly enigmatic in terms of their origin. Because there are many more examples of B-type subduction than A-type, and since B-type is "in progress" everywhere, a considerable amount of specific nomenclature has evolved from recent analyses of its features and processes. The more important terms are shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3 ,

Figure 2

which portray the details of convergent margins (Figure 2: Regional setting of an active B-subduction zone, including a backarc (rifted) basin.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Enlargement of forearc region in Figure 2, showing common basin and trench nomenclature.). In general, because it appears that many of the world's major mountain systems have resulted from collisional events-i.e., they have evolved from B-type to A-type subduction-most researchers feel that an understanding of B subduction will help lead to more accurate and useful explanations of A subduction. In our introduction to structural styles, we are by no means limited to discussing regions of mountain building. As we will see, five of the nine structural styles categorized thus far occur where diastrophic influence is comparatively slight, even absent. For most styles, we will examine both "evolving," and older, "completed" tectonic provinces. In addition, field examples will be given. In each case, it should be kept in mind that structure alone does not define hydrocarbon potential, nor does the existence of good reservoir rock. Certain regions, such as the Makran fold belt that we will discuss presently, have all the apparent prerequisites for accumulation,

but may be characterized by low heat flow. Thus, a particular structural style must often be viewed in a larger tectonic framework in order to best evaluate its hydrocarbon potential.

Extension Styles – Basement Involved
Regional block faulting is perhaps the most widespread structural style in the earth's crust, characterizing a majority of the world's passive continental margins as well as numerous, linear intracratonal grabens that occur on nearly every continent. For these cases, block faulting is directly related to the process of rifting (i.e., continental breakup). In the few possible exceptions (e.g., the basin and range province of western North America), crustal extension still demonstrates the principal features of rift tectonics and thus may, in fact, represent unique or anomalous circumstances of this same basic process. It should be noted, however, that block faulting also occurs along some convergent plate margins and in backarc settings. Extensional provinces that involve basement in their deformation can be divided into two basic types: • Actual rift grabens and upwarps (whether active or failed). • Passive continental margins, which represent one side of a successful rift that has been buried by contemporaneous and subsequent nonmarine and marine sedimentation Tectonism in these provinces may be thought of as dominantly tensional in nature. At the same time, rifting is a complex process; rarely, in fact, during its initial stages does separation occur exclusively at right angles to the central rift axis. Components of wrenching and compression are common; the former may be related to transform offset of ridge segments. Individual faults, or fault assemblages, may therefore show considerable strike slip displacement: local folding and reverse faulting may exist. Perhaps the most important characteristic that must be kept in mind with regard to normal faulting is its deceptive simplicity. Though normal faults most often appear relatively simple in cross section, they are most often extremely complex in map view. Individual faults can be straight, cuspate, or can alternate between these. Individual blocks bounded by faults can vary substantially in size and can be tilted or rotated in different directions to different angles within a few square miles. In places, faults may appear to die out in ways that seem contrary to the predictions of geometry or rock mechanics. In a broad sense, much of this can be thought of as resulting from the intricate readjustment that occurs due to the creation of "extra space" by extension. In many cases, the precise pattern of structure related to a particular prospect or play may not become clear until years of detailed work have been done.

Block Faulting in Rifts
Figure 1 shows three basic models that have been proposed to explain the geometry of rift-related faulting.

Figure 1

Much controversy continues to surround this subject. The degree to which basementinvolved faults show listric geometry appears to vary between regions. Such variation is believed to result from differences in how rifting evolved and in the type and thickness of crust involved. Due to the excellent exposure and relative youth of its features, the Red Sea graben is often used to point out the principal aspects of this structural style. According to Lowell et al. (1975), the larger, regional faults vary in strike and frequently intersect, but demonstrate a dominant orientation that parallels the central graben. Two important secondary fault trends appear-to form a conjugate set that is bisected by the primary trend. Displacement along them, however, is almost entirely dip slip. Both trends appear to have developed simultaneously during various stages of rifting. Together, they represent the principal style of rift-related faulting. Active extension, and thus faulting, appears to have been episodic. As a result, considerable overprinting of older structures by newer ones has occurred. The cumulative effect is great complexity on a local scale, despite the overall consistency of major structural trends.

Most faults in this region are interpreted to show listric geometry at depth in cross section ( Figure 2 . Figure 2 Steepness of faulting is interpreted to decrease and listric geometry to predominate at depth) and a curving trace in plan view ( Figure 3 . Evolution of Red Sea graben. . Gulf of Suez graben: Part a is a block diagram of east central portion of the graben showing normal fault patterns.

.).Figure 3 Part b is a rose diagram fault plot for the same region. have been interpreted to show more or less straight. Uninterpreted and interpreted seismic profile in western portion of the southern Red Sea. however. Seismic profiles. relatively high-angle normal faults ( Figure 4 .

therefore. such that beds "roll over" and thus imitate the structure of many growth faults.. Fault-bounded blocks are often rotated in stair-step fashion toward the central graben axis." where the footwall is physically displaced upwards as a result of isostatic and elastic rebound. Seldom. even between adjacent blocks.). at least in several areas. too. Fault wedges and basement blocks can be rotated in any number of directions. These.Figure 4 Note tilting of lower sediments in each graben. The question of detailed fault geometry. has recently been identified as accounting for about 10% of the total offset along basement block faults (Jackson and McKenzie 1983). is the structure this simple. away from the rift axis)-are also common. and to local . Antithetic faults-those that dip opposite to the major faults (i. thinning over the footwall block. and both the geometry and magnitude of displacement often vary considerably. In addition. Such uplift can lead to local thickening of sediments over the hangingwall block. however. Since reflection profiles generally exaggerated the curved geometry of faults at depth (due to velocity increase). a phenomenon known as "footwall uplift. remains partly unanswered in this region. Sufficient rotation can cause reverse drag folding in hangingwall sediments.e. the linearity of the fault planes in Figure 4 appears all the more distinct. can be thought of as conjugates.

therefore. after subsequent burial. the crust) and is accompanied by high thermal gradients. This results in a central graben with flanking plateaus that remain elevated above surrounding terrane. Figure 5 Figure 5 . This can have two consequences of major importance to hydrocarbon entrapment: such evaporites can provide an excellent seal for underlying porous intervals and can. brittle portion (i. The broad arching and thinning of continental lithosphere is accomplished by extensional adjustment in its upper. We might note that all stages-but particularly those that mark the beginning of tectonism-involve significant vertical uplift.bathymetric highs that can localize reef growth or other shallow marine sedimentation. Figure 2 shows the inferred structural evolution of the southern Red Sea rift as interpreted by Lowell et al. These uplifts. (1975). be mobilized into salt structures that create a host of trapping possibilities. deflect major drainage away from the embryonic ocean basin but contribute their own coarse detritus in the form of alluvial fans.e. The general lack of clastic influx encourages the accumulation of a thick evaporite sequence..

including those associated with the unconformity separating the Cretaceous and Tertiary sections. This type of major unconformity between pregraben (generally Pre-Miocene) and graben fill deposits is typical of rift provinces and has considerable importance to exploration. A look at the Piper oil field in the central North Sea graben ( Figure 7 ) reveals several other major features consistently seen in this setting. . Figure 6 Note the number of stratigraphic traps. Its overall significance is best discussed in terms of passive continental margins.and Figure 6 show the distribution and nature of the major hydrocarbon accumulations in the Gulf of Suez portion of the Red Sea.

Figure 7 Figure 8 (Productive fault blocks ). .

.Figure 8 Figure 9 (Structure contour map ).

.Figure 9 Figure 10 (Cross section through Piper field).

Figure 10 Figure 11 (Interpreted seismic profile through Piper field). .

.Figure 11 and Figure 12 (Sedimentation model )are taken from Maher (1980) and show the relationship of production to block fault structure in the Piper field.

Moreover. rifting was instrumental in creating conditions conducive to both the deposition and the favorable structural geometry of source and reservoir rocks. as part of the crustal thinning and magmatic intrusion that led to the opening of the North Atlantic.Figure 12 Note location of the oil-water contact. For example. Given that migration and entrapment most likely occurred after faulting and that erosion tilted and sealed the Piper formation. where the East African rift system has had sporadic activity over much of the Tertiary period. By the end of Cretaceous time. the basin and range has undergone almost 250 km of continuous extension since the Late Miocene-Early Pliocene Age. These bear detailed comparison to the structural features and patterns of this discussion. the faults within the sand body are probably nonsealing. these blocks exercised a dominant control over depositional environments. their specific tectonic and depositional histories are quite different. . later movement along faults created migration paths into the sand body. In particular. The graben. At the same time. As shown in Figure 12 . Rifting in this region began during the Early Mesozoic. Thus. therefore. however. has remained an intracratonic basin that has been below sea level since Mid-Cretaceous time. sedimentation of the high-energy. marginal-marine Piper sand was largely determined by the location of structurally positive horsts. the North Sea arm of the mid-Atlantic rift system had largely failed. Cross section and seismic data ( Figure 11 ) reveal how strata are draped over basement blocks.

The highest portions of rotated fault blocks can localize the growth of reefs or the deposition of shallow-water and porous sands. The term passive refers to the general assumption that most orogenic tectonism has ceased along such a margin. They are characterized by seaward-prograding wedges of mostly shallow marine sediments that can reach 14 km in thickness (Bally and Oldow 1983). such faults were generated during the episode of most rapid movement along the San Andreas. Drag folding along faults may create others.In general. which is regional and continuous for millions of years. and trapping possibilities. These deposits reflect in their overall character the basic stages of rifting and continental separation. With regard to transforms that cut through continental crust. Fault intersections can result in trapdoor blocks with overlying closure-an ideal structural trap. rifts have excellent hydrocarbon potential in comparison to other structural styles. In the southeastern Great Valley of California. such as the San Andreas. strike slip motion sometimes generates extension and normal faulting on the cratonal side of related basins. showing progressive burial of rifted basement structures. having developed as a result of the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea. Their evolution generates an abundance of source. migration. These form excellent source rocks. Sediments deposited during these stages often include organic-rich lacustrine and swamp material. Basement block faulting also occurs in settings of plate convergence and in association with transform faults. but to salt sealing. Idealized evolution of Atlantic continental margin from Triassic to the present. Unconformities created during the starved basin stages can also act as seals. as at Piper field. Extensional Structural Styles in Passive Margins Passive continental margins represent one side of a successful rift separation. Equally important is the existence of high heat flow. These last relate not only to faults and the drape closures over them. . and have acted to trap significant amounts of petroleum. the former have been found to be more petroleum-productive. Passive margins are post-Triassic in age. The ideal stratigraphic section (see Figure 13 . This structural style characterizes backarc basins and sometimes the inner margin of forearc basins. To date.

.Figure 13 The features shown are considered typical of most passive margins. Figure 14 .

.Figure 14 and Figure 15 Block diagrams illustrating the general succession of depositional environments that develop along passive continental margins characterized by mainly clastic deposition.

This sequence accumulates in half-grabens between major fault blocks. organic lacustrine shales. As plate separation proceeds. fan delta. mostly of mafic composition. continental margin sedimentation begins and marine displacement results. A thick wedge of clastic-carbonate deposits then begins to prograde over the older. riftrelated phase and a later.Figure 15 ) begins with coarse. and a new ocean is created. Earlier structures are predominantly associated with basement block faulting. Evaporites mark the earliest stages of subsequent marine incursion. Basically. a regional unconformity separates these two sequences. tilted. if marine incursion occurs at the initiation of breakup. It thus becomes broken up. largely nonmarine sediments. These sediments are commonly intruded by. volcanic material. syntectonic. as the rift expands to intersect an ocean basin. and interbedded with. or may occur as more extensive sheets overlapping these local basins. These may also occur at the base of the rifting section. drift-related phase. as well as within the central rift. possibly interbedded with fine-grained. and rotated as faulting continues. the evolution of passive margins can be divided into an early. Thicknesses of salt may therefore be confined to halfgrabens. later phase deformation is concentrated in . In most cases. then. braided stream). nonmarine clastics (alluvial fan.

These. faultless. The early phase lithotectonic sequence is confined to the Triassic-Lower Jurassic units.4.the overlying sedimentary wedge and is controlled mostly by gravity (e. have not been reactivated such that they cut up into the Cretaceous sequence.. while the bulk of the later. The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (between units TP&E and K1 . This is interpreted to have been the result of submarine erosion. the Cretaceous sequence shows large-scale detachment faulting. 1977). We might notice how the detachment faulting appears to be broadly related to deeper basement block faults. K2) is marked by a sloping unconformity. possibly related to changes in spreading rates and the relative height of sea level (see Vail et al. growth faulting. so to speak.g. salt and shale structures). and the Tertiary sequence is. Figure 16 Figure 16 . however. With regard to structure. continental margin phase is represented by Cretaceous and Tertiary sediments and the structures developed within them. where the Triassic-Jurassic sequence is characterized by basement faulting.

and Figure 17 show a map view and cross section (based on seismic profiles and data from several test wells) of the Baltimore Canyon area on the Atlantic margin of North America. Figure 18 shows a seismic section through this same general area of the Baltimore Canyon trough. . This is typical for most passive margins. Figure 17 Here. narrow basins that exists both onshore and offshore..e. we might note the complex pattern of relatively long. between continental and oceanic) crust and accentuated the continental shelf edge into a hinge zone. we see on the interpreted cross section how sediment loading has presumably depressed the transitional (i. In addition.

Figure 18 Here. With time. note how deep the normal (growth?) faults extend. These shales were presumably rendered highly ductile by increasing overburden. This withdrawal of material rotated the overlying strata down. Harding 1984). and also how the reefoid mass has been tilted strongly landward. This structural framework has been interpreted to be the result of plastic flow in a limy shale interval beneath the thick carbonate section. The resulting structural setting appears to offer several excellent potential structural traps. they were forced to flow basinward. thus removing material from behind the reefoid mass. separated by rotated fault blocks and joined transversely by transform faults (Bally and Oldow 1983. creating the large anticlinal structure and faulting seen. while simultaneously pushing the reefoid mass up. Seismic reflection data also appear to indicate that many of the local basins shown in Figure 16 are actually half-grabens. Figure 19 .

Figure 20 .Figure 19 and Figure 20 offer a close-up view of one such shallow basement half-graben filled by nonmarine deposits and covered by shelf sedimentation.

Detached Normal Faulting Normal faulting that does not involve basement occurs both as a regional structural style in its own right. on the overhanging leading edges of major thrust sheets. and as secondary deformation to other major styles."' 'contemporaneous." and. difficult to map along strike. Cases of the latter include areas of extension on the crests of large folds. shale. due to the local variability of fault trends.) As indicated by structures that have been studied in the Newark rift system of the eastern United States. This same type of sedimentary sequence is presumed to fill basins such as those shown in Figure 19 . ( Figure 19 . where sediment accumulates rapidly and remains semiconsolidated to depths of several kilometers ( Figure 1 . Other common names for growth faults include "down-tobasin. less frequently. Figure 3 supports the notion that. so named because of its syndepositional nature. however. The nonmarine basin fill of the half-grabens of the Newark system is interpreted as shown in Figure 20 .Such basins are presumably common features on nearly all passive margins. The more important role of this tectonic setting. as will salt mobilization. Possible hydrocarbon traps in basement-involved fault blocks associated with passive margins include those mentioned for rift provinces in general. and gravity sliding structures that have trapped enormous amounts of hydrocarbons. By far the greatest number of hydrocarbon traps of this type have been found along passive margins in association with growth faulting. . The petrophysical character of alluvial fan and fluvial-deltaic deposits is highly variable. modify some of these. "regional" and "down-to-the-gulf" faults. Example of multichannel seismic profiles in the Baltimore Canyon area showing local half-grabens. involving substantial amounts of strike slip motion. Note tilting and deformation of synrift sediments within each halfgraben and their general noncontinuous (nonmarine?) character. Figure 20 : Interpretation of depositional fill in Newark-type rift basins. Diagrammatic cross section through northern portion of the Gulf of Mexico. shale. Lacustrine (possibly swamp-derived in part) shales are highly organic. or igneous intrusions. or above diapirs involving salt. showing basic condition of metastability (due to density inversion) that leads to the consistent development of detachment structures). The vertical and lateral juxtaposition of organic-rich lacustrine shales with alluvial fan and fluvial plain deposits may hold significant hydrocarbon potential. vis-a-vis petroleum potential. They are best developed in regions of deltaic or continuous clastic shelf deposition. Deep burial may. as well as salt. these basins are also likely to be localized and. therefore. has been to act as the site for the deposition of great clastic wedges (especially deltaic) that are characterized by relatively shallow detachment faulting. the detailed history of displacement along the faults bounding these half-grabens can be quite complex.

Figure 1 High pore pressures in shales (due to retarded dewatering) is a frequently cited influence on the generation of growth fault structures. Historically. . the Gulf of Mexico has served as the type locality for this structural style. a great many growth faults are also directly associated with salt diapirs. locally upthrown blocks. Regional crustal subsidence due to sediment loading provides at least a broad context for extension. Figure 2 shows an offshore growth fault. However. which essentially act as large. as interpreted on a seismic profile (Excellent example of a typical growth fault structure in the Gulf of Mexico).

• displacement along the plane increases with depth. . then decreases and shifts basinward with depth. due to syndepositional offset. • both secondary synthetic and antithetic faults complicate the basic structure.Figure 2 Some of its more important characteristic features are: • the major fault plane is listric in shape. (Some of the secondary faulting appears to be related to extension in the crest of this structure). dips into the basin. • back rotation of the downthrown block creates rollover that increases. • the thickness of individual units increases abruptly in the hangingwall. Many of the former sole out along the main detachment plane. and becomes parallel to bedding with depth.

but in map view.• in map view. die out. and generally vary along strike to create complex patterns ( Figure 4 ). Figure 3 As with rift-related structures. and is usually concave toward the basin center. often show the reverse geometry. cross sections appear relatively simple. faults intersect. Figure 3 shows the most common hydrocarbon traps that result from growth faulting. the fault plane is cuspate. antithetic faults. . however. splay.

. Note the upward-decreasing dip motifs of the two rollover zones. a dip log from an offshore Louisiana oil and gas field shows the distinct patterns of growth faulting at two levels.Figure 4 In Figure 5 .

Pore pressure effects ensure very low shear resistance. As shown in Figure 6 and Figure 7 . has attributed it to increasing compaction: faults originally develop at steep angles that are flattened with burial as bed thickness decreases. Geologists have traditionally pointed to the existence of overpressured. This preference also appears to influence fault geometry. however. This is most likely due to tilting associated with the faults. Roux (1977).Figure 5 Also apparent is a highly consistent azimuth trend to the northeast. ductile shale intervals into which the faults often seem to die out. Shale units in which the effective in situ stress is especially low can be assumed to be preferential zones for faulting. except in the uppermost shales. The flattening of faults with depth has been variously interpreted. the former continues to be preferred. Of these two interpretations.

Figure 7 . faults flatten out into shale-dominant prodelta slope facies (Figure 6: Generalized line drawing based on seismic profiles in the Gulf of Mexico showing relationship between depositional facies and growth fault development. .

A and B). This. growth-type faults developing above the deepest portion of a rifted margin (Generalized cross section though Baltimore Canyon trough. . The pattern of such faulting can be directly or indirectly related to preexisting basement structures. An example of indirect basement influence is given in Figure 8 .Figure 6 Figure 7: Diagrams illustrating the proposed development of growth faulting as a result of local "sinking" of sand-rich facies into underling clay-rich sediments. can directly affect the location and trend of detachment structures. The rejuvenation of deep-seated faults by sediment loading can directly lead to structural adjustment in the overlying cover. in turn. which shows a complex example of large-scale. Preexisting basement structure can more indirectly establish the context for growth faulting by influencing the development of depositional hinge areas. showing detached faulting above presumed flowage of limey shales.). as we have mentioned.

the location of highly ductile limy shale intervals. showing many features associated with passive continental margins. . fault-generated basement topography has determined thickness and facies patterns of later sedimentation and. Here. Interpreted seismic profile through the Baltimore Canyon trough. deep-seated faults can be rejuvenated by sediment loading and this may cause structural adjustment in the overlying cover. thus. Flowage of this lithology under the influence of gravity-induced stress has played a significant part in the development of growth faulting (see also Figure 9 .Figure 8 In addition. Note lump of material that has moved downslope under the influence of gravity.). older.

as resolved along the regional depositional slope. that leads to instability. body forces within a volume of sediments deposited over a sloping surface must be considered significant. meanwhile. possible basement fault rejuvenation. the maximum principal stress is vertical and it is the shear component of this stress. With respect to gravity. . as in the case of passive margin clastic wedges. a variety of other tectonic influences related to salt and shale diapirism. In general. Since growth faulting seems to be a regional response to overburden and slope-related instability (or metastability). Where this volume is very large. show the fallacy of trying to strictly segregate structural styles in every situation. At the same time. these forces are very likely to be fully capable of generating large-scale fault systems. it may result from a number of specific causes.Figure 9 Some researchers consider gravity to be the principal cause of growth faulting in areas such as the Gulf Coast or Niger deltas. exist in most passive margin settings. and so forth. Figure 10 and Figure 11 .

. approximately 250 miles due east of Newfoundland.Figure 10 (Figure 10: Migrated time seismic section showing structure of the Hibernia discovery area.

are not all detachment structures. Salt Structures The upward movement of salt in the form of diapirs within sedimentary sequences has long been assumed to be caused by the lower density of salt relative to the surrounding and overlying rock (Nettleton 1934). in this case. Figure 11: Time-seismic structure map on lower Cretaceous marker horizon. Late Mesozoic graben (Jeanne d'Arc basin) that cuts into the northern portion of the Grand Banks platform. Hibernia. This density difference renders . The more major faults extend deep into the Paleozoic section and most likely continue into basement (Arthur et al. developed as part of the rifting episode and though syndepositional to some extent. presents a case in which the geometry of features assigned to a non-basement-involved structural style (growth faulting) also appears in the features of a basement-involved style (rift fault block). showing basic structure of the Hibernia anticline. with large-scale rollover (compare Figure 2 and Figure 10 ). The structural style. at least in Lower Cretaceous beds ( Figure 11 ).) The Hibernia discovery was made approximately 250 miles due east of Newfound-land in a narrow. The graben developed as part of the active rifting phase that separated Africa and North America between the Late Triassic and Cretaceous ages. is growth faulting. 1983). therefore. The faults.Figure 11 Note scale of growth-type faulting and how it cuts deeply into basement.

which.deeply buried salt buoyant and mobile. The formation of low domes and anticlines that can have sufficient structural relief to pierce overlying sedimentary layers and form local salt stocks 5. itself. and faulting the sedimentary layers through which it penetrates. the original deposition of salt is very often associated with rifting. contours in arbitrary units) Figure 1 2. Due to this general metastable condition. continuous ridges 4. There is a progressive change in both the style of salt mobilization and its effect on the overlying sedimentary cover. and detached features . piercing. drag-folding. Principal types of salt structures. A contemporaneous pillowing of salt that may result in isolated swells or low. with a consequent downbending of overlying sedimentary layers 3. its diapiric rise-often called halokinesis ("salt movement")-may or may not be initiated by tectonic influence. which has been described as follows (refer to Figure 1 . In general. in its initial stages. a deformational force. salt structures are common along passive margins and in rift zones. diapirs. diapirism is. creates relatively narrow grabens with restricted circulation. Thus. 1. The formation of piercement salt walls. the thickness of deposited salt increases into the host basin or graben depocenter. On the other hand. Most often. A withdrawal of salt from the original depositional edge.

Figure 2 Salt is from the Permian Zechstein group. showing the variation from basin margin to center. a synrift depositional sequence) and Figure 3 (General inferred relationship between evolution of a basin and that of salt structures for a prograding continental margin). are shown in Figure 2 (Salt structures of northwest Germany.Two well-studied successions of actual salt structures. Figure 3 .

Figure 3 relates the style of diapirism and resulting salt structures to the rate of sedimentation and. Due to its extremely low ductility. forming the cores of large. In cases where mobilization results from tectonic influence (e. basin evolution. patterns should appear that roughly indicate deformational trends (Trusheim 1960). . Figure 4 Where uninfluenced by tectonism.. it has often served to localize deformation. diapirs tend to cluster somewhat randomly. or in subparallel ridges whose alignment may be determined by overburden.Note the basin-ward increase in the size of individual structures. rejuvenated basement faulting. however. In mobile belts. salt (and evaporites in general) can serve as a plane of decollement. The overall orientation of salt diapirs. continued regression along a continental margin would presumably cause an evolution of diapirism from swell structures to spines.g. therefore. As shown. or thrusting or folding in collision zones). Distribution of salt structures in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico). flexural-slip anticlines whose limbs become at least partially detached along contacts with the salt intervals. does not always reveal a consistent relationship to basin margins (see Figure 4 .

Murray. and the relevant basin subsides. which apparently shows the main thickness of salt pushed up in front of the great weight of Late Mesozoic and Tertiary deposits (Regional NW-SE cross section through Gulf of Mexico). Basically. this concept suffers from what might be termed a space problem. The observed folding and fault displacement along the margins of a diapir do not appear to account for the total space occupied by many piercement diapirs. but rather remain at about the same vertical position relative to the sedimentary cover. In this view. it does not adequately predict what happens to the column of material displaced by the salt. As this cover thickens by normal deposition. a diapir presumably builds downward by drawing salt from the mother bed. Figure 5 The traditional concept of salt diapirism has assumed the upward movement of large masses of salt through a thick overburden. Woodbury. The primary motion. Despite its broad acceptance. . and Osborne (1980) propose that salt diapirs do not "jam" their way upward like volcanic plugs. Such a scenario can be inferred from Figure 5 . In a discussion of this problem. salt is mobilized as a series of waves flowing both basinward and vertically upward before a front of prograding overburden.A hypothesis that refines the traditional model of diapirism has been proposed by Bishop (1978).

). Differential subsidence is assumed to create tension and normal faulting above the diapir. individual halokinetic structures are extremely variable. Overall. . Extension above salt structures causes anticlinal warping and normal faulting. are determined by the specific architecture and history of the basin in which they were deposited. for reasons that should be apparent in Figure 7 (Seismic section of salt diapir showing keystone normal faulting in overlying units). as well as the character of the overlying sedimentary cover. Figure 6 Sequence b: proposed for the Gulf Coast. the "diapir" remains at the same height relative to the earth's surface and grows downward during concurrent sediment loading basin subsidence. Their development. is of sediments sinking past the salt body. Figure 6 shows a comparison between the concepts of upward-building and downward growth of diapirs (Sequence a: proposed for structures in northern Germany. shows active intrusion of salt through overlying sedimentary cover. location.therefore. and relationship to structures in the basement. The latter is sometimes termed keystone.

Figure 7 In map view. the faults are most often radial in their pattern ( Figure 8 . . Structure map showing complex radial fault system associated with a productive salt dome. offshore Louisiana.

Figure 9 shows a series of salt structures developed in the Aquitaine basin of southwestern France. where numerous separate blocks exist. for example. is also common. .Figure 8 Note greater well density in area of particularly complex faulting. on the eastern passive margin of the Atlantic. local complexity can be great. as with normal faults in other structural styles.). However. Antithetical faulting.

7=angular unconformity. the loci of mobilization appear to be over earlier. 2=graben caused by extension.Figure 9 Sediment thickening and thinning due to diapirism. 5=overhang. 3=porous cap rock. are all shown as the consequences of salt mobilization. The basic scheme of hydrocarbon traps associated with salt structures is shown in Figure 10 (1=anticline. 4=flank sand pinchout. In addition. 8 and 9=normal faulting along flank of structure). as well as anticlinal warping and the development of a major unconformity. 6=nonoverhanging wall of structure. riftrelated basement faults. .

excess pore water keeps the clay mineral grains apart (thus countering lithostatic pressure) and keeps the rock in a weak. This. unfortunately encountered along passive margins buried by thick. sands dewater and compact faster than do shales. numbers 1. Shale Structures The conditions that encourage the flowage of shale within a thick wedge of clastic deposits are more specific than are those for salt. is not a hard and fast rule. and 9 in the figure. ductile state. Impermeability acts to inhibit water loss. They are primarily related to retarded dewatering of shale and to the overall sequence of sediments in a regressive (progradational) shelf. An exception to this occurs at the contact between a shale interval and an overlying porous sand.Figure 10 In many cases. During rapid burial. but here the expulsion of pore water into the sand creates an even more impermeable upper seal to continued water loss from the underlying shale. often. . however. Trapped. 8. the largest traps are in reservoirs not pierced by the salt. This is the classic explanation for "overpressured" shales so commonly and. for example. susceptible to flow. regressive clastic sediments. 2.

In geologic terms. As the sands compact and become more dense. the generation of other growth faults ( Figure 2 and Figure 3 . This can lead to growth faulting on a local scale and the creation of shale mounds. they subside in-to the less compacted shales. composed of a proximal. sand-rich half-spoon overlying noncompacible shale-rich sequence). due to the depositional slope. this means that. overpressured material beneath will flow laterally to allow continued load subsidence." composed of compactible. as pro-gradation continues. we might think of the entire depositional body as a "spoon" (see Figure 1 . Experimental and theoretical work have both shown that the stress resulting from differential compaction and loading is greatest at the front of the load and that the more mobile. thus. . shales will be forced basin-ward. Such mounds can subsequently act to localize sand deposition. Concept of depositional "spoon. sand-dominated "megafacies" wedge that overlies a more distal. shale-dominated one. Figure 1 This setting leads to what is known as differential compaction.Along with Jackson and Galloway (1984). and. Evolution of shale mound through growth faulting).

.Figure 2 They may also rise as diapirs into overlying units or they may spread laterally.

Shale mounds in northern Gulf of Mexico. . with a trend that is roughly parallel to regional strike ( Figure 4 . 40 km in width. sometimes ahead of a series of growth faults. Bruce (1973) has described shale ridges in south Texas with dimensions of over 20 km in length. and 3000 m in height. part (a) Seismic expression of shale structures.Figure 3 Differential compaction apparently leads to the transfer of great masses of shale.

. for example. However. "mixture") or "olistostromes. part (b) Relationship between growth faulting and shale flowage).Figure 4 Shale diapirs also seem to be related to gravity sliding along master growth faults. and the overall structural evolution of thick clastic wedges along passive continental margins. Gravity Sliding Gravity-induced downslope movement has been invoked by structural geologists to explain an almost dizzying variety of phenomena on almost all geologic scales. This makes knowledge of them necessary to both regional and local exploration in such settings. salt diapirism. which become planes of detachment at depth ( Figure 4 . It has been used. as an interpretation of the rumpled-cover nappe structures of the Alps. and the generation of growth faulting. Shale structures are not usually of great significance to petroleum exploration (the Beaufort Sea represents an important exception). they are intimately associated with growth faulting. the chaotic sedimentary sequences known as "melange" (Fr. the decollement thrusting of the Canadian cordillera." the disturbed layering of single depositional layers.

Figure 1 (Gravity tectonics as envisioned for the creation of structures observed in the Apennines of central Italy. Basement slopes are usually in the wrong direction. 3. however.) is a simplified diagram that illustrates the basic assumptions of gravity tectonics as a mechanism for thrust generation. Much of this. De Sitter (1964) and De Jong and Scholten (1973) offer comprehensive summaries of the role that gravity has been thought to play in the tectonics of foreland belts. Predicted thrust development is chronologically reversed from what is actually observed in foreland belts. Figure 1 This generalized evolution shows the basic features previously thought to cause foreland fold and thrust belt structures. The principal reasons such a mechanism fails to explain how laterally extensive sheets of sedimentary cover are transported toward a cratonal interior are as follows: 1. . has become obsolete because of recent advances in plate tectonic analysis and theory. Regions of "tectonic denudation" are not generally seen. 2.Gravity structures can very broadly be divided into those that are presumably related directly to orogenesis and those that are generated as a result of normal deposition.

e. A third common setting for apparent gravity-related displacement is in thrust belts. therefore. The jumble of variously sized sandstone. In many instances. vertical). the maximum principal stress is gravity and. Tilting due to tectonic uplift will create slopes along which the force of gravity will be resolved as shear stress. Sliding off uplifted regions would inevitably create relatively local tectonic aprons incompatible with the vast. carbonate. slower-moving rotational blocks that show growth fault-type structures at their head. As a result. No such mechanism is observed in any of the world's presently active foreland belts. laterally continuous thrust belts that parallel plate boundaries for thousands of kilometers. pore pressure effects are thought to play a primary role in initiating actual detachment. mafic. Among the latter are rotational slides observed high on upper delta front slopes and larger-scale.. These we will review in a moment. Certain authors have pointed to the utter disorder in melange terranes as explainable in terms of gravity sliding. oceanic crustal) blocks within a matrix of shales that show signs of intense shearing seems to indicate the type of plastic flow and general loss of cohesion that we should expect in a mass that has moved relatively rapidly downslope. . local normal faults will relieve the resulting stresses. where topography can become oversteepened due to the continued advance of thrust sheets. More recent interpretations. Many melanges are also divided by thrusts that appear to separate individual "slide" masses. Here. which are almost entirely due to the simple weight of the material involved (i. and also to both local and regional detachment features along Gulf Coast-type passive margins characterized by high rates of sedimentation. This has been applied to specific decollement structures (see the classic explanation of the Heart Mountain fault by Pierce 1957).. 5. gravity is now invoked to explain specific structures of lesser scale. As shown in Figure 2 (Creation of melange. however. Seely and Dickenson 1977).e. a phenomenon that is predicted by models such as that in Figure 1 . and ultramafic (i.4. consider melanges to be the result of deformation at the leading edge of overriding plates at subduction zones (Karig 1974.

the rate of subduction. semiconsolidated material deposited in the trench. into the trench ) this explanation proposes the tectonic mixing of lithified sediment riding the subducting crust. If this be the case. and the dip of the subducting lithosphere. Gravity sliding takes place down the trench slope break. as well as splinters of that crust. into the fine-grained. will depend largely on the nature and amount of this material.Figure 2 Shallow structure and process as inferred from seismic profiles and field work in the eSumatra region. in this scheme. Gravity sliding in the form of submarine slumps down into the rise of the trench slope break are also thought to occur. the direction of tectonic transport would be toward the subducting plate (see Figure 3 (b) The megasuture is due to continental collision and . The specific character of a melange. its initial structural features. Given the variety in each of these parameters throughout the world. Many geologists now believe that the generation of certain foreland fold and thrust belts is a result of passive margin clastic-carbonate wedges becoming involved in accretionary prism-type diastrophism during the early stages of continent-continent collision. melanges might be expected to show greater similarity in their overall style of deformation than in their specific characteristics. but the principal mechanism of melange creation is the "scraping off" and incorporation of subducting material from the downgoing plate.

. Two proposed versions of the structural evolution which might be responsible for this close interrelationship are shown in Figure 4 .thus represents a successor from B-subduction). so-called thinskinned gravity sliding is seen to occur in close association with growth faulting and shale diapirism (Jackson and Galloway 1984). Figure 3 In relation to normal deposition along passive. divergent margins.

Figure 4 Figure 5 .

Figure 5 and Figure 6 ( Figure 5: A proposed evolution for gravity structures interpreted to exist in Zone 4a. . Figure 6 : Proposed evolution for gravity structures interpreted to exist in Zone 4b.

Figure 6 ) These have been derived from detailed study of the Mexican Ridge area in the western Gulf of Mexico. ( Figure 7 . Tectonic map of southern Mexican ridges area. .) shows the distribution of the relevant structures. Note convex-outward pattern of structural trends.

which is characterized by growth faulting. We should notice the ponding of sediments between and over the ridges. Zone 4b. In the view of most researchers. .Figure 7 Note how these vary between zones 4a and 4b. Figure 8 (Rollover due to gravity gliding in Texas Gulf coast. these sheets can be likened to giant slumps. and a thrust or faulted fold at its terminus. each glide sheet in this type of environment has a growth fault at its head. with growth "scarps" marking the upper planes of rotation. has a slightly steeper slope. The loading from this accumulation is thought to effectively stop gravity gliding and help initiate shale diapirism. and how the two proposed evolutionary schemes attempt to explain this change. a decollement along its principal length. To some degree.

. acts to localize the degree of bed rotation. which is partly due to shale diapirism.) The irregularity of the glide plane ( Figure 9 .Figure 8 Trapping is due both to rollover and fault sealing. Large -scale cross section showing regional structure that includes the features shown in Figure 8 ).

and in the inner trench slope and outer high portions of B-type subduction zones. Compressional Styles . Both high and low angle faults occur along a single thrust front and are now thought to represent the end members of a continuous spectrum of basement-involved deformation. As with shale structures.Figure 9 Movement along the basal detachment is assumed to be by continuous gravity creep. .Basement Involved The two principal elements of basement-related structural styles are compressional fault blocks and their bounding basement thrusts. these gravity-induced features are important to petroleum exploration mainly for their relation to growth faulting. Note how the top of the Vicksburg formation becomes conformable in the direction of gliding. Reverse faults involving basement generally occur along convergent plate margins. the foreland regions are by far the most important to petroleum exploration. The anticlines caused by the type of downslope movement shown in Figure 4 . primarily in foreland regions characterized by A-type subduction. Figure 5 and Figure 6 faulting should be considered potential hydrocarbon traps in deeper-water areas off passive margins. Of these. which may range in inclination from near-vertical to less than 30º.

. in a "backarc" setting). laterally outward many thousands of feet. Principal basement uplifts and associated basins of the Rocky Mountain foreland region Cross section lines refer to Fig 3). with their structural axes running close to the thrust front and their back flanks forming relatively gentle basement slopes away from the uplift..e. The larger uplifted blocks appear to be intimately associated with deep foreland basins: in general. Most often. rigid masses of Precambrian crystalline rock have been forced up and. Figure 1 In this area. while the latter typifies the great Alpine-Himalayan orogenic zone. each block has its related basin(s).Basement-involved forelands primarily develop in two major settings: between a volcanic arc and a craton (i. large. Compressional basement block faulting is particularly well known and well studied in the Rocky Mountain foreland region of the western United States ( Figure 1 . whose timing of subsidence seems directly related to uplift history. The first of these is particularly characteristic of the North and South American cordillera. these basins are strongly asymmetric. and in front of the arc during continental collision. to some degree.

. Figure 2 To some degree. Such zones display variable geometries. the differences between these reflect the fact that various investigators have concentrated their efforts in different parts of the region. Blocks are typically bounded by faults on both sides and are tilted at various angles. which range from reverse listric planes (steepening with depth) to low-dipping thrusts of 30º or less. Figure 2 (Basement faulting in the Rocky Mountain foreland region) shows four styles of faulting that have been proposed to explain the geometries observed in the field and in seismic profiles. Structural relief between the present crest of basement uplifts and their associated basins is frequently on the order of 10 km or more. accommodating basement uplift by drape folding and brittle fracture. The overlying sedimentary cover on these blocks has usually acted in a passive manner. along different major fault zones.These basins have served as the sites for considerable sediment accumulation and subsequent petroleum generation and entrapment. Thus. the vertical component to faulting is undoubtedly considerable. Two interpreted seismic profiles from Wyoming showing expression of rigid basement uplifts. ( Figure 3 .

(b) Casper Arch thrust. with the inclination of the fault plane decreasing and the amount of lateral movement increasing with distance from a 'nodal" zone of almost total vertical uplift.Figure 3 (a) Southwest Wind river fault. "upthrusting" of Figure 2 parts (a) and (b). Note how these "end member" styles of faulting correspond to (b) and (d) of Fig. With respect to those blocks bounded by near-vertical faults. Gries 1983). some geologists now think that at least several of the major blocks. for example. This has. have been uplifted in a type of scissorlike rotational pattern. Harding and Lowell (1979) describe three basic structural levels from basement up into the sedimentary cover: . or horizontal "overthrusting" of parts (c) and (d). but part company on the question of whether displacement is dominantly vertical. in turn. The seismic profiles given in Figure 3 illustrate how apparently irreconcilable these two schools are. Many of the principal faults have also apparently suffered a degree of ancillary strike slip displacement. At present. been related to the clockwise rotation of the entire Colorado Plateau during Laramide time (see.2) Single faults apparently show both these geometries along their strike. the proposed styles of faulting reflect two major schools of thought. such as the Wind River. For these reasons. These agree that compression is involved to some degree in deformation.

Metamorphic rocks are. Certainly. and more minor reverse faulting in the foot-wall of the main fault. from northeastern Wyoming to southeastern Idaho. in general. Figure 4 (Regional east-west cross section through the Rocky Mountain foreland. • an intermediate level where the principal fault becomes a zone of steep drag folding. Some geologists have pointed to older zones of Precambrian shearing within the basement itself as a probable control on the location and possibly geometry of faults. . the products of orogenesis and very often contain important planes of weakness. • an uppermost level of gentle drape or monoclinal folding. involving normal faulting along the crest of the block and drape fold. in any region where basement faulting is a dominant structural style. such as shear zones and major lithologic boundaries. The structure of fault segments can be complex. that will have some amount of influence on all later deformation. tear faulting of the cover and basement.• a tilted fault block of basement and immediately overlying units. the geologist should understand the preexisting structural character of the rocks involved.

take account of the prevailing hypothesis of intracontinental underthrusting (a form of A-type subduction). Figure 5 Note the extensive involvement of continental basement in faulting of the eastern . Compressive decoupling is. Western end of section shows decollement thrusting of the western overthrust belt) shows basement faults as both relatively planar and as listric to the crust-mantle boundary. Note that faults are interpreted to reach to the crust . Basic tectonic setting and regional cross section through northwest Columbia. therefore. as appears to be the case in the South American cordillera ( Figure 5 .Figure 4 The deep crustal faulting shown for the Wind River Mountains is based on recent COCORP seismic reflection profiles. It does. this interpretation is highly speculative. proposed to occur at or near the Moho. showing three principal tectonic divisions.mantle boundary. The most generally accepted idea about the genesis of these basement foreland uplifts is that the principal compressional stresses are in some way directly related to B-subduction. At present. however.

To date.cordillera). Wyoming). the vertical rise of large. an A-B subduction couple seems responsible for the opposing directions of tectonic transport. and thus a considerable diversity of structural traps should be expected ( Figure 6 . Figure 6 The Elk basin oil field in the Big horn basin of northern Wyoming is an example of one of the larger traps discovered thus far. . it has produced over 500 million bbl out of fault-controlled closures such as those shown in Figure 7 (Uninterpreted and interpreted seismic sections through South Elk basin producing area (northeast Big Horn basin. Here. Broadly speaking. rigid tectonic blocks has generated a good deal of local variability. General hydrocarbon trapping possibilities associated with basement block uplifts). showing anticlinal folding over basement thrusts.

Figure 7 Note how deformation in this section appears to correspond with style (c) in Fig 2) and Figure 8 (Cross section of Elk Basin field approximately 10 miles north of the seismic profile shown in Fig 7 ). .

though highly localized. As a result. reservoirs. certain formations of which are known to be productive in nearby domes and folds. high-angle splinter faults related to late Paleozoic uplift of the Red River-Matador Arch and the Wichita Mountains created local avenues for the invasion of dolomitizing solutions into the cores and flanks of Mississippian bioherms. basement uplift can also influence petroleum generation and trapping in more subtle ways. Oil and gas leaks within the thrust zones. however. More generally. This can be crucial to understand in certain regions. Another possibility involves the inversion of rift-related block faults during later compressional tectonism. Such reactivation. in addition to providing drape and fault-related closures. have been reported. Convergence of older passive plate margins can lead to the rejuvenation of originally normal faults into high-angle reverse faults or thrusts. To date.Figure 8 In more recent years. . For example. these became excellent. in the Hardeman basin of northeast Texas. since the sediments normally assumed to characterize rift provinces will become involved in anticlinal. only a few of these expensive wells have been successful. is said to create "inverted" basins. some companies have attempted to penetrate several of the lower-dipping Precambrian thrusts in order to explore the sedimentary section beneath. since it reverses the sense of displacement.

thrust. Figure 1 Note the interpreted involvement of matamorphism in thrusting toward the west. . Figure 2 is a cross section through the Jumpingpound gas field which amply shows this complexity. Compressional Styles . i. the more recent uplift will have substantially altered the original structural configuration. apparent horst-andgraben morphology may be retained. however. closest to the hot. In such cases.e. and Bally. Due to the thorough work of such authors as Price and Mountjoy (1970). Figure 1 (shows basal decollement and telescoped nature of regional thrust deformation.. Dahlstrom (1970). mobile core of the orogen ) is the classic cross section by Price and Mountjoy (1970) through the southern portion of this structural belt and shows most of the principal features we have come to expect in this style. where faulting is especially complex. the Canadian cordillera has come to be generally treated as a type locality for such deformation. The majority of hydrocarbon production exists in the foothills region. Gordy. and Steward (1966).Basement Not Involved The primary structural style in this category is the decollement foreland thrust-fold belt. and compressional-wrench tectonism.

Figure 2

Note the degree of imbrication above the ramp anticline, where closure is best: this is the primary trap in this and many other fields of the foothills area. Thrusted anticlines appear to be the most common traps in productive foreland regions throughout the world, but with regard to the size and specific geometry of traps, it should be emphasized that considerable variety exists within and between these regions. Over the span of Proterozoic time, differences in the size and morphology of plates, in their marginal sedimentary character, inherited structural features, and specific motions have all ensured a high degree of structural variation in foreland orogenic zones. Like compressive basement faulting, decollement thrusting is most often related to processes occurring along convergent plate boundaries, both in the mentioned foreland belts and along the leading edges of subduction zones. We have already discussed some of the details of B-type subduction zones. Figure 3 displays the interpreted structure on a seismic section across the active subduction complex offshore of northern California.

Figure 3

This section shows the decollement faulting in the accretionary prism quite well. Note the change from the chaotically deformed accretionary prism sediments into the more conformable forearc basin at the far right. The deformed complex is broken into thrust slices about 400-500 m (1300-1600 ft) thick, whose bounding faults display variable curvature. This is probably due to a degree of stratigraphic control and ramping of fault development. We can also see that where compressional features dominate the accretionary prism, extensional faulting characterizes the deep sea sedimentary section west of the trench. This has been observed in a number of active subduction zones. Often, these faults have developed in the underlying ocean crust and have been interpreted as being the result of lithospheric bending and consequent tensional rupture. Collision-related thrust belts verge toward the subducting ("on-coming") plate and represent the succession of B-subduction by A-subduction. ( Figure 4 , a map showing distribution of the major collision-related fold and thrust belts and related foredeeps (regional foreland basins.

Figure 4

) Many of the world's foredeeps (Appalachian, Canadian Rocky Mountain, Arabian, Uralian) are highly productive of oil and gas. Cross section lines refer to Figure 5.) A transition to basement-involved thrusting often occurs in these settings behind the thrust front. Figure 5

Figure 5

and Figure 6 (Generalized cross section through four of the world's major collisiongenerated mountain systems at comparable scales) show how this involvement is usually interpreted to increase into the mobilized,

Figure 6

metamorphic "core"' of an orogen, such as the Canadian cordillera. In the case of trench deformation, the situation is less well understood. Two forms of basementinvolved faulting are presumed: that which incorporates "slivers" of ocean crust (known as ophiolites) into the accretionary prism, and that which cuts continental crust. For both trench and foreland thrust zones, then, overlap occurs between detached and "connected" structural styles. Most thrust belts presently exposed at the earth's surface occur as sinuous belts up to thousands of kilometers long. Their width is not uniform, but is instead characterized by sharply recessed and more gently extended portions known, respectively, as "reentrants" and "salients" (see Figure 4 ). The cause for this type of variation along tectonic strike is not well understood, but often thought to be related to preexisting basement features. Figure 5 and Figure 6 compare the overall features of several major collisiongenerated foreland regions. The Alps appear to have resulted from a series of collisional episodes between the Eurasian continent and various arclike continental fragments that once bordered it to the south. The Zagros orogen, as we have noted (see Figure 7 , Generalized map and cross section showing continental breakup along the Red Sea rift and collision in the Zagros region of southeastern Iran.

Figure 7

Numbers indicate total estimated separation (in km) between Africa and Arabia), is the continuing result of Eurasia colliding with the much smaller Arabian continent. Both the extensive Himalayan Mountain belt and the Appalachian-Ouchita-Marathon system are interpreted as the result of the impact between larger continental masses-in the first case, India and Eurasia, in the second, those Paleozoic continents (proto-North America, South America, Africa, and Europe) whose collision marked the early formation of Pangaea. In both the Alps and the Himalayas, great thicknesses of crystalline basement rocks are involved in the deformation and have exerted considerable control on resulting structures. Though decollement thrusting is evident in the Jura Mountains of western Switzerland and eastern France, it does not dominate the regional structural style of the Alps as it does the Appalachian, Zagros, or Canadian forelands. At the same time, however, we can also think of the Alps and the Himalayas as two opposite end-members with respect to the general style of deformation The the sedimentary cover. The central and southern European Alps, with their spectacular development of thrust and fold nappe structures, represent the most highly contorted foreland region in the world. Broadly speaking, they show the effects of very rapid, collision-related diastrophism on a thick, only semicompacted sedimentary pile. Folding of a highly ductile nature is common; recumbent and overturned nappes are piled up on top of each other like rumpled carpets to form the

higher ranges (see Figure 8 , Alpine nappe structures). Sediments appear to have been squeezed up and out of forearc and backarc basins, as the various island arc fragments were progressively welded to the Eurasian continent.

Figure 8

The Himalayas present a very different case. Here, great thicknesses of wellindurated Paleozoic and Early Mesozoic sandstone and carbonate rocks were involved in the deformation. This generally created less contorted, more widely spaced, and far more massive structures. As in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the western overthrust belt of the United States, ramping is well developed in the Appalachian foreland. This has been interpreted as being the result of both ductility contrast related to stratigraphic variation and preexisting block faulting in the basement. The well-exposed, dramatic structures of the Zagros foreland appear to resemble those of the Appalachians more than those of the Alps or Himalayas. Some of the larger folds stretch for as much as 160 km (100 miles) along strike before plunging beneath the surface. The existence of salt layers in the lithologic section has resulted in a high degree of complex, local decollement. In places, for example, slip has occurred along and within salt intervals. This has apparently created shallow anticlines that have subsequently been pierced by the tectonically mobilized salt. In discussing foreland thrust belts, there are a number of general aspects that are of direct importance to hydrocarbon exploration: 1. Anticlines occur primarily in the hangingwall, and are asymmetric toward the direction of tectonic transport. 2. The geometry of thrusting is much dependent on the competence of the sedimentary units involved. The number of thrusts, as well as the intensity of folding, decreases in distinct proportion to increases in the amount of thick, competent units (e.g., sandstone, carbonates).

3. Sedimentary thicknesses decrease and deposits change character to more shallow-water clastics in the direction of tectonic transport, i.e., away from the metamorphic core, or, in stratigraphic terms, toward the basin margin. This usually results in an increase in the overall density of faulting in the same direction. 4. Structures become progressively younger in the direction of tectonic transport. 5. Rocks involved in thrusting also become younger in this direction. 6. Advancing thrust sheets act to load and depress the crust into local foreland basins (sometimes called "molasse" basins). These fill with coarse marine and nonmarine detritus, which then also becomes involved in deformation. Such basins are often rich in plant-derived organic matter. 7. In many cases, a regional foreland basin, relatively rich in petroleum, will exist immediately out in front of the thrust belt, presumably created by crustal loading on a more massive scale. Thus, deformation appears to begin in the deeper, thicker portions of the sedimentary wedge and progress upward and on-to the craton. In a broad sense, this has meant that hydrocarbons have had the best chance to accumulate and remain undisturbed near the youngest, leading portions of thrust belts and in the regional foreland basins out in front of them. As mentioned, traps in thrust belts are mainly associated with asymmetric anticlines ( Figure 9 , Seismic profile through the eastern Po plain in northeastern Italy (approximately 50 km southwest of Venice), showing thrust structure of the Apennines.

Figure 9

This profile reveals the thrust belt at its widest point. Gas pools exist in Pliocene sandstones that wedge out against the rising structures. Oil is produced from complex structural traps in underlying Mesozoic carbonates) and, to a lesser extent, fault truncations. Closures are most often at less than about 3000 m depth (Harding and Lowell 1979). The actual size of individual traps, and their height of closure can vary a great deal, depending on the spacing of thrusts and the degree of asymmetry in folds. Substantial-even giant-accumulations have been discovered in a number of the world's foreland regions. Perhaps the most impressive example of production from thrust-fold structures is offered by the oil fields in the Zagros Mountains. Here, reservoir quality is due to an extensive, interconnected fracture system generated by the folding. Production is from the Asmari Limestone, which, by itself, yields more than 75% of all petroleum currently being recovered from traps in foreland belts. In addition, several recent major discoveries along the Idaho-Wyoming thrust belt have encouraged continued exploration and have caused geologists to take another, more detailed look at the petroleum potential of other foreland regions, such as the Appalachian-Ouchita system. With regard to active subduction zones, several general statements can be made concerning overall hydrocarbon potential. In the forearc, for example, both source

It shows the development of many thick. Moreover. this is even more the case in the forearc basins that develop over the subduction complex itself. because of its unique setting. Structural traps. however. The problems mentioned for forearc regions appear to characterize the Makran subduction complex. may otherwise appear to offer relatively strong hydrocarbon potential ( Figure 10 . but both primary and secondary pore-plugging and swelling claysmost notably illite and montmorillonite-are abundant. which.and seal can be more than adequate.see Figure 4 for approximate location) This very large accretionary prism is basically the continuation of the Zagros collision zone into a B-type subduction zone that stretches nearly 900 km eastward from the southwestern coast of Iran to Pakistan. coherent thrust-fold structures whose amplitudes are unusually large and whose petroleum potential might therefore seem to be . Not only is the sediment matrix often fine-grained. Gulf of Oman. Figure 10 Interpreted structure of the Makran accretionary prism. low heat flow is characteristic of the forearc. but the large amount of volcanogenic material generally makes for rather poor reservoir quality. abound and consist of anticlinal and thrust closures and relatively shallow drape folds above thrusts.

As a whole. Gas seeps and traces of heavy hydrocarbons. they are assumed to involve basement. strike slip. and their subsequent deformation. have been found. wells drilled in coastal Makran have encountered very high pressures. 1983). we can expect pore pressures to be quite high. Because of the young age of the sediments penetrated (Pliocene at total depth). potential drilling problems. though their specific plate tectonic settings are variable.substantially greater than that in most other forearc arc systems. Arrows labeled "C" and "E" indicate compressional and extensional components). the combination of remote access. As much as 7 km of mostly late Tertiary abyssal plain sediments (most likely resulting from high erosion rates that began with the India-Eurasia collisional event to the north and west) have been deformed into an imbricated stack. and wrench fault systems can be considered as roughly equivalent. then. Diagram illustrating the evolution of various structures associated with major wrench faults. oblique slip. and low-to-moderate maturation potential makes most active forearc systems relatively high exploration risks at present. their rapid accumulation (about 300 m per my). In all cases. potential appears moderate at best due to relatively low geothermal gradients. however. At the same time. . which average 1 º per 30 m (Harms et al. Despite this structurally attractive setting. These fault systems can be pure strike slip or they may include components of compression (sometimes called ""transpression") or extension ("transtension") ( Figure 1 . Strike Slip Tectonics: Wrench Faults For most exploration purposes.

(Examples of major strike slip faults in various parts of the world. . we have looked at several major examples of these structures ( Figure 2 and Figure 3 . In our general discussion of faulting.Figure 1 Major wrench faults are usually associated with transform plate margins.

Figure 2 Dots mark the site of active volcanoes.1983.) which can occur as single shear planes or systems of parallel faults (Harding 1974. 1985). .

the components of compression and extension are determined by the degree of obliqueness involved in plate convergence. the geologist is most interested in the structures associated with wrench faults. Theoretically. for it is these that form potential structural traps. the relative amount of strike slip motion increases. Wrench fault structures are extremely varied. To a large extent. and include many of the features seen in other styles. associated compression should decrease. .Figure 3 For petroleum exploration purposes. As convergence swings from "head on" to lower and lower angles of incidence. as mentioned by Harding (1985). Figure 4 (Diagram illustrating the evolution of various structures associated with major wrench faults.

An example of a productive backarc wrench fault setting in Sumatra is given in Figure 5 (Map of Sumatra showing location of the Barisan wrench fault and associated folds and oil fields. . The development of specific structures and their relative importance is naturally dependent on how much compression or extension might be involved in plate convergence.Figure 4 Arrows labeled "C" and "E" indicate compressional and extensional components) shows how they can be resolved according to the complex stress fields that result from such large-scale shearing.

a case of superposed tectonism. 6.Figure 5 Large arrows indicate relative direction of magnitude of plate convergence in the Java Trench.) and Figure 6 (Inverted basin structure . . Box at lower right indicates area of seismic line shown in Fig.

Figure 6 Note the differences in offset indicated by upper reflectors versus lower reflectors. secondary anticlines and inverted basins.) In this case. . The Rambutan field produces from fold closures in the hangingwall of an inverted fault. showing a negative flower-type structure. Notice that for several of the major faults shown in Figure 7 (Interpreted seismic profile across a wrench zone in the Andaman Sea. Reactivation of basement faulting in compression is presumed to be responsible for the structural inversion observed. wrenching has created a series of large. Reservoirs are in Late Tertiary sands derived from a crystalline source.

the original sense of offset is preserved at depth. The flower itself is denoted "positive" or "negative" on the basis of whether the units within it are arched by reverse components of displacement or dropped by normal separations. while the upper layers reveal the latest displacement.Figure 7 Note that seismic data is relatively chaotic immediately east of the interpreted fault. Figure 7 gives an interpreted example of a negative flower. Extensional structures are primarily normal faults. . The term flower structure is often used to describe the upward-branching form that many wrench faults have been interpreted to show on seismic profiles. transpression can also cause basin inversion and thus relatively shallow closures. Figure 8 (Structure contour map of Los Angeles basin. showing location of Whittier and Norwalk faults. They also frequently occur in echelon patterns (as diagrammed in Figure 4 ). The strike of these secondary features is commonly at low angles (not parallel) to that of the main fault plane. Letters "A" and "T" refer to the blocks whose relative motion is away from or toward the viewer). As we have seen in Figure 5 and Figure 6 . Both folds and reverse faults are commonly associated with wrench faults characterized by transpression.

As shown. oil fields in this area are associated with both fold and fault closures ) and Figure 9 (Cross section through Whittier oil field.Figure 8 These are compressional structures. related to the San Andreas fault system. . showing complex structural relationships.

acts as an updip seal. with several generations of faulting evident. . shearing on such a scale may be expected to generate fractures in surrounding competent lithologies (Harding 1985). and can create a variety of potential traps ( Figure 10 . The general appearance of the structure is a positive flower. In addition to anticlinal and fault-trap closures. with its highly sheared mylonite zone.Figure 9 Whittier fault zone is highly mylonitized and acts as an updip seal. We should note in the cross section that the Whittier fault. This type of complexity is common along wrench fault zones. Note apparent positive flower structural style ) together show an example of the complex but productive structures associated with wrench faulting in the Los Angeles basin of southern California. Trapping possibilities associated with wrench faults).

Vertical Tectonics: Basement Warps The deep interior of every major craton is characterized by broad regional arches and open circular basins that can contain more than 14 km of sedimentary fill. Some structures that have been called positive flowers (e. see Harding and Lowell 1979) have also been interpreted as thrusts. questions remain as to its value.Figure 10 Despite the relatively wide use of flower structure terminology. .. Those with apparent negative "bloom" have also been analyzed as rift structures. in the Ardmore basin of southern Oklahoma. Figure 1 (Regional NW-SE cross section through Gulf of Mexico) shows the distribution of the world's principal intracratonal basins. the problem is most likely compounded by the fact that components of both strike slip and normal displacement are responsible for the fault geometries observed.g. seismic data in the crucial core areas of supposed flowers is inconclusive and open to alternate interpretations. Often. In regions such as the North Sea or the Red Sea.

Along with the regional arches that often form their margins.Figure 1 These structures have proved to be the sites where vast quantities of hydrocarbons have accumulated in both structural and stratigraphic traps. they are the dominant structural style of continental interiors. A majority of the world's intracratonal basins have persisted through Phanerozoic time. has been intermittent and of variable rate. Their relative concentration of deeper-water sediments during periods of transgression. the great thicknesses of total deposits within them. plate tectonic theory has been unable to adequately account for the existence and behavior of such major intracratonal warps. Such traps are often far greater in continuous extent than are those in more tectonically disturbed regions. Their activity. It would seem at this point that accurate explanation of them is contingent upon better understanding of the lower crust and upper mantle and the variations that may characterize the boundary between them. To date. Various trapping possibilities associated with intracratonal basins . ( Figure 2 . Hydrocarbons are often trapped by secondary faults and closures within these basins. as documented by the details of their sedimentary fill. and their considerable depth into the crust all combine to make such basins nearly ideal provinces for the generation of petroleum.

. basement structure is often an essential key to exploration of the potential in overlying sediments. as in the case of the Michigan basin be consistent in orientation. then. Drilling. Faults are most often high-angle and show either normal or strike slip displacement. however. but usually display pronounced trends that appear to be related to large-scale tectonic patterns in the underlying basement that have been identified from gravity and magnetic data. and thus direct study of basement rocks is usually limited to the shallower margins of a basin. Compressional structures are usually open folds that may. Generally speaking. ( Figure 3 . All of these have strong strike slip components of displacement. Figure 2 ) The patterns of such smaller-scale structures are completely singular to each basin.and domes. rarely penetrates the entire depth of sedimentary fill. with four major faults. Structural contour map showing top of Precambrian.

Figure 3 Figure 4 . Regional cross section. .

The overall NW-SE trend in fold strike is only suggested by the basement map. Figure 5 . Maps showing basement provinces and the trend of productive anticlines in the overlying sedimentary basin fill. .Figure 4 Note buried late Precambrian Keweenawan rift and Grenville front.

far from being a simple crustal sag. it would seem that the crust in this specific location was potentially thinned and vulnerable to subsidence. pinchouts due to sedimentary onlap.Figure 5 The fight-hand figure shows locations of the wells productive in the deep CambroOrdovician as of mid-1984. this type of setting may indicate that deep-seated inhomogeneities in crustal . and alluvial plain sedimentation are among the potential trap-generating characteristics that result. Unconformities. and reef. however. a probable megasuture of Late Precambrian age. downwarps act to localize certain depositional patterns. Though not a model for all intracratonal basins. Figure 4 . the floor of this basin is ruptured by the failed Keweenawan rift and the leading edge of the Grenville front. Recent seismic surveys across Hudson Bay in Canada also show distinct basement block faulting.) A large number of traps in basins of this type. Thus. During periods of active subsidence. Figure 3 . evaporite. Moreover. are stratigraphic and can be very subtle. The cross section indicates that. and Figure 5 show the basic structural setting of the Michigan basin. the "glove" of Michigan in general marks the enigmatic juncture of several principal shield provinces of North America.

differential cooling of the lithosphere. For exploration. mineral phase changes (causing local increases in crustal density). once. a Siluraian pannacle reef trend). The only giant producing area-the AlbionScipio trend (see Fig. the structural configuration of a specific basin will provide a broad context for locating potential traps within it (compare Figure 5 part (b) and ( Figure 6 . seismic data may be of greater use in mapping certain productive intervals and their stratigraphic relationships. subcrustal flowage of material. subcrustal erosion. of course.character are an essential factor in the localization of such profound structures. More recent . 6) is associated with fracturing in Ordovician carbonates along a local strike slip fault.Traps are associated with several types of features: in the north and west. Distribution of principal oil and gas fields in Michigan. Figure 6 Rather than identifying structures only. subsidence has begun. Other proposed ideas for intracratonal downwarping include the following: thermal contraction in the mantle. 3 and Fig. most of the older fields (now mostly in the stripper-well stage) were discovered in a trend of gentle anticlines in the central portion of the basin. Crustal loading due to continued sedimentation is an obvious contributing factor. Overall. simplicity of form disguises an apparent complexity of origin. In Michigan.

petroleum geologists in Michigan have found it useful to extrapolate certain stratigraphic relationships observed near the margins of the basin into its center. Figure 7 Generally. As an overall approach. however. a deep frontier remains in many heavily drilled areas. therefore. Thus. the structures of one intracratonal basin cannot be used as a specific guide to exploring other such provinces. these reservoirs are quite small and unrelated to structure. As a general rule. For this reason. one that is very often due to tectonic influence (this. . given the facies changes that can occur. except in the most general terms of stratigraphic localization along the basin margin. the explorationist is forced to become more of a specialist than might otherwise be the case. General Introduction Unconformities are primary structures whose identification and tracing are as important to structural geology as to stratigraphy. however. most intracratonal basins have been explored only to relatively shallow levels. the range of traps shown in Figure 7 (Various trapping possibilities associated with intracratonal basins and domes) is only a guide. however. Each basin is unique. This. has come from a Silurian pinnacle reef trend that rims the basin to the north and west. will be risky in other provinces.production. Though often prolific. with only a few exceptions. however. First. To some degree. Recent gas discoveries below 15. must always be established).000 ft (4500 m) in the CambroOrdovician sandstones of the Michigan basin and below 20. the period of erosion or nondeposition indicated by an unconformity marks a fundamental change in environment. such as the Anadarko basin of central Oklahoma. There are several reasons for this.000 ft (6000 m) in the Ordovician Ellenberger group of the Permian basin in western Texas strongly support this idea.

southern Anadarko basin. Figure 1 Third. For example. . they divide the overall geologic history into a series of individual subhistories that can. by using each unconformity as a paleosurface. to some degree. be analyzed separately. reconstruction of paleoevents by the stepwise removal of tectonic disturbance (sometimes called "pal inspastic reconstruction") is best done incrementally. and a nonconformity (N)). is absolutely necessary to the understanding of geologic structure. Within a thick stratigraphic section.Second. as shown in Figure 1 . especially lowangle decollement thrusts through lithologies that have been subsequently intensely folded. The principal types of unconformities are all seen on the cross section shown in Figure 2 (Cross section through Mills Ranch gas field. Mapping the distribution and characteristics of regional unconformities. showing examples of an angular unconformity (A) several disconformities (D). unconformities are invaluable markers for the deciphering of orogenic or epeirogenic events. in particular. unconformities can be confused with certain types of faults.

and. formations. Examples of change in hiatus and how this is represented on stratigraphic cross sections are shown in Figure 3 . lithostratigraphic correlations (e.. angular unconformity is used when such formations display angular discordance. nonconformity is reserved for unconformities developed on crystalline igneous or metamorphic rocks. Hiatuses are most commonly measured by one or more of the following: qualitative geological time units (i. epochs). individual members. biostratigraphy.Figure 2 The term disconformity is used where formations are parallel across a surface of nondeposition. paleomagnetic reversal correlations.. This almost always varies. the differences can be as much as tens of millions of years. stages. where data for these are unavailable. . Along regional unconformities. or groups).e. The term hiatus refers to the total interval of geologic time that is unrepresented at a specific location along an unconformity.g.

At the same time. Recognition. Surface Recognition Observation of outcrops remains the best means for analyzing the precise character of unconformities. well log. however. and seismic information. core. is not always straightforward. seismic data can only give us very general information about the thickness and specific character of an unconformity. Recognizing Unconformities Unconformities are often identifiable from surface. once they are identified. has come to rely heavily on seismic mapping of unconformities before drilling begins. in fact. is most often necessary. Most exploration. Angular truncation is one of the most obvious of criteria. therefore.Figure 3 This figure also shows how major unconformities divide a lithologic section into relatively separable sequences. and the geologist must often be alert to clues in the form of the detailed effects of erosion. Erosional truncation that involves discordance between units is very often nicely shown by seismic profiles. Geologic description. .

e. between a succession of dolomitized carbonates and a thick shale interval. Fossils sometimes indicate gaps of millions of years within lithologies showing no other obvious changes.. it must be shown that faunal successions are. some degree of structural variation may also result from normal ductility changes within a lithologic sequence. Figure 1 . interrupted. however. may also exist. At the same time. such as a basal conglomerate (containing pebbles of the underlying formation). as are significant differences in the intensity of deformation on either side of a contact. Telltale signs of erosion. as we shall discuss in a moment.. This. In certain areas. in fact. and irregular relief in the top of a formation. as mentioned. is not by itself definitive evidence of an unconformity. abrupt truncation of structures by relatively flat-lying units is diagnostic.and can be evident both in outcrop and in aerial photos. In such cases. is not conclusive. in order to guard against the influence of sample bias.g. Marked changes in facies type or in the degree of induration across an identified contact are often good indicators of hiatus. Discordance. Certainly. however. discoloration. chemical alteration (e. Such a case is shown in Figure 1 (Unconformity or fault? Continuity of a younger unit (Y) above an older unit (O) supports the first interpretation. paleosoil profiles). Paleontologic evidence can act as a deciding factor. unconformities can be difficult to distinguish from faults.g. however.

ductile lithology will not disturb original concordance for as much as tens of kilometers. Where beds are tilted. Narrow intervals of conglomerate do not always indicate paleoerosion zones. thus the stratigraphic units above them should not be truncated. Subsurface Recognition All criteria discussed regarding evidence for erosion also apply to examination of cores and cuttings. With sufficient supporting information. Figure 1 . perhaps even overturned. the lithologies on either side determine which specific logs will reveal the most identifiable response. sharp changes in rock type occur across many regional paleoerosion surfaces. . Evidence for actual shearing due to movement may exist only within the immediate vicinity of the fault plane and in the sheared microscopic fabric of the rock. that with unconformities. younger beds will run parallel to the contact. decollement zones within a single. As mentioned. and this will often influence an abrupt change in log character. It is often helpful to remember. In all situations of doubt. the true nature of the contact is impossible to discern by outcrop observation alone. where such intervals separate well-indurated units of significantly different lithology. there is a good chance that an unconformity exists. especially. however. well log character can be used to trace the stratigraphic position of unconformities between wells. paleontologic work is often able to determine gaps in the rock record. The detailed character of the unconformity and. however.). evidence from as many sources as practicable should be considered before final determinations are made. Again. Nonetheless.

.Figure 1 Figure 2 .

and dipmeter logs respond to unconformities in several large productive fields. resistivity. . SP. sonic.Figure 2 and Figure 3 show examples of how gamma ray.

Here. Figure 3 gives an example of how dipmeter logs can help identify unconformities (Resistivity and dip logs for well in northern Algeria. showing multiple unconformities). Abrupt discontinuity between dip azimuth trends is . local unconformities can just as easily separate unrelated lithologies with very different petrophysical properties. Likewise. The difference is most conspicuous on the sonic log. In Figure 1 . Lithology is indicated by central column. However. as shown in Figure 2 (SP and resistivity logs through the Delhi field. note that the greatest change in log character takes place across the regional unconformity at the base of the Cretaceous (Long curves in the Ninian field. especially those within single lithologies-most often produce no traceable change in log character. North Sea. organic-rich shale to limestone. disconformities.Figure 3 In most cases where actual paleoerosion surfaces are present and identified in a section. showing multiple unconformities. as shown by the change in log response at the top of the Callovian.). and thus so does log character. In the case of angular unconformities. lithology changes from dark. northeastern Louisiana. juxtaposed units continually change along the paleoerosion surface. showing truncation of azimuth trends at unconformities). the combination of one resistivity and one porosity log is sufficient to help locate and trace an unconformity. as we would expect. which shows a sharp decrease in interval transit time from the shale into the carbonate.

as part c of Figure 4 shows (Seismic profiles showing examples of a nonconformity. At very low angles of discordance or across disconformities. Figure 4 or more subtle. however.characteristic of angular unconformities. the change in dip amount. no significant change may be visible. . showing a complex diversity of both erosional and structural terminations in reflection patterns. be recorded as a zone of incoherent dips if a small correlation interval is used. Figure 5 gives an example where terminations due to faulting and unconformities can be compared (Uninterpreted and interpreted seismic section from offshore western Africa. right to left ). as we see in parts a and b of Figure 4 . b angular unconformity and c relatively subtle angular discordance decreasing to conformity. early in the exploration process. If trends are similar on both sides of the unconformity. and their significance to some extent described. may appear to represent a depositional structure. In most cases. systematic termination of underlying reflections is strong evidence for either an unconformity or faulting. As mentioned. This means that they can be traced. however. especially if slight. Discordance between lithologic sequences can be obvious. unconformities are very often identifiable on seismic profiles. A weathered zone associated with a surface of paleoerosion may.

Note especially the angular discordance between unit K1.4. the unconformity may itself generate a reflection. J=Jurassic. TP&E=Paleocene and Eocene. an irregular unconformity separates the basal Jurassic from Triassic beds. In many cases.). Often. TR=Triassic. In addition. Where lithologic change across a paleoerosion surface is substantial. Pliocene. the latter are identified by tracing out the former into deeper basin areas. K2. TM=Miocene.1 (a deep-water clastic unit and underlying Jurassic strata.Figure 5 In bottom figure. between units TP&E and K1. they are more likely to represent erosional unconformities. as shown by part c of Figure 4 . and the associated velocity-density contrast is large. Where the reflections that mark zones of discordance are continuous but show highly variable amplitudes. and within the Tertiary section. General Introduction . K=Cretaceous. the letters indicate ages of units: TPL=Tertiary. This is true for both angular unconformities and disconformities. surrounding structural and depositional patterns will help dictate whether faulting or paleoerosion has been responsible for the angular relationships observed.

Certainly, folds are visually intriguing geologic structures. Geologists have long been drawn to the drama and spectacle of folded rocks. There is, as Hans Cloos (1939) observed, a special satisfaction and awe to be found in the evidence of earth stress having deformed originally planar and rigid rock into coherent arches many hundreds of feet high ( Figure 1 , Folded strata).

Figure 1

Even for the most seasoned structural geologist, the curving lines of folded strata never lose their particular aesthetic appeal. From a descriptive-analytic point of view, this degree of attention is justified by a pronounced variation in specific fold style, geometry, and generating mechanism, by attendant suites of complex but informative minor structures, and by the overall importance that fold structures have for petroleum exploration. The specific attraction for geologists in folding lies in its direct implications concerning the origin, rate, evolution, and diversity of crustal movement. Several lines of evidence are considered in unraveling tectonic mechanisms: • the geometry of folds. • the experimental simulation of folding.

• the specific relationship of folding to faulting. • the relationship of fold belts to other tectonic provinces (analysis of structural style). • the small-scale structures associated with folding. To some degree, modern petroleum exploration was born with the anticlinal theory. I.C. White's formulation of this hypothesis in 1885 represents the first conceptual approach to systematic and successful prediction of oil and gas occurrence. The elegance of this theory lies in its simplicity and in its enduring practical application, which, with the aid of modification and expansion, continues today. The anticlinal theory, however, is not the only direct benefit that exploration and production geologists have derived from a knowledge of folding. A few others include: • the prediction of fracture trends. • the prediction of fracture distribution and intensity. • the explanation and prediction of tectonically induced variations in reservoir thickness, porosity, pressure, and general fluid behavior. • the prediction of oilfield shape and extent. • the delineation of constraints on contour and isopach work. • the prediction of deeper accumulations beneath known fields. • the understanding and prediction of significant faulting and its influence. • the understanding and prediction of the general orientation and style of neighboring structures, and, therefore, the location of potential traps in other parts of a specific region. Description of Folds A fold is produced when initially planar layers become bent, i.e., nonplanar. To the naked eye, folds in rock appear to be continuous; layering is preserved, not truncated. For many years, geologists took the coherent curvilinear geometry of folds in sedimentary strata to mean that strain had accumulated gradually and continuously. Within the past seventy-five years, however, it has become evident that a great deal of fold deformation is accomplished by discontinuous, incremental gliding along bedding planes, within layers, and between and inside of individual grains and crystals. Thus, the strain involved in folding imposes change in both the geometry and internal physical properties of the layers, which normally remain relatively coherent. Folding is seldom the result of a single, discrete deformational episode. Diastrophism nearly always occurs in what can be described as pulses: during the evolution of an orogen, stages of intense tectonic activity wax, wane, and frequently overlap at irregular or semi-regular periods that can affect different parts of a specific region at different times. The reasons for this have not yet become clear, but

they are assumed to be more closely tied to the nature of stress generation within the earth's crust, rather than to the mechanics of strain response. The most basic types of folds are the anticline, in which right-side-up bedding dips away from the fold crest, and the syncline, in which bedding dips inward. Regional arching with associated folding produces an anticlinorium. Similarly, large-scale downwarping of a fold belt creates a synclinorium. ( Figure 1 , Example of anticlinorium and synclinorium from the Rhineland region of Germany.

Figure 1

Note the large scale of structures. Dashed lines indicate cleavage.) Generally, the orientation of the anticlinorium or synclinorium roughly parallels that of the folds within it. The terms anticline and syncline can only be used once the younging direction is known. In strongly folded regions, beds may be completely overturned. Thus, during the early stages of analysis, before stratigraphic relationships have been established, it is common practice among structural geologists to make use of the terms anti form and synform, neither of which implies the direction of younging. To describe the great variety in fold morphology, a correspondingly diverse nomenclature exists. This discussion uses only more fundamental and commonly employed terms. The reader who is interested in more detailed study is referred to the extensive treatments given by Whitten (1966), Ramsay (1967), and Davis (1984). Basic Fold Geometry and Orientation Figure 1 displays the principal descriptive features of a simple fold.

Figure 1

Several of these represent imaginary lines and surfaces that help us analyze a fold as a geometric phenomenon. Except for those that require the third dimension for their depiction, these features are most often shown on cross sections drawn perpendicular to the long direction of the fold. This type of section is called a fold profile. In Figure 1 , the definition of each term should be fairly obvious from the geometry shown. The hinge of a fold is its point of maximum curvature at one particular location (cross section) along its length. The fold axis, or hinge line, contains all hinge points in a folded layer. The axial surface, then, connects all these axes within a single fold composed of multiple layers. In some cases, the axial surface is planar and can be called the axial plane. The plunge of a fold is the angle between its axis and a horizontal plane. ( Figure 2 , Illustration of fold plunge and its change along strike. Such culminations and depressions characterize folds of many scales in mountain belts.)

Figure 2

For the purposes of practical simplification, geologists often treat folds as if they were cylindrical, i.e., generated by a line moved parallel to itself in space ( Figure 3 , Perfect cylindrical fold system), or conical, i.e., generated by the same line with one end fixed.

Figure 3

Noncylindrical and nonconical folds are common in nature, but can often be considered the summation of cylindrical or conical parts ( Figure 4 , Complex folding

in the Vanige region of southwestern France).

Figure 4

As a result, for extrapolation to greater or shallower depths, geologists use the interlimb angle to project fold geometry ( Figure 5 , Classification of folds on basis of interlimb angle. Lower figure indicates how this angle is determined for curvilinear folds).

Figure 5

In petroleum geology, folds are most often drawn in vertical cross section (which is different from a fold profile if the structure is plunging) and are shown as cylindrical, even to depth. This must be recognized as an approximation, especially in areas where thick shale or evaporite intervals exist. In profile, folds are commonly described as symmetrical or asymmetrical on the basis of whether their axial surface is a plane of symmetry or not. More specifically, as shown in Figure 6 , folds can be classified as upright, overturned, or recumbent on the basis of the inclination in their axial planes.

Figure 6

Large-scale recumbent fold structures, generally accompanied by thrust faulting, are often called nappes (German "decke"; English "sheet" or "cover"), a term originated by Alpine geologists to describe large, thin, flat-lying structures that have been transported like rumpled sheets for considerable distances ( Figure 6 and Figure 7 ).

Figure 7

This style of deformation in unmetamorphosed rocks is generally unusual except in the European Alps. Geometrically, one of the simplest forms of folding is the monocline. ( Figure 8 , Simple block diagram of monocline.

Figure 8

Note how upper layers are passively draped over faulted basement.) This is frequently a steplike drape in sedimentary cover over faulting in crystalline basement rocks. It basically represents, therefore, a form of passive bending, in contrast to the active buckling that produces most anticlines and synclines in orogenic zones. Fold Closure The principal importance of folds in petroleum geology is very often related to the concept of structural closure. As shown in Figure 9 , (Definition of structural closure.

Figure 9 Part a shows that it is the crest of the fold that determines closure (not the hinge). geologists have found it useful to classify them on the basis of morphological criteria that reflect mechanisms of deformation. given good reservoir properties. Structural closure should be contrasted with structural relief. Its principal attempt is to distinguish structures that have formed by flexure and layer-parallel shearing from those that have resulted from flow. Figure 10 shows two idealized profiles of these types. b illustrates how the geometry of closure varies with that of the fold. This classification scheme examines folds in profile. . which is the relative height to which the fold rises above the regional slope. Basic Fold Classification Parallel and Similar Geometry In addition to describing folds according to their geometry and orientation. It is measured in terms of the vertical height of this pocket and is an overall indicator of a fold's total capacity to hold oil and gas.) closure is the pocket formed between the crest of the fold and the lowest closed contour.

It does mean. Hypothetical cross section to illustrate how parallel folding creates overcrowding and faulting in hinge areas. however. This makes for crowding of hinge areas. which either causes the fold to die out rapidly with depth or to compensate the increasing lack of space by faulting ( Figure 11 . that they maintain a constant thickness throughout the fold (part a of Figure 10 ). .Figure 10 Parallel (also called "concentric") folds are so named because the upper and lower surfaces of individual layers remain parallel during folding. Note in the figure that this does not mean all layers necessarily remain parallel to each other.

Figure 11 Note also the extensional fracturing along the crest of the fold) and basal detachment (also called "decollement") ( Figure 12 . . More detailed prediction model based on observed structures in productive areas of the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado and Wyoming).

while synclines increase. competent units. shales and evaporites) and at elevated temperatures and pressures.Figure 12 In Figure 10 . so called because of the difference in wavelength. . the shape and size of a similar fold is retained at depth (part b of Figure 10 ) without faulting. This is one form of what is termed disharmonic folding. this crowding is shown as an increased crumpling in the thinner layers. as we will see. parallel folding is more common when deformation is of moderate or low intensity and involves thick. The flowage required for similar folding is most common in incompetent lithologies (e.g. In similar folding. and (2) by movement along planes of cleavage that develop parallel to the axial plane of a fold. Another way to view this hinge crowding is to note that with depth in a parallel fold. substantial flowage of material is assumed to take place. This can occur in two basic ways: (1) by material transfer out of the fold limbs and into hinge areas. Slippage along axial plane cleavage. anticlines decrease in size. by contrast. Geometrically. often leads to similar folds in shales.. Generally speaking.

Even a moderate degree of similar folding will prove depth predictions based on parallel geometry to be in substantial error. Such a mechanism produces parallel folds in competent layers. competent layers show more or less parallel folding. competent sandstone or carbonate units separated by thick shale or salt intervals-substantial flow from sheared limbs into hinge areas should be expected. This fact is often important to keep in mind when structures are projected to depth in cross sections. but may be accompanied by flow in incompetent lithologies. For example. folds in sedimentary rocks more often show a compromise between them. often show thickening at their hinges. folds that have concentric limbs. showing many of the structural features predicted in Figure 12.Though both parallel and similar end-member types are seen in the field (similar folds being particularly characteristic of metamorphic rocks). Figure 13 and Figure 14 give two examples of such folds. In general. Particularly in stratigraphic sequences with high ductility contrast for example. folds formed under low confining pressures-such as most of those that trap hydrocarbons-are mainly the result of rigid body rotation and layer-parallel shearing. Figure 13 (Figure 13 is a cross section through Spring Creek field in northwest Wyoming (western margin of the Big Horn basin). . In such cases.

in more complex regions. Note how these folds show a combination of parallel and similar geometry. Here. therefore an understanding of mechanisms will to some degree also explain the existence. The great diversity of fold structures in the earth has resulted in the development of competing terms and concepts. and trends of fracturing. orientation. and then at mechanisms that relate to the folding of multiple layers. boxlike folds developed above a shallow decollement plane. it is sometimes necessary to determine mechanisms of folding in order to predict the potential existence and geometry of traps. where rocks have developed secondary tectonic features (e. ) Fold Mechanisms and the Distribution of Strain The distinction between parallel and similar folding is very useful as a general guide to fold geometry in many petroleum provinces with relatively simple structural traps..g. Fracturing is often genetically related to folding. as well as pronounced flowage of Triassic gypsiferous marls into hinge areas. cleavage or fractures) that can influence entrapment. . we attempt to simplify these and make them easier to understand by looking first at mechanisms that describe how individual layers become folded. However.Figure 14 Note how closure changes with depth due to faulting. Figure 14 is a classic section through the Jura Mountains of eastern France showing sharp. while those more familiar with metamorphic terrains have stressed the ability of rocks to flow. Geologists working mostly in regions of sedimentary rock emphasize the bending or buckling of layers.

To explain what is seen in nature. Note that with this mechanism. 1. Pure bending (part b of Figure 1 ) occurs by the simultaneous stretching of material along the outer arc of the folded layer and the compression of material along the inner arc. 2. Slip takes place along discrete surfaces within the layer. with the relative sense shown in part a of Figure 1 . As a whole. Figure 1 Between these zones of relative tension and compression is a "neutral surface" where no strain occurs. Flexural shear (part c of Figure 1 ) deforms a layer by internal shear along planes that are parallel to the folding layer. The principal importance of these processes for our understanding of folding is that they describe what happens within a particular layer. . we can identify three main processes that seem to explain the folds we might observe in single layers of any lithology. the layer can be thought of as undergoing a shear couple. no deformation (such as stretching) occurs along the plane of the fold layer. The compensation of stretching by shortening means that the resulting fold will be parallel in its geometry.

These are the following: 1. and there are no discrete surfaces of displacement. is relatively passive. At the same time. This is generally small and depends on the lithology involved. Flexural slip refers to the shear-or slip-that occurs between layers as a fold develops. Flexural shear produces folds with mostly parallel geometry. Generally. it is the former that fold first and control the subsequent deformation to a large extent. Response of less competent layers. These planes are often roughly perpendicular to bedding in hinge areas and oblique to it along fold limbs. In many cases. most stratigraphic sequences are characterized by high ductility contrast. . This mechanism involves simple shear and produces similar folds. admittedly. this slip compensates the bending and rotation of comparatively rigid layers that do not undergo large amounts of internal plastic deformation. With regard to the folding of multilayered sequences. This means that a certain amount of strain hardening may occur very early. Each. among other processes) by as much as 20% before folding actually begins. In thick shale intervals. This is said to occur when deformation takes place on the scale of individual grains. intervals.A special type of flexural shear folding is termed flexural flow. Each of these mechanisms produces plane strain in single layers. This is because the process of folding is strongly determined by the character of the entire stratigraphic sequence involved. As implied by part a of Figure 2 . represents an ideal condition and is only occasionally seen in nature in its "pure" state. 3. geologists have confirmed their intuition that folding is often the result of progressive mechanical adjustment both within and between individual layers. it appears that single layers can shorten (through compaction. with sandstone and carbonate units frequently being the more competent. and shale or salt the less competent. Shear folding (part d of Figure 1 ) occurs when shearing takes place within a layer along closely spaced planes oriented obliquely to the layer itself. shear folding is apparently a late-stage mechanism that begins after the development of penetrative axial plane cleavage during flexural shear. It is much more common in ductile lithologies and in medium. therefore. it is important to be familiar with three basic mechanisms.or high-grade metamorphic rocks. A certain amount of flow into hinge areas often occurs during this type of folding. Through the study of laboratory models.

shear folding becomes significant at higher grades of metamorphism. shear planes (such as cleavage) can cut across competent layers and thus allow for a certain (usually minor) amount of slip (see part b of Figure 2 ). (The term "chevron fold" is most often reserved for larger structures. 2. In multilayered sequences. with amplitudes measurable in meters rather than centimeters. Looking at the mean strain ellipses in part a of Figure 2 . is caused by a combination of flexural slip between layers and sharp. Thinner. more ductile layers between competent layers are subjected to relatively intense and penetrative shearing. Flexural slip folds are the most common folds in nonmetamorphosed sedimentary rocks.Figure 2 It therefore occurs principally while a fold is still open. 3. localized yielding (with some ductile flow) in hinge areas. Shear folding is a topic we discussed with respect to the internal deformation of single layers. Kink folding (part c of Figure 2 ). Kinking is most often seen on a mesoscopic (hand-sample) scale in the field and commonly occurs as a conjugate set of single kink bands.) The details of kink band formation are somehow linked to the anisotropy . Such folding. obviously. would succeed earlier deformation that created the shear planes. also called chevron folding. In general. we might note how similar are their orientations to ellipses in the limbs of a fold developed by flexural shear (part c of Figure 1 ). Notice that this style of folding requires that tectonic compression occur parallel or subparallel to bedding.

thus far. though a few important exceptions exist. been limited. sufficient flattening may "tighten" a fold by pure shear strain bringing all strain ellipses into relative parallelism and originally flexural slip folds into more or less similar fold geometry. One final component of the folding process should be mentioned. Some geologists believe that almost all folding involves this type of additional strain (see Ramsay 1967). shown in Figure 3 . such as the Ventura anticline in southern California. Figure 3 As the figure shows. takes place approximately normal to σ 1 with simultaneous extension in the σ 3 plane. As a general rule. but has apparently confirmed the assumption that flattening is more important in sequences of low ductility contrast. with its reserves of nearly a billion barrels. In addition to the various mechanisms we have discussed. Relevant experimental and theoretical work has. . many folds also undergo a component of flattening.present in thin-bedded sequences of alternating competent and incompetent layers. kinking is of relatively minor importance to petroleum exploration. This additional shortening.

If interconnected. . the folding process takes place by sometimes complex combinations of these endmember mechanisms. a given layer will show transition from parallel to similar folding. fractures can result in tremendous amplification of reservoir quality. Fracturing can occur at many stages of the folding process. pressure solution in carbonates can cause considerable permeability loss. the flattening or stretching of clastic grains can create directional permeabilities. Pressure gradients produced during folding can also cause fluid migration. for example. At the same time. for example. the more its porosity-and possibly permeability-will be directly related to position on a fold. The greater amount of internal shear a sandstone unit has suffered. knowledge of what might be called the structural character of the stratigraphy in a specific area is essential. Moreover. may deform internally by a degree of flexural shear and "externally" by flexural slip. tectonic compaction can substantially reduce porosity along fold limbs and in hinge areas.Given the an isotropy and consequent ductility variation in most lithologic sections. As we have mentioned. This we should expect. More generally. most exploration takes place at relatively shallow structural levels in the earth. and thus ductility. competent units (sandstones. with simultaneous dissolution of material and porosity enhancement. For the petroleum explorationist. Such knowledge will act as a basis for developing an intuitive sense of what types and geometries of structure may be expected. different fold mechanisms have different effects on the petrophysical character of rock. These are a few of the main effects that folding can have on prospective reservoir formations. A relatively competent siltstone layer. A very general rule of thumb predicts that with increasing depth. thicker carbonates) are usually assumed to deform into parallel folds (see Figure 5 and Figure 6 ). Thus.

Figure 6 . where available. marl.Figure 5 Particularly when such units are relatively thick. and. the extra space created between them in fold hinge areas is assumed to be filled by intervening ductile material. salt or gypsum. especially shale.

folds can be drawn to reflect the flowage of material that we would expect to occur in the most ductile intervals. They . Comparatively thin sandstone or carbonate layers (1-2 m) within thick shales (50-100 m) are often intensely crumpled within large. this type of deformation is very common on both a mesoscopic and macroscopic scale. Pronounced ductility contrasts between relatively thin. Here. very often portray folds as parallel. The actual amount of material displacement is rarely known. brittle layers and thicker. with near-ideal geometry. due to the increased crowding that occurs with depth. Figure 4 In certain orogenic provinces (especially fold-thrust belts). therefore. disharmonic folding is a frequent and predictable occurrence in the hinge areas of concentric folds. open folds that have wavelengths of a kilometer or more. resulting cross sections. As mentioned above. the wavelength of folds varies considerably between layers.The strong component of flexural slip between competent units is thought to be the major influence forcing weaker material out of fold limbs and into hinge areas. However. This is a practical simplification. Such layers thus indicate directly the amount of flow that has occurred. if the stratigraphic section is well known. incompetent units often result in disharmonic folding (see part a of Figure 4 ). This is often necessary in order to accurately project fold geometryand thus closure-to depth.

or can destroy it by tectonically compacting the stronger.are. thus sealing them completely. Minor Structures Associated with Folding A great variety of minor. In general. "bag o' nails" motif. and should not be mistaken as signs of the general intensity or style of deformation. dipmeter data may show a relatively sudden change from a continuous pattern to a random. It can. the concentration of hinge strain can have several effects. Carbonate material. These features can be extremely useful for the unraveling of complex fold geometries. for example. fracturing. local features. for example. more resistant grains. is particularly susceptible to this type of local mobilization. With respect to potential reservoir formations. however. enhance porosity through fracturing. Within such a highly deformed hinge zone. . Such strain may also cause the release and mobilization of solutions that will dissolve soluble material out of the rock matrix and recrystallize it in fractures. and minor faulting. Wilson (1982) offers a comprehensive listing of them. secondary structures generated during folding have been identified by geologists working in the field and subsurface. Only a few of the most common are relevant to subsurface exploration and thus are included in the discussion below. in a calcareous sandstone. This will be more true for folds with interlimb angles less than about 40-50º. Kinematic Axes and the Description of Minor Structures Figure 1 indicates what structural geologists call the kinematic ("motion-describing") axes of a flexural slip fold. overcrowding in the hinge areas of flexural folds can greatly disrupt layering by disharmonic folding.

stretching) takes place. and so forth) may exist and need to be distinguished from true primary layering (S0) Where cleavage is well developed. and the c-axis is the direction perpendicular to (across) layering. and (2) in highly deformed rocks. . The a-axis is sometimes referred to as the direction of tectonic transport. with the ac plane describing the plane in which most deformation (folding. As shown. flattening. the b-axis is parallel to the axis of the host fold. the orientation of the three axes changes across the fold. thus paralleling but not necessarily coinciding with bedding. The general term "S surface" is used instead of "bedding" for two reasons: (1) slip sometimes occurs within single layers. secondary planar fabrics (S1.Figure 1 These axes are generally used to indicate what a particular minor structure reveals about the geometry of the host fold. Note that the a-axis represents the direction of slip between layers (called "S surfaces"). the kinematic axes are oriented as shown in Figure 2 . Interlayer slip occurs along the a-b plane. S2. bedding is not always obvious.

. cleavage. that can be used to derive the geometry of the host fold. Figure 3 shows a variety of common minor structures. this is based on the assumption-usually justified-that a significant portion of later deformation in such folds occurs by shear along cleavage planes. including joints. minor folds.Figure 2 To some degree. and lineations.

in structurally complex areas. those that parallel the main fold axis. For example. flattened ooids.Figure 3 Among the most important of these to identify and measure are b-axis lineations. and deformed calcite and quartz grains can all be interpreted in terms of kinematic axes. Minor Folds Figure 4 shows the assumed origin of what are known as parasitic folds. i.e. . the intersection of bedding and cleavage can sometimes be seen and measured in oriented core samples.. Elongated pebbles.

planar fabric that imparts a mechanical anisotropy to a rock. Their sense of shear indicates which limb of the host fold they occupy. also called "continuous" or "flow" cleavage. competent intervals is taken up by the development of these structures. A good .Figure 4 This is also sometimes called "drag folding. Slaty cleavage. it accompanies the low-grade metamorphism of shale into slate. For our purposes. and a certain amount of recrystallization in response to flattening. Parasitic folds frequently characterize disharmonic layers within flexural slip folds." but the more common use of the term drag folding in the petroleum industry is in reference to folds presumably caused by faulting. It apparently occurs as the combined result of de-watering. A comprehensive review of the mechanisms proposed by various researchers to explain the origin of cleavage is given by Wood (1974). Cleavage This is a complex phenomenon of deformed sedimentary rocks that can be basically described as a tectonically induced." Where especially welldeveloped. Slaty cleavage exists throughout a specified material and completely dominates its mechanical properties: it is therefore called "penetrative. and their axes generally approximate that of the host fold. two basic types deserve mention. grain rotation under stress. Shearing between thicker. results from the parallel alignment of all platy (clay and mica) minerals perpendicular to the direction of maximum shortening.

Note the thickening of individual layers as a result of shortening). develop as a result of intense shearing between thick.slate. it does seem to be a relatively early development. overturned fold. Figure 5 It can also. and is therefore often referred to as an "axial plane foliation" (see Figure 2 and Figure 5 . such as that from the quarries of North Wales. Progressive development of slaty cleavage. Many structures show a fanning in the orientation of cleavage planes that seems to be caused by continued folding after cleavage formation ( Figure 6 . however. or in association with faults. competent units deformed by flexural slip. The precise stage of folding at which slaty cleavage is formed appears to be variable. Slaty cleavage in a small. slaty cleavage develops parallel or subparallel to the axial plane. Canadian Rockies). In folds. . however. showing late-stage minor shearing along cleavage planes. could be split with the ideal tools into sheets as thin as-or even thinner than-a single sheet of paper.

and results from the development of discrete planes of mechanical discontinuity within a relatively competent bed ( Figure 7 . .Figure 6 Fracture cleavage. is commonly a form of closely spaced jointing. Diagram showing the proposed origin of fracture cleavage due to intralayer stress generated by flexural shear folding. also called spaced cleavage.

Delaware Watergap. Sketch of observed fractures in sandstone layer enclosed by cleaved shale. no grain reorientation is involved. . Continued shearing will rotate fractures hingeward.). and movement along the planes of fracture (which transforms such cleavages into "microfaults") may also have occurred ( Figure 8 . Generally. eastern Pennsylvania).Figure 7 Normally S1 fracture plane develops. Actual parting may be incipient or fully developed. S2 does not.

Figure 9 shows how the attitude in cleavage planes can vary with lithology. and Williams 1976. Means. Dennis 1972. Park 1983). weaker. Hobbs.Figure 8 Fracture cleavage is thought to be the result of shearing within competent units deformed by flexural slip (Billings 1972. competent units will show wide spacing. . Its spacing is related to how brittlely a layer behaved during deformation: massive. thinner layers may show as much as 150 fracture planes within a single centimeter (Wilson 1982).

this change across layers is usually termed refraction of cleavage. Once its geometric relationship to bedding is accurately determined. Inversely.Figure 9 Within a single fold. The common occurrence and interconnected nature shown by two of these patterns makes them important to understand. the result of folding Pressure Solution and Stylolitization . it can itself be used to indicate what portion of a fold is being examined. its orientation can be predicted on the basis of position in a fold. this type of cleavage can have obvious significance for petroleum accumulation and migration. As a form of fracturing in competent units. in fact. discrete sets of fractures often characterize folded competent layers. Stearns (1967. Their consistent relationship to bedding attitude indicates that they are.1977) has identified five major fracture patterns useful for a detailed understanding of brittle behavior in fold deformation. Fractures In addition to cleavage.

and the reprecipitation of that material in places of lower stress concentration. Surrounding conditions. The process of pressure solution is usually explained in terms of Riecke's principle.In addition to cleavage. It is said to mark a zone of solution resulting from differential vertical movement that may or may not be related to the folding process. and the composition of pore fluids. and (2) this dissolved material will reprecipitate on those sides facing the least principal stress. are parallel to bedding and have apparently originated during diagenesis. Some stylolites. naturally have a strong influence on the degree of pressure solution that results. pressure solution may cause consistent elongation of individual grains or cobbles. Due to the relatively high water solubility of calcite. or pebble contacts. the principal axes of stress can be derived. Two of these. Stylolitization This is a special case of pressure solution that occurs predominantly in carbonate rocks to produce thin. Quartz grains and pebbles also frequently show evidence of pressure solution. solution occurs because the tectonically induced pressure exceeds the hydraulic pressure of the interstitial fluid. It is most common along grain. The extent of individual stylolites is generally unpredictable. sand. Where common. which is most often filled by residual insolubles such as clay. these seams resemble the irregular tracing of a stylus. certain changes in rock fabric occur as a result of tectonic stress. This sometimes allows their presence to be detected on natural gamma ray logs as peaks within otherwise relatively unradioactive carbonate units. Pressure Solution This is a phenomenon that involves the dissolution of material at points where there is a concentration of stress. If extensive. they appear to be more common in highly folded rocks that have transmitted and absorbed stress internally. they . pressure solution and stylolitization. and can range up to hundreds of meters. crystals. and organic material. Though both are found in association with faults as well as folds. material goes into solution quite readily during intense folding. sawtoothlike seams or contact surfaces. crystal. laterally extensive. however. even in rocks that have been only gently folded. temperature. which states that (1) material will dissolve under pressure on the sides of objects (single grains. Basically. Dissolution involves the removal of the most soluble (carbonate) material from the seam. can have especially large effects on rock porosity and permeability. More often. iron oxides. especially limestones. Stylolites are known to be permeability barriers. they can significantly influence the patterns of fluid flow within a prospective reservoir. for example. Pressure solution is a very common feature of folded sandstones and carbonate rocks. Stylolites are especially common in relatively homogeneous carbonate lithologies. Where the original shape of these is known or can be determined. and parallel to bedding. such as pressure. pebbles) that face the principal compressive stress. and its main physical effect is to reduce pore space and more tightly weld a rock together. In cross section.

on the sole criterion that no visible displacement has occurred along the planes of parting.are relatively local. Ironically. petroleum geologists use the term "fractures" to refer to local ruptures of almost any kind that do not show enough offset to be called faults. General Introduction Like faults. Geologists in the field distinguish joints from faults in a similar fashion. begin again. They frequently mark boundaries between similar lithologies of different texture. i. but can terminate. These men believed that the pleasingly regular. They are the most conspicuous and omnipresent secondary structure of rocks exposed at the earth's surface. mutually perpendicular planes were those across which individual blocks of rock were joined. overlap. joints result from a brittle response in rocks to stress. In subsurface work. Figure 1 . Illustration of joint face structures and nomenclature).e. They may be fully developed and conspicuous or incipient ( Figure 1 . or bifurcate unpredictably. the term "joint" was coined over two hundred years ago by workers in British stone quarries.. Most often. joints occur in sets of semi-regular spacing.

an igneous intrusion) as its overburden is decreased through erosion. For this type of measure. develop at acute angles to σ1. Moreover. factors that tend to increase rock ductility decrease the overall contribution of rupture to deformation. are more common in some competent lithologies. Typically. as a form of shear fractures. by the release of confining pressure in a fairly isotropic rock body (e. joints are undoubtedly the source of reservoir fracturing in many areas. and Williams 1976). Within a particular set. at least partially. Means. Average fracture numbers for several competent lithologies are shown in Figure 1 . high pore pressures. They may also result from non-orogenic stresses initiated by draping and differential compaction. Extension joints (a subset of extension fractures) develop perpendicular to σ3. . Microfractures. Fracturing is a relatively shallow structural phenomenon in the earth's crust and is highly dependent on lithology.Frequently related to regional deformation patterns. be used. However. Joints are generally classified by nomenclature that reflects particular mechanisms of formation. and a large differential stress (σ1 -σ3). Sheeting or exfoliation joints are basically a type of extension jointing that develops parallel to the surface of the earth." This he defines simply as the average number of parallel fractures per 100 ft (33 m) normal to the fracture plane. any linear distance could. joints need not be parallel. makes fracture number a potentially useful quantity for core and microscopic analysis. two or more sets frequently occur together. both extension and shear fractures can be produced at considerably greater depths. Stearns (1967) has derived the concept of "fracture number. its spacing and orientation can vary substantially between major rock types.g. visible joint sets in sandstones or dolomites can show wide spacing (tens of meters) and can exert a dominant control on surface topography. On the basis of mathematical considerations. Such fractures are presumably caused. then. tension fracturing is predicted to a maximum of about 3 km (Hobbs. Shear joints. given a sufficiently low geothermal gradient. It remains unclear at what depths joints can be generated. jointing orientation is related to position on a particular fold.. In a stratigraphic sequence of high ductility contrast. This. which require microscopic examination for their identification. To help quantify and better analyze this variation. of course. On the other hand. comprising a joint system that essentially splits a specific rock body into an assembled mosaic of blocks. Types of Fractures and the Influence of Lithology As a general rule.

Both types of fractures. but this does not appear to explain most cases of regional fracturing. e.g. this permeability increase is greater along extension fractures. however. Some geologists have related it to epeirogenic movements.. is not well understood. Generally. It is responsible for the creation of reservoirs in rocks that normally lack sufficient porosity and permeability to hold hydrocarbons. however. The former type can most often be explained in terms of the stress system that created the host structure. Fracturing can increase the effective permeability of rock by as much as several orders of magnitude. most notably plateau uplift. By contrast. there is a component of compression along shear fracture planes. The latter type. since these often undergo a small amount of separation. fracture systems that show consistent orientations and that pervade a large volume of rock can be divided into two broad types: (1) those related to specific structures. and (2) regional orthogonal fractures. can enhance the reservoir quality of prospective formations. this . Usually. quartzites. shales. and even igneous and metamorphic lithologies. This means that certain preliminary assumptions about directional permeability can be made in cases where fractures can be tied to a specific stress system.Figure 1 According to Stearns and Friedman (1972).

Major fracture patterns in uplift areas of the Colorado Plateau. such as faults and folds. showing poles to fracture planes. since they can be plotted directly on maps to show the actual orientations and relative dominance of different fracture trends ( Figure 2 . part b is a strike histogram and part c is a stereogram.involves an analysis of the relationship between fracturing and known structures. Figure 1 In cases where fractures are mostly vertical or near-vertical (which is usually the case).). Basic Techniques for Determining Fracture Orientation Any determination of fracture orientation should be based on statistical analysis. Several techniques exist and examples of each for a single joint system are shown in Figure 1 (Part a is a rose diagram. . rose diagrams and histograms showing strike frequency are used. Rose diagrams are often preferred.

As a preliminary assumption. and that when they occur in association they can generally be related to the same stress field. we might consider this set to represent extensional fractures. most likely indicate conjugate shear fractures. Notice that in part c of Figure 1 . . knowing the orientation of a fault means that one can sometimes predict associated fracture trends. use of stereo-grams is essential in cases where fractures dip at substantially less than 90º. This is extremely useful for establishing structural relationships in fracture analysis. These have been interpreted by some researchers as indicating conjugate failure on a regional scale. therefore. fracture set Ill closely parallels the host fold axis (point B). Fault-Associated Fractures Faults and fractures both represent stress-induced rupture of rock.Figure 2 Note the general NW-SE and NE-SW trends. therefore. Stereograms also allow fracture and fault or fold data to be plotted and compared on the same figure. shear fractures can be considered miniature versions of a particular fault. This also means that fracture orientation will change with fault attitude.). sets I and II. Thus. However. Fault movement itself generates shearing stresses that can induce fracturing. In many instances.

Shear fractures are more likely to undergo displacement when associated with faulting than with folding.. As a rule of thumb.). dolomite) are more likely to have fractures associated with them. As shown in Figure 1 (Principal fracture patterns and their respective strain ellipses associated with normal and reverse faults. Figure 1 In each case. it should be emphasized that no necessary relationship exists between the displacement along a fault and the amount or intensity of fracturing.g. faults that develop at shallow levels in especially competent lithologies (e. According to Stearns and Friedman (1972). or decrease it by sealing the fractures with gouge or even mylonite. the other is antithetic to it. several basic rules can be applied to drilling a well such that the greatest number of natural fractures are encountered. One conjugate parallels the fault. the strikes of all three potential fractures will generally parallel that . but somewhat higher in the upthrown block of a reverse or thrust fault. there are three possible fracture sets: two conjugate shear fractures and one extensional fracture. Note that the strike of fractures theoretically parallels that of the host faults or faults. Such movement can either increase permeability by creating a poor fit between the two sides of the fracture.As a general rule of thumb. However. the intensity of fracturing can be expected to be relatively equal in both upthrown and downthrown blocks of a normal fault.

Figure 1 shows the variety of fractures seen in a small anticline in southern Germany. As an example. At times.of the host fault. Most orogenic regions experience multiple episodes of deformation. For low-dipping faults. Later folding or faulting of a fractured section may obscure original structural relationships. Diagram showing the dependence of fracture orientation on fault attitude. . later trends often overprint earlier structures. thus. R to reverse fault. the true connection between fracturing and faulting will become clear only after these later deformational effects have been "removed Fold-Associated Fractures Other sets of fractures besides cleavage often characterize folded competent layers.). deflection of a well toward the fault plane becomes more necessary ( Figure 2 . no deflection of the borehole is needed to intercept the greatest number of fractures. Figure 2 Fractures can develop during the early stages of deformation and may thus become rotated. N refers to normal fault. Angles between shear conjugates are idealized. As the fault attitude steepens.

). note that both patterns show a consistent geometric relation to bedding. In all. more competent sandstone layers.Figure 1 The fold shows an early stage of cleavage formation in finer-grained lithologies. five fold-related fracture patterns have been identified and analyzed (see Stearns 1967). . Figure 2 shows the derived axes of greatest and least principal stresses for the two most common patterns (Patterns associated with folding (mostly parallel). and various shear and extension fractures in the thicker.

. plus an extension fracture. these patterns consist of conjugate shear fractures. parallel or subparallel to the host fold axis. such as grain or cobble elongation (see Figure 3 . Pattern A indicates stretching along strike. This has been documented in folds of many styles and scales and is frequently indicated by b-axis lineations. Various common minor structures useful for analysis of fold geometry.Figure 2 As with faulting.

This pattern should recall the distribution of strain shown in part b of Figure 4 (pure buckling).Figure 3 Shown are b-axis lineations and elongated cobbles. a-axis striations due to interlayer slip. and cleavage planes.). . Pattern B is essentially the same set of fractures rotated 90º. minor folds with axes parallel to that of the host fold (B). and indicates that stretching takes place in the plane of dip. a-c joints.

as the figure shows. Pattern B fractures are smaller (up to several meters long). With relation to permeability enhancement.Figure 4 Fracture cleavage. They can cross an entire fold and extend hundreds of feet vertically. Relationship between Fracture Porosity and Permeability to Structure Curvature . the size and isolation of pattern A fractures mean that any of the three fracture sets might predominate in a well. but are also seen on many scales. They show exceptional consistency in their orientation on all scales. however. This lowers the predictability of the resulting directional permeability. Individual shear fractures of pattern A often occur as relatively isolated features. For pattern B. whether data are taken from aerial photographs or thin sections. avenues for fluid communication will tend to parallel the trend of the host structure. can be thought of as a shear fracture pattern. both patterns A and B can characterize a single bed. According to Stearns and Friedman (1972). however. which means that statistical plots show nearly identical patterns. even that of single grains. but all three fracture sets usually occur together.

Figure 5 Part b is a graph showing influence of bed thickness on fracture permeability.In cases where pattern B is dominant. Note that doubling this thickness increases permeability by a factor of ten. The specific structure for which they were derived was an asymmetric anticline in the Williston Basin of North Dakota. . and makes obvious the correlation between structural curvature and well productivity. These are given in Figure 5 (Part a reveals basic equations relating structural curvature and petrophysical character. a set of simple expressions has been derived to relate fracture porosity and permeability to bedding thickness and structural curvature (Murray 1968).). A structural contour map on top of the productive Mississippian Bakken formation is shown in Figure 6 .

therefore. the four-arm dipmeter caliper has been able to detect the long axis of such elongation. usually by statistical techniques. regionally consistent patterns of borehole elongation have been observed in different provinces. the specific relationship between a fracture pattern and fold geometry must be carefully established. flat curvilinear surfaces that enlarge the wellbore on opposite sides to produce a final . To date.Figure 6 What various fracture patterns tell us in a more general sense is that the same body of rock is often subjected to several different states of stress during the folding process. meanwhile. More recently. Images processed from ultrasonic borehole televiewer surveys have. Wellbore breakout is the term used to describe the spalling of rock that appears to create elongation. In every case. It produces an "unwrapped" image of the wellbore surface that has proved useful for identifying and studying natural fractures. the data indicate that breakouts are relatively broad. The televiewer is a tool that emits ultrasonic pulses from a rotating piezoelectric transducer at a rate of 600 per revolution. revealed the actual shape and dimensions of the borehole wall. Wellbore Breakouts and In Situ Stress Within the past twenty years.

since it allows for relatively straightforward derivation of the basic in situ stress field. 1985). the word "fault" itself was originally used by miners to describe the sudden. and trouble-causing termination of a coal seam. This can have obvious importance for explaining and predicting the orientation of hydraulically induced fractures in low permeability reservoirs. unexpected.elliptical shape ( Figure 1 . such that the direction of elongation is parallel to the in situ minimum horizontal compressive stress ( Figure 1 ) (Zoback et al. General Introduction Much of the basic nomenclature relating to faults was derived from coal mining in the British Midlands during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Proposed cause of wellbore breakout). In fact. "fault" then . Figure 1 The two most current and accepted interpretations of this phenomenon attribute breakout to (1) the intersection of the wellbore with natural fractures. A growing consensus based on recent analyses strongly favors the second interpretation. Thus. and (2) compressive shear failure due to stress relief. The stress relief hypothesis is especially attractive.

who was normally forced to continue his heading a short way into solid rock and then sink a new shaft in order to relocate the seam. the reverse was true. such faults are far more common. . either above or below. a coal seam that ended against such a fault could be found again if the miner continued his tunnel a short distance in the same direction and then sunk a shaft downward ( Figure 1 ). and that simple geometric methods could be used to predict where a particular seam might be found again. were quick to realize that a fault was. Figure 1 Thus. Geologists like Murchison and Lyell.carried much of its vernacular sense.) At times. which meant that the miner could hang his lamp from the rocks above the fault and rest his foot on those below it ( Figure 1 ). (In this area of Britain. basically. however. a fracture along which displacement had occurred. in reality. the terms hanging wall and footwall then as now simply label the two sides of the fault and imply nothing about displacement. some sort of a mistake had been made. A fault was "normal" to the miner's experience when it was inclined toward the hanging-wall. The bounding surface of a fault presented a "wall" to the disgruntled miner. The wall of the fault plane was almost always inclined.

Structural style often provides a broad context for understanding the patterns of faulting that may be expected in a region. rocks are said to be faulted when they have suffered observable displacement along a plane or interval of rupture. the explorationist must generate prospects. These terms remain in use. and this sometimes requires a good deal of knowledge about detailed lithologic and structural constraints. The fault plane can be relatively simple (part a of Figure 1 ) Figure 1 . Such rupture occurs mainly by shear. especially with respect to deciphering the origin of tectonism.and thus the corresponding fault was designated as such. This has been confirmed by the theory of plate tectonics. however. Description and Basic Terminology By modern definition. and that they sometimes represent structures of far greater significance. but has emphasized the importance of faulting over folding in general. Geologists have long known that faults can extend laterally for much greater distances than folds. which has not only "discovered" and explained a new class of faults (transform faults). At the same time.

Less frequently. Net slip along a fault is measured by a vector that traces the displacement between originally adjacent points ( Figure 2 . Faults are most generally classified on the basis of their relative sense of displacement. often related to proposed mechanisms. style. can localize faulting. however. Faults are often genetically related to folding. The great majority of faults. certain settings have encouraged the development and use of more specific terminology. Basic terminology for fault offset. and it is often helpful to the explorationist to delimit those that appear relevant to a particular area. . as for most of geology. since this knowledge can be used to predict or explain the occurrence of faulting in other parts of an area. rocks may become displaced by a form of shearing that causes loss of internal cohesion but not actual rupture of lithological layers (part c of Figure 1 ). Each major type of fault discussed immediately below is given a more specific nomenclature when discussed in relation to a particular structural style. and geometry of faulting are due to the interaction between the applied stresses and the initial properties of the affected rocks. The location. Yet. such as the abrupt facies changes at a reef margin or the draping of units over a barrier bar. A great number of possibilities exist. Geologists also use the term shear zone to label fault zones in which the individual planes of displacement are extremely closely spaced. Inhomogeneities resulting from sedimentation or diagenesis.or it may consist of a large number of individual offset surfaces and thus be more accurately described as a fault zone (part b of Figure 1 ). more closely approximate planes of slip along which shearing has taken place as a result of movement. showing strike slip (ss) and dip slip (ds) components of net slip (ns).

and structural geologists in general." These terms are somewhat archaic. For non vertical dip slip faults. and remain more frequently used in mining than in petroleum geology. the former is sometimes called the "throw. points P and P' were coincident before faulting. It is most often resolved into dip slip and strike slip components." and the angle between the fault plane and the vertical. the normal stratigraphic . Figure 3 From coal mining terminology. while the inclination of the fault plane is simply said to be either high angle or low angle with reference to a horizontal datum. more often refer to the vertical and horizontal separation across a dip slip fault. Petroleum geologists. Faults in which one or the other of these components is dominant are correspondingly named. the "hade. this time into vertical and horizontal contributions ( Figure 3 )." the latter. the "heave.). geologists find it useful to again divide the displacement into components.Figure 2 The fault itself is oblique slip. In addition.

is often important to determine. highangle faults of small displacement that cannot be easily identified as normal or .). In some regions. In addition. particularly with reference to log data. Part a of Figure 4 shows the four types of dip slip faults (Major types of dip slip faults. and pulse like periods of movement. Where separation cannot be determined or appears to change along strike. determining the nature of the fault can be difficult. Figure 4 H and F refer to hanging wall and footwall ). In most cases. differentiating specific structures can prove very difficult. Most faults have complex histories of offset involving intermittent. Diagram illustrating the progressive simple shear within an ideal fault plane. many intercontinental basins are characterized by near-vertical. incremental. a diversity of interrelated faulting styles exists in close juxtaposition.separation. shown in Figure 3 . it is assumed that simple shear has acted as the principal strain within the fault plane (part b of Figure 4 . It should be mentioned that fault type may not always be obvious.

Most rupture along normal faults is by shear. as well as those of the Bavarian and Austrian Alps. normal faults are more easily identified on seismic sections than other types of faults. On seismic sections. Only in areas where faulting has begun very recently (e.reverse.5 discusses these faults in detail. This is because of their frequent occurrence in deep. multiple episodes of tectonism often affect a single region. curving geometries. which we shall look at. In the latter case. This creates "inverted" structures. as mentioned. .g. as used by most geologists today. due to the effect of increasing velocity with depth. One of the more important occurrences of this phenomenon involves normal-fault-dominant provinces being subjected to compressive stresses as a result of changing plate boundary interactions. but curl up at their termini to become nearly vertical or even overturned. Thrust faults can (and do) dip at any angle. Shortening is involved. but only at shallow levels where confining pressures are very low. geometrically speaking.. Tension fractures tend to be nearly vertical and are commonly removed by erosion. "thrust" is a genetic term. Furthermore. A thrust has often been defined as a reverse fault dipping less than 45º However. said to imply near-horizontal. Normal faulting on a regional scale is most often referred to as block faulting. Section 6. and this can be as great as tens of kilometers or more for single faults. and displacement along early faults can be reversed. In relation to both normal and thrust faults. In general. The term thrust fault deserves special discussion. planar faults often appear curved. thrusts become apparent "normal" faults. however. tangential compression and a zone of movement dominated by simple shear strain (part b of Figure 4 ). since it results in the creation of horst ("high") and graben ("trench") structural topography (part a of Figure 5 ). Such episodes may involve contrasting stress regimes. dominantly marine basins characterized by otherwise relatively unreformed sediments. They may be essentially horizontal (along bedding planes) for kilometers. Normal faults can either be planar or listric (concave upward). These were originally derived by German geologists to describe the structural features that characterize the great valley of the Rhine. and individual thrust planes often show complex. we should become familiar with several other commonly used terms. Failure due to tension fracturing does occur. certain portions of Iceland) will such fractures be visible.

Either of these can range from tens of meters to hundreds of square kilometers in size. a cover of thrusted rocks can become locally eroded to the extent that a fenster or window to the underlying footwall lithologies is created. as shown in part b of Figure 5 .Figure 5 On the other hand. Strike slip faults can be simply classified as left-lateral or right-lateral ( Figure 6 ) on the basis of the shear sense. . or an isolated remnant called a klippe is left.

Figure 6 When facing the fault. . the direction in which the opposite side appears to have moved gives this sense. The San Andreas ( Figure 7 ) is one of the best-known examples of an active right-lateral strike slip fault.

These were originally derived by German geologists to describe the structural features that characterize the great valley of the Rhine. On the other hand. Section 6.5 discusses these faults in detail. a cover of thrusted rocks can become locally eroded to the extent that a fenster or window to the underlying footwall lithologies is created. as well as those of the Bavarian and Austrian Alps. When facing the fault. Others include the Alpine fault of New Zealand and the Atacama system of .Figure 7 Others include the Alpine fault of New Zealand and the Atacama system of may be essentially horizontal (along bedding planes) for kilometers. In relation to both normal and thrust faults. Either of these can range from tens of meters to hundreds of square kilometers in size. The San Andreas ( Figure 7 ) is one of the best-known examples of an active right-lateral strike slip fault. geometrically speaking. thrusts become apparent "normal" faults. In the latter case. as shown in part b of Figure 5 . Strike slip faults can be simply classified as left-lateral or right-lateral ( Figure 6 ) on the basis of the shear sense. we should become familiar with several other commonly used terms. the direction in which the opposite side appears to have moved gives this sense. Normal faulting on a regional scale is most often referred to as block faulting. or an isolated remnant called a klippe is left. but curl up at their termini to become nearly vertical or even overturned. since it results in the creation of horst ("high") and graben ("trench") structural topography (part a of Figure 5 ).

.Chile ( Figure 8 and Figure 9 . Figure 8 Examples of major strike slip vaults in various parts of the world.

is more likely to act as sealing material.called cataclasis-. the term fault gouge is used.within the plane of actual movement will show a transition under increasing temperatures and pressures . Gouge. breccia can serve as an excellent conduit for fluid migration. In cases where this has been milled and broken down to a clay-rich powder. Fault Zone Material Faults and fault zones are marked by crushed and sheared rock fragments. Breccia or gouge zones and their conductive or sealing capacity. When relatively coarse and loosely cemented. At deeper levels. the brittle crushing of rocks-. and transcurrent faults more specifically if they cut across regional structural trends. The rocks immediately adjacent to a fault will also suffer a certain amount of shearing. sometimes show gradation into the surrounding country rock. This is particularly true for wide intervals of shearing associated with reverse faults of major displacement. the symbols "A" and "T" are used to mark which side of the fault has been displaced away from and which side toward the observer.Figure 9 Dots mark the site of active volcanoes.). called fault breccia. In cross section. therefore. Left-lateral faults of such scale are well represented by the Great Glen fault of Scotland and the Philippine fault. in general. on the other hand. Such large strike slip structures are often called wrench faults. which may fracture or weaken them.

are not generally so intensively brecciated or milled as reverse faults. and calcite) from them (Ramsay 1967). of course. in their earlier stages. such as mylonitization. the rupture. Thrusts "leaking" petroleum have been drilled in the western Canadian thrust belt. it appears rare that faults complete their total offset in one continuous episode. but may. often highly recrystallized and intensely sheared rock that forms within these zones of deformation. In general. Such fluids would essentially be drawn out of the immediately surrounding rock. however. but may just as often become sealed later on. it is also possible for faults to be tightly cemented by material that has precipitated out of mobilized solutions. the mineral. movement. and in parts of the Rocky Mountain foreland of the western United States. thrust faults are highly conductive to fluids. imbricates often do not mill the country rock to gouge. because they do not involve large offsets and are relatively shallow in occurrence. Mylonites will act to seal a fault from fluid migration. therefore. Major thrust faults that cut at low angles through competent lithologies sometimes create wide zones of fracturing and brecciation that remain conductive. but instead produce zones of relatively porous breccia. Most often. are likely to be wider for a given displacement and to involve more intense shearing for a given duration. Where exposed at the surface. matrix. both along its vertical extent and along its strike. Frictional heating as a result of shearing and pressure drop within the fault zone itself also contributes to the mobilization of such fluids and the subsequent precipitation of impermeable material (especially secondary clay. these intervals remain structurally weak. the detailed history of its more continuous recrystallization or actual flow. The problem we face in predicting this is that a number of complex factors are involved: the type of fault. During the initial stages of movement. It would appear that. in . travel substantial vertical distances within the fault zone itself. and shifting of large an isotropic rock masses on either side of a fault often cause internal readjustment that includes the release and migration of mineral-rich solutions. can be made. Normal faults. because they are the result of extension. in the western over thrust belt of Wyoming and Utah. quartz. are usually lacking. Fault zone mineralization may produce lateral conductivity barriers composed of such highly resistant. As a result. These are only the most obvious. most faults probably provide conduits for the migration of fluids. Geologists use the term mylonite for the microbrecciated. and the relevant pressure/temperature conditions. impermeable material as quartz or siderite. Their planes of movement are relatively narrow. Most gouge and breccia intervals are the result of several stages of movement. therefore. by contrast. The degree to which such sealing occurs is of obvious importance to petroleum geology. fault zones are usually topographical depressions. Examples exist where differential erosion has removed the relatively weak country rock and left standing high-angle breccia zones that have the appearance of igneous dikes. In addition. On the other hand. A few useful generalizations. and high pressure effects. In the Wyoming-Utah thrust belt. and pore fluid composition of the rocks immediately adjacent to it. Reverse faults. the sealing capacity of a fault most often varies.

or show other types of intense and laterally extensive deformation. Considerable variety is often seen along a single fault plane. faults are frequently large and complex enough in their deformation to generate a characteristic set of legible minor structures. both major and secondary faults are known to have relatively high fluid conductivities. is marked by wide zones of associated fracturing and brecciation. Strike slip faults can show a complete spectrum from narrow gouge zones to mylonite intervals up to kilometers in width. They have been observed along fault zones involving almost every type of rock. In the case of the Rocky Mountain foreland. The character of the material in the fault plane is. They often show characteristic steps ( Figure 1 ). These can often be of considerable help in the analysis of both individual and regional structures. in a general way. Slickensides show a puzzling diversity in their specific characteristics that cannot be simply attributed to differences in rock type and fault movement. . striations. related to the degree of compression involved and to the magnitude of total offset.fact. as well as mylonitization. stretched and flattened mineral grains (especially quartz and calcite). The San Andreas.). faults involve great thicknesses of basement crystalline rocks and are often relatively wide zones of coarse breccia. or as combinations of these that parallel the direction of relative motion when they formed. Productive reservoirs appear to exist where reservoir rocks are juxtaposed against Cretaceous source beds across fault planes. Larger faults showing greater displacements are generally more mylonitized. Slickensides Perhaps the most common features associated with faulting are the polished and striated surfaces called slickensides that directly record the sliding movement of rock surfaces past each other. and are sometimes penetrative over a narrow interval (Drawing of a slickenside sample in shale from southern New York Note the characteristic steps and ribbing of mineral grains. They commonly occur as parallel grooves. for example. Minor Structures Associated with Faults Like folds.

This is used to describe the warping of layers in the immediate vicinity of a fault zone. however. Schematic illustration of the "preferred" origin of fault-generated drag folding. but are also associated with flexural slip folding. ( Figure 2 . This term. They can also occur along fractures called shear joints that have suffered small-scale offset. they will become overprinted. if the direction of fault movement changes. as pointed out by Hobbs. since it implies that faulting occurs first and causes folding by friction.Figure 1 Within this zone. despite its ubiquity. competent units. being most well-developed along contacts between thick. Means. Pre-faulting strain results in offset layers dipping up or down into the fault plane toward each other.) . is often misleading. In reality. and Williams (1976) and Park (1983). they can indicate more than one direction of movement. ductile warping following rupture is far less likely than the reverse. Furthermore. Drag Folding A second common minor structure associated with faults is known as drag folding. As a phenomenon related to shearing. slickensides are not confined to fault zones.

Here. is another case where terminology can easily be confused: "normal" and "reverse" when used to describe drag folding have no connection to the sense of displacement along the relevant fault. "reverse drag. obviously. In Figure 3 examples of normal drag for both normal and reverse faults are given.Figure 2 Drag is described as "normal. ." then. if it accords with what would be expected if folding occurred first." is in the opposite direction.

sometimes of considerable size. as well as both normal and reverse faults are known to be associated with large strike slip faults such as the San Andreas.Figure 3 Reverse drag is more commonly seen in association with listric normal faults. Transverse folds. Figure 4 . displacement tends to roll beds in the hanging wall over to form a gentle anticline. Such "rollover' " has proved extremely important to petroleum accumulation.

Figure 4 and Figure 5 relates the range of these parasitic structures to the mean strain ellipse of a major wrench fault. .

microfaults. Careful study of minor structures will. magnitude. (2) the initial orientation of these rocks relative to the fault plane. In addition. Moreover.Figure 5 Certain other secondary structures. geometric relationships may also become clear from statistical analysis of secondary features. thrusting is capable of inducing cleavage in incompetent layers. provide us with at least some amount of information about these factors. are found in association with faults. Basic Interpretation of Fault-Associated Structures The specific suite of secondary structures associated with a particular fault is the result of a complex interaction among the following parameters: (1) the internal properties of the rocks involved. minor folds. such information can be useful to an understanding of how faulting may have affected a potential reservoir interval. are frequently related to faulting. (4) the rate. also generated by folding. slickensides. (3) the temperature and pressure conditions of the surrounding subsurface environment. direction. as in the case of folding. therefore. for example. and gouge or breccia are readily . fault cleavage. especially reverse faults. Fractures. Obviously. both above and below the plane of movement (Wood 1974). and duration of the relevant stresses. Shear and extension joints.

if these can be recovered. Cleavage that is generated by faulting often trends slightly oblique to the fault plane. normal. the line that marks the intersection between cleavage and bedding planes should roughly parallel the line marking the intersection of the fault with bedding Principal Stress Directions in the Development of Faulting and Fracturing Figure 1 displays the idealized orientation of the principal stress axes during reverse. and thus their axial planes should roughly parallel the fault plane itself. Minor folds are most often caused by fault shear. Fault gouge or breccia is often apparent during mud logging. they are often discussed in relation to similar stress systems. In the case of fractures and minor faults (fractures along which movement has taken place). and strike slip faulting. however. . If it cuts through several layers. Figure 1 Because faulting and fracturing both represent the brittle rupture of rocks. their orientation with regard to the main displacement may or may not be simple and straightforward.discernible in cores.

Two mutually orthogonal types of extensional ruptures are shown in Figure 2 These have been related to the stresses generated during loading and. in a rock body. Figure 2 The two categories of fractures that geologists usually speak of-shear fractures and extension fractures-were generated by this test and are indicated. This is how rock generally ruptures in the laboratory. and that we should expect the relaxation of tectonic stress to generate late-stage features. in each case. Note that a broad correspondence exists between ideal faulting and shear fracturing with relation to stress orientation.Figure 2 shows the generalized orientation of actual fractures formed in an experimental triaxial test. and. σ1 and σ3 unloading. More generally. rocks are weakest in shear. Notice that during unloading exchange the orientations they had during loading. especially fractures. they develop normal to σ3. As we have said. What this tells us is that faults can conceivably develop at very low angles to σ1 . in which a block of Solenhofen limestone was shortened by 1 % at room temperature. it can be understood from Figure 1 that a region undergoing a high degree of faulting is characterized by numerous local stress fields that change in .

may not always appear directly related to the stress axes that apply to large-scale structural trends. The stress orientations shown in these figures do not. usually involving shear couples. . At smaller and smaller levels of scale. depending on the lithologies. We should expect. by themselves. The geometry and attitude of particular fault planes. the details of the deformation associated with them are not simple at all. many fault planes are curved and cannot be explained simply in terms of stress axes alone. always explain the specific angles at which faults develop or the shape of fault planes.both orientation and magnitude as diastrophism progresses. the type of fault. and the amount and environment of displacement. Figure 3 While in their basic geometry monoclines represent one of the simpler geologic structures. For example. many faults reveal increasingly complex components of displacement. that rocks in the vicinity of a fault or fault zone will be complexly sheared for some distance on either side of the fault plane itself. Figure 3 shows the detailed resolution of shear fractures in an evolving monocline. the summation-of-local-strains method is often the most accurate approach to analyzing complicated fault systems. therefore. As with folds. then. This distance may be measurable in centimeters to kilometers. The fractures shown are those which immediately precede propagation of a high-angle reverse fault from basement into the overlying strata.

If our scale were on the order of miles instead of meters. Figure 4 Figure 4 and Figure 5 . third-order structures associated with the shear fractures. the third. three sets of fractures are evident: two seem to be conjugate shear fractures. a bedding plane extensional fracture. beginning with what we could observe and measure most easily. Thus. there would most likely be smaller. we would build our portrait of the overall structure in steps.In Figure 3 .

Reverse faulting on a comparable scale occurs most often in long and narrow thrust fault provinces called fore/and thrust and fold belts. ( Figure 6 .). California. Figure 6 . Figure 5 is a generalized cross section through a region of extensional (rift) deformation showing the resolution of maximum and minimum principal stresses.Figure 5 give examples of regional strike slip and normal faulting ( Figure 4 shows the resolution of maximum and minimum principal stresses for the San Andreas fault system. Generalized thrust best structure showing variety of faults and folds and the main types of associated petroleum traps.

large-scale gravity sliding. Given this and the highly complex nature of the structures involved. the existence of low-angle fault planes. Figure 1 Numbers indicate total estimated separation – in km – between Africa and Arabia). Generalized map and cross section showing continental breakup along the Red Sea rift and collision in the Zagros region of southeastern Iran. Mechanisms proposed for such movement have included rigid push. . and. along which rocks have sometimes been transported for up to 100 km.Cross section covers horizontal distance of about 100-150 km and is based on detailed studies of the Canadian Rocky Monitions. more recently. has baffled and intrigued structural geologists. as well as collision between continental portions of plates (see Figure 1 . Thrust Faults For over a century. convergence between plates (at subduction zones) and within plates.) Significant hydrocarbon entrapment occurs in such provinces throughout the world. we should look in more detail at the nature of thrusting.

the entire spectrum of major and minor structures seen in nonmetamorphosed sedimentary rocks.The debate continues for particular provinces. involving. such as the Himalayas. relatively undeformed "block" is active-and overthrusting-in which it is the upper block.). Generalized thrust belt structure showing variety of faults and folds and the main types of associated petroleum traps. Nearly all styles of folding and faulting are present and intimately which the lower. that actually moves. To understand how the basic features of thrusting are described and analyzed by geologists. Figure 2 Cross section covers horizontal distance of about 100-150 km and is based on detailed studies of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. this has been determined to range up to 150 km (Price and Mountjoy 1970). Relative shortening is what geologists measure in thrust terrains. although the last three mechanisms are now generally regarded as most important. This has both created structural traps for giant petroleum accumulations as well as destroyed significant hydrocarbon potential by breaking up and exposing source and reservoir rocks. The Concept of Relative Shortening Given the structures of foreland thrust and fold belts above a regional plane of detachment ( Figure 2 . in which deformation is concentrated. we should become familiar with a few more commonly used terms. these provinces pose the culminative challenge to structural geologic analysis. it does not seem possible to distinguish between underthrusting. and is probably greater in certain mountain systems. Thrust Fault Geometry and the Influence of Lithology . as they do. To some degree. In foreland belts.

in certain circumstances. Simplified map and cross section from same general areas as Figure 2. showing complex thrust-fold deformation in the southern Canadian Rockies. if the thrust passes through a ductile unit such as a thick shale. the thrusts in foreland belts are very rarely simple listric planes. unbrecciated. either as splays off the "sole" fault or as local ruptures in the cores of anticlines. The allochthon is also variously known as a "thrust sheet" or "plate" (not lithospheric). Other features on the map include a Klippe (K) and an anticline that becomes a thrust along strike (A)). In general. Figure 3 Note the apparent reversals in the direction of thrusting due to refraction of fault planes through lithologic sequence of variable ductility. or." Most thrusts define a listric plane that flattens with depth. truncated by younger thrusts ( Figure 3 . at times. Several or more subsidiary thrusts commonly occur within a single allochthon.Rocks that have been transported from their original location ("root zone") are said to be allochthonous ("other earth"). but are themselves folded and. As discussed by Dahlstrom (1970) and Elliot (1976). while those that remain in place are called autochthonous ("same earth"). the geometry and location of . a "nappe. and essentially parallel to bedding for distances that can range up to tens of kilometers. very narrow. The actual zones of movement may be mylonitic at depth. or.

Figure 4 Figure 5 .thrust faults in thick sedimentary sequences is largely determined by the distribution of competent and incompetent layers. Four simple rules and Figure 4 .

.Figure 5 and Figure 6 summarize this influence (Figure 4: Diagrams illustrating present-day geometry along a major thrust fault in the Canadian foreland and a detailed reconstruction of its upward path through various stratigraphic units.

Figure 6 Figure 5: Diagram using the concept of fault preference to show how thrust development is often directly a function of stratigraphy. the "facing" direction) • thrusting tends to parallel bedding in incompetent layers. and Imbrication . Decollement. and to cut obliquely up-section in thicker. more brittle units • the age of major faults is younger in the direction of thrusting • major thrust faults do not overlap appreciably The Evolution of Thrusting: Ramping. Note here the strong preference at greater depth for major thrusts to exist in the Kootenay and Fernie shales. Figure 6: Ramp model for thrust development. Lithologies shown are those of Figure 4. in older nomenclature. multiplied by an arbitrary constant. Fault preference is defined as the length of a thrust within a unit divided by the thickness of that unit." or. occurring near contacts with competent units. Note that it is the lower plate that is shown to move): • thrusting cuts up-section in the direction of displacement (this is often called the direction of "tectonic transport.

These. a term we have used previously to describe the basal detachment that sometimes occurs in parallel folds. Thin-versus Thick-Skinned Tectonics The concept of basal decollement is the fundamental structural principle in the hypothesis known as thin-skinned tectonics. therefore. Ductility contrast in the stratigraphic section encourages a stair-step evolution of thrusts. therefore. As discussed by Dahlstrom (1970). The progressive stacking of thrust faults may develop in "piggyback" fashion-where younger thrusts form in the foot-wall-or alternatively in "overstep" fashion. the overall evolution is for thrusting to begin at deeper levels and to progress upward and outward (i. lower section. Imbricates occur most often in two structural positions of high stress concentration: (1) near the toe of a major thrust. is referred to as a decollement. major thrusts themselves become imbricates of the largest faults (i. piggybacking appears to prevail on a regional scale and is by far the more significant progression. and (2) above ramps in a thrust plane. At the same time. As mentioned. and stack slice after slice of the same stratigraphic section along listric faults. particularly where it remains parallel to bedding within a single lithology.e. which postulates no sole fault and. this is often contrasted with the thickskinned hypothesis. away from the root zone) from a major sedimentary basin. where thrusts become younger toward the root zone. They dip steeply as they approach the surface. often as a result of imbrication... . both piggyback and overstep thrusting occur on a more local level. can be thought of as subsidiary faults to a basal detachment or decollement plane that marks the structural boundary between basement (usually crystalline metamorphic or plutonic rocks) and sedimentary cover (see Figure 2 ). which sole out into a major thrust plane. Continued movement along this plane after imbricates have formed will rotate them so that they can become vertical and overturned.In most fore-land belts.e. often called ramping ( Figure 6 ) A relatively flat portion of a thrust plane. Cross sections illustrating the thin-skinned (upper) and thick-skinned (lower) hypotheses for regional thrust faulting in the Appalachians). in turn. direct involvement of basement in each major thrust ( Figure 7 . imbrication actually offers a basic model for foreland thrusting: as the scale of a cross section is increased to become more regional. those with the greatest displacement).

The controversy represents one of the major areas of research in contemporary structural geology. the debate has expanded to focus on two major questions: (1) whether thick-skinned faulting occurs at all in foreland belts. Thus. and (2) if it does. it is well known that toward the metamorphic core of many such belts.Figure 7 The debate between these two schools of thought is a historical one that continues today. control the overall style and evolution of thrusting. as we have mentioned. basement rocks are heavily involved in thrusting. Cook et al. Yet some recent studies based on deep-reflection seismic profiles (Cook 1982. in fact. On the basis of drilling and seismic data-both of which have proved the flattening of thrusts at depth in foreland areas-most geologists now favor the thinskinned hypothesis for at least the more medial and distal portions of thrust belts. Each episode intensifies the deformation in existing structures and also generates new features that modify these structures. Finally. However. This superposition of structures can create a number of seemingly anomalous age and . Such involvement. as in the case of the Himalayas. can be very extensive and may. 1979) have strongly favored the thin-skinned hypothesis for basement thrusting as well. what is the nature of the transition between it and the decollement tectonics that characterize the sedimentary cover. the development of foreland thrust and fold belts seems to occur in pulses.

. Figure 8 displays several of these.thickness relationships. a large thrust sheet or reverse-faulted block may tear along near-vertical planes oriented transverse to the principal tectonic transport direction ( Figure 9 . Figure 8 Tear Faults During its movement.

Due to a variety of factors. thrust terminations often show bow-shaped patterns that indicate a type of radial displacement (Dahlstrom 1970. large thrust sheets apparently advance at different rates over portions of their length (Elliot 1976). Montana). these either form in this direction or at angles to it that invite explanation of them as conjugate shear faults. They have been mapped as striking at both low and high angles to regional . Normally. such as stratigraphic changes along strike. French-Swiss border and Figure 10 . and thus appear to be generated by compression or extension within the allochthon. Tear faults along the northeast corner of the Beartooth Mountains. Various genetic schemes have been proposed for tear faults. Davis 1984. Lowell 1985). These stresses can be explained as the result of differential movement.Figure 9 Orientation of major tear faults (numbered dashed lines) in the Jura mountains. the direction of transport can also vary along strike (see Figure 10 ). In addition. .

therefore. The currently accepted interpretation of transform faults was first put forth by Wilson (1965). are the links that unify the world's spreading centers. Actual fault motion due to sea-floor spreading. however.Figure 10 Transform Faults Transform faults are strike slip faults that connect convergent and divergent plate boundaries. has the opposite sense ( Figure 1 . and collision zones into a single mosaic of movement. The motion along such faults often includes components of compression or tension. Such data indicated that actual movement along the faults was opposite to that indicated by the apparent physical displacement of ridge segments. they serve to "transform" the interaction between plates into strike slip motion. Wilson's analysis showed that this displacement represents an original "frozen" geometry of continental separation. Basically. . subduction zones. who sought to reconcile the offset of ocean ridge segments and magnetic anomalies with earthquake first-motion data. Transform plate boundaries.

Block diagram showing relationship between rifting and transform faulting. Figure 2 .Figure 1 Schematic illustration of transform fault development and Figure 2 .

then. Figure 3 shows two other types of transforms and the resulting displacement across them. respectively). Figure 3 In Figure 4 .Note that offset of rift segments is opposite to the direction of actual displacement across the transform fault (shown by arrows). .). Continued spreading. will not affect the offset of ridge segments. and represent one of several possible types of plate-boundary connections. Such transform faults have come to be known as ridge-ridge transforms. Crustal attenuation is also illustrated. we see examples of a ridge-ridge and ridge-trench transform (San Andreas and Fair-weather fault systems.

Figure 4 Note that the northern corner of the Cocos plate must also be marked by a ridgetrench transform. such as those found in the Bakersfield area of southern California (Harding 1976). Basic Influence of Faulting on Logs Figure 1 . It is speculated that ridge-ridge transforms act to decrease the dynamic resistance to spreading (Bally and Oldow 1983). and to segment the diverging plate margins into orthogonal steps that reduce the effective surface area. They trend at right angles to ridge segments and therefore trace the actual direction of plate motion. Where transform faults cut continental crust.S. This resistance is at least partially amplified by differential rates of spreading along a ridge axis. the term wrench fault is used. The faults are said to provide avenues of low shear resistance for separation. transforms appear to develop in response to the differential velocities and directions of converging plates. The San Andreas fault is a well-known example that connects the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the U. With respect to subduction and collision boundaries. As such. Associated folding and normal faulting have created structural traps for large hydrocarbon accumulations. Pacific Northwest with the Baja spreading ridge in the Gulf of California. . they frequently represent a type of metastable condition that will continue until major plate reorganization (Bally and Oldow 1983). This type of transform is of some importance to petroleum exploration.

Figure 1 Figure 2 . .

along with two field examples.Figure 2 and Figure 3 show the predicted effect of normal and reverse faulting on log curves. .

on the other hand. we can think of stress as the three-dimensional intensity of force acting at a specified point. the repetition of section in gamma ray. In reality. a rock has structure. however.Figure 3 Figure 3 shows a cutout of section from a well in Alaska's giant Prudhoe Bay field. which act . Basically. Figure 2 is from a well in western Iran and shows. Basic Concepts A rock is said to be in a state of stress when a force is applied to it. the forces that compose stress can be divided into two main types: (1) body forces. Earth stress is not simple. and dipmeter logs caused by relatively lowangle thrusting. An anticline in the upper limb is clearly indicated by the upward-decreasing dip pattern. On earth. It is also true that for any such moment. only in deep space would this same rock be relatively free of stress. For any moment in its total history. while the fault plane itself is marked by a zone of chaotic dips. it is subject to stresses that tend to alter its properties. resistivity. What makes measurement complex is the variety in the components of force (with their changing magnitudes and directions) that can occur within a single volume of rock. but involves total force-per-unit-area for a particular point. Note how the dip log responds to drag immediately below the fault.

by definition. does not imply anything about the nature or behavior of the material composing the clastic particle. If our particular grain becomes involved in diastrophism. Figure 1 Since gravity and inertia. (Note that viscous. The force due to gravity is called the lithostatic pressure. are defined only along every point within the crust. which act parallel to these same surfaces (Elliott 1976). which act only at interfaces between objects and. which results from the simple weight of overburden transferred by grain-to-grain contact.) Figure 1 shows diagrammatically the breakdown of all these forces that compose the total stress on this single grain. two types of body forces act at all times: gravity and inertia. and viscous forces. We can better understand how these forces act by considering a single clastic grain buried within the earth's crust. which act perpendicular to the surface of the clast. On this grain. and (2) surface forces (also called applied forces). it is surface forces that are primarily responsible for the creation of geologic structure and with which the structural geologist is concerned. two types of surface forces will also exert their influence on it: pressure forces. act on every particle at every point in the crust. as used here. therefore. .

simple overburden can also create abnormally high pore fluid pressures that. of lateral stress in the crust. ( Figure 1 .) The principal deformational effect of this body force is the compaction of sedimentary grains.A rock undergoes deformation when stress causes the displacement of particles within it. stress is a vector quantity and thus may be expressed as the sum of various components. and the rate and intensity at which the displacing forces are applied. however small." since there is nearly always some component. may lead to slumping and "growth" faulting. A stress field is described as homogeneous if the stress at each point is equal. Resolution of unidirectional force (F) acting on a cube face into the basic normal (N) and shear (S) components of stress. Geologists commonly make use of the concept of a stress field. or both. The Three Principal Stresses As a measure of force-per-area. its immediate environment. Such stress can result from body or surface forces. (We say "approximates. However. Deformation in nature is almost never simple. which refers to the distribution of stress acting within a defined body. The only situation that normally approximates this near the earth's surface is when stress is almost totally due to lithostatic pressure. since it results from a complex interaction between the chemical and physical properties of a rock mass. . in turn. Such a body can be a single folded layer or a sizeable portion of a continent.

and along (parallel to) them. we see that the total force (F) can be resolved into contributions that act perpendicular to the faces of the cube. Resolution of normal and shear stresses on a cube undergoing simple progressive deformation. .Figure 1 Also shown is the idealized physical effect of each component. ( Figure 1 and Figure 2 .) If we trade our clastic grain for a hypothetical cube of uniform composition and subject this cube to a progressive deformation.

) On every face of our hypothetical cube. Materials science. These axes. During deformation. while that of the normal stress increases. then. Normal stresses can be either compressional or tensional and tend to compact or separate particles within a body.per-unit area) and shear stresses (the viscous-forceper-unit area). there will usually exist both normal stresses (the pressure-force. is to move particles past one another ( Figure 1 ). These three planes are known as principal planes of stress. the relative magnitudes of these two stress types will change.Figure 2 The direction and magnitude of force (F) remain constant. has derived an important conclusion that has proven very useful in structural geology: for any point in a homogeneous stress field. and the axes of their intersection are thus the principal axes of stress. such that one type may decrease as the other increases ( Figures 2 ). since it allows us to speak in terms of only normal . there exist three mutually orthogonal planes along which all shear stresses vanish and thus only the components of normal stress exist. then. through its detailed analysis of stress conditions. are used to describe what are referred to as the three principal stresses. As deformation progresses. This ideal triaxial system makes everything simpler. The effect of shear stresses. the relative magnitude of the shear stress decreases. on the other hand.

. i.stresses (see Figure 3 . Figure 3 Figure 4 and Figure 5 ). compression ("squeezing") or tension ("pulling-apart"). .e.

In Figure 3 and Figure 4. .Figure 4 (Generalized orientation of the principal axes of stress for three basic geologic structures. while Figure 5 shows the effect of horizontal extension. horizontal compression can be thought of as the actual applied force.

4. compression negative). where σ 1 = σ 3 and is nonzero. i. where two principal stresses are nonzero and the other is zero. Biaxial stress. . principal stress).. Pure shear stress. and σ 3 (least or minimum. This is a special case of biaxial stress. principal stress is always spoken of in terms of compression. where two principal stresses are zero and the other is nonzero. Uniaxial stress. while σ 2 is zero. are correspondingly written as σ 1 (maximum principal stress). where all three principal stresses are nonzero. it is useful to understand four special states of stress: 1. or stress directions. tension is positive. which is taken as positive (for materials and engineering science. 3. 2. σ 2 (intermediate principal stress). the opposite is true.Figure 5 ) In geology. The three principal axes. For the purposes of structural geology. Triaxial stress.e.

. ( Figure 6 . σ 1 and σ 3 can be thought of as representing the relative compression and tension that act to deform a rock body by compacting particles into each other and stretching them away from each other. and σ 2. In terms of actual physical effects. Though there are no shear stresses acting on the surfaces of our cube. can be described and related to actual geologic structures. σ 2 and σ 3 differ in magnitude and direction means that shear stress is generated within the cube. we would find that they reach a maximum along planes inclined at 45° to σ 1 and σ 3 that include σ 2. Diagram showing planes of maximum shear stress in an idealized triaxial stress system that is applied to a homogeneous block of material.σ 3 (called the differential stress) is sometimes used as a general indicator of shearing stress. that they. Thus. Again. a strong extensional event in the crust will have a σ 1 associated with it that is secondary.Within the earth's crust. related mainly to overburden pressure in this case. the most common stress situation is triaxial. the fact that σ 1. Figure 4 and Figure 5 which place our hypothetical cube in evolving fold and fault structures. i. σ 1 represents the direction of maximum effective compression. If we were to measure the shearing stresses generated within our cube. or-as geologists often apply it-at a certain location within a defined plate tectonic regime. very often. however. In fact. The relationship between the three principal axes of stress can be pictured by considering the triaxial examples shown in Figure 3 . For example. σ 2 is parallel to the surface of the earth. the quantity σ 1. with σ 1 > σ 2> σ 3 >0. σ 3. the compression is passive. these stresses are defined only in relation to each other. It basically represents the presence of essentially "infinite" neighboring material. . we should not be concerned with the specific angle that the faults make with respect to these directions of stress. At this point.e. extension. are normal to the plane of the paper. In physical terms. with these three axes. We say "relative" because. the conditions of stress at any point. Note.

Despite the extensive and detailed literature available on stress analysis in various rock types. these only give us information about the final structure and the stresses either stored within it or associated with its specific setting within a larger tectonic environment. Such techniques do not directly tell us about the evolution of a particular structure. Figure 7 . and. as we will see later on.Figure 6 Note that these planes are inclined at 45 between any two principal stress axes.) This represents the ideal case. little is known about stress fields that govern deformation in progress. Though techniques exist to determine in situ stresses. it helps explain why rocks do not fracture randomly when stressed to the point of rupture.

Figure 7 and Figure 8 show two computer-generated interpretations of normal and shear stresses in a folding layer that has already suffered approximately 630/c total shortening. .

if permanent. strain is a measure (qualitative or numerical) of this displacement. those in volume are described as dilatation. which can be either positive (in expansion) or negative (in contraction or shrinkage). if we make a close comparison between Figure 1 and Figure 2 (Computer-generated stress field for a . We might just quickly note three important aspects to Figures 7 and 8: (1) how σ 3 changes direction over different parts of the folding layer. As implied by our previous discussion. It may also. All of these reveal significant elements in the folding process. strain can result from both body and surface forces. Basic Concepts Strain is said to exist when particles within a body have undergone displacement: specifically. be caused by changes in the temperature and chemical composition of a rock body. Changes in shape resulting from strain are called distortion. (2) how this compares to the changing directions of shearing stress shown in Figure 8 . Furthermore. which. and (3) how the sense of these shearing stresses reverses across the folding layer.Figure 8 The short lines in Figure 7 are drawn perpendicular to σ 1 and therefore closely approximate σ 3. stress and strain are inseparable during actual deformation. is called deformation. however. Although strain is commonly conceived of as the effect of stress.

Figure 1 The short lines in Figure 1 represent σ 3 axes and in Figure 2. .hypothetical fold in a less viscous matrix.

We can see. where shearing stresses are greatest. geologists often introduce helpful simplifications into their analysis of strain in nature. that the orientations of the short lines coincide least within the flanks of the folded layer. As we move up or down the flanks. Thus. Our hypothetical cube is said to have suffered homogeneous strain (also called uniform strain) when the strain is the same at all points within it. we can see that the specific relationship between stress direction and resulting strain is complex. for example. Types of Strain Much of the terminology derived for understanding stress has also been applied to strain.Figure 2 short lines are drawn perpendicular to the axes of maximum shortening). we would need to understand precisely the mechanisms involved in the transformation of stress into strain before we could accurately predict how these two vector quantities are geometrically related. . As a result. toward the "hinges" of the fold. This means that originally straight lines remain straight after deformation (part a of Figure 1 ). we notice that the attitude of the strain lines must be explained in terms of a growing combination of normal and shearing stresses. even in simple situations. The more important of these are based on the assumption that the strain involved in deformation has been relatively homogeneous.

Figure 1 Thus. Natural fracturing. There are a number of basic ways in which deformation by homogeneous strain at constant volume occurs. It is. . fracture patterns very often have a direct causal relation to major structures. such as mineral alignment and fracturing. Such fabrics often provide invaluable clues to both small. when we look at fracturing in detail. while a sphere inscribed within it becomes an ellipsoid. The summation-of-local-strains method. The most common approach is to consider geologic structures as the summation of many localized homogeneous strain fields. As we will see. undrilled areas. Those that involve simple flattening and stretching are shown in Figure 2 . This type of strain involves some amount of rotation in the position of particles. Several examples of this are given later on.and large-scale structural patterns. therefore. and knowledge of the stress-strain relationship associated with it can be very useful. therefore. which means that originally straight lines become warped and detailed analysis becomes impracticable. of course. is of particular importance to petroleum geology. for example. by far the most common in naturally deformed rock. This method has proved especially helpful in the explanation of secondary rock fabrics. such as faults and folds. almost always useful to find some way in which natural deformation can be approximated as homogeneous. a cube becomes a rhombohedron. will usually reveal this and permit the geologist to predict patterns in adjacent. This should also help make clear the basic concept of inhomogeneous strain (part b of Figure 1 ).

) To understand how geologists treat natural deformation. uniform flattening.Figure 2 (Several basic types of homogeneous strain imposed on a cube of ideally uniform composition. however. it is also necessary that we look at the two basic types of shear strain. Hypothetical cross section and diagram to illustrate domains of pure and simple shear in a series of folds that show progressively greater total strain. the inscribed circle and ellipse represent cross sections through the strain ellipsoid before and after deformation. and c. plane strain. In each case. Note that no strain occurs in the intermediate direction. uniform extension. ( Figure 3 . b. The types of strain shown are: a. .

) Both types help us explain a great many large.and small-scale features seen in rocks. It is often referred to as an irrotational deformation. Particle paths in simple and pure shear. Pure shear is a form of strain in which no rotation of the strain axes takes place. Note rotation involved in pure shear). . Strain that approximates pure shear is seen in many folds.Figure 3 The shape of the strain ellipse can be the same for either type of shear and cannot be used to derive detailed strain history." It results from uniform extension in one direction and contraction perpendicular to it ( Figure 4 .

this style of deformation has widespread application to geologic structure. this time. we find that these remain orthogonal through the homogeneous deformation and can be used to describe the long. Displacement within such a body takes place by slippage along closely spaced planes ( Figure 4 ). or by actual flow at elevated temperatures and pressures. The shearing motion created by these two surfaces stretches and flattens the sphere into a strain ellipsoid whose long axis is progressively rotated until it is nearly parallel to the fault plane itself. In actual materials. however. this can be accomplished in a number of ways. This is our cube pressed into a rhombohedron again. Simple shear can be visualized by imagining the result of placing our cube (with its inscribed sphere) between the two surfaces of an active fault. λ 2 and λ 3. for example.Figure 4 In simple shear. Strain Ellipsoid Let us refer again to the sphere inscribed within our cube that undergoes homogeneous strain. Several . ( Figure 1 . by slippage between grains or crystals. we need to take note of the rotation in the strain ellipsoid. As we shall see. and short dimensions of the resulting ellipsoid. Giving this sphere axes λ 1. all particles within a body are displaced in one direction. medium.

( Figure 2 . i. Just as stress can be said to exist at every point within a body. so is there a corresponding strain ellipsoid for these points. Thus. the inscribed circle and ellipse represent cross sections through the strain ellipsoid before and after deformation.. and (c) plane strain. comparison between the "before" and "after" shape and axes of the sphere inscribed within our cube provides us with a measure of the amount and type of strain. maximum shortening occurs in the direction of maximum principal stress. . and maximum extension in the direction of minimum principal stress).) Together.e.basic types of homogeneous strain imposed on a cube of ideally uniform composition. It is standard practice for geologists to derive the principal axes of stress by superimposing them on the strain ellipsoid. The types of strain shown are: (a) uniform extension. Note that no strain occurs in the intermediate direction. once deformation has taken place. Note that this superposition assumes homogeneous strain. (b) uniform flattening. these are called the principal strain axes of the strain ellipsoid. Figure 1 In each case.

the intermediate axis remains the diameter of the "original" sphere (the λ 2 axis-. offered considerable insight into basic mechanisms and patterns of deformation-particularly faulting and fracturing-on many scales. This will become increasingly clear in the following two sections on folding and faulting. ( . the one that involves σ 1 and σ 3). the principal axes of stress and strain coincide only under conditions of homogeneity). It has. The justification for this is.parallel to σ 2-. If we are ready to accept the assumption of homogeneous strain. while shortening and stretching occur along the other two part c of Figure 1 ). and the layered nature of lithologic sequences. two dimensions are sufficient to describe the strain at a particular point. the strain ellipse becomes one of our principal indicators for the summation. Thus. geologists have also found it advantageous to make use of a strain ellipse-essentially a cross section through the strain ellipsoid along the λ 1 λ 3 plane (i. many geologic examples of strain can be considered to approximate plane strain (see part c of Figure 1 ).Figure 2 This is an optimistic simplification (as we have seen. but can be very useful. dependent on the assumption of homogeneous strain.e. again. for example. Because of their frequent use of structural cross sections..of-local-strains method. Because of the regional nature of most tectonism. In this type of deformation.

(Example of how the strain ellipse – here constructed from deformed oolites – can be used as a descriptive guide to deformation intensity and orientation.) As shown by Figure 4 . Figure 3 The shape of the strain ellipse can be the same for either type of shear and cannot be used to derive detailed strain history. .Figure 3 Hypothetical cross section and diagram to illustrate domains of pure and simple shear in a series of folds that show progressively greater total strain.

and thus strength. Strain indicators are primarily useful where this may not be clear and where special circumstances warrant mathematical determinations of strain. certain fossils. and the development of secondary fabrics such as cleavage. can be used as qualitative ellipses or. recrystallization. Some natural materials. pebbles. are fated to absorb stress by flowage. ellipsoids. Specific techniques for measuring finite strain from oolites and spherulites are given by Ramsay (1967) and Ramsay and Huber (1985). spherulites. because volume changes frequently occur during deformation (especially in carbonates) any quantitative determinations of strain based on such materials must be used with caution.S ) the strain ellipse can be an important guide to the general degree and style of deformation. Nearly all deformation in nature is in-homogeneous. In most cases. since it may be the only direct evidence available for how much strain has affected the fabric-and thus porosity and permeability-of a lithologic section. However. but adjust in complex ways. in some cases. other lithologies. Some units become strain-hardened and are able to withstand and transfer greater and greater amounts of stress as deformation progresses. U. In principle. . and reduction spots in shales. the degree of tectonic influence on grain texture is fairly apparent from petrographic study. rocks do not behave passively during deformation. thickness. Such an indicator can be important to the subsurface explorationist. but volume changes that involve both loss and addition of material frequently take place.Figure 4 Shown is a cross section through the south Mountain fold of western Maryland. such as ooids. any object whose initial shape is known can act as a strain indicator. Not only do originally planar surfaces become complexly curved. in contrast. Because of their pronounced heterogeneity in composition.

From these studies. the intent of which is to simulate and analyze the process and effects of deformation. These are defined by the behavior of the deformed material. despite the dominance of inhomogeneity in nature. this often establishes the regional nature of stress and strain. This is called the mean strain ellipse and is often useful in explaining such trends in terms of plate interactions Rock Strength A substantial literature exists with regard to experimental "rock crushing" in the laboratory. both local and regional deformational history can be reconstructed by assuming near-homogeneous strain domains. Figure 1 In order. and are most clearly and simply shown by the use of stress-strain diagrams ( Figure 1 ). which are subjected to compressive or tensile stresses in a chamber whose pressure and temperature are regulated. On a large scale. Geologists often estimate a regional strain ellipse based on the orientation of major structural trends. scientists have determined that deformation generally progresses through three main stages (Nadai 1950).Again. corelike samples. Studies are usually performed on cylindrical. the three stages are as follows: .

. segment A). (c) Newtonian (viscous) body ). it will eventually reach some limit beyond which the body suffers permanent strain. point C). the body reverts to its original dimensions. as shown in Figure 2 (Stress-strain relationships for several ideal materials: (a) Hookean (elastic) body. segment B). any increase in stress brings a corresponding increase in deformation ( Figure 1 . Figure 2 Venant (plastic) body. strain is said to be completely reversible ( Figure 1 . • Plastic As stress continues to increase. This is termed the elastic limit (or yield stress).• Elastic During this initial stage. No deformation (permanent strain) results. and beyond it material is said to behave plastically. If stress is removed. • Rupture With continued increase of stress. These three stages through which deformation normally progresses are idealized as the behavior of three hypothetical "bodies" that are subjected to stress. the body will eventually fracture (rupture) ( Figure 1 . Each style of behavior is denoted by the name of a well-known mathematician. (b) St. Each should be apparent from the stress-strain graphs shown. the stress-strain relationship is linear.

Venant body. this type of body is represented as a porous piston pulled through a fluid-filled cylinder. and is approximated by a simple elastic spring attached to a fixed body. will deform indefinitely in response to any shear stress. then. A Newtonian body. has no shear strength at all and therefore exhibits no elastic strain. in contrast. Figure 3 The principal difference between ideality ( Figure 2 ) and reality ( Figure 3 ) lies in the behavior known as strain hardening. We might compare them to the graphs shown in Figure 3 . which describe two generalized stress-strain relationships for known materials. shows elastic strain up to a yield stress and then deforms indefinitely by shear strain at that same stress. help describe the components in progressive deformation when it is caused by increasing amounts of stress. then. A St. The last example." In part c of Figure 2 . This type of behavior is approximated by a weight that is pulled across some surface by an attached spring: the spring stretches elastically up to the point where friction on the table top is overcome and the weight begins to slide.A Hookean body knows only elastic strain before rupture. It deforms by what is called "viscous strain. . called a Newtonian body (or. with the total strain being directly proportional to the amount of elapsed time. sometimes. These three types of ideal bodies. Newtonian liquid).

g. pressure) being equal. In sandstones. rock will tend to act in a more brittle manner. In contrast. this will increase rock strength. Lithologies such as salt and gypsum-anhydrite may behave this way under certain conditions. in fact. But given normal rates of tectonic deformation ( Figure 1 and Figure 2 . Brittleness and Ductility On the basis of the differences between elastic and plastic behavior. Brittle material ruptures before any significant plastic deformation occurs. at low temperatures and pressures. temperature. We can envision it on one level as being due to the compaction and realignment of particles during progressive deformation. These are not necessarily faults or fractures visible to the unaided eye. greater and greater amounts of stress become necessary to impose the same increment of deformation ( Figure 3 . All other conditions (e. On the other hand. but may take place between individual grains or within crystal lattices. This causes the progressive filling of pore space with grain fragments and recrystallized quartz..Such hardening is often the result of complex readjustment-even recrystallization-of the material suffering strain. lower curve). upper curve). At the same time. effective confining pressure. Such behavior in rocks is marked by the development of breakage discontinuities along the planes that represent maximum shear strain. after which the stress necessary to cause a given strain decreases continually ( Figure 3 . With growing overburden (which increases both pressure and temperature). for example. Near the surface. It is. we are able to characterize the general response of materials as either brittle or ductile. whether a rock responds in a brittle or ductile manner depends on several major controls: composition. almost any rock will deform plastically (only those lithologies with very low resistance to shear. ductility generally increases. that is. strain hardening can occur up to some ultimate strength. We expect certain clastic lithologies to respond in this manner. the element of time is crucial. relatively meaningless to speak of the true "strength" of a rock without reference to these parameters. material is described as ductile if it is able to undergo a large amount of plastic deformation before failing. and strain rate. if small amounts of stress are applied over sufficiently long periods of time. In every situation. stress concentrations along grain boundaries result in extensive grain fracturing and dissolution. however. may not). such as basalt. temperature.

there is some transitional depth range over which the response of a particular rock type will grade from dominantly brittle to ductile. .Figure 2 . Charts comparing the rates of common sedimentary and tectonic processes in various parts of the world).

Figure 3 Such testing applies a uniaxial stress (either compression or tension) to a cylindrical sample that is sealed within a chamber whose temperature and confining pressure can be regulated. since these lithologies are more isotropic than clastic rock types. For example. or that ductility inevitably leads to folding. is responsible for the . the extensive fracture system that characterizes this and many of the Zagros folds-and. as a result. It should not be assumed that brittleness guarantees faulting. Most lithologic sequences are highly anisotropic. which involves rigid body rotation and translation at shallow levels in response to high strain rates. respond to tectonic stress in a manner that combines both styles of behavior. and. At the same time. in fact.Figure 1 Figure 3 is a schematic representation of the spectrum from brittle to ductile behavior in limestone. the very shallow Shaur anticline amply demonstrates relatively brittle bending. Limestone and marble have been favored as samples. as determined by laboratory tests.

000 bbl per day per well) in the Iranian Asmari oil fields-indicates simultaneous brittle rupture. Figure 4 .very high rates of production (up to 80. Figure 4 Figure 5 . and Figure 6 indicate how laboratory analysis has shown deformation to vary as a function of pressure. .

and strain rate. .Figure 5 temperature.

in one sense. Figure 7 is a diagram derived by Handin et al. the most obvious-. .its composition.Figure 6 The other factor that determines a rock's response to stress is.

even at moderate pressures and temperatures. and shear strength. a material that behaves in a brittle manner can fail only . three major points should be made in relation to these. This is partly the result of pore pressure effects that strongly reduce ultimate strength. dolomite does not deform readily by intracrystalline gliding.Figure 7 (1963) from extensive lab experiments on natural rock. Due to its mineral structure. Shown are measured ductilities for four common sedimentary lithologies in a water-saturated condition. however. Since both engineers and geologists make use of the terms compressive strength. is not a fixed property. What is normally referred to as "rock strength. We might also note that dolomite-while slightly more ductile than quartzite at depths below two kilometers-shows the tightest range of permanent strain before rupture. It is also. One interesting point made by this diagram is that." then. tensile strength. The same trend of ductility increase is true for sandstones. but a relative response. directly related to the mineral structure of calcite. and is often aided by pore pressure effects. which allows for significant intracrystal line gliding. First. marked differences in ductility already exist between limestone and other lithologies. with only one kilometer of burial. determined by a specific set of immediate environmental conditions.

below). Figure 1 . Note the relative similarity in tensile and shear strength among materials with widely differing crushing strength. (Courtesy AGI) The Mechanical Properties Log as an Estimate of Formation Strength The mechanical strength of a particular formation can be estimated from a mechanical properties log. almost all materials are weaker under tension than compression ( Table 1 . such as that in Figure 1 . And third. Measured strength of various rock types at standard temperature and pressure. it is very often the shearing strength of materials that determines when and how they will fail. Note also the data for basalt. Sandstone Limestone Quartzite Granite Basalt Average crushing strength 740 960 2020 1480 2500 Tensile strength Shearing strength 10-30 30-60 30-90 30-50 ------100-200 150-250 100-300 150-300 50-150 Table 1 . Second.under tension or shear.

which is defined as the overburden pressure minus the pore pressure. which show more ductile behavior. defined as dilatation divided by the hydrostatic pressure. Note the corresponding changes in all log curves from the weak sand to the relatively tight lime unit below. A simple example of ductility contrast would be an alternation of thick sandstone and shale layers. relative terms. and Anderson (1973). . they differ dramatically at depth. and certain dynamic elastic constants derived from compressional and shear velocities as recorded on sonic logs. rock density.It can be very important to determine the strength in reservoir sandstones in order to prevent sand production problems. This term is used to indicate contrasting behavior." within a layered sequence of different rock units. defined as the applied stress divided by the resulting shear strain. "Competent" and "incompetent. or "ductility contrast. are strictly qualitative and. and φ z is the total intergranular space. the quantity G/Cb is the most sensitive indicator of formation strength." therefore. more importantly. folding of the competent sand units would control the deformation in the weaker incompetent shales. As explained by Tixier. In the example shown. cement. Cb is the bulk compressibility. G represents the shear modules. Both experimental and field test data indicate that a good correlation exists between rock strength. structural geologists frequently describe the relative strength of rock material in terms of competence. During compression. derived from the interpretation of sonic logs. Intrinsic strength is dependent on several major factors. Looking at Figure 1 we can see that while limestone and dolomite share similar competencies in relation to quartzite at shallow levels. and the effective stress. Loveless. Competent units are those that deform in a more brittle manner relative to incompetent units. including grain texture. which tend to flow and accommodate the evolving fold geometry. The Concept of Rock Competence In addition to the concepts of brittleness and ductility.

rock often fails in the form of conjugate fractures. limestone becomes highly incompetent relative to both quartzite and dolomite.Figure 1 Below 4 km. Conjugate Fracturing and Shear Couples During experimental rupture tests (part (a) of Figure 1 ). .

III—Solenhofen limestone. brittle failure at 25 C. 20% strain. 280 bars.2% strain. near-ductile failure at 25 C.). and 1% strain. . II—Marble. 6500 bars. Part (b):Diagram illustrating angles of rupture in relation to maximum and minimum axes of stress. 9. 11. "transitional" failure at 25 C. IV—Solenhofen limestone.1% strain. 1000 bars. These represent full development of the discontinuities depicted in Figure 2 .Figure 1 (Part (a): Shear fractures typical of failure in dry limestone and marble: 1—Marble. 35 bars. ductile behavior followed by rupture at 150 C.

and the opposing motion across them is said to represent a shear couple. Movement along conjugate fractures takes place by shearing. Comparing these data with those presented in Table 2. Typical strains before rupture as given. since shear fracture is one of the most common types of strain observed in rocks. below. it would seem that a general correspondence exists between fracture orientation and shearing strength. gives the predicted angles of fracturing for common sedimentary and igneous lithologies.).Figure 2 (Schematic diagram showing the spectrum from brittle fracture to ductile flow during typical compression and extension experiments on rock material. below). Table 1. is not surprising. Part a of Figure 1 portrays several examples of faulting created during testing. Generally. The angle fractures make with respect to σ 1 and σ 2 is almost never 45° (see part b of Figure 1 and Table 1. however. σ 2 and σ 3 in relation to shearing. below. fractures occur at low angles (roughly 15-30 degrees) to σ 1 and complementary high angles (60-75 degrees) to σ 3. This. of course. as are stress strain curves for uniaxial compression and extension. It is important to remember the basic orientation of σ 1. Rock is generally a heterogeneous material and a great variety of internal physical properties determine the actual orientation of fractures. The effects of shearing . Ruled portions on the latter indicate the variation common for each case.

Figure 3 and Figure 4 (San Andreas fault system. Figure 3 California) offer two examples of regions where the resolution of principal stress directions is fairly straightforward. . from displacement within calcite crystal lattices to the motion between lithospheric plates.are well documented on all scales.

(Courtesy AGI) .Figure 4 Geologists have found it useful to delimit shear couples in a wide variety of tectonic environments. Measured strength of various rock types at standard temperature and pressure. In particularly complex regions. Table 1. (Courtesy AGI) Rock Type Shale (calcareous) Siltstone Sandstone Limestone fine-grained oolitic Granite Basalt θ φ Main shear strength kg/cm2 13° 77° 20° 70° 21° 69° 16° 74° 23° 67° 17° 73° 21° 69° 275 100 150 200 Table 2. Mean shear strength values are from Table 2. Note the relative similarity in tensile and shear strength among materials with widely differing crushing strength. Note also the data for basalt. Predicted angles of rupture in relation to principal axes of compression and tension. recognition of direction and attitude of the principal stress axes has proved its worth as both an explanatory and predictive tool.

Nomenclature of a trap using a simple anticline as an example). shale stringers within a reservoir unit contribute to gross pay but not to net pay ( Figure 2 .Sandstone Limestone Quartzite Granite Basalt Average crushing strength kg/cm2 740 960 2020 1480 2500 Tensile strength 10-30 30-60 30-90 30-50 ------- Shearing strength 100-200 150-250 100-300 150-300 50-150 Definitions and Concepts Many terms are used to describe the various parts of a trap. The horizontal plane through the spill point is called the spill plane. This can vary from only one or two meters in Texas to several hundred in the North Sea and Middle East. Figure 1 The highest point of the trap is the crest or culmination. A trap may or may not be full to the spill point. The vertical distance from the high point at the crest to the low point at the spill point is the closure. The productive reservoir is the pay. The lowest point is the spill point. The anticlinal trap. For example. Not all of the gross pay of a reservoir may be productive. will be used as our reference ( Figure 1 . the simplest type. Its gross vertical interval is known as the gross pay.

The oil-water contact. gas or a combination of the two. OWC. is the deepest level of producible oil within an individual reservoir ( Figure 3a . Facies change in an anticlinal trap. Figure 2 A trap may contain oil. Fluid contacts within a reservoir in an oil-water system).. Net pay refers only to the possibly productive reservoir. illustrating the difference between net pay and gross pay). .

GOC ( Figure 3c . gas or both. Fluid contacts within a reservoir in a gas-water system). gas overlies oil because of its lower density. as well as the pressure and temperature of the reservoir itself. Sarir field in Libya). Before the reserves of the field can be calculated. Tar mats cause considerable production problems . or oil-saturated rocks. are important in determining whether a trap contains oil. Similarly. as the case may be.g. either the gas-water contact. it is essential that these surfaces be accurately evaluated. Fluid contacts within a reservoir in a gas-oil-water system) is the lower level of the producible gas. Oil and gas may occur together in the same trap as separate liquid and gaseous phases. or the gas-oil contact. Source rock chemistry and level of maturation. a mat of heavy tar is present at the oilwater contact. In some oil fields (e. Degradation of the oil by bottom waters moving beneath the oil-water contact may cause this tar to form.Figure 3a It marks the interface between predominately oil-saturated rocks and watersaturated rocks. In this case. GWC ( Figure 3b . Their establishment is one of the main objectives of welllogging and testing. The GWC or GOC marks the interface between predominately gas-saturated rocks and either water-saturated rocks.

Boundaries between oil. Transitional nature of fluid contacts within a reservoir-. Figure 4a Transitional nature of fluid contacts within a contact) or gradational ( Figure 4b . Nomenclature of underlying reservoir waters). Directly beneath the hydrocarbons is the zone of bottom water ( Figure 5 . The zone of edge water is adjacent to the reservoir. An abrupt fluid contact usually indicates a permeable reservoir.because they prevent water from moving upwards and from displacing the produced oil. gas and water may be sharp ( Figure 4a . .gradational contact). Gradational contacts usually indicate low permeability reservoirs with high capillary pressure.

and for the establishment of efficient production procedures. One of the most common ways in which a tilted fluid contact may occur is through hydrodynamic flow of bottom waters ( Figure 6 . Tilted fluid contact caused by hydrodynamic flow). Should a tilted fluid contact be present. its early recognition is essential for correct evaluation of reserves. .Figure 5 Fluid contacts in a trap are almost always planar but are by no means always horizontal.

stratigraphic. . and Hobson and Tiratsoo. 1975). within the geographic limits of an oil or gas field ( Figure 7 . each with its own fluid contact. below ). Basically.. Several classification schemes have been proposed (Clapp. hydrodynamic and combination ( Table 1. 1910. Lovely. Each individual pool may contain one or more pay zones. traps can be classified into four major types: structural.Figure 6 There may be one or more separate hydrocarbon pools. the ratio between gross pay and net effective pay is important and is generally mapped from well data as the field is developed. 1917. Classification There are many different types of hydrocarbon traps. Figure 7 Remember. 1943. Multiple pools within an oil and gas field).

or postdepositional. Classification of Hydrocarbon Traps TRAP TYPES Structural Traps Fold Traps: Compressional Folds Compactional Folds Diapir Folds CAUSES Tectonic processes Depositional / Tectonic processes Tectonic Processes Fault Traps Tectonic Processes Stratigraphic Traps Depositional morphology or diagenesis Hydrodynamic Traps Water flow Combination Traps Combination of two or more of the above processes Structural traps are primarily due to post-depositional processes which modify the spatial configuration of the reservoir rock. as in channels. as viewed from below. or both. of the reservoir rock. mainly by folding and faulting. Stratigraphic traps are those whose geometry is due to changes in lithology. Structural Traps The geometry of a structural trap is due essentially to some post-depositional modification of the reservoir. In the words of Levorsen (1967) "A structural trap is one whose upper boundary has been made concave. by some local deformation. A good summary of the more common trap types and their formational environments is found in Bailey and Stoneley (1981). The lithological changes may be depositional. or faulting. the downward movement of formation waters prevents the upward movement of oil. In hydrodynamic traps. where strata are truncated or where rock lithologies have been altered by diagenesis.Table 1. Combination traps combine two or more of the previouslydefined generic groups. reefs and bars." . such as folding.

These troughs are usually associated with active continental margins where there is a net shortening of the earth's crust ( Figure 1 . Active continental margin with net shortening of crust.subduction zone). a . Within this province are a number of fault-bounded troughs infilled by thick regressive sequences in which organic-rich basinal muds are overlain by deep-sea sands and capped by younger continental beds as shown by Figure 2 (Generalized west-southwest-east-northeast structural cross-section). Figure 1 In California. and those due to faulting. Fold Traps ( Compressional ) Anticlinal traps which are due to compression are most likely to be found in or near geosynclinal troughs.Selley (1982) has further defined the boundaries of a structural trap. the Tertiary basins form a major hydrocarbon province which contains compressional anticlinal traps. thus "The edges of a pool occurring in a structural trap are determined wholly or in part by the intersection of the underlying water table with the roof rock overlying the deformed reservoir rock." Structural traps are divided into those due to folding.

section of the Los Angeles basin. either normal. Anticlinal traps of a broad. 1958. 1958.cross. Oil fields of the Los Angeles basin) is a giant anticlinal trap with ultimate recoverable reserves of about 3 billion barrels of oil. Many oil and gas fields in this province are also associated with faulting. gentle character may also be formed in large cratonic basins of stable shelf sediments. reverse or strike-slip. . Schwade at al. and Simonson. 1958).. Figure 2 These basins have been locally subjected to tight compressive folding associated with the apparent transcurrent movement of the San Andreas fault system (Barbat. The Wilmington oil field in the Los Angeles basin ( Figure 3 .

The overall anticlinal shape of the field is shown by the structure contours on top of the main pay zone ( Figure 4 . Wilmington field. Notice also the cross-cutting faults. . Structural contours on top of Ranger zone. CA).Figure 3 It is approximately 15 kilometers long and nearly 5 kilometers wide.

Wilmington field). .Figure 4 From a southwest-northeast cross section of the Wilmington field. you can see the broad arch of the anticline ( Figure 5 .and Pliocene-age deep-sea sands. Southwest-northeast cross-section A-Z. The main reservoir occurs beneath the Pliocene unconformity in Miocene.

Figure 5 The foothills of the Zagros mountains in Iran contain one of the best-known hydrocarbon provinces with production from compressional anticlines ( Figure 6 . southwest Iran and Persian Gulf). Location map. .

. Figure 7 (Southwest-northeast generalized sections through Asmari oil fields) . 1970). provides the main producing reservoir. Some single wells have flowed up to 50 million barrels. Sixteen of these anticlinal fields are in the "giant" category with recoverable reserves of over 500 million barrels of oil or 3. a reservoir with extensive fracture porosity.Figure 6 Individual anticlines are up to 60 kilometers in length and 10-15 kilometers in width.5 trillion cubic feet of gas (Halbouty et al. The Asmari limestone (Oligocene-Miocene) .

In areas of still more intense structural deformation. . Painter Reservoir field.Figure 7 shows two schematic cross sections through the Asmari oil fields according to two different interpretations of deep structure. Wyoming) beneath a thrust plane. and in reservoirs sealed beneath the thrust. the reader is also referred to Lees (1952). anticlinal development may be associated with thrust faulting. For further detailed descriptions of these fields. the Painter Reservoir field is a fairly tight anticline ( Figure 8 . which itself is involved in thrusting along its southeastern border. Structural contours on top of Nugget sandstone. In Wyoming. The thrust faults cause a thickening of the sedimentary column as older rocks are thrust up over younger rocks causing repeated sections. Falcon (1958. one showing anticlines without thrusting and one with thrust faulting. Traps may occur in anticlines above thrust planes. Such thrust fault belts are usually found within mountain chains throughout the world. 1969) and Colman-Sadd (1978).

the anticline is overturned and thrust faulted on its southeastern flank ( Figure 9 . . The anticline occurs beneath a series of thrust slices that in turn occur beneath a major unconformity.Figure 8 In cross section. Northwest-southeast cross-section through Painter Reservoir field).

Figure 9 Fold Traps ( Compactional ) Compactional fold frequently occurs where crustal tension associated with rifting causes a sedimentary basin to form. Compactional anticlines in sediments draped over underlying structurally high horst blocks ). . Anticlines may then occur in the sedimentary cover draped over the structurally-high horst blocks ( Figure 1 . The floor is commonly split into a system of basement horsts and grabens. An initial phase of deposition fills this irregular topography.

thickness of a given sedimentary unit is thinner over the crest of the underlying structural high ( Figure 2a . At the time of deposition. Developmental stages of compactional anticlines--initial stage of deposition). .Figure 1 These anticlines develop by differential compaction of sediment.

In the North Sea there are several good examples of compactional anticline traps where Paleocene deep-sea sands are draped over deep-seated basement horsts. Sandbar or shoal sands may also develop on the crest of structures. These include the Forties (Hill and Wood. The Forties field is an example of a compactional anticline on the western side of the North Sea. Developmental stages of compactional anticlines--compactional stage). Montrose (Fowler. Therefore.Figure 2a Compaction then takes place over the feature ( Figure 2b . the actual amount of compaction is greater for the thicker sediment in the trough. and East Frigg fields (Heritier et al. shoal and reefal facies may pass off-structure into thinner increments of basinal lime mud. 1980). Regional structure is a southeasterly-plunging nose bounded to the . with deep-water muds present further down the flanks. Though the percentage of compaction is constant for crest and trough. For this reason. 1975). 1980). reservoir quality often diminishes down the flank of such structures. Developmental stages of compactional anticlines-structural closure enhanced by recurrent fault movement). Differential depositional rates may also enhance the closure. Deep-seated.. recurrent fault movement may enhance the structural closure ( Figure 2c . Carbonate sedimentation tends to be thicker in the shallower waters over underlying structural highs.

North Sea). North Sea). Structural contours on top of Paleocene reservoir. Forties field area. Figure 3 A north-south cross section depicts the anticline developed at the Paleocene level where the reservoir sands are sealed by overlying Tertiary clays ( Figure 4 .northeast and southwest by faults ( Figure 3 . . Schematic north-south cross-section A-Z through Forties field.

depositional causes than to structure. may also occur over reefs and other deepseated rigid features. Only differential compaction folds occurring over deep-seated horst blocks have been discussed. Comparison of Major Types There are many differences between the fold traps caused by compression. As already discussed. so the porosity found in them is more related to primary. With compaction folds. porosity may vary between crest and flank. Differential compaction and recurrent fault movement seem to have controlled the structure throughout the Cretaceous and into the Tertiary. however. Compressional folds form after sedimentation. Compressional folds are generally oriented with their long axis perpendicular to the axis of crestal shortening.Figure 4 The anticline overlies a deep-seated horst of late Jurassic volcanics. . Source rocks of upper Jurassic age occur around the edge of this horst structure. Fold Traps. there may be primary depositional control of reservoir quality. whereas compactional folds are often irregularly shaped due to the shape of underlying features. Compaction folds. 1982). and those caused by compaction (Selley. These folds may also contain fracture porosity as they are usually lithified when deformed. Furthermore. secondary diagenetic porosity may also be developed on the crests of compactional folds as such structures are prone to sub-areal exposure and leaching.

Busch (1974). the processes which give rise to them are usually more complex than those which cause structural traps. Table 1 . Depositional Traps Stratigraphic trap geometry is due to variations in lithology. irrespective of the cause. a channel or a reef. For reviews on the concept of stratigraphic traps." Stratigraphic traps are harder to locate than structural ones because they are not as easily revealed by reflection seismic surveys. or an upstructure termination of the reservoir rock. or it may be due to diagenetic changes. These variations may be controlled by the original deposition of the strata. such as a facies change. Also. However. and Conybeare (1976). or lithology. the reader is referred to Dott and Reynolds (1969) and Rittenhouse (1972). while compactional folds may have a complex history due to rejuvenation of underlying basement faults. Alternatively. Levorsen (1967) defines a stratigraphic trap as "one in which the chief trap-making element is some variation in the stratigraphy.Compressional folds commonly form from one major tectonic event. variable local porosity and permeability. Major sources of specific data on stratigraphic traps can be found in King (1972). of the reservoir rock. A broad classification of the various types of stratigraphic traps can be made. or both. as in the case of a bar. the change may be post-depositional as in the case of a truncation trap. classifying traps has its limitations because many oil and gas fields are transitional between clearly-defined types. .

shows that a major distinction can be made between stratigraphic traps which occur within normal conformable sequences ( Figure 1 .Table 1 (Classification of stratigraphic type hydrocarbon traps) based on the scheme proposed by Rittenhouse (1972). .

Schematic of traps associated with unconformaties). .Figure 1 Schematic of trap within normal conformable sequence) and those that are associated with unconformities ( Figure 2 .

Schematic of two channel traps). such as channels.Figure 2 This distinction is rather arbitrary since there are some types. . that can occur both at unconformities and away from them ( Figure 3 .

Isopach map of Lower Muddy interval. The channel reservoir has a width of some 1500 meters and a maximum thickness of approximately 15 meters ( Figure 1 . . Colorado and New Mexico.Figure 3 Of the traps occurring within normal conformable sequences. from Alberta. ranging from meandering fluvial deposits through deltaic distributary channels to deep-sea channels. Wyoming. Wyoming). It has been mapped for a distance of over 15 kilometers and can be clearly seen to meander. The depositional or facies-change traps include channels. The South Glenrock oil field in Wyoming contains oil trapped in both marine-bar and fluvial-channel reservoirs. through Montana. These channels occur both cut into a major pre-Cretaceous unconformity and within the Cretaceous strata. Depositional Traps: Channels Many oil and gas fields occur trapped within channels of various types. Many good examples of stratigraphic traps in channels can be found in the Cretaceous basins along the eastern flanks of the Rocky Mountains. South Glenrock oil field. a major distinction is made between traps due to deposition and those due to diagenesis. bars and reefs.

Figure 1 A cross section of the field shows that the channel is only partially filled by sand and is partly plugged by clay ( Figure 2 . West-east cross-section A-Z of two Lower Muddy stream channels). .

The South Glenrock field illustrates an important points about channel stratigraphic traps.Figure 2 The SP curves on some of the well logs (e. The deltaic distributary channel of Oklahoma. Because of their limited areal extent and thickness. wells #5 and #6 on Figure 2 ) display upward-fining point-bar sequences. . such reservoirs seldom contain giant accumulations.g. greater Seminole district. Isopach map of Booch sandstone. eastern Oklahoma). is a good example of channel traps in sands other than the meandering fluvial variety ( Figure 3 . a characteristic of meandering channel deposits.

however. Oil may then be structurally or stratigraphically trapped within these blanket sands. showing interconnedted bars forming blanket reservoir and one isolated bar set). The barrier sands may coalesce to form blanket reservoirs. Sometimes. Schematic of barrier bars. marine barrier bars often make excellent reservoirs (Hollenshead and Pritchard.Figure 3 Depositional Traps: Bars Because of their clean well-sorted texture. . isolated barrier bars may be totally enclosed in marine or lagoonal shales. forming stratigraphic traps in shoestring sands elongated parallel to the paleo shoreline ( Figure 1 . 1961).

. 1972). New Mexico is a classic barrier bar sand (Sabins.Figure 1 The Rocky Mountain Cretaceous basins contain many barrier bar stratigraphic traps. 1963. Colorado). The Bisti field in the San Juan basin. The field is about 65 kilometers long and 7 kilometers wide ( Figure 2 . Bar sandstone isopach map of Bisti field.

Figure 2 It consists of three stacked sandbars. North-south cross-section AZ of Bisti field using electric logs). totally enclosed in the marine Mancos shale ( Figure 3 . . with an aggregate thickness of 15 meters.

and the Recluse field. 1973). which may pass updip into lagoonal or intertidal shales causing pinch-out or feather-edge traps (Selley 1982). Jones and Endean. 1968. 1972). (See inset. During a regressive stage. Wyoming (Woncik. Depositional Traps: Reefs The reef or carbonate build-up trap has a rigid stoney framework containing high primary porosity (Maxwell. 1972). 1982). Figure 3 . barrier bars often develop as sheet sands. lateral closure must occur for the trap to be valid.Figure 3 The SP log in some wells shows the typical upward-coarsening grain-size motif which characterizes barrier bars. 1968. Reefs grow as discrete domal or elongated barrier features. As with many sheet reservoirs. This may be stratigraphic. where an embayment occurs in a shoreline. Alternatively. and have long been recognized as one of the most important types of stratigraphic traps. 1970. Oil or gas may be trapped . Montana (Berg and Davies.) Two other examples of barrier bar stratigraphic traps are the Bell Creek field. Reefs are often later transgressed by organic-rich marine shales (which may act as source rocks) or the reefs may be covered by evaporites. as for example. in which case the trap might be more properly classified as a combination trap (Selley. McGregor and Biggs. it may be structural.

Rainbow area. At the end of reefal growth. More than seventy individual reefs. Canada.stratigraphically within the reef. with the shales or evaporites providing excellent seals. Alberta. containing various amounts of oil and gas. As shown in Figure 1 (Schematic cross-section through Middle Devonian reefs.5 billion barrels of oil in place and one trillion cubic feet of gas. In Alberta. . evaporite sediments infilled the basin. the Devonian-age Rainbow reefs in the Black Creek Basin provide an excellent example of reef traps (Barss et al. 1970). Total reserves of these reefs are estimated in excess of 1. Canada).. were discovered within an area about 50 kilometers long and 35 kilometers wide. thereby providing an excellent seal for hydrocarbon entrapment. two basic geometric forms of reefing are present: the pinnacle reef and the broader elliptical form of the atoll reef. The evaporites completely covered the reefs. Figure 1 The individual reefs are up to 15 square kilometers in area and up to 250 meters high in relief.

while others contain a very small column of oil or gas at the very crest of the reef. 1980). Brady et al.Rainbow area. notably in the Arabian Gulf and Libya. . Alberta. Porosities and permeabilities also differ greatly from reef to reef as well as within individual reefs. 1972). Canada). solution or fracturing with the tight unaltered rock forming the seal for the trap (Rittenhouse. In Libya. the Intisar reefs in the Sirte basin have been well documented (Terry and William. Such changes are due to variations in lithofacies and diagenetic effects.. Cross-section of pinnacle reef showing complex lithofacies.There is a wide range of net pays found in the Rainbow reefs ( Figure 1 ). Figure 2 There are many other reef hydrocarbon provinces around the world. and are typical features of reefal traps ( Figure 2 . 1969. Some reefs are nearly full of oil and gas. Diagnenetic Traps Diagenetic traps are formed by the creation of secondary porosity in a non-reservoir rock by replacement.

in which dolomitization of a preexisting limestone deposit has resulted in the formation of secondary intercrystalline porosity ( Figure 1 ). Figure 1 The development of solution porosity is commonly associated with carbonate rocks ( Figure 2 ).An example of a diagenetic trap formed by replacement is the Deep River field in Michigan. but may involve sandstones as well. .

and fine-grained sandstones shows that in the southern Midland basin. igneous or metamorphic rock (Kostura and Ravenscroft. Production comes from areas of fracturing throughout the otherwise tight Spraberry formation. 1977). limestones. shale.Figure 2 Fracturing can cause secondary porosity in any brittle rock — whether carbonate. a 300-meter-thick section of tight Middle Permian shales. siltstones. A structure map contoured on the productive Spraberry formation. . The Spraberry trend in west Texas forms a series of diagenetic traps (with oil reserves of about one billion barrels) within a producing fairway about 240 kilometers long and 80 kilometers wide (Wilkinson 1953). the areas of oil production have little relationship to structure ( Figure 3 ). sandstone.

although they may also occur at unconformities.Figure 3 The depositional and diagenetic stratigraphic traps just considered occur in normal comformable sequences. UNCONFORMITY-RELATED TRAPS Another major group of stratigraphic traps is represented by traps for which an unconformity is essential (Table 1) (Levorsen. 1934). .

many of these reserves are held in structural and combination traps as well. In addition to being held in pure stratigraphic traps. Schematic of traps located above and below an unconformity).Table 1 Significantly large percentages of the known global petroleum reserves are trapped adjacent to major unconformities. Unconformity-related traps can be subdivided into those which occur above the unconformity and those beneath (Figure 1. .

Schematic of onlapping pinch-out sands--occurring as a discrete paleogeomorphic sand).occurring as a sheet deposit) . Shallow-marine or fluvial sands may onlap a planar unconformity.Figure 1 Traps which occur above an unconformity will be discussed first. Onlapping updip pinch-out sands such as these could occur as sheets (Figure 2a. Schematic of onlapping pinch-out sands-. . A stratigraphic trap can occur where such sands are overlain by shales and are underlain by impermeable rock which provides a seat seal. or as discrete paleogeomorphic traps (Figure 2b.

with recoverable reserves of over 200 million barrels of oil (MacKenzie. . Montana) is a cross section through this field. 1941. 1967). 2b A good example of an onlap stratigraphic trap is provided by the Cut Bank field of Montana.Figure 2a. Cut Bank sandstone. 1972). Here the Cretaceous Cut Bank sand unconformably onlaps Jurassic shales and is itself onlapped by younger shales (Blixt. Shelton. Figure 3. (Southwest-northeast E-log correlation section A-Z.

another occurs where sands are restricted within strike valleys cut into alternating hard and soft strata (Figure 4. 1966. and McCubbin. Figure 4 .Figure 3 One type of paleogeomorphic trap is represented by channels which cut into the unconformity. 1969). 1966. Martin. Schematic of channel and strike valley sands above an unconformity) (Harms.

. Schematic of traps below unconformity). Figure 5 The second group of traps associated with unconformities is truncation traps which occur beneath the unconformities (Figure 6. In Figure 5 (Schematic of sandstone pinch-out intersecting with a structural nose). not just updip as shown in Figure 2a. closure is provided by the intersection of a sandstone pinch-out with a structural nose.It is important to note that closure is necessary along the strike of such traps.

it is generally overlying shales which provide a seal (and often the source as well) for such traps. . closure is needed in both directions along the strike (Figure 7. featuring closure provided by the intersection of a dipping structural nose and a flat unconformity). pinch-out. and paleogeomorphic traps. Schematic of trap below unconformity.Figure 6 Again. As with onlap.

Figure 7 This may be structural or stratigraphic but for many truncation traps. . such as a buried hill providing closure for a subcropping sandstone formation (Figure 8. featuring closure provided by buried hill). it may be provided by the irregular topography of the unconformity itself. Schematic of trap below unconformity.

1982) which contained over 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil. East Texas basin). 1975). Figure 10 (Structural contours on top of Woodbine sand.Figure 8 Many truncation traps have had their reservoir quality enhanced by secondary solution porosity due to weathering. 1972). Development of subunconformity solution porosity in sandstones has occurred in the Brent Sand of the North Sea (Bowen. Examples in limestones are found in Kansas. One of the best known truncation traps in the world is the East Texas field (Halbouty. Figure 9 It has a length of some 60-70 kilometers and a width of nearly ten kilometers. Halbouty and Halbouty. and in the Auk field of the North Sea (Brennand and van Veen. Basement rock weathering is found in the Augila field of Libya (Williams 1968. East Texas field) illustrates the structural closure at the northern and southern ends of the field. Generalized west-east cross-section. 1972. and in the Sarir group of Libya (Selley 1982). but also occurs in sandstones and even basement rock. Secondary solution porosity induced by weathering is most common in limestones. . The trap is caused by the truncation of the Cretaceous Woodbine sand by the overlying impermeable Austin chalk (Figure 9. 1972).

. An ideal hydrodynamic trap is shown in Figure 1 (Schematic cross-section of an ideal hydrodynamic trap). Pure hydrodynamic traps are extremely rare.Figure 10 Hydrodynamic Traps In a hydrodynamic trap. a downward movement of water prevents the upward movement of oil or gas. but a number of traps result from the combination of hydrodynamic forces and structure or stratigraphy.

Figure 1 A monoclinal flexure is developed which has no genuine vertical closure. are very rare. oil could not be trapped within it in a normal situation. There are a number of fields with tilted oil-water contacts where entrapment is a combination of both structure and hydrodynamic forces ( Figure 2 . Pure hydrodynamic traps like this. Schematic crosssection showing entrapment from both structural and hydrodynamic forces). . however. Groundwater. is moving down through a permeable bed and is preventing the upward escape of oil. Oil is trapped in the monoclinal flexure above a tilted oil-water contact. however.

and Eremako and Michailov (1974). stratigraphic. the reader is referred to Goebel (1950). offshore Louisiana). a rollover anticline has developed to the south of a major growth fault (Hartman. Since there are many ways in which combination traps can occur. In the Main Pass Block 35 field of offshore Louisiana. Main Pass Block 35. a few examples must suffice for explanation. .Figure 2 For further discussion of the effect of hydrodynamic conditions on hydrocarbon traps. Yuster (1953). Combination Traps Combination traps result from two or more of the basic trapping mechanisms ( structural. and hydrodynamic ). Hubbert (1953). Structural contours on top of 'G2' sandstone. 1972) ( Figure 1 .

the trap is due to a combination of structure and stratigraphy. is crosscut by a channel. . A series of Carboniferous-through-basalCretaceous strata were folded into a westerly-plunging anticlinal nose ( Figure 2 . Alaska). 1981). Prudhoe Bay. thus. however. Structural contours on top of Sadlerochit reservoir.. Jamison et al. Oil with a gas cap occurs only within the channel. Jones and Speers. Bushnell. 1972. An excellent example of a combination trap is provided by the Prudhoe Bay field on the North Slope of Alaska (Morgridge and Smith. 1976. 1980.Figure 1 The rollover anticline.

the Piper field. 1980). Major faulting on the northern and southwestern side of the structure provided additional closure. is shown in Figure 3 (Southwestnortheast structural cross-section. .Figure 2 This nose was truncated progressively from the northeast. 1972). and overlain by Cretaceous shales which acted as source and seal to the trap. 1980). Ninian (Albright et al. The resulting traps include such fields as Brent (Bowen. Jurassic sandstone reservoirs exist in numerous tilted fault blocks which were truncated and overlain by Cretaceous shales. A cross section through one of these. Fault-unconformity combination traps characterize the northern North Sea. and Piper (Maher. Oil and gas were trapped in reservoir beds subcropping the unconformity. Piper field.. primarily in the Triassic Sadlerochit sandstone. North Sea).

the resulting structure may show some alignment. However. such as that displayed by the salt domes in the North Sea ( Figure 1 . . When this situation is reached. If this movement is triggered tectonically. As most sediments are buried.16 g/cm3. the salt movement is apparently initiated at random. This generally occurs between 800 and 1200 meters. Salt structures of the southern North Sea). the salt tends to flow upwards to displace the denser overburden. they compact. gaining density.Figure 3 Diapir Associated Traps Diapirs are a major mechanism for generating many types of traps. in many cases. Diapirs are produced by the upward movement of less dense sediments. a depth is reached where sediments are denser than salt. usually salt or overpressured clay. ultimately. Recently-deposited clay and sand have densities less than salt which has a density of about 2.

1978). 1979). Schematic cross-section showing two salt structures. salt diapirs can actually penetrate to the surface as in Iran (Kent. a salt pillow on the right and a piercement salt dome on the left) (Bishop.Figure 1 Movement of salt develops several structural shapes. . from deep-seated salt pillows which generate anticlines in the overlying sediment. to piercement salt domes which actually pierce the overlying strata ( Figure 2 . In extreme cases.

Schematic cross-section showing the varieties of hydrocarbon traps associated with piercement salt domes).Figure 2 There are many ways in which oil can be trapped on or adjacent to salt domes (Halbouty. . 1972) ( Figure 3 .

or unconformity truncation traps. Notable examples of this type include the Ekofisk field (Van der Bark and Thomas. anticlines develop above the remaining salt ( Figure 4 . 1972). Schematic cross-section showing a turtleback structure (anticline) developed between two adjacent piercement salt domes). The Bryan field of Mississippi is an example of a turtle-back trap (Oxley and Herling. Thus.Figure 3 There may be simple structural anticlinal or domal traps over the crest of the salt dome. the source salt is removed from its flanks. . There may also be complexly-faulted domal traps. stratigraphic pinch-out and truncation traps . 1980). Occasionally anticlinal structures known as turtle-back structures are developed between adjacent salt domes. When the salt moves into a dome. and associated fields of offshore Norway and Denmark. thereby developing rim synclines.

Diapiric mud structures. the Arabian Gulf and the North Sea. The second situation involves more mature basins where we know a hydrocarbon source exists.Figure 4 Major oil and gas production from salt-dome-related traps comes from the U. denser cover and. Gulf Coast.S. Here. not just salt domes. where the presence of hydrocarbons has not been established. our main concern is whether hydrocarbons have matured and been expelled from a source rock. just like salt domes. and the effectiveness of seals. Mature Basins There are two general exploration situations that influence prospect generation. we must consider the impact of the types. The first situation involves frontier. the types and occurrences of reservoirs. For either situation. or less mature basins. may also generate hydrocarbon traps. mud lumps may even reach the surface. Iran. Here. Frontier vs. Sometimes diapirs of overpressured clay intrude the younger. our main concerns include determining migration pathways. and quality of data available for answering these questions. quantity. .

For example. Impact of Stratigraphic Models Before generating a prospect. Estimating geologic processes. Stratigraphic and basin-fill models will significantly affect prospect generation because they offer more accurate technologies for predicting subsurface lithology. Predicting lithology is especially difficult in many structural plays and in stratigraphic plays that lack an associated seismic anomaly. statistical analysis or analog reasoning. Explorationists modify their prior belief based on the amount and quality of available data relating to the prospect. explorationists commonly believe that the prospect exists.Expert systems are designed to mimic. Newly developed quantitative stratigraphic models show how quantitative models strongly affect the outcome of the decision-making process. quantify and analyze the objective and subjective decision-making processes of humans. configurations and lithologic distributions is essential in prospect generation. the final odds that a prospect exists given seismic information are equal to the likelihood of the prospect given seismic data multiplied by the prior . and predicting lithology is perhaps the weakest link. a new seismic line may give favorable. They may further modify their belief as new data become available. Analysis of decision-making processes allows us to quantitatively and qualitatively determine how explorationists generate prospects. Modification of a prior belief after new information is introduced. but not definitive. This prior belief may be based on drilling history. information about the existence of an anticline ( Figure 1 . Analysis of how explorationists evaluate prospects enables us to predict the potential impact of basin models on decisions about whether to drill a given exploration concept. Figure 1 In Bayes Theorem.

hypotheses are predictions of causal processes and configurations. At any given time. The rule-based expert system GEORISKTM. For example. decrease. or remain the same. According to Bayesian analysis. 1988b). The magnitudes of certainty factors control the amount a prior belief is modified. 1982). we perceive the original probability to increase. Predictiveness relates to the sense and magnitude of change in belief that occurs when new evidence is introduced. The impact of favorable evidence is termed the sufficiency and the impact of unfavorable evidence is termed the necessity for an hypothesis ( Figure 2 . the greater the predictiveness of evidence. the more the prior belief will be modified and will result in a new belief or outcome (Tversky and Kahneman. while favorableness depends on its quality or uncertainty of existence for a particular situation. developed at the Colorado School of Mines. Predictiveness is an abstract property that relates to the certain existence or optimal development of evidence in general. Favorableness depends on Predictiveness and relates to the degree of certainty that the evidence exists or is optimally developed for a specific example. 1988a. As new evidence is introduced. Evidence can be observed data or inferences from data. or assessments of information that we can use to infer causal processes and configurations. there is a probability that an event will occur.odds that the prospect exists. Rules are in the form of hypothesis updates that have premise. We assign ranges in values between +90 and -90 according to the degree to which we consider the thermal history constrained. The system was built by quantifying the decision-making processes of three exploration managers. uses Bayes Theorem to quantify the Predictiveness and favorableness of geological. and can range from -100 to +100. We should therefore look at the spread in certainty factors for favorable and unfavorable evidence to qualify the perceived predictiveness of evidence. The extent to which we modify our belief in the prior existence of a particular prospect depends on the Predictiveness and favorableness of evidence for the prospect. Certainty factors quantify the predictiveness of positive and negative evidence for the hypotheses. consider the following GEORISKTM rule: Premise IF Thermal history is (is not) well-constrained Action THEN Thermal model is accurate +90 (-90) A prior belief that the thermal model is accurate is modified with a certainty factor of +90 if the thermal history is perfectly constrained and -90 if it is not at all established. The . action and certainty factors: Premise IF Evidence Action THEN Hypotheses (Certainty Factors) Within GEORISKTM. geophysical and geochemical information for prospect evaluation (Lessenger. We express probabilities as subjective degrees of belief.).

an isopach map) or on a quantitative model (e. our belief in the hypothesis is modified very little with either positive or negative evidence. If the sufficiency and necessity have magnitudes approaching zero. Quantitative information requires manipulation of data based on descriptions of the data (e. thermal history constraints are both highly necessary and highly sufficient to ensure thermal model accuracy. the predictiveness of thermal history constraints for an accurate thermal model is qualitatively high (D=180). Observational information requires only objective measurement. 2) inferential and 3) quantitative..). interpretation and inference is minimal (e. well logs. maturation and geodynamic models.. Seismic data supply explorationists with all three types of information: delineating seismic faults is observational. both the sufficiency and necessity must be high enough to increase confidence that the hypothesis is true. Figure 2 The spread in the necessity and sufficiency of evidence controls the spread in potential certainty values for the hypothesis. including seismic data. Different types of information are perceived as having different degrees of Predictiveness for either the same source of information or for predicting the same causal process. a facies model). Many sources of information are available for prospect generation.g. . and we can not prove the hypothesis. To prove an hypothesis..g. Information perceived as highly predictive has a greater impact on modifying the prior belief than does information perceived as less predictive. interpreting seismic facies based on reflectors within a depositional sequence is inferential. depositional environment). For example. analog field studies.. core analyses.g. and converting seismic times to depth based on a velocity model is quantitative. Inferential information requires a conceptual interpretation of data (e. facies models.g.g.necessity and sufficiency of evidence for a hypothesis.. a McKenzie stretching model) rather than a conceptual model (e. etc. There are three types of information: 1) observational. This is a measure of the Predictiveness of evidence for a hypothesis. TOC values).

even though well logs imply drilling and therefore larger amounts of. to predict a favorable structural configuration. . We often perceive well logs as providing more direct. Predictiveness also increases when multiple types of information mutually predict the same causal process or favorable condition. The reliability of information depends on how we use it. Consequently. and observational methodologies of intermediate Predictiveness. inferential methodologies least predictive. and potentially more reliable. Perceived relative Predictiveness of different types of information used to assess structural configuration. quantitative depth conversion (D=120) is more predictive than observational seismic data quality (D=110) ( Figure 3 .Quantitative methodologies are perceived as most predictive. an interpretational inference from well logs. Figure 3 Both are more predictive than a structural cross section (D=80). information for predicting the presence and magnitude of faulting than seismic data. we actually perceive seismic data as more reliable for predicting faulting than well logs. For example. despite the opposite conclusion reached through intuition. and thus more reliable. But because well logs lack lateral information and lateral changes in structural configuration can be dramatic. indirect information may be considered more reliable than direct. information near the prospect.).

both in number and variety. The number and variety of available analyses is less than is available for maturation studies. Perceived relative power and Predictiveness of different types of information. ..Maturation and source potential analyses have large spreads in necessity and sufficiency (D=180).g. and may be perceived as very predictive of the presence of hydrocarbons on a basin-wide scale ( Figure 4 . for example. While structural and stratigraphic analyses are equally necessary for predicting the existence of a prospect (-50). Figure 4 These analyses are highly quantitative. The evidence and methodologies assessed increase. Structural analyses depend primarily on the observation of data. There is a moderate spread in the necessity and sufficiency (D=100) of structural information for predicting the presence of a hydrocarbon trap.). involving. thermal maturation modeling and geohistory estimates. as compared to other analyses (e. representing three major elements used to assess a prospect. structural analyses are far more sufficient than stratigraphic analyses (+50 compared with +20). particularly seismic. estimating the distribution of reservoir lithology).

predictiveness increases. A variety of information sources exist for predicting source. such as well ties to seismic data and models. when combined with the low certainty levels in trend data. Our lithologic analyses are reduced to evaluations of regional or sub regional trends that. unless there is a seismic anomaly associated with reservoir development. predictiveness is maximized. well logs less direct and seismic anomalies least direct. Without seismic anomalies and nearby wells. predicting lithology currently relies on empirical trends and conceptual facies models. maturation and migration. In the common situation where we have neither a stratigraphic seismic anomaly nor nearby wells. The methodologies we use to predict lithology depend on specialized conditions. can substantially reduce the effective necessity and sufficiency of predicting lithologic conditions. non-quantitative models. Impact of Stratigraphic Models Stratigraphic and basin-fill models will significantly affect prospect generation decisions because they simulate what is perceived as reliable information and because of their potential for increasing our ability to predict lithology. there are different degrees of direct information for predicting lithology: core data are most direct. But. are available. empirical. The situation is somewhat analogous to the prediction of hydrocarbon availability before source-maturation-migration technologies were introduced and we relied primarily on play-specific. and if additional sources of information. seismic data contain lateral information and are therefore more predictive of lithology than either core or well logs. and that provide no estimate of the accuracy or confidence level of their prediction. these weak methods are derived from concepts or empirical constructions.e. Seismic information is widely available and is highly predictive of structural configurations. Although sourcematuration-migration technologies are not completely predictive of hydrocarbon availability. As with structural analyses. weakly predictive. The amounts. such as facies models. If there is a seismic anomaly. Currently. and our ability to predict lithology is low. At present. As with structural analyses. we have only very weak methods for predicting the lateral distribution of specific lithology from well and core information. Without seismic anomalies. predictiveness increases further. there is a large imbalance in the amounts and types of information available for predicting the necessary conditions for a hydrocarbon accumulation. types and perceived qualities of information available for predicting the distribution of specific lithology are limited. that are non-quantitative.Methods for predicting lithology. within one mile) that indicates the presence of the target lithology. The presence of lithologic conditions for predicting a hydrocarbon reservoir and trap has a relatively low necessity and sufficiency spread (D=70). Consequently. . their use has greatly increased predictiveness. If we have a well nearby (i. even though both core and well logs are more direct measurements of lithology. in contrast. rely on inferential data types. predicting structural traps has a greater certainty than predicting stratigraphic traps or reservoir facies distribution. direct measurements are not necessarily the most predictive. predicting the distribution of lithology is the weakest link in prospect generation. We often do not have a nearby well or seismic anomaly.

We can constrain subsidence variations with modeling of regional geodynamic processes and plate tectonic configurations.Three conditions affect the reliability of information for prospect generation. agedating and physical sequence stratigraphy are critical. Coherent. such as those developed through the use of 3-D seismic data. By incorporating stratigraphic models. so we perceive this source as having low predictiveness for estimating the distributions of specific lithology. These separate evaluations must all be coherent and geologically reasonable. multiple information types that support the same predictions are more reliable than a single information type. will have a significant impact. seismic data. If within a particular play. By building. Assumptions and boundary and initial conditions are not explicitly stated. reliable information must be consistent with other types of information. we perceive them as highly predictive. a simulation model must be consistent with seismic data and well logs. Geologic assumptions and biases are explicit in quantitative models. In addition to adding a quantitative information type.will also add to the types and sources of information available for constraining predictions of lithology. the future introduction of new quantitative methods. The other source. Separating eustatic from subsidence variations requires knowledge of synchronous stratigraphic sequences in different geographic locations. Therefore. One source.e. Second. Due to the sparsity of information types currently used in lithology prediction. multiple information types increase our confidence in the model results and positively modify our prior belief. allowing us to establish degrees of confidence in predictions. Unfortunately. We use only two sources and two types of information in predicting lithology. we commonly uncover unreasonable assumptions that were previously not obvious. For example. Quantitative models are necessary for understanding the sensitivity of the stratigraphic response to changes in processes. In contrast. non-quantitative models require only conceptual inferences of responses. alter a prior belief) will be increased. First. seismic anomalies for predicting lithology are rare. Sensitivity analyses and explicit statements of assumptions and biases allow us to estimate degrees of nonuniqueness and confidence in model predictions. sequence analysis. stratigraphic simulation inversion. Third.. nor our confidence in model predictions. geohistory and geodynamics -. even if that single type is a strong one. we cannot reliably estimate degrees of non-uniqueness. basin configurations and sedimentary processes.such as correlation theory. methods for extracting and constraining temporal relationships such as biostratigraphy. the perceived value and ability to predict lithology (i. except when we use quantitative seismic models to increase our confidence in the geologic significance of waveform anomalies. Because we run basin-fill models in time and not depth. Stratigraphic models require coherent information from many different types and sources of information because they incorporate many different kinds and scales of controlling processes. is inferential. Sediment supply and dispersal may require knowledge of gross climatic conditions. we perceive quantitative models as more predictive than conceptual models because they allow us to quantitatively relate processes to responses and to explicitly state assumptions and initial and boundary conditions. well logs. . is primarily inferential. volumetric facies partitioning. other analyses necessary for modeling -. at least to a level similar to predictions of structure and hydrocarbon presence. seismic anomalies prove to be reliable. testing and using quantitative models.

a lead may either be transformed into a prospect (developing the lead). By doing additional exploration. In order to prevent further migration. more than one theory may account for an anomalous geological situation. Also. or it may be wiped out. given the approximations and measurement errors inherent in the model and the sparse sampling of stratigraphic data. Lead The likelihood of a commercial accumulation of hydrocarbons can be increased by the combined occurrence of one or more anomalies. It's a local feature that can be distinguished within a larger area. by biological and soil surveys. testing and rebuilding to gain confidence in model predictions. This is called a lead. we need an iterative process of model building. but anomalies are also associated with stratigraphic and other trap types. or by anything that departs from the norm. At this stage of model development. it makes sense to use the most fruitful theory. Prospect An anomaly or a combination of anomalies becomes a bonafide prospect when it meets a stated set of criteria considered requisite for a commercial accumulation of hydrocarbons. The petroleum geologist knows that some anomalies are associated with deposits of commercially valuable oil and gas. The usual trend is for subsurface petroleum to make its way to the surface and eventually dissipate. we may also expect highly accurate predictions. Stratigraphic models are in their infancy and are only now being built and tested. Often. there must be an anomaly present to act as a barrier.Because we may perceive stratigraphic models as highly predictive. there are two basic criteria that must be met: • the presence of a reservoir rock. and • the presence of a trap of sufficient size to hold a commercial quantity of producible hydrocarbons. it is usually the easiest factor to determine before a region has been drilled because potential traps can frequently be mapped through geological and geophysical . the presence of a trap is usually the more fundamental of the two. We need to calibrate models to stratigraphic data to determine what conditions models are applicable to. If our aim is to generate the maximum number of prospects. because it has some kind of distinctive fingerprint which makes it stand out from the background data. The anomaly can be revealed by geologic mapping. Geologists often regard anomalies as being broadly synonymous with structure. Anomaly Prospect generation begins with the search for anomalies. An anomaly may be defined as a deviation from whatever trend is normal. geophysical or geochemical data. since it both locates and restricts the depth and areal position of the prospect. and to estimate the confidence limits in predictions. Once the presence or at least the potential presence of a source rock is established. From the viewpoint of the explorationist whose job is to pick a specific drillsite.

However. In mature regions with structural traps. many traps predicted by mapping have proved to be nonexistent after drilling. Poor well logs and samples. it's important to remember that prospects are located through creative geologic thinking and optimistic mapping. unsuspected facies changes. and faulty correlations all can lead to unreliable subsurface maps.surveys. This is particularly true in mature petroleum provinces where others have been before. Figure 1 . structural contours can be redrawn to reflect possible additional closures ( Figure 1 and Figure 2 ). In making these maps.

.Figure 2 or faults may be reoriented to suggest larger areal closures ( Figure 3 and Figure 4 ).

.Figure 3 The chances of finding new fields with structural traps are sometimes slim in mature areas. however.

An example of such a trap is shown in Figure 5 and Figure 6 . .Figure 4 The exploration effort must then be directed toward finding subtle. stratigraphic traps.

Figure 6 .

as shown by the northeastern most porosity zone in Figure 5 . The second major concern in developing a prospect is the presence of a reservoir rock. Facies changes. erosional disruption. In one area. These conditions are not always revealed by subsurface geological studies or by seismic methods. of finding new traps in already well-established reservoir trends. Commercial quantities of natural gas occur within these porosity trends. the local paleodepositional trend is more northerly. or diagenetic changes can occur. In a mature region. and created an additional new prospect ( Figure 6 ). prospect generation may consist. however. We may not always be able to trace a good reservoir laterally. faulting. Other regions may have a production history that involves only a few out of a great many porous and permeable strata. Still other areas may be characterized by multiple stacked reservoirs. . We may know from past experience that a region contains just one potential reservoir.Figure 5 Here. Regionally. forming porosity trends parallel to the paleoshoreline. This was proved by subsequent drilling. porous oolitic limestones have accumulated in carbonate banks. though. Recontouring on this basis extended the other local porosity zone farther to the north. to a large extent. these banks follow NE-SW trends.

If not recognized and corrected. a false subsalt high is mapped. that a cluster of anomalies. "The primary error in conventional interpretation is the assumption that the seismic velocity is constant over a wide area. Figure 1 In the opposite case." (Minturn 1982). a salt swell ( Figure 1 ) will give rise to a reflection time anomaly beneath the salt.. may be misinterpreted. or purchase.. particularly geophysical anomalies. This simply is not so. gas leakage and fracturing can cause abnormally low velocity. local changes in the acoustic velocity of the rocks may lead to the generation of false structures. Since acoustic velocity in salt is higher than in most clastic rocks. For example. however interesting. contract.We must emphasize. does not make a prospect unless the legal right to produce petroleum can be obtained either by lease. This can lead to false geological structures. This can cause the crest of the structure to appear as a graben ( Figure 2 and Figure 3 ). False Anomalies Some kinds of anomalies. though. .

Figure 3 .Figure 2 Velocity anomalies of this type cannot be ignored.

Figure 4 produced by differences in magnetic susceptibility of basement rock types. produced by basement uplift).Either you use them positively to find productive fracture zones. magnetic anomalies that are due to differences in the magnetic susceptibility of various basement rock-types can be misinterpreted as being structures which have resulted from basement highs ( Figure 4 . and Figure 5 . or you compensate for the erroneous structure which they induce. Similarly. .

a lead exists. prospect generation begins with the detection of one or more anomalies. then. after the dust has settled. or a new field from a deeper pay in an established region. exploration of that region might not have been worth the risk. This lead. Later. Large companies operating in United States provinces always aim to initiate new plays. in turn. and particularly from acquiring relatively cheap leases in the prospective region early in the game. obviously. the company might be quite content to have found only one good field in the region. In summary. Where competition exists.Figure 5 Prospective Region or Trend No oil company will begin exploring an area unless there is reason to believe it contains potentially commercial prospects that it is a prospective region or trend. A good discovery. the major rewards of the exploration business come from receiving and applying specialized knowledge before competitors do. may be developed into a bonafide . the X trend. The subsequent campaign of exploratory action may be called the X play. however. Companies must play the odds. inaugurates a new prospective trend. When these anomalies indicate the possibility of a commercial deposit of hydrocarbons. If one or two fields were all that seemed likely at the outset. X field in a fresh trend.

prospect, or it may be discarded by conducting additional exploration. We must keep in mind, however, that some anomalies, particularly geophysical anomalies, can easily be misinterpreted.

Assessing Prospective Regions The crucial judgment for an exploration company is deciding whether an unexplored area is or is not a prospective region. If it is supposed to be prospective, but turns out not to be, much time and money will have been wasted. If the unexplored province is supposed to be non prospective, but it turns out to be prospective, the exploration company will have forfeited a chance for profit. A province is rarely written off, however, before some wildcats are drilled. Indeed, several dozen dry holes may be drilled before a province is called noncommercial. Assessing prospectivity in producing regions is wholly different from that in frontier regions. In the former, you know you are in oil country, and the question is whether enough undrilled prospects remain between, beyond, above, and especially below known fields in order to justify further exploration. Much well information is usually available, and the main geological effort is geared toward answering local stratigraphic and structural questions before planning possible detailed geophysical surveys. On the other hand, in frontier provinces, the existence of the five essential factors (source rocks, reservoir rocks, migration paths, traps, and seals) for petroleum accumulation is a matter of speculation. Many, if not most, of the world's remaining frontier provinces lie in offshore regions. Large untested provinces on land are apt to be in areas that are geographically or politically inaccessible. While there are still some untested frontier provinces even in a mature producing region such as in the United States, several have disappeared from the list of potentially commercial provinces. The Lower Cook Inlet, Alaska, is one of these.

Data Needed
The most diagnostic exploratory tools in frontier provinces are wildcat wells and seismic surveys. On land, seismic is relatively expensive, and wildcat wells may be relatively less costly. In water-cove red regions, seismic is relatively less costly, but wildcat wells are very expensive. Photo geology is cheap but useful only over land. Aeromagnetic surveys are cheap and may be used either over land or sea to reveal basement structure and basin configurations. Gravimetric costs a little more and is a valuable prospecting and reconnaissance tool on land. Marine gravimeter surveys are inherently less useful because the magnitude of the corrections commonly exceeds the amplitudes of the anomalies. Other tools are helpful in exploring certain provinces. These include: • side-looking radar, used like photo geology; particularly helpful in areas with heavy cloud cover and/or thick vegetation;

• side-scan sonar, used for mapping underwater topographic-structural features; • Marine "sniffer" surveys, used to record and evaluate samples of hydrocarbon gases leaking from the sea floor; • soil hydrocarbon surveys, used to detect petroleum fluids leaking to the surface that produce halo patterns above buried reservoirs; • Radiation surveys, used to detect surface patterns of uranium daughter elements concentrated above buried reservoirs (Morse et al. 1982).

Technical Factors
Assessing a frontier province begins with reconnaissance surveys on land, surface geology, coupled with photo-geology, is often used first. This is followed by aeromagnetic surveys, then gravimetric surveys, and finally seismic surveys. In marine provinces, after an initial aeromagnetic survey is made, a reconnaissance seismic survey is customary. The purpose of the geophysical reconnaissance survey is to uncover the kinds, depths, magnitudes, and relative frequency of buried anomalies in the province and to appraise the sedimentary sequence. It would be desirable at this point to make a preliminary inventory of indicated volumes and depths of potential traps. In practice, however, often the best one can do is to make semi quantitative generalizations and educated guesses about potentially productive closures and the total sediment thickness above basement. One or more of the most obvious of these anomalies is evaluated by detailed seismic surveys. The most promising is then selected for the initial wildcat test. In most cases, pronounced structural anomalies are the first to be tested. In some offshore waters of the United States, "stratigraphic tests" are drilled deliberately off structure to directly observe stratigraphy, prior to federal lease sales. Usually this is a cooperative effort by several competing companies. Until these initial tests are drilled in representative locations, it may be difficult to discern the practical significance of certain geophysical anomalies. Once drill cuttings, mud logs, and wire line logs are obtained from one or more wildcat wells, we can recognize the geological sequences present in the basin, detect hydrocarbon shows, and observe thickness and quality of reservoir strata. Moreover, it may be possible to determine the presence (or absence) of commercial source beds.

Model Prospective Region - Lower Cook Inlet, Alaska
The Lower Cook Inlet of Alaska provides a case study of an offshore prospective region. This province was thought to have commercial potential in the late 1970s. Figure 1 shows the situation at the time of the 1977 Federal Lease Sale.

Figure 1

In this case, the major job of geophysics was to map the shape, depth, and major structures of the province in order to compare the undrilled southern portion of the Cook Inlet basin with the productive northern portion. No attempt is made here to give either a history of the exploration of this province, or a full discussion of its geological problems. The only intention is to suggest how the exploratory prospects in the province were generated and what was learned from drilling. Several marine seismic programs were undertaken during the 1960s and early 1970s. Most were sponsored jointly by a number of exploration companies. Syndication of risk is common in offshore provinces. Some exploration groups purchased two or more seismic surveys, plus gravimetric and aeromagnetic surveys. Each group sponsored an independent seismic interpretation. Because of the difficult multiple reflections and velocity problems encountered, supplementary side-scan sonar and shallow-penetration sparker seismic surveys were purchased from service companies. The only published seismic maps of the Lower Cook Inlet were made by the U.S. Geological Survey, since all proprietary maps were kept confidential. Figure 2 displays the major positive structural features that were revealed, nearly all of which were investigated in much greater detail, revised, and confirmed by proprietary data.

Figure 2

Interested exploration companies decided which prospects were worth leasing and drilling partly by making an analogy to the Upper Cook Inlet. At long last, a federal lease sale was held. In October 1977, a total of 21 companies and groups of companies bid $398.5 million for 87 tracts (495,000 acres). By the end of 1979, dry holes were drilled on eight major prospects ( Figure 2 ). The Lower Cook Inlet province was found to be nonproductive. One can imagine a frontier province being dry or noncommercial because of inadequacy or absence of reservoir strata, traps, or seals to the traps. By using reconnaissance seismic surveys, plus drilling a few wildcat wells, the existence of these three factors can be determined with considerable reliability. The presence or absence of these features are fairly straightforward determinations, but it is quite different with source beds, timing, and migration paths. This point can be illustrated by a brief analysis of why prospects in the Lower Cook Inlet were dry. Although it is only a skeletal structure map, Figure 2 strongly suggests that large anticlinal closures (adequate traps) are common. Seismic cross sections, on which major reflection marker surfaces are identified stratigraphically (

Figure 3 , Seismic line 755, just north of Cape Douglas showing major reflection marker surfaces for stratigraphic correlation.

Figure 3

A horizon = base of Tertiary; B horizon = base of Lower (?) or Upper (?) Cretaceous; C horizon = Middle Jurassic (?) and minimum thickness of sedimentary rocks in basin), and structural sections ( Figure 4 ) both indicate that Tertiary rocks (Kenai Group) are present but thin in the Lower Cook Inlet.

Figure 4

Furthermore, the major oil pay of the Upper Cook Inlet (the Hemlock Conglomerate within the Kenai Group) seems to be present. It would appear then, that traps, seals,

and reservoir rocks exist, and the abundant faulting, both old and new, which were shown by seismic lines, should have provided migration paths that were similar to those in the productive Upper Cook Inlet. Evidently, source rocks that supply commercial amounts of petroleum are lacking in the Lower Cook Inlet. One obvious difference between the Upper and Lower Cook Inlet is that the lower Kenai Group, which is the principal objective, is very shallow (<1 km) south of the Augustine-Seldovia arch ( Figure 5 ), whereas it becomes progressively deeper towards the north.

Figure 5

The source beds of the Upper Cook Inlet oil fields are either the basal estuarine beds which floor the Tertiary sequence (Kelly 1968; Young et al. 1977), or the Middle Jurassic sequence which lies unconformably beneath the Tertiary (Claypool et al. 1980). Most oil companies seem to have accepted the idea of a Jurassic source, which was advocated by the U.S. Geological Survey. For either case, however, the sources in the Lower Cook Inlet are much shallower, hence much cooler and less mature, than in the north. In assessing the shallow Tertiary anticlinal prospects in the Lower Cook Inlet sale area, most companies were not hopeful of substantial migration from Middle Jurassic

source rocks as far upward as the Tertiary reservoirs. Tertiary seismic closures were regarded by most as secondary objectives at best. The Upper Jurassic clastic sequence was seen as a possible primary reservoir- if microfracturing due to recent uplift was adequate. The wildcat failures were evidence that microfracturing was inadequate for producing commercial-scale migration.

Estimating Hydrocarbon Potential and Calculating Risk
In Alaska’s Lower Cook Inlet, an area once thought to have great potential, the industry drilled eight dry holes. Overall perhaps a total of $750 million dollars was risked over more than a decade by at least 30 oil companies. It was all lost. Assessing the risk and gross hydrocarbon potential of untested regions requires careful evaluation and complex analysis. A company can make a reliable estimate of how much money would be required to obtain a suitable position in a frontier province, but prior to taking that position, the company can't accurately forecast the expected rewards from the money risked. Substantial geophysical and geological reconnaissance, acreage acquisition, and wildcatting expenditures must be made before the region can be proved either commercially productive or barren. A major petroleum company must regard its share of the $750 million dollars spent in the Lower Cook Inlet as one of the costs of remaining in the exploration business. The effective exploration technology developed in recent decades has shortened the time period needed to evaluate a frontier province. It has also made initial wildcat drilling highly successful where these new provinces have proved productive (in some cases, a 50% success ratio in wildcat drilling). A company would rarely go into a new province and spend such vast sums as in the Lower Cook Inlet, unless it had hopes of finding large, and possibly giant fields. The number of giant fields, even in major provinces, is relatively small. They are, however, most often found in obvious traps, such as anticlines, salt domes, or reefs. Often their location can be readily determined prior to drilling by geological or seismic surveys. Frontier provinces commonly provide the best chances for finding such first class prospects, though the risks and exploration costs are proportionately higher. The Hepburn prospect (see the Example at the end of this section) is one such prime target. Its seismically mapped anticlinal closure with a "bright spot" assured it to be one of the first prospects drilled in the hypothetical frontier basin of the Southeast Spur. Prior to drilling, however, the findings of geological and geophysical surveys must be summarized in evaluation reports and prospect sheets. These present the fundamental geologic and economic facts concerning a prospect and also the initial estimates of anticipated reserves and economic returns. A sample prospect sheet for the Hepburn prospect is presented in Appendix A. On other prospect sheets, an attempt is made to assign grades or numerical ratings to the various factors in order to make the analysis more objective. Some formulas that are commonly used to calculate reserves, economic returns, and risk prior to drilling are presented below: Reserves Reserves = Oil-in-Place × Percent Recovery Oil-in-Place

Oil-in-Place (OIP) = Gross Reservoir Volume* × Net/Gross Porosity × Oil Saturation × k** ÷ FVF*** * Gross reservoir volume = productive areal closure reservoir thickness ** 7758 if acre-ft to bbl conversion *** Formation volume factor Potential Return (after tax) Future Net Revenue (FNR) = total reserves average price* - (operating costs + over total investment** + tax) * Over total payout time ** Cost of wildcat well, completion costs of discovery and any field development costs (sometimes this calculation excludes initial risk costs of wildcat well.) Return on Risk Investment Return on Risk Investment = Potential Return Risk Investment* * Predrilling cost + cost of wildcat well to casing point Risk Adjusted Return on Risk Investment Risk Adjusted Return = (Potential Return / Risk Investment) × Success Rate* *based on past experience Return on Investment (ROI) Return on Investment = Potential Return / Total Investment In summary then, prospective regions that have seen little or no drilling may offer opportunities for some of the greatest rewards in finding and developing major new prospects and fields. The costs and risks, however, are significantly higher. Although potential traps, and reservoir and seal lithologies frequently can be detected through geophysical methods, often there are difficult fundamental questions to be answered. Some of these concern source rocks and their maturity, and the paths and timing of migration. These factors can make or break a potential prospective region. With appropriate planning, the technology is available to evaluate even a large frontier area rapidly, and either prove it to be an oil province or condemn it. Example: An Evaluation of Hepburn Prospect, Southeast Spur, Block 35, District #2 Petroleum Exploration Co. Exploration Dept. 5 Morrill Place Houston, TX 77036 Summary i) Prospect is an anticline with four-way closure partially bounded by faults. Target is probably Jurassic sandstone.

ii) Seismic configuration is very promising. Five seismic lines pass through the prospect. The potential reservoir is a good reflector. The larger of the two culminations shows a "bright spot." iii) Prospect is moderate to low risk with potential reserves of several ten million barrels. Introduction This report describes the geologic and economic assessment of the Hepburn prospect carried out in November of the previous year. Five seismic lines delineate the prospect. Figure 1 (seismic line 1) shows a possible gas accumulation at 1.9 sec with a two-way time thickness of about 10 ms.

Figure 1

Figure 2 is a structural contour map on the top of the reservoir (Unit A) based on the seismic data.

Figure 2

Geology Structure Low relief ESE-WNW trending anticline with two culminations. The structure is on a minor horst, bounded to the north and south by normal faults. Four-way closure, based on seismic data, has an estimated area of 4500 acres (18 km2) with 250 ft (76 m) of vertical closure. Reservoir Unit A, a Middle to Upper Jurassic sequence of uniformly bedded alternating sandshales throughout the 250 ft (76 m) of vertical closure. Unit thickness: 150 ft (46 m) Net/Gross Pay: Ranging from 0.3 to 0.7, most likely 0.5-0.6 Porosity: 12%-22%, most likely 17% Seal Shales in the basal part of Unit B are required to provide a vertical seal for the prospect. Reflectors indicate good continuity in this unit. Assessment of laterally sealing faults is difficult. Source Overlying Unit B shales. Prospect is well-situated for migration from these shales along down-to-basin faults.

Reserve Potential
Reservoir is estimated to be half-full to spill point (based on experience in Fowler basin): Productive areal closure* = 3050 acres (12 km2) Gross reservoir volume = 228,750 acre-ft (282 ´ 106m3)

Field Averages Net/Gross ratio Porosity Oil saturation FVF**

Minimum 0.3 0.12 0.6 1.5

Estimate 0.6 0.17 0.65 1.25

Maximum 0.7 0.22 0.7 1.1

Net Reservoir Volume = Gross Reservoir Volume × Net/Gross Ratio Volume of Oil-in-Place = Net Reservoir Volume k***/FVF *Measured from maps by means of planimeter. **Formation Volume Factor is a factor that quantifies the change in volume of oil and gas when it is produced at the surface. It is mainly dependent on reservoir temperature and pressure. *** k= 7758 bbl/acre-ft

´ Porosity ´ Oil Saturation ´

Oil-inPlace 106bbl (106m3)

Minimum 25.6 (4.1)

Estimate 94.1 (15.0)

Maximum 173.9 (27.6)

Reserves (for estimated recovery of 28 %)

106 bbl (106m3)

7.2 (1.1)

26.3 (4.2)

48.7 (7.7)

Economic Analysis Recovery is estimated at 26.3 million bbl with limited water drive. Life of field = 30 yrs Investment million $ Cost of 3000 m exploration well to casing point 1.95 (includes lease, geological, and geophysical costs)

Exploration well completion costs 2.32 Total costs, discovery well 4.27 Field development costs (estimate 10 wells) plus surface equipment Total Investment 54.27 Potential Return Potential gross revenue (based on 26.3 x 106 bbl @ $30/bbl) 789.00 Less: Operating Costs @ $2/bbl 52.60 Investment 54.27 Tax (50% net income after operating costs and investment) 341.07 Potential Future Net Revenue Potential Return/Risk Investment 341.07 / 1.95 175/1 Risk Adjusted Return (based on 1.6 success rate) 175/11/6 29 Return on Investment 341.07 / 54.27 6.3/1



Play Analysis Methods
Introduction Ideally, a play analysis is the first step in planning an exploration program. We must investigate the individual play elements and present the information available about each element in an understandable format. Our goal is to identify areas within the basin where the play elements coexist in order to select prospective acreage.

We use play analysis to justify expenditures on exploration surveys, such as gravity and magnetic surveys, field investigations, and seismic acquisition. The play analysis continues until we have addressed all the risks associated with each play element. For example, suppose that we are investigating a new, deeper objective in a developed basin. This deeper section has been penetrated by only a few stratigraphic test wells, and we discover that the potential source rock within the section is overmature in all of these wells, or the potential reservoir units are heavily cemented. We will have serious difficulties persuading our management to spend more time and money continuing the play analysis. So, we must identify critical risk information early in a play analysis and present information about the play elements in an organized and timely manner. We commonly use play summary charts, maps, and schematic play summary cross sections to show how the play elements in a basin relate to each other. To construct the summary, we use data from a variety of sources, including geologic maps, academic theses, journal articles, field sampling surveys, geophysical surveys, and subsurface well control. At the beginning of a play assessment in a new area it is essential that we collect all available data from previous investigations, and compile a preliminary play summary. A basic play summary chart, which we may be able to fill-in early in analysis, might contain the following headings: • • • • • • • • • • • Age Rock Units Lithology Thickness Source Seal Maturation Migration Trap Tectonic Setting Depositional Setting/System

Our preliminary play summary is particularly important in a frontier area because it is a critical planning tool that can show us what data we have and what data we are missing. The play summary chart cannot show detailed information about a given play element. While it can indicate that a Cretaceous reservoir with 20 percent porosity exists in the basin, only a map can show the areal distribution of the reservoir unit, its thickness, and variations in porosity and permeability. A summary chart can indicate Tertiary thrust faults as a potential structural trap element, but we need a map to show the distribution of potential structures, their area, and estimated closures. In a frontier play, many of these maps will be impossible to construct because of sparse data; again, our preliminary set of maps will serve as a planning tool. Finally, we can use schematic, play-summary cross sections to show relationships between play elements at depth.

Sources of Information

and estimated maturity. Decreases with . seismic. and the detection of hydrocarbon seepage at the surface. permeability and diagenesis. In the latter case. Surface geological control includes maps (geologic. in outcrop samples of source units. These surface data sets form the foundation for the interpretation of subsurface data. Increases with increasing maturity. We can confirm the maturation level and organic matter type using visual characterization of the kerogen separated from the samples. A geochemical report of source rock analysis will probably contain many pages of data summaries. In frontier areas. and geologic maps. as well as well control. and paleontological age indicators measured from lithological samples.the study of source rocks from samples. gravity and magnetic surveys. and seal units. These include surface geological and geochemical data. geomorphic expression may be a guide to buried structures. including rock type. Measure of kerogen remaining in source rock sample. Let’s consider each of these data sources in turn. and cross sections generated from surface measurements. Geologic maps contain the structural information we need to understand trap geometries. so topographic maps can be a valuable exploration tool. organic matter quality. We can divide surface geochemical sampling surveys into two categories -. and are critical to play analysis in frontier regions where subsurface data may be scarce. because samples from existing wells may not be available for analysis. We should always select samples with minimal surface weathering effects. the primary goal of source rock studies is to determine the presence of a source rock capable of generating petroleum. Surface source rock samples are first put through a screening process called whole-rock pyrolysis. type. soil. aerial photography. which provides information on organic matter quantity. from measured sections.There are numerous sources of information that we should incorporate into our play analysis. topographic). or surface expression may be subtle where undeformed sediments overlie structures. porosity. Table 1 lists these source rock pyrolysis parameters. and measured sections show areal variations in thickness. We can determine lithologic characteristics. This initially involves analysis of three parameters: organic matter quantity. source. measured sections. We can combine information from geologic maps and measured sections with topographic maps to construct cross sections showing stratigraphic and structural relationships at depth. surface sampling may be the only way to access potential source rocks even if well control exists. satellite imagery. Geologic maps also contain information on the areal distribution and thickness of stratigraphic units. since organic matter darkens as maturation increases. The maps may show exposed structures with measured strikes and dips. outcrop samples. For a quick reference. S1 S2 Measure of bitumen (matured kerogen) in source rock sample. hydrologic. Do not be overwhelmed. In frontier play analyses. as well as maturation. These data sets also contain direct and implied information on depositional environments and facies relationships in reservoir. We can measure organic matter content and type. outcrop samples. and maturity.

and mineralogic effects. Measure of hydrocarbons absorbed by soil particles such as clays. known as geochemical anomalies. When performing surface geochemical prospecting. Related to oxygen content in kerogen. Tmax %TOC Percentage of organic carbon in source rock sample. and that C2 to C5 hydrocarbons are uniquely indicative of thermogenic hydrocarbon deposits. and magnetic surveys ( Table 3 ). OI can be plotted against HI to analyze kerogen type and maturation level. S2/TOC is a measure of unrealized hydrocarbon generative potential in source rock sample.increasing maturity. These techniques include adsorbed and occluded soilgas analysis. Increases with increasing maturity. on the overlying rock and soil column. which detect physical and chemical changes in surface and near-surface soil caused by vertically migrating hydrocarbons. unconformities. Table 2 briefly summarizes these techniques. S3/TOC is an approximation of oxygen content in kerogen. geobotanical. Temperature at which S2 generation is highest. and highly permeable sediments (Hunt. Indirect geochemical prospecting techniques. Price (1986) asserts that C1 to C5 hydrocarbons migrate to the earth’s surface from thermogenic hydrocarbon deposits to form anomalously high. free soil-gas analysis. As they migrate to the surface. hydrocarbons impose chemical. measurable surface concentrations. OI Table 1: Key source rock pyrolysis parameters. We can detect these anomalies by direct geochemical prospecting techniques that measure relative or absolute C2 to C5 concentrations in the surface and near-surface environment. include radiometric. Price favors vertical migration of microbubbles of natural gas through microfracture systems which overlie hydrocarbon deposits as the transport mechanism for microseepages. HI Hydrogen Index. intrusions. and integrative absorption analysis. Oxygen Index. 1981). biologic. . microbial analysis. There is general agreement that many petroleum accumulations leak hydrocarbons to the surface via faults. fractures. Soil-gas Hydrocarbon analysis: Soil-sorbed Hydrocarbon analysis: Measure of C2-C5 hydrocarbons in soil-gas samples. our goal to detect microseepages of oil and gas. S3 Measure of carbon dioxide generated from kerogen during pyrolysis.

Magnetic surveys are typically airborne and may cover thousands of square miles. vigor. 1988.. These surveys enable us to economically identify basins or parts of basins with adequate sediment thickness whose hydrocarbon prospectivity we may want to assess further. as well as to detect faults and other structures.Soil-occluded Hydrocarbon analysis: Microbiologic analysis: Integrative absorption: Measure of hydrocarbons occluded in soil carbonates. Jones and Drozd. 1983).e. Measure of microbial activity related to microbial consumption of hydrocarbons. There are numerous published examples of successful applications of geochemical prospecting surveys (i. charcoal) to collect hydrocarbon gas flux through soil over an extended period of time (days to weeks). The geologic map of Senegal ( Figure 1 ) . Table 2: Direct geochemical detection methods.e. possibly caused by absorption of radioactive materials in reservoired oils. Detects changes in vegetation type. Surface geological and geochemical surveys and source rock studies are key ingredients in a frontier play analysis. Bond. We use magnetic surveys in frontier play analysis primarily to determine the thickness of the sedimentary section within a basin. Use of absorbents (i. Nettleton (1971) presents a representative application of a regional magnetic survey in Senegal. Measures increased magnetism over some oil reservoirs. and density. possibly caused by reducing soil conditions from microseepage. which may reduce non-magnetic hematite in sediments and soils to magnetic hematite. We also use these surveys to locate intrusives and buried volcanics. Hunt (1986) states that geochemical anomalies are best used in a regional sense since there is no known mechanism that will cause a subsurface pool to be outlined at the surface. yet they are still controversial. Surface geochemical prospecting surveys have been applied to hydrocarbon exploration for over fifty years. Geobotanical survey: Magnetic survey: Table 3: Indirect geochemical detection methods. Regional geochemical surveys can be risky but can indicate whether a basin has generated hydrocarbons. Radiometric survey: Measures a radiation "low" over some oil reservoirs. but it is important to recognize the many limitations of geochemical prospecting. These data form the foundation for interpretation and planning of other surveys that investigate the subsurface -geophysical surveys and drilling. porosity caused by soil-gas anomalies that may create soil reducing conditions over reservoirs.

a shallower basin on the southeast. Figure 1 A basement depth map ( Figure 2 ) calculated from a reconnaissance aeromagnetic survey indicates two basins with deep sections (>7000 m) on the southwest and northwest.suggests a basinal area covered by alluvium and Pliocene deposits. between outcrops of Precambrian basement near Dakar and on the southeast. and a northeast-trending platform between the basins. .

The geologic map of Kuwait ( Figure 3 .Figure 2 This survey provides a quantitative picture of the gross features of the basin from which we can begin an evaluation of its petroleum prospects. Generalized geologic map of Kuwait. Gravity data are a more reliable indicator of basement relief.namely to outline regional basin trends and estimate depths. Individual magnetic highs and lows may correspond to basement relief. than are magnetic data. Warsi (1990) defined the regional structural framework of Kuwait based on a regional gravity survey. . In order to use magnetic data for detailed studies. and of structural configuration. but they may also represent contrasts in magnetization within basement or sedimentary rock units. Gravity surveys have a similar application in frontier play analysis -. we must interpret these anomalies and integrate them with other data sets.

2=Dibdibba Formation [pebbly sand. alluvium and coastal deposits. . The Bouguer gravity anomaly map ( Figure 4 ) defines two major arches. 4=Damman Formation [limestone with chert]. 3=Fars and Ghar formations [sand. The Damman Formation crops out very locally along the Ahmadi Ridge. subordinate clay. and nodular limestone]. the Kuwait Arch and the Dibdibba Arch. and an intervening basin.) indicates extensive unconsolidated cover (units 1 and 2) and a limited surface expression of subsurface structures. gravel and poorly sorted sandstone].Figure 3 1=Holocene-Quaternary cover comprising eolian sand. the Dibdibba Basin.

For example. because both gravity and magnetic anomalies can be generated from a variety of subsurface sources that produce similar signatures. (1982) integrated magnetic and gravity data to determine the depth and relief of thrust sheets in the Appalachian overthrust area. and to identify thrust sheets containing wedges of crystalline basement. indicating thin volcanics.Figure 4 These structures reflect basement relief. Magnetic values over the southern area are flat. we can often resolve ambiguous data. Rasmussen (1985) recommends magnetic survey . further exploration is probably warranted along the Dibdibba Arch. based on magnetic data and well control. 1990). which is similar in structure and stratigraphy to other productive arches in eastern Arabia (Warsi. By combining the two data sets. They were also able to map the relief on the basement surface. This suggests that the gravity low in the southern area correlates with thick sediments in a basin beneath thin Absaroka volcanic cover. Both the Kuwait Arch and the Dibdibba Basin are productive. We may not be able to uniquely identify many anomalies we interpret from separate gravity and magnetic surveys. We can also apply magnetic and gravity data to the regional analysis of thrust belts. Magnetic values over the northern part of the field show characteristic high-amplitude anomalies. Kulik (1990) found a major gravity low that correlates with the surface distribution of low-density Absaroka volcanic rocks in northwestern Wyoming. Hartman et al. indicating thick volcanics.

If available. Chandler et al. these can often be reprocessed into a useful format.) is a classic example of potential trap delineation in an area of salt tectonics. If seismic data of any vintage exist. seismic data can provide a valuable source of subsurface control in a frontier play analysis. He determined the thickness of basement thrusts overlying sediments. Figure 5 (A salt wall diapir [D] from the North Sea with some of the possible trap positions shown. (1989) modeled both gravity and magnetic surveys with sparse seismic data to develop a regional tectonic framework for application to petroleum exploration in the Mid-Continent Rift System of North America. where modeling constrains subsurface interpretation. Even poor seismic data may show geometric patterns that delineate structural and stratigraphic relationships. we can find undrilled sedimentary areas large enough to contain prospects of significant size and reserves. as well as the dip of the base of the overthrust along the Arbuckle Mountain thrust front in Oklahoma.and post-thrust basement uplifts that influence subsurface structural geometry and stratigraphic thickness. By incorporating constraints from gravity and magnetic data. Seismic surveys have been used for decades to identify structural and stratigraphic traps. any subsurface information about play elements is critical. do not ignore them. Rasmussen concludes that. Their integration of surface geologic and gravity data differentiated between pre. Silver et al. In frontier areas. constructing gravity models to constrain the structural configuration of basement and overlying sedimentary veneer on geologic cross sections based on surface data. is vital in frontier areas where subsurface control from seismic and wells is scarce or nonexistent. (1982) interpreted gravity data of the northern Idaho-Wyoming Overthrust Belt. Do not pass over older data or poorly processed data. This type of data integration.interpretation in areas where overthrusts contain magnetic basement rocks. Gravity and magnetic models of geologic cross sections are powerful tools in regional geologic interpretation. by using magnetics data to detect and map igneous overthrusts. . they were able to differentiate between parts of the rift with predominantly volcanic fill and those with predominantly sedimentary fill.

the structures in Figure 6 (Uninterpreted and interpreted seismic sections through the South Elk Basin producing area [northeast Big Horn Basin. the structural detail necessary to identify various traps is available only on seismic data.Figure 5 Although this type of salt structure would have a recognizable signature on geologic and topographic maps. and gravity and magnetic surveys. Similarly. .

This application is particularly important in frontier play analysis.Figure 6 Wyoming].) would have surface expression and gravity/magnetic signatures. Figure 7 (Uninterpreted and interpreted seismic sections from offshore western Africa. Seismic interpretation has moved beyond simple trap identification and into the identification of structural styles. showing anticlinal folding over basement thrusts. Regional seismic coverage. showing a complex diversity of both erosional and structural terminations in reflection patterns. if properly oriented. . but we can interpret the dip of the faults and trap geometry in greater detail using seismic data. can be critical in structural style interpretation.

TR=Triassic. TM=Miocene. TP&E=Paleocene and Eocene.Figure 7 Letters indicate ages of units: TPL=Tertiary. K=Cretaceous.) and Figure 8 show a succession of structural styles in a section from offshore western Africa. . Figure 8 The Triassic-Jurassic units are affected by basement-involved extensional faulting. Pliocene. J=Jurassic.

and the corresponding geological interpretation based on analogous depositional systems. The Tertiary section is unfaulted. This sequence of structural styles suggests rift formation followed by the development of a passive margin tectonic habitat. Figure 9 (Seismic reflections [top] and geological interpretation [bottom] of Upper Cretaceous carbonate shelf margin. Figure 9 Aquitane Basin. Similar criteria have been developed for the seismic recognition of prograding sequences on clastic shelves ( Figure 10 ). Bubb and Hatleid (1977) summarized the seismic criteria for recognizing carbonate depositional systems. We can also use regional seismic coverage to interpret depositional systems.while the Cretaceous sequence is affected by detached extensional faulting. offshore France. and for clastic sediments prograding onto the basin plain. Interpretation of regional structural style and tectonic habitat aids in basin classification as well as in better prediction of potential trap distribution and geometry. .) illustrates the seismic expression of a carbonate shelf margin.

Figure 10 Once we have recognized a depositional system. Figure 11 . which includes marginal marine to basin plain depositional systems. One of the fundamental precepts of sequence stratigraphy is that a seismic reflection represents a time plane. Sequences are divided into systems tracts. source. A sequence is bounded by unconformities and their correlative conformities. For example. and seal units occur. subdivided according to rock type. Each systems tract comprises a group of contemporaneous depositional systems. and that patterns of reflection time show depositional sequences. which are deposited at different sea levels related to eustatic sea level changes. Figure 11 shows the lowstand systems tract. we can use seismic stratigraphy to predict where reservoir.

Figure 13 and Figure 14 (a) shows these stratal patterns interpreted in terms of likely rock type. .Figure 12 shows a summary of the reservoir potential of the lowstands systems tract. Figure 12 Figure 13 shows the reflection patterns that comprise a complex shelfal system.

With adequate paleontologic control this may be reasonably easy. particularly if it can be calibrated to real geologic time. Figure 15 This chronostratigraphic chart is a valuable record of the geologic history of a prospective basin. but in a frontier basin it may require the generation of sea level curves showing the variation in eustatic sea .Figure 14 Figure 15 (b) also shows a rock type/stratal pattern diagram redisplayed with geologic time as the vertical scale.

Figure 16 . We can use seismic sections to evaluate trap geometry and the distribution of reservoir. These curves can be matched to similar curves generated in dated sediments in other basins. to evaluate maturation. Anstey (1992) concludes that under favorable circumstances. and seal. has been used by Anstey (1992) to illustrate a geologic history analysis. Figure 16 He begins with a series of historic reconstructions of the various stages of tectonics and sedimentation. The burial history diagram for the trough region between the salt pillows of Figure 13. which he uses to construct a burial-history diagram ( Figure 17 .level related to the different systems tracts. . constructed from stage diagrams. a seismic section from a complex area of salt tectonics. in certain cases. we can use this approach to obtain the age of deeply-buried rocks from the patterns of their seismic reflections. source. and.

source and seal units. geochemistry. correlation. Anstey concludes that Tertiary (T) source rocks are immature. Indirect measures of rock and fluid parameters come from wireline logs. well control may be minimal or non-existent. and interpretation of seismic and other geophysical surveys. and with due regard for compaction in the shales. This analysis provides a measure of the timing of maturation and the timing of structural trap formation. sidewall cores. but if available it can provide key subsurface control for lithologic and paleontologic analysis. Cuttings are collected during drilling and used to prepare sample logs. and hydrocarbons from rock and fluid samples from cores and cuttings. By determining the possibilities for migration pathways. Based on the burial history. Sample logs provide a written lithologic and .). In a frontier basin. maturation indicators. Rock samples from wells come in three forms: cuttings. based on visual examination. we can also evaluate the potential for hydrocarbon accumulation. and conventional cores. Two types of data are available from wells. and pre-Zechstein (pre-Ze) source rocks have been mature for over 200 My. We obtain direct information about reservoir. The geologic time periods are in millions of years before present.Figure 17 The depths are obtained from the seismic time intervals using reasonable velocities. Lower Jurassic source rocks (J) reached maturity (depths below 1500 m) about 30 My ago.

and in seismic correlation and modeling. If cuttings themselves are available. aids in time-to-depth conversions of seismic data. porosity. and identifying leads. Log interpretation translates these parameters into measures of permeability. and lithology. which we can use to generate synthetic seismograms. Samples can provide density and magnetization measures to aid in interpretation of gravity and magnetics surveys. and to predict the distribution of reservoir. and have been stored properly. Other important applications include structure contour mapping and isopach mapping. upgrading the play analysis. They often show sedimentary structures which we can interpret for environmental study and paleocurrent information. which summarizes all available data. Density and sonic logs provide direct measures of density and acoustic velocity. We then use these sections for environmental analysis to evaluate depositional settings. Wells drilled to basement can be particularly useful for this purpose. Conventional cores provide continuous samples over the cored interval and afford the best samples for lithologic and paleontologic analysis. The synthetic seismogram provides direct correlation between rock units and seismic sections. velocity. We can also make porosity and permeability measurements using conventional cores. These logs can be used for environmental analysis.paleontologic description of the rock units penetrated and note any oil shows present. we are probably trying to generate new plays in a previously-explored basin. systems and facies. We use these measures to identify potential reservoir and seal units. in a frontier basin we will almost certainly need to obtain new data to fully evaluate plays. may be critical to establishing the credibility of our play analysis. A preliminary play summary chart). density. Wireline logs measure physical parameters such as resistivity. and to interpret trap geometry and distribution. Selecting an appropriate producing analog. as well as with sections in other wells. source. hydrocarbon saturations. We can construct geologic history analyses from well log cross sections in a manner similar to that described for seismic data. and seal units. We can also use these sections for structural analysis. geophysical and well data available. dating. We can use sidewall cores for similar analyses. we typically rely heavily on analogs to help predict geological conditions in poorly explored basins. lays the foundation for planning data acquisition. associated with several structural styles and depositional systems. Productive basins in close proximity to a new area are the most attractive analogs. In frontier play analysis. Well data also provide valuable controls for geophysical surveys. Play Summary Development The first step in a play summary is to organize and evaluate the data available for each play element. Subsurface lithologic sections interpreted from well logs can be correlated with surface sections. We use correlated sections to construct cross sections showing structural and stratigraphic relationships. based on play controls. screening analyses can be run on potential source units. and correlation. We can use these and other producing examples to predict potential plays and to model the distribution of play elements in our area of interest. spontaneous potential. If we already have a range of geological. and radioactivity. We will look at the geologic and gravity maps of . We have cited examples of production from a variety of different types of basins. However.

4=Damman Formation [limestone with chert]. 3=Fars and Ghar formations [sand. Figure 3 1=Holocene-Quaternary cover comprising eolian sand. gravel and poorly sorted sandstone].) and Figure 4 ) to create a hypothetical example of a frontier play analysis. and nodular limestone].Kuwait ( Figure 3 (Generalized geologic map of Kuwait. alluvium and coastal deposits. . subordinate clay. 2=Dibdibba Formation [pebbly sand. The Damman Formation crops out very locally along the Ahmadi Ridge.

This level of mapping indicates a thorough understanding of the various play elements. 1988). We then integrate these new data into new play summary maps. timing. Table 1 lists the variety of play summary maps produced during a comprehensive exploration mapping program. reservoir. reservoir. seal. our preliminary play summary might indicate oil seeps within a topographic basin whose trend parallels nearby productive basins.Figure 4 A comprehensive play summary takes into account every important aspect of the source. which. such as potential source. HC-Control Factor Source Examples of Possible Maps . trap. and as a basis for planning data acquisition. migration. we must address these elements as our play analysis evolves. and cross sections. In such a situation. For example. in turn. charts. which can be achieved with adequate planning and data acquisition. guide further data acquisition and analysis. We might use this level of play summary to justify lease acquisition. the productive analogs may provide predictive data on key play elements. Even if we begin our play analysis with very little concrete data about most of the play elements. and trap type. and seal play elements (White.

hydrodynamics. height Timing Seal Thickness Lithology Modifiers Effective isolith (thickness drained) TOC percent to cutoff Adequacy edge: oil-vs. favorable areas. stratigraphy Prospective perimeters from source Isolith with effective edge Net/gross ratio to cutoff Porosity percent to cutoff Appropriate facies types Structural contours. seeps. fractures. salinity. entry pressure. diagenesis. seismic signs Tested and untested closures Illustrative cross sections Play summary map: Key boundaries. by trap Fields. seal diffusivity. gas hydrates Preservation and Recovery Flushing Biodegradation Diffusion Viscous oil Inert-gas dilution Insufficient Concentration Combination Hydrocarbon occurrence Hydrodynamics. success ratios Table 1: Play elements and related maps. gas-prone Windows form maturity indicators HC deadline HC volumetric yields Paths from structure. ductility Faults. strat pinch-outs Trap timing keyed to migration timing Isolith with effective edge Facies type. timing Oil viscosity or gravity Inert fraction of gases Bbl/acre or bbl/platform.Bed thickness and area Total organic carbon Organic matter type Maturation Overmaturation Combination of above Migration Secondary migration (primary under Source) Reservoir Gross thickness Net/gross Porosity Permeability Trap and Timing Closure area. tar sealing. . solubility Formation-water types HC type. shows.

is a practical next step. however. Data search and compilation are the first steps in the analysis. At this point we should have good control for the play analysis. drilling) in the most prospective areas of a basin. In such circumstances. and we require subsurface confirmation of their distribution for depositional system analysis. such as intense karstification or extensive sand dune or volcanic cover. because these elements are favorably developed regionally in highly productive trends in Iran. a careful integration of all data sets is critical for play analysis. and migration.A typical frontier play analysis begins with the recognition of a prospective basin. Regional seismic lines should cross the basin axis and margins. We modify and adapt the seismic program as new data are acquired. and more details on the trap and maturation elements. Surface geologic maps are not an option offshore. The intervening Dibdibba Basin is identified by a north-northwest-trending gravity low. Iraq. followed by in-fill seismic coverage that concentrates on areas where potential plays are best developed. The geologic map is not particularly enlightening because of extensive Pleistocene-Holocene unconsolidated sedimentary cover. the analogous lithologies are not exposed at the surface in Kuwait. We select these areas based on the integration of surface and subsurface data sets. sediment fill. and structural trends. indicates a favorable structural configuration for traps.000 to 1:250. and gradually grows into a comprehensive set of maps and cross sections that we can use to generate leads and drillable prospects. Photogeologic mapping at a scale of 1:500. and possibly bring these leads to the prospect stage. Our preliminary play summary. The Bouguer map is encouraging. In this example. This approach has proven to be the most cost-effective way to concentrate high-cost exploration methods (seismic. will indicate basin configuration. 1990) The northwest-trending Dibdibba Arch is confirmed as another basement uplift based on its integrated gravity/magnetic signature.000. However. A few magnetic traverses are also available. There are exploration environments in which this sequence of surveys is not possible. We also require subsurface detail to confirm the configuration of the basement uplifts and basin we mapped on the gravity data. seal and reservoir by analogy. Our play summary evolves with the acquisition of each new data set. Seismic data may be difficult or impossible to obtain under certain surface conditions. Figure 3 shows a reconnaissance seismic survey (600 km) designed to evaluate the structural configuration interpreted from gravity data. This survey will also reveal subsurface stratigraphic relationships. including field checking and sample collection. for example. followed by a focused gravity survey. Iran. correlated to productive regional analogs. We still need information on the elements of source. We begin our play analysis of Kuwait with two basic data sets that cover the area -a geologic map ( Figure 3 ) and a Bouguer gravity map ( Figure 4 ). because the north-south-trending Kuwait arch is analogous to highly productive structural arches in Saudi Arabia. . which includes several small closures that may indicate basin deeps. and Saudi Arabia. while admittedly sketchy. We can use in-fill seismic data to evaluate any favorable leads identified on the reconnaissance seismic survey. which we can compare with the regional seismic and well log coverage from the surrounding region to model and interpret the subsurface section. and Iraq (Warsi. but bathymetric maps and side-scanning sonar may indicate the expression of structures beneath the sea floor. seal. A regional aeromagnetic survey. and potential deep basinal areas suitable for maturation. we can address many of our questions about source.

For example. . and no well control. if we begin with the geologic and magnetic maps of Senegal ( Figure 1 and Figure 2 ). Figure 1 the same play elements will be much more difficult to analyze because there are no productive basins nearby. our play analysis will require different planning procedures. no seismic data.If we must begin a play analysis in an area where there is no nearby production.

magnetic. gravity. Geologic maps of frontier areas are often inaccurate. We should plan surface geological and geochemical surveys based on accurate geological maps. and for interpreting and integrating data from these surveys. and often fail to show numerous outcrops present along drainages. and seal units.000 or smaller) maps are likely to miss important locations for data gathering. Areas of thin alluvial cover may be candidates for shallow stratigraphic core hole drilling.Figure 2 Here. such as Landsat. Midland. Nettleton (1971) compares the structural configuration of Senegal to that of the highly productive Central Basin Platform and adjacent Delaware. the magnetic survey suggests that three basinal areas are separated by an interior platform. Surface expression of structures should be . The first task in an area like this should be a new surface geologic interpretation. and Valverde basins in western Texas. Surface outcrop sampling is essential when evaluating potential source. SPOT or ERS. reservoir. A regional photogeologic interpretation from high-resolution satellite imagery. and seismic surveys. but must be developed with more data. Attempts to plan field sampling and mapping programs from small-scale (1:500. This analogy is attractive. will provide a more accurate geologic base map for planning necessary field. They usually fail to show any geomorphic expression of structures. Our interpretation of stratigraphic and structural relationships may also suffer if we rely exclusively on available maps.

Integrating the various subsurface and surface data sets will further narrow the focus of exploration into the area or areas with the most prospective leads. (1987) provides a good example of the kinds of maps and cross sections that comprise a play analysis. We then plan a series of regional seismic lines across these areas to investigate structural styles and depositional systems. We will then cover these areas with more detailed seismic surveys and use the results of this more detailed survey to develop prospects. Their study. Australia done by Williamson et al.field checked. to predict potential trap configurations.) and Figure 2 (Structure map for Paleocene [top. source and seal units. We can use this gravity survey to focus our future seismic efforts in areas with the highest potential. . which is based on regional seismic coverage and limited drilling. but seismic coverage would be too expensive to cover all of the potential areas of interest. and surface fault/fracture zones may be candidates for direct geochemical prospecting surveys. and to project the distribution of potential reservoir. includes structural leads maps for several prospective reservoir horizons ( Figure 1 (Structure map for [?] Jurassic pre-rift unconformity level. and to indicate major structural features within the basins. An analysis of the hydrocarbon potential of the Bass Basin. Play Summary Presentation There are only a few published examples of play summaries. We have outlined several potential basins on our magnetics data. Several plays may become apparent at this point. While many articles address one or two play elements. We will need more detailed subsurface information to completely evaluate structural and stratigraphic elements. few present an integrated play summary. We can use a regional gravity survey to confirm basin trends and depths.

.Figure 1 L.

) . and maturation maps for two potential source rocks ( Figure 3 (Maturity map for base of Eastern View Coal Measures at 40 Ma.).Figure 2 balmei zone] level of Eastern View Coal Measures.

.Figure 3 and Figure 4 (Maturity map for top of Eastern View Coal Measures at 40 Ma.

Schematic evolution of sedimentary environments of the Bass Basin.Figure 4 ). . They also illustrate the evolution of depositional systems in the Bass Basin with a series of block diagrams ( Figure 5 and Figure 6 .

Figure 5 a] Middle Cretaceous base Eastern View Coal Measures [EVCM]. .

Alluvial-fan and braided-stream sedimentation is dominant. Most basement highs drowned. and representative seismic and well log sections. Other illustrations show distribution of source rocks. the maps. Sedimentation rates were high. and extensive flood plain with marginal alluvial fans developed. cross sections. An extensive low-gradient flood plain passed westward into tidal-reach environment during rapid marine transgression. b] Paleocene L.Figure 6 Immediately postdates formation of basin by extensional tectonics.). Establishment of shallow marine conditions led to carbonate shelf deposition. geohistory curves. balmei horizon of EVCM. He maps structural subdivisions within the basin ( Figure 7 . Structural location map of Daqing oil field within principal depression of Songliao Basin. . and diagrams effectively address all of the play elements. part of graben probably drained internally and formed lakes. d] Ogliocene [Torquay Group]. c] Late Eocene [Demons Bluff Formation]. which persists to present day. Although there is no final play summary map. more than 50 m/my [160 ft/my] . Wanli (1985) also addresses all of the play elements in his study of the Songliao Basin in China.

d] gas-bearing area. as well as source and reservoir distribution. 6] uplift on the southwest. 1] slope from the west. . hydrocarbon productivity. f] terrace. c] oil-bearing area [numbered pools are identified in upper left corner]. maturation levels of several source units. b] boundary of central basin high. 3] central basinal area. 4] uplift on the northeast. e] depression. 5] uplift on the southeast. and the relationship between maturation and structural development (timing) in the basin ( Figure 8 and Figure 9 . Inset: location map of Songliao Basin and surrounding structures. 2] plunge from the north.).Figure 7 Legend: a] boundary of principal depression of Songliao Basin.

.Figure 8 Relationship between area of main mature source rocks at different geologic times and development of the Daqing high.

Cross section of Zhenlai to Shengping area showing source. carrier. 5] present boundary of oil-bearing area. and reservoir rocks [middle oil-bearing assemblage] in Songlaio Basin. 2] maturation area of source rocks of Members Qing 2 and 3. 4] top of Members Yao 2 and 3.Figure 9 Legend: 1] maturation area of source rocks of Member Qing 1.) The key play elements are also presented in a regional cross section ( Figure 10 . . 3] maturation area of source rocks of Member Nen 1.

Figure 10 Legend: 1] source rocks. Map showing coordination among five bodies in Gulong-Daqing-Sanzhao area. 2] reservoir rocks. His final play summary map and cross section ( Figure 11 . . 5] direction of oil and gas migration.). 3] cap rock. 6] direction of subsurface water flow. 4] oil pool.

9] extent of Daqing oil field. 7] 5-m contour for sandstone in Putaohua oil reservoir. 6] oil and gas carrier bed and reservoir. and the maps that can be used to illustrate the different elements ( Table 1 ). White (1988) demonstrates the applications of oil and gas play maps and cross sections to exploration. 8] huge sand body. and Gao oil reservoirs. 5] axis of depression. 4] cap rock.Figure 11 Legend: 1] area of source rocks. Pu. .) shows the relationships between the play elements as they exist in the giant Daqing oil field. 2] boundary of central basin high. 3] 75-m isopach for sandstones in Sa. He lists the play elements that we must study in order to analyze a play.

and fracture traps.Figure 12 Figure 12 and Figure 13 (Mission Canyon limestone plays on anticline. subunconformity closures. . noses.

It integrates all available data concerning source. migration. and should be the goal for summarizing a frontier play analysis.) shows a regional play summary map and cross section compiled by White for several Mission Canyon limestone plays in the Williston Basin. and subdivides the area according to the quality of the various elements. timing. HC-Control Factor Source Bed thickness and area Total organic carbon Organic matter type Maturation Overmaturation Combination of above Examples of Possible Maps Effective isolith (thickness drained) TOC percent to cutoff Adequacy edge: oil-vs. United States and Canada. trap. and seal. This kind of regional play map is the optimal tool for indicating the best areas to explore.Figure 13 Williston Basin. gas-prone Windows form maturity indicators HC deadline HC volumetric yields . reservoir.

Sudan Rift Basin Seven years of carefully-planned and focused exploration resulted in Chevron’s 1980 oil discovery. hydrodynamics. gas hydrates Structural contours. entry pressure. by trap Fields. favorable areas. seal diffusivity. Unity #2. diagenesis. success ratios Table 1: Play elements and related maps. shows. height Timing Seal Thickness Lithology Modifiers Isolith with effective edge Facies type. fractures. This potential new basin in an unexplored region prompted a data-gathering trip to Sudan. timing Oil viscosity or gravity Inert fraction of gases Bbl/acre or bbl/platform. seismic signs Tested and untested closures Illustrative cross sections Play summary map: Key boundaries. The interpretation suggested a structural trough or graben in the southern part of Sudan. 1973. ductility Faults. seeps. based on a regional photo geologic interpretation of satellite imagery designed to map structural trends in Kenya and surrounding areas. salinity. strat pinch-outs Trap timing keyed to migration timing Isolith with effective edge Net/gross ratio to cutoff Porosity percent to cutoff Appropriate facies types Paths from structure. which yielded a small aeromagnetic .Migration Secondary migration (primary under Source) Reservoir Gross thickness Net/gross Porosity Permeability Trap and Timing Closure area. in the Muglad Basin of southern Sudan. stratigraphy Prospective perimeters from source Preservation and Recovery Flushing Biodegradation Diffusion Viscous oil Inert-gas dilution Insufficient Concentration Combination Hydrocarbon occurrence Hydrodynamics. solubility Formation-water types HC type. tar sealing. Chevron’s initial interest in southern Sudan was sparked in February.

showing areas covering the Muglad and Melut basins. The first questions about the area -. The aeromagnetic survey indicated that a graben was present. the . Note the exploratory well locations and boundary of the southern region. and depth of the basin -were answered with a regional aeromagnetic survey begun in early 1974 and performed in two phases. and was awarded the acreage in late 1974 ( Figure 1 .survey carried out by the United Nations as part of a groundwater study. retained at the time drilling began in late 1977.000 line-kilometer survey revealed two separate basins. Map of the original December 1974 concession. Their first goal was to analyze their block using inexpensive reconnaissance tools and then progressively focus more expensive. and that it probably contained up to 3000 meters of sediment. Chevron realized that they had an opportunity to carry out a textbook example of an exploration program (Martini and Payne.the location. 1995). extent. The first phase consisted of regional coverage of the entire northwest-trending block with flight lines spaced 40 kilometers apart. Chevron applied for a large exploration block in mid-1974. higher-resolution tools on the most prospective areas. A preliminary interpretation of this 60. Figure 1 Because of an almost total lack of geological control. Based on this limited information.).

and Chevron chose to concentrate in this part of their block (they later relinquished the other acreage).= Central African Republic.000 line-kilometers of aeromagnetic data were flown over the deeper Muglad Basin in mid-1974 to improve the resolution of the survey. the type of structures present. The results of this survey were used to identify major structural trends and anomalies ( Figure 2 . C.Muglad Basin on the northwest and the Melut Basin on the east. Six hundred miles of reconnaissance seismic were obtained beginning in early 1976. The northern half of the Muglad Basin had more favorable access and terrain conditions. The aeromagnetic survey helped to focus the exploration effort. The reconnaissance seismic correlated well with the gravity interpretation and produced regional stratigraphic and structural information.). A further 21. Logistics were an important consideration in this case. 1992). Generalized Bouguer gravity map.R. which further focused Chevron’s efforts. and reliability of the gravity interpretation (Martini and Payne. Their next exploration step was a gravity survey.A. . designed to give insight into the nature of the basin. Figure 2 Well symbols depict first six wells drilled in production-sharing agreement area. conducted from late 1975 to early 1976. but the focus had to be refined further before expensive seismic operations could be planned.

. Time-migrated seismic section across Heglig area of southern Muglad block. drape folds.). Chevron began shooting more detailed seismic surveys to interpret stratigraphic relationships and structural details for play analysis. Figure 3 Section passes through several productive fault blocks.An initial seismic interpretation indicated the distribution of highly prospective trends. By early 1977. Timemigrated seismic section across Unity area of southern Muglad block. the predominant plays were assumed to be rotated fault blocks ( Figure 3 . and reverse drag folds ( Figure 4 . Based on seismic data. Times shown are two-way travel times in seconds.

The next three wells. Information on the other play elements was limited because of a lack of outcrops.Figure 4 Section passes through Unity field. Times shown are two-way travel times in seconds. and the revised structure map indicated that the crest of the structure was 13 kilometers south of the #1 location . the well penetrated a thick. 40 meters of good reservoir rock were associated with the oil shows. was difficult without samples (Schull. with potential reservoir and source elements inferred from seismic facies analysis. and well data were being integrated with seismic data as they became available. Unity #1. Reconstruction of depositional history and depositional systems. This shale was immature at this location. but was abandoned as non-commercial in 1979. organic-rich lacustrine shale. but the source element now had some encouraging aspects. and the presence of oil shows indicated that maturation and migration had occurred in the basin. In-fill seismic data were obtained over the structure drilled at Unity #1.) developed in an extensional setting. 1988). This well was abandoned in 1978. however. The rocks were predicted to be non-marine rift-related deposits. Seismic data acquisition continued during the early drilling phase. Chevron drilled the first of six wells in late 1977. More importantly. were also dry. drilled in early 1979. Although no shows were encountered on the large structure drilled. A second well. tested a major seismic structure. A sixth well flowed oil from a poor reservoir.

). When tested in February of 1980.and up to 100 meters higher. Figure 5 Well symbols depict first six wells drilled in agreement area. Generalized depositional model depicting non-marine environments operative during the filling of the southern Sudan rift basins. Generalized Muglad Basin structural-stratigraphic cross section. The well control made depositional systems analysis possible ( Figure 6 . . the well flowed oil at the rate of 2.939 barrels per day. Drilling of the Unity #2 well began in late 1979. Chevron geoscientists could begin to analyze the structural/stratigraphic relationships in more detail ( Figure 5 . With subsurface information available from seismic data tied to well control.

drilling. By 1985. and this analysis could be used to predict the distribution of source. reservoir. Geochemical samples from the wells made geohistory analysis practical. and seal units throughout the basin. and data integration continued as exploration proceeded.Figure 6 ). Seismic acquisition. Figure 7 summarizes Chevron’s Sudan exploration operations from 1975 to 1985. . 86 wells were drilled and oil had been discovered in nine areas within the basin.

When play analysis became possible with new seismic technology in the mid-1970s. . exploration resumed and resulted in Union Texas’ discovery of oil in 1981. because existing seismic technology did not allow good data acquisition in a unique geologic environment.) was drilled in 1892. Exploration ceased in the Lower Indus Basin in the mid-1960s after almost two unsuccessful decades. The first well in the lower Indus Basin ( Figure 1 . the Potwar Basin. the Sind. on the surface expression of an anticline (Young. and the Badin Block.Figure 7 Lower Indus Basin A previously explored basin with limited subsurface data can also represent an exploration frontier. Location map showing the Lower Indus Basin. if drilling initially indicated poor prospectivity. 1995).

The exploration team developed a geologic model in which northwest-trending structures formed potential traps in a northeast-trending basin . they generated a new play concept. until re-examined in 1975 by Union Texas Petroleum. A third well was drilled on the anticline in 1956 as part of an extensive basin-wide exploration program carried out by several companies. lay in government files for a decade after the last drilling. Five other wells were drilled as part of this program prior to the mid-1960s. apparently deposited in a thick deltaic system. Sun. Gravity data provided the only structural control and indicated a belt of northwest-trending gravity highs. and gravity. seismic.Figure 1 This well and a second well drilled on the same structure in 1925 were both dry. Existing data indicated both potential reservoir and source units. including well logs. This well tested non-commercial quantities of gas. Gas shows indicated that maturation and migration had occurred. because existing seismic data failed to penetrate a shallow volcanic unit that masked Cretaceous and older structures. 1995). These were interpreted to represent Cretaceous structures analogous to adjacent surface anticlines in India. which provided a productive analog. the stratigraphic section encountered in the wells indicated a major Cretaceous depocenter (Young. and Hunt. Trap potential was the questionable element. These stratigraphic units were equivalent to sequences in Kuwait. Using the old data. including Stanvac. Although all these wells were dry. The data from this and earlier exploration efforts.

Union Texas drilled three more wells. however. deposited in structural depressions. They proposed that the five dry holes were not sited properly due to the limitations of the seismic data from the 1950s. In mid-1980. there were many unanswered questions. The first two wells had shows. The possibilities prompted reconnaissance field trips. Hunt was alerted to an aeromagnetic survey (flown for mineral exploration) that suggested the presence of an undiscovered sedimentary basin in central Yemen. and a salt-cored anticline associated with organic-rich shale was reported within the "basin" area. Their model was accepted by management and Union Texas signed a concession agreement in early 1976. basement outcrops in the center of the "basin" seemed to indicate shallow basement across the region. This discovery occurred less than four years after the first hint of a potential basin was recognized. The third well. Hunt’s explorationists were familiar with Jurassic salt in stratigraphic test wells in an adjacent portion of Saudi Arabia. There were no obvious indications of a deep basin at the surface -. Marib Basin. which indicated the presence of source rocks with high organic content.with favorable stratigraphic elements. New seismic acquisition was required to penetrate a problematic volcanic unit and for interpretation of the structural and stratigraphic relationships in the basin. and Union Texas drilled on a poorly-defined structural high in early 1979. Jurassic carbonates exposed along the margins of the basin appeared to have been deposited in a highly unstable environment. but they needed more subsurface control to fully develop their exploration concepts. the 1981 discovery well for the first oil field in the lower Indus Basin. rather than anticlines. produced oil from a tilted fault block at approximately 1000 meters. The initial seismic program of 2500 kilometers revealed that. 1984. and recognized a possible correlation with proven Jurassic source rocks elsewhere in the region. At this time the concession agreement required that a well be drilled in order to maintain the acreage. They knew they had a basin with potential favorable reservoir and source units. This well had an oil show. the gravity highs were in fact related to thickened sections of high-density carbonate. A reconnaissance program utilizing improved seismic technology and optimal field parameters showed the true structural relationships within the basin (Young. suggested 2 to 3 kilometers of sedimentary section. At this point in the investigation. Continued seismic acquisition confirmed that the basin structural style was dominated by northwest-trending horst and graben blocks. together with salt (considered capable of either acting as a seal or of . as did a second well drilled on a better-defined tilted fault fact. the first oil production in Yemen. Hunt Oil Company tested oil in the Alif #1 well in the Marib Basin. but the potential for source and reservoir in a relatively deep basin. but were non-productive. Since 1981. Encouraged by oil shows and more detailed maps from a tighter seismic grid. A primary goal was to evaluate the proposed gravity high/anticline connection predicted in the preliminary play analysis. suggesting possible rifting during deposition. 1995). Khaskeli #1. The aeromagnetic data. Yemen In July. Union Texas actually had very little useful data to work with. over 30 oil and gas discoveries have been made in the lower Indus Basin.

Hunt predicted recoverable reserves in the range of 400 to 500 million barrels of oil. with possible intervening Cretaceous clastics. Jurassic or Upper Permian sandstones. Jurassic evaporates were identified as both potential source and seal units.generating structures). Several more lines crossed the axis of the basin at 20-kilometer intervals. The Alif #1 also encountered a thick hydrocarbon column (457 meters) of light oil (40 API) and wet gas. designed to determine the size of the structure and the potential reservoirs. 1984. 1982. where they appeared to blanket a set of tilted fault blocks interpreted to have formed in a transtensional rift environment. Paleozoic clastics underlain by basement were predicted beneath the Jurassic carbonates. Alif #1 was spudded on January 31. and traversed the northwest-trending axis of the basin. The salt and organic-rich shales cropping out within the basin were projected down into the subsurface using the seismic data. and Cambro-Ordovician sandstones. complex halfgraben. The new stratigraphic information was integrated into the seismic interpretation. The exploration program developed along several fronts. Early lines showed a concentration of structures in the southeastern portion of the basin. the seismic grid was widely spaced. and further exploration required stratigraphic and structural information from well control to confirm predicted play elements. and later gas testing recorded 55 million CFGD. 1984. Exploration began in January. The predicted stratigraphic column was revised. which had not been seen prior to drilling. During the Alif evaluation program. Jurassic carbonates. The Alif structure was chosen for the first exploratory well. and provided the necessary information to clarify the producing play. deep. After drilling 12 wells. Potential reservoirs were identified as Cretaceous clastics. 1981. so the rest of the first seismic program (a total of 1845 kilometers) covered this area with greater density. Photogeologic mapping and field mapping were conducted during 1982. surrounded regionally by huge reserves in the Arabian Peninsula. This section. Drilling on the Alif structure continued. with significant qualities of gas. which indicated that these important play elements extended throughout the eastern part of the basin. reservoir. was comprised of rift deposits that contained source. The Jurassic carbonates that lie on basement and at the surface were predicted below the salt and shale sections. to further refine surface structural and stratigraphic control. led Hunt to negotiate an exploration contract in July. in two zones. Two of the . and seal units. Permian shales were also considered a potential source. with the addition of approximately 2000 meters of section between the evaporites and Jurassic carbonates seen juxtaposed at the surface on the south flank of the basin. The axial line provided the line ties and validated the presence of a long. Nine separate tilted fault-block structures were identified on the initial seismic program. The first two lines crossed the basin at its widest point. Alif #2 confirmed the presence of a thick productive zone. although surface exposures were too heavily weathered for effective sampling. with the acquisition of regional seismic coverage. and the exploration program was expanded to define and develop the play. The stratigraphic section identified at the surface provided a provisional stratigraphy for seismic interpretation. The well tested 7800 BOPD on July 4. These lines showed both sufficient structuring and a sedimentary section thick enough to encourage continued exploration. a second rig began drilling other large structures. At this stage.

seal. The presence of the reservoir. Hunt chose to sign a joint venture agreement with Exxon during this phase of development. although they had never been recognized.000 kilometers of seismic within their concession and drilled over 170 wells. and a well-planned exploration three wildcats discovered hydrocarbons. A carbonate section in a tilted fault block yielded CO2. This discovery also has regional implications for oil exploration. Deep Basin Trap. 7-10 percent porosity) might exist in the basin. To this end. Nine fields are currently producing. has a capacity of 400. First. and reserves (primarily gas) have been identified in several other structures. 1995). 1976 discovery of the giant Elmworth gas field in the Deep Basin area of the Alberta Basin. A new seismic acquisition program covered the western part of the basin and filled in the grid in the eastern area. and an inferred fan complex proved non-commercial. western Canada. Several companies have attempted to duplicate Hunt’s Yemen success in those areas. Hunt’s contract required an acreage relinquishment at this stage so the exploration program also had to evaluate the entire basin in enough detail to allow Hunt to let go 25 percent of their concession. By the early 1970s. because the conventional wisdom at the time considered the area to be unfavorable for hydrocarbon entrapment (Hatley. source. and exploration continues with 3-D seismic acquisition and interpretation. Several other companies have become involved in Yemen since Hunt pioneered exploration in the area. the San Juan Basin. geologists at the newly-formed Canadian Hunter Exploration began re-examining the Alberta Basin in western Canada using the premise that low-porosity (< 15 percent porosity) Mesozoic gas reservoirs similar to those developed in the United States (e. and at least two other major accumulations have been found.000 BOPD. demonstrates that creative play analysis can identify significant new reserves in basins considered to be well-explored. the price of gas had begun to increase. Hunt realized the necessity of building a pipeline to transport the oil from interior Yemen to the Red Sea coast. as Alif appraisal continued. which runs for over 400 kilometers from the Alif field to the coast. they drilled several stratigraphic test wells around the margins of their concession prior to relinquishing a horseshoeshaped block of acreage. In 1973. and trap elements was confirmed in these wells. When the development drilling at Alif confirmed a major oil accumulation. Two additional plays identified from seismic were also investigated. new hydraulic fracturing techniques were being applied to successfully boost production from tight gas sands in the United States. making previously marginal reserves and . Second. The Jurassic rifting that affected Yemen almost certainly affected adjacent areas in eastern Africa.g. By 1992. Canadian Hunter recognized that two new factors encouraged the search for lowporosity gas reservoirs. In fact. Western Canada The January. in 1974. Hunt’s early recognition of a viable play. The last "wildcats" were drilled in 1992. can serve as a model for a frontier play analysis and subsequent development. This pipeline. the Deep Basin area had been abandoned by virtually every large oil company in Canada. no gas was being produced in Canada from sands with less than 13 percent porosity. Hunt had shot more than 15.

In addition. and plotted maps showing wells with gas indications (Masters. The objectives for most of these wells had been Paleozoic. and a 500-meter thick. Figure 1 Masters’ regional map of gas shows indicated a significant correlation with the San Juan Basin analog. and the Mesozoic gas-bearing section was often completely ignored because of the very low price of gas. there was a vast catalog of data from thousands of wells within the Alberta Basin (several billion dollars worth of exploration data) that had never been systematically analyzed with low-porosity Mesozoic gas reservoirs as a target. Only a few small.). Canadian Hunter analyzed over 5000 electric logs in a regional survey of the Alberta Basin. Physical forces . 1995). gas occurs in a syncline. In the productive San Juan Basin.remote areas more economic. Cross section of Alberta showing gas-saturated sands of the Deep Basin. The trap ( Figure 2 . They constructed several 500-kilometer-long cross sections across the basin showing the entire geologic section ( Figure 1 . looking specifically for tested gas shows and for potential productive zones identifiable by porosity and high resistivity (>20 ohms). gas-saturated productive zone grades updip into a mixed gas-water transition zone that finally produces only water. stratigraphic traps had been identified in the shallow shelf east of the Deep Basin area.

the section was typically water-bearing.000 meters. There was a zone of wells with both gas and water recovery. which exceeds 10. Figure 2 Downdip water flow. "water block" or both appear to be involved.holding gas in place are not fully understood. . Figure 3 is an isopach map of the net thickness of the gas-saturated Mesozoic section in the Alberta Basin.) appears to be formed by a combination of hydrodynamics and a gas permeability barrier created by water saturation in low-permeability rocks (Masters. 1992). stratigraphic pinch-out gas traps. In the shallow eastern shelf. with scattered small. This same relationship existed in the Alberta Basin. and finally a zone in the Deep Basin with only gas recoveries and electric log shows (>20 ohms resistivity).

1979). covering an area 160 kilometers long and 80 kilometers wide ( Figure 4 ) This was the target of Canadian Hunter’s first drilling program.Figure 3 The zone is over 640 kilometers long and an average of 96 kilometers wide (Masters. and their second well was the discovery well for the giant Elmworth Field. . Several hundred of the wells analyzed in the study were in the Deep Basin. Canadian Hunter prepared a suite of "Bcf-per-section" maps based on a well-by-well calculation of recoverable reserves determined from well log parameters. A concentration of 85 wells (all previously designated dry holes) in the vicinity of the village of Elmworth showed BCF-per-section values ranging from 8 Bcf to over 25 Bcf. many of which indicated significant. 1995). overlooked gas reserves (Masters.

which was not typical of the rest of the industry. and has probable reserves of 5. Elmworth Field has produced nearly 2 Tcf of gas. had been discovered in the Jurassic Entrada Sandstone in 1953. the San Juan Basin was already recognized as a prolific oil and gas province. and identified a prolific new play that hundreds of wells had bypassed. 1995).Figure 4 Canadian Hunter modeled a huge potential play based largely on analogy.6 Tcf. Eolian Stratigraphic Traps. They applied well-log analysis on a vast regional scale. and has the potential to be developed in the more structured foothills of the Canadian Rockies (Masters. where development drilling between 1969 and 1974 resulted in production exceeding 700.000 bbls. The tight gas play has also been extended into British Columbia. San Juan Basin. however. USA In the early 1970s. down-hole pumps capable of lifting large quantities of fluid to the surface. the Media Field. 1981). Eighteen years later. . and an increase in the price of oil justified the exploration for similar fields in the basin (Vincelette and Chittum. with production from several Cretaceous sandstones in both structural and stratigraphic traps. produced high water volumes making the play marginally economic. Only one field. The development of high-volume. They felt confident that new technology would allow them to produce the play. Wells in this field. especially with improved prices.

cross section is shortened vertically approximately 1. and the overlying Todilto Formation thinned correspondingly ( Figure 1 .). Figure 1 Cross section was constructed using Cretaceous Sanostee marker as horizontal datum. The next step in play analysis. This new model was the basis for renewed exploration for Entrada stratigraphic traps in the San Juan Basin. For easier viewing. The Entrada thickened 30 meters over the crest of the field.600 ft (488 m) from Sanostee to base of Morrison Formation. having been drilled on a seismic nose. including the . Stratigraphic cross section. overlain by lacustrine source rock. Media Field. The trap was originally presumed to be structural. and drawing base of Entrada Sandstone parallel with Sanostee. mapping the basin-wide distribution of the play elements. required a regional well-log analysis of a variety of factors.The first step in the exploration program was to characterize the Media Field. Renewed analysis revealed that the closure appeared to rely on topographic relief on top of the Entrada Sandstone. A new interpretation suggested that petroleum accumulation at the Media Field was controlled by the topographic relief of a buried sand dune. Previous workers had modeled the Entrada as the remains of an extensive dune field that became the site of a large saline lake in which the limestone/anhydritic Todilto was deposited.

Regional stratigraphic cross section illustrating thickness changes in the Entrada Sandstone and the overlying Todilto Formation.) summarizes the results of the study of porosity and thickness variations. 1981). porosity distribution in the Entrada.presence of anomalous Todilto-Entrada thicknesses. and source-rock potential of the overlying Todilto Formation (Vincelette and Chittum. Figure 2 All data are based on information available prior to initiation of exploration program in 1974. . Wells in the southeastern part of the basin show anomalously thick Entrada and/or anomalously thin Todilto ( Figure 3 . Figure 2 (Map shows wells which penetrated the Entrada Sandstone in the San Juan Basin. The Entrada is tight in the northwest portion of the San Juan Basin due to compaction and silica cement. oil shows.

) summarizes a source-rock analysis of Todilto cuttings and outcrop samples. . in contrast to few shows elsewhere in the basin.). Figure 4 (Map showing results of Todilto Formation source-rock analysis and pyrolysis yields in the San Juan Basin. In addition.Figure 3 Base of Entrada Sandstone is used as horizontal stratigraphic datum. 24 percent of the wells in the southeastern area have oil shows in the Entrada.

More detailed play analysis demanded more subsurface control on Entrada thickness variations. Map showing general location and configuration of Entrada seismic anomalies along southwest flank of San Juan Basin. and its zone of maximum oil generation occurs in the southeastern part of the basin.Figure 4 The Todilto anhydrite facies has the best source potential. These play summary maps were used to define the area of maximum potential of the play. This area was then chosen for further exploration. A reconnaissance seismic program further refined the play maps and identified numerous leads ( Figure 5 . . thus proving that the topographic relief on the Entrada could be mapped regionally. An experimental seismic program. was shot over the Media Field and other anomalies. designed to define a recognizable signature characteristic of the preserved Entrada dunes. The seismic signal responded both to the thickening in the Entrada and to the thinning of the Todilto with a recognizable signature.

We can build an understanding of the controls on play element development by using models of ancient and modern sedimentary basins. but only the initial wildcat location is shown. The character of each play element is governed by a variety of factors. which has resulted in the discovery of six new Entrada oil fields ( Figure 5 ). Drilling acitivity is as of January 1980. called play controls. Several anomalies had more than one test. which were upgraded to prospects by detailed seismic coverage. The concept of structural styles and tectonic setting provide another perspective from which we can analyze . Vincelette and Chittum (1981) review the expanded exploration program.). Basin classification schemes provide us with broad-scale models for describing sedimentary basins.Figure 5 Areas shown as dotted pattern indicate Entrada sand thicks or topographic highs. we must be able to predict the presence of play elements within a basin. Play Control Introduction In order to develop an effective play analysis. We must also develop an understanding of the spatial and temporal relationships between these elements.

compress ional. In this text. Each of these classifications provides us with models of basin evolution that allow us to predict the development and distribution of the various play elements within a given basin. intermediate. we will highlight those schemes that address elements involved in play analysis. while others emphasize tectonic events. Let’s consider several examples of the types of basins defined in this classification and examine important aspects of each basin type. We can then use these similar basins. shown in Table 1. reservoir distribution. even if formed under very predictable conditions. as predictive analogs to help us analyze our basin. we recommend using a relatively simple basin classification scheme. as well as depositional history.the relationships between play elements. and typical reserves. or oceanic -. There are several relatively simple basin classification schemes in use within the petroleum exploration community. the best basin classification scheme is not an infallible predictor of trap type. etc. geothermal gradient. Some emphasize factors controlling hydrocarbon accumulation. Most of these classification schemes separate basins according to the type of crust on which they form -. Because each sedimentary basin is unique. whether productive or non-productive. For this reason. source maturation. Depositional systems models provide a third perspective. wrench. one that gives us some basic guidelines for what to expect but leaves us with maximum flexibility to interpret and integrate data into our models. Selley and Morrill (1983) present a particularly useful basin classification scheme. Some basin classification schemes emphasize depositional events during basin formation. while others completely ignore the issue.continental. risks. Crust Type Continental Crust Tectonic Setting Basin Type Cratonic: Extension & Compression Interior & Foreland T E R T I A .and to the type of tectonic regime under which they develop -. Basin Classification We classify a basin in order to place it in context with similar sedimentary basins. including the play elements we have previously mentioned. or extensional.

and the Viking Graben in the North Sea. the Red Sea Rift in the Middle East. produces mainly from tilted fault blocks in pre-rift Jurassic sandstones.R Y Continental Crust & Intermediate Crust Divergent Margins Rift & PullApart Open Down warp Closed. Trough D Fore-arc Back-arc Non-arc Collision E L T A Intermediate Crust Convergent Margins Table 1: Classification of sedimentary basins. Rift basins typically form on continental crust under conditions of tension and divergence. . Productive rift basins include the Rhine Graben in Europe. the Sirte Basin in Libya. The Viking Graben ( Figure 1 ) which shows the half-graben geometry typical of many rifts.

post-rift fill is restricted facies. metamorphic or granitic. is a good productive analog for a predominantly clastic rift basin. Rift Basin Distinguishing Features: Depositional History: down dropped graben over continental crust. initially non-marine that may become marine (either clastic or carbonate-prone) equally sandstone or carbonate. The Viking Graben. Hydrocarbon production also comes from several post-rift carbonates and deepwater sandstones. with its three separate plays.Figure 1 Upper Jurassic post-rift shales provide source rocks that also act as seals. Table 2 summarizes the major characteristics of rift basins. dormant divergence prerift rocks sedimentary. of pre.and post rift cycles Overlying or lateral facies shale Reservoir: Source: .

source shale development Geothermal Gradient: Hydrocarbons: Risks: Typical Reserves: <0. .5-3. too high gradient. These basins are asymmetric.Cap: Trap: basin wide evaporites or thick shales horst block anticlines.0 billion bbl hydrocarbon/basin Table 2: Characteristics of rift basins. Figure 2 . the Northwest Shelf Basin offshore Australia. tilted fault blocks normal to high highly facies-dependent (paraffinic with sandstones. aromatic with carbonates). combination traps related to high blocks. Rifts may become pull-apart basins if opening continues and an ocean basin forms. and the Hibernia Basin offshore Newfoundland. and have a continental sediment source. Examples of productive pull-apart basins include the Senegal and Gabon basins offshore west Africa. low to average gas small trap size.

shows the basin contains potential hydrocarbon accumulations throughout its sedimentary section. drift-stage shallow-marine sediments draped over high blocks. black shale) in early separation. some limestone in early separation stage overlying and interfingering shale Depositional History: Reservoir: Source: . including rift-stage fault traps. prograding clastic wedge in late separation stage sandstone in all 3 stages. divergent margin) Distinguishing Features: Coastal half-grabens down-faulted seaward. evaporites. The Gabon Basin is typical of many pull-apart basins. Table 3 summarizes the characteristics of pull-apart basins. intermediate crust result of ocean-floor spreading non-marine rift stage sediments. and salt tectonic-related traps in post-separation stage clastics. Pull-Apart Basin (passive margin.Figure 2 a generalized cross-section through the Gabon Basin. restricted facies (carbonates. and serves as a good analog.

Cap: Trap: shale or evaporite horst block. more aromatic. biodegradation. salt flow. Figure 3 . stratigraphic and combination below average in marine stages rift stage has paraffinic. gas prone kerogen maturation. shows Triassic rift-related sediments overlain by evaporites and several kilometers of shallow-marine clastics and carbonates. such as the Gulf Coast Basin offshore southern North America. intermediate gravity crude. a generalized cross section through the Gulf Coast Basin. The down warp basin classification includes basins which are related to the opening of small ocean basins that did not continue to spread. . roll-over and drape anticline. Selley and Morrill (1983) propose a special class for sedimentary basins which are down warps into small oceans because their sediments and petroleum characteristics are often very different from other basins types to which they are genetically related. post-separation reservoirs 2-3 billion bbl hydrocarbons/basin (none fully developed) Geothermal Gradient: Hydrocarbons: Risks: Typical Reserves: Table 3: Characteristics of pull-apart basins. pre-separation source shales. higher gravity in separation stage.

Small. normal fault traps in Tertiary clastics.Figure 3 Three plays predominate within the basin: salt domes activated by rapid Tertiary subsidence and infilling. with the Arabian Gulf being a remnant of the Tethyan Sea. . The ArabianIranian Basin ( Figure 4 ) is a good example. and stratigraphic pinch-outs along the basin margins. closing-ocean basins also fall into the down warp classification.

while subtle folds related to drape and salt diapirism define the play on the western margin. Thrust-related anticlinal traps define the play on the eastern margin of the basin. Shales and shaly limestones deposited during transgressions are the major source rocks. metamorphic or granitic. of pre. as well as numerous types of traps. Table 4 summarizes the important characteristics of down warp basins. and widespread evaporites form excellent seals. initially non-marine that may become marine (either clastic or carbonate-prone) equally sandstone or carbonate. dormant divergence prerift rocks sedimentary. Production from carbonates predominates. Rift Basin Distinguishing Features: Depositional History: down dropped graben over continental crust.and post rift cycles Overlying or lateral facies shale Reservoir: Source: . but clastic reservoirs are productive as well. post-rift fill is restricted facies.Figure 4 Convergence of the Arabian and Asian plates produced restricted basin conditions favorable for petroleum formation.

Fore-arc basins may be poor petroleum prospects because of low heat flow and poor-quality reservoir facies. source shale development Geothermal Gradient: Hydrocarbons: Risks: Typical Reserves: <0. back-arc. The down warp basin classification appears to group together basins formed under dissimilar conditions. 1983). low to average gas small trap size. aromatic with carbonates). The choice of classification may depend on the amount and type of data available. .Cap: Trap: basin wide evaporites or thick shales horst block anticlines. For example.0 billion bbl hydrocarbon/basin Table 4: Characteristics of rift basins. the Gulf Coast may be classified as a pull-apart basin. tilted fault blocks normal to high highly facies-dependent (paraffinic with sandstones. Some down warp basins may appear in other classifications. Selley and Morrill also group together the several kinds of convergent margin basins: the fore-arc. combination traps related to high blocks. while back-arc basins may be attractive petroleum prospects since they often have high heat flow and favorable clastic reservoir facies. non-arc and collision basins. but the conditions associated with the filling of small ocean basins are similar enough to justify this approach (Selley and Morrill. too high gradient. and the Arabian-Iranian Basin may be called a convergent-margin basin. and may change as more data become available. Figure 5 illustrates the convergent margin basins developed in the Sumatra and Mentawai basins of Indonesia. Back-arc and fore-arc basins form near subduction zones that have developed island arcs.5-3.

.Figure 5 Non-arc basins form where converging plates move past each other obliquely. forming wrench fault zones that deform through a combination of both transcurrent fault movements and local block faulting. Figure 6 shows a cross section through the Los Angeles Basin. a non-arc basin related to oblique convergence.

The terminology differs from that of Selley and Morrill (1983). For example. Source rocks are the Miocene deep-water shales which have matured because of high heat flow within the basin. This scheme presents models for the development of several important basin types. (1983). Compressional anticlinal traps form the major play. but they are generally compatible. as does the classification of a few types of basins. an interior fracture basin (rift basin) forms on continental crust. This classification scheme is valuable as a guide to basin evolution. Basin-forming tectonics are a key element in the basin classification scheme presented by Kingston et al.Figure 6 This basin is filled predominantly with clastic turbidity current deposits. Figure 7 illustrates the three main stages in the development of an interior fracture basin. . Table 4 summarizes the characteristics of convergent-margin basins. either in the interior of present plates or at the crustal margins of old continental plates.

under extensional conditions. sag and subsidence predominate. non-marine deposition occurs as the basin fills and deposition overcomes subsidence. Sandstone is deposited and limestone reefs form over highs. block faulting produces an interior graben system and depressions are filled with non-marine clastics. Stage 2 ends with salt deposition. while shales accumulate in lows. the graben system deepens to form a basin. A margin sag basin (pull-apart basin) forms at the edge of continental crustal blocks.Figure 7 In Stage 1. In Stage 2. In Stage 3. Figure 8 illustrates the four main types of margin sag basins. classified according to the type of sedimentary basin fill. Marine waters invade and marine beds are deposited. Faulting is not generally observed. .

. take their classification scheme one step further than most by introducing the concept of tectonic modifiers. Figure 9 illustrates examples of simple divergent margin basins affected by folding and reactivated wrench faulting. and fit them into appropriate interpretation models.Figure 8 Margin sag basins that later become involved in continental collision form a fold belt on the former "seaward" side of the basin. Understanding how basins can be modified can help us to unravel complicated basins. Kingston et al. identify their original basin type. and become a type of foreland basin. which are fold belts or reactivated wrench faults that affect basins after their formation.

and are affected by basin-modifying tectonics during their evolution.Figure 9 Figure 10 illustrates the idea of polyhistory or successor basins. in which several basin types succeed each other. Figure 10 .

Structural styles interpretation. vertical. which we can then use to predict play types in the basin. Arc massif 3. and these applications were developed further by Bally and Oldow (1983) and Lowell (1985). Completed rifts 2. We classify structural styles first based on the tectonic regime in which they form. Aborted rifts aulacogens Convergent boundaries: 1. as proposed by Harding and Lowell (1979). we can then expect a dominant structural style or limited set of structural styles to exist within that basin. especially in frontier areas. The concept of structural styles is a powerful predictive tool. Stable flank of forehand & fore- . Structural Styles Once we have classified our sedimentary basin. Dominant Structural Style Extensional Extensional fault blocks Extension Deformational Force Typical Transport Mode Plate Tectonic Habitats Primary Secondary High to low-angle divergent dip slip of blocks and slabs Divergent boundaries: 1. The connection between structural style and structural trap formation is obvious. We recommend familiarity with several different classifications schemes. This basin classification scheme is detailed and somewhat unwieldy. We further subdivide each of these classifications based on whether basement is involved (basement-involved structures) in the deformation or whether only the sedimentary cover is involved (detached structures). Trench outer slope 2. Maturation and migration processes differ from one structural style to the next. Harding and Lowell (1979) emphasized the application of structural styles concepts to petroleum exploration.This example illustrates some of the complications inherent in basin classification. Each scheme addresses important play elements and provides valuable models and examples. but stratigraphic and combination traps also fit into the structural style framework in predictable ways. Remember that our basin classification scheme separates basins according to tectonic setting. which we can use when making decisions regarding basin classification. Notice that many of the plate tectonic habitats sound suspiciously like types of basins mentioned in our discussion of basin classification above. introduced by Dahlstrom (1970). whether Compressional. suggests that only a limited suite of structures will exist in a given geologic environment. or extensional. but the concepts and models presented are valid and useful. Table 1 lists the structural styles and their various plate tectonic habitats. strike-slip (wrench). as do depositional processes. one which we can use to great advantage in petroleum exploration.

arc basins 4. Aborted rifts. With component of divergence 2. Organic belt Transform boundaries: (with component of convergence) . Foreland basins 2. wedges and lobes Vertical and horizontal flow of mobile evaporites with arching and/or piercement of sedimentary cover Divergent Regions of boundaries: intense 1. and sheets Convergent boundaries: 1. Completed deformation rifts and their containing mobile passive margin evaporite sequence sags 2. Back-arc marginal seas (with spreading) Transform boundaries: 1. Fore-arc basins 3. aulacogens Regions of intense deformation containing mobile shale sequence Salt structures Density contrast Differential loading Shale structures Density contrast Differential loading Dominantly vertical Passive flow of mobile shales boundaries with arching and/or (deltas) piercement of sedimentary cover Down slope gliding on decollement Passive boundaries (deltas) Gravity structures Slope instability Differential loading Convergent boundaries: 1. Back-arc basins Compressional Compressive fault blocks & basement thrusts Compression High to low-angle convergent dip slip of blocks slabs. Stable flank of wrench basins Extension Detached normal fault assemblages ("growth faults" and others) Subhorizontal to Passive high-angle divergent boundaries dip-slip of (deltas) sedimentary cover in sheets. Trench outer slope 2.

flowage. domes. Although these faults also occur in association with trenches. Four proposed styles of basement faulting in the Rocky Mountain foreland region. convergent. solitary undulations isostasy. those associated with foreland basins contain the greatest oil reserves. Orogenic belts 3. Mobile flank of sedimentary cover (orogenic belt) in sheets and slabs of forelands 2. Foreland basins 2. The geometry of basement-involved reverse structures ranges from high-angle reverse faults to low-angle basement thrusts ( Figure 1 . . which form between the volcanic arc and craton. Arc massif Divergent boundaries: 1. we see that convergent boundaries are the primary tectonic habitat of Compressional structural styles.) Table 1: Structural styles and their various plate tectonic habitats. Offset spreading centers Divergent. etc.). sags Multiple deep-seated Sub vertical uplift and Plate interiors processes (thermal subsidence of events. Trench inner slopes and outer highs Decollement thrust. and transform boundaries Passive boundaries Vertical Basement warps: arches.cores 3. or in fore-arc basins during continental collision. Basement-involved reverse faults occur either in foreland basins.Compression fold assemblages Subhorizontal to Convergent high-angle boundaries: convergent dip slip 1. both basement-involved and detached. Trench inner slopes and outer highs Strike Slip Wrench fault Basement Involved Strike slip of sub Transform regional to regional boundaries: plates Transform boundaries: (with component of convergence) Shear couple Convergent boundaries: 1. Referring to Table 1.

Figure 1 Seismic evidence supports this diversity of geometry. Two interpreted seismic profiles from Wyoming showing expression of rigid basement uplifts. which develops because the sedimentary cover deforms differently than the basement ( Figure 2 . .

.) as well as with lowangle basement thrusts. A variety of hydrocarbon traps can be associated with basement uplifts ( Figure 3 .Figure 2 [a] Southwest Wind River fault. [b] Casper Arch thrust. General hydrocarbon trapping possibilities associated with basement block uplifts.).

). Convergence can create new trap structures. with a combination of favorable play elements ( Figure 4 . Detached compressional structures [over thrusts]. . The former tectonic habitat may be very important for petroleum accumulation. like the Andean foreland basins. The latter habitat is generally unfavorable. because of low heat flow and poor reservoir conditions.Figure 3 Many foreland basins are former pull-apart basins subjected to convergent forces. and within subduction complexes in fore-arc basins. Detached Compressional structures are common in fold-thrust belts at the edges of foreland basins. but maturation and timing must be favorable for hydrocarbon accumulation to occur.

components of divergence and convergence may alternate along plate margins. These tectonic regimes create the complex trap geometries shown in Figure 5 (Trapping possibilities associated with wrench faults. . Since plate motion is usually oblique to plate boundaries.).Figure 4 Strike-slip styles occur in a variety of tectonic habitats along plate boundaries ( Table 2 ).

prolific oil provinces on strike-slip margins.Figure 5 Rapidly forming compressional uplifts can occur near rapidly subsiding extensional basins. Setting Non-marine System Alluvial fan Braided stream Meandering stream Eolian Lacustrine Deltaic Beach Estuarine Barrier Island Tidal flat Lagoon Sand sheet Sand ridge Canyon fill Marginal Marine Shelf Slope . yielding very high sedimentation rates and good clastic sources. The Los Angeles and Ventura basins of California are examples of small.

Trap geometries can change during the evolution of wrench basins ( Figure 6 . The basin may also stop its strike-slip mode and become a polyhistory basin. 2. while in later stages of basin development. destroying or reducing the size of related oil fields. Development of convergent plate wrench in three stages: LL-3. In the initial stages of basin development. After basin initiation [LL-1}. movement may cease in any succeeding stage. such as the tear faults commonly identified . This is the final step in a process that creates a basin and finally destroys it. Continued deformation may break up large structures. the predominant trap may be in en echelon folds away from the main wrench zone. Figure 6 LL=lateral. Associated local-scale strike-slip faulting. 1. L3FB shows final step in many wrench basins-that of a foldbelt caused by wrenching. Evolution of wrench or shear basins.Slope Fringe Submarine fan Slope-apron deposit Basin shale Basin Plain Table 2: Clastic depositional settings and systems. hydrocarbons may be trapped in block-faulted structures.).

are usually regional in extent. Because of the size and longevity of such basins. the structures are usually regional in extent and exert important controls on sedimentation. both by creating faults and by controlling sedimentation in overlying sections. Vertical structural styles include basement arches. So. and occur primarily in plate interiors ( Table 2 ). In this tectonic habitat. Reactivation of basement structures during basin formation often controls trap formation within these fold-thrust belts. such as reef trends and stratigraphic pinch-outs. may extend over large areas. The . domes. growth faults and salt structures are important to petroleum exploration since they can affect both trap formation and deposition. sedimentation type will also change as the basin develops. and sags. Figure 7 illustrates a variety of potential trap configurations associated with vertical structural styles. Growth faults are most common along passive boundaries where clastic sedimentation rates are high and sediments remain unconsolidated to depths of several kilometers. Figure 7 From Table 2. In extensional regimes. favorable depositional environments. both basement-involved and detached. we can see that rifts and passive margins are the primary tectonic habitat of extensional structural styles. can also be important in trap formation.

fold. that are successors to the marginal rift and small. including passive margins. Salt diapirs create a variety of fault. Figure 8 Salt structures are found in many tectonic settings. and synsedimentary stratigraphic traps ( Figure 9 . restricted-ocean basins where evaporites form. Salt structures appear to form early with non-uniform sediment loading. . concaveupward shape. Figure 8 shows common geometries for growth faults. and the variety of associated trap styles. Extensional faults are frequently associated with secondary synthetic and antithetic faults. and later may form diapirs or salt domes when salt is buried deeply enough to flow plastically.characteristics of growth faults include syndepositional offset and a listric.

7) angular unconformity. Major trapping possibilities associated with extensional block faulting. or may occur along convergent boundaries where intense deformation mobilizes evaporite sequences. 3) porous cap rock. .Figure 9 Common types of traps associated with salt structures: 1) anticline. 6) non-overhanging wall of structure. Extensional block faulting offers many trapping opportunities ( Figure 10 .). Salt mobilization may also be related to the reactivation of basement faults. 4) flank sand pinchout. 5) overhang. 2) graben caused by extension. 8 and 9) normal faulting along flank of structure.

such as the North Sea Basin. structural style. from the initial rift phase during the Triassic to the present. and its occurrence within some larger rift basins. places these traps in close association with favorable source beds. migration conditions. Rift and passive margin tectonic habitats illustrate the often close relationship between tectonic habitat.Figure 10 BC=basement complex. creating ideal hydrocarbon-generating conditions. High heat flow is also typical in the early stages of rifting.). . and seals. Figure 11 shows the evolution of an idealized pull-apart basin along the Atlantic continental margin. and sedimentation.

and possibly lacustrine deposits. Rift Basin Distinguishing Features: Depositional History: downdropped graben over continental crust. metamorphic or granitic. is overlain by evaporites deposited as the ocean invades the rift during plate separation. such as alluvial fan. A variety of depositional systems can develop along passive margins. Several potential play types occur within both the rift and passive margin sections of the basin ( Table 3 ).and post rift cycles Overlying or lateral facies shale Reservoir: Source: . which fills blockfaultÐcontrolled basins within the rift. dormant divergence prerift rocks sedimentary. This sedimentary section.Figure 11 A typical stratigraphic section would begin with non-marine clastics. post-rift fill is restricted facies. and thick wedges of clastic sediment begin to build oceanward and bury the block-faultÐcontrolled terrain. Detached extensional structures become dominant. of pre. The evaporites may occur in separate block-faulted basins or may form broad regional deposits as the underlying rift architecture is buried. Mafic volcanics are also commonly interbedded with the clastics. The passive margin environment is established as plates continue to separate. although basement control may be significant as continued subsidence and loading reactivate old rift structures. braided stream. initially non-marine that may become marine (either clastic or carbonate-prone) equally sandstone or carbonate.

5-3. For example. For example.. source shale development Geothermal Gradient: Hydrocarbons: Risks: Typical Reserves: <0. physically. a non-marine area versus a marine area. Basin-filling sedimentation affects every play element in our analysis. a depositional setting is a broad geographic location within a basin. tilted fault blocks normal to high highly facies-dependent (paraffinic with sandstones. Depositional Systems In addition to considering basin classification and structural style. A depositional system consists of an assemblage of interconnected facies formed within subenvironments. There is some confusion in the literature about terminology. too high gradient.Cap: Trap: basinwide evaporites or thick shales horst block anticlines. Our models must show the relationships between sediments within a basin. e.0 billion bbl hydrocarbon/basin Table 3: Characteristics of rift basins. or evaporite. low to average gas small trap size. a depositional setting. and Table 3 as a compromise. and biologically from surrounding environments. or a depositional environment. We further subdivide these settings into depositional systems. a delta may be classified as a depositional system. and certain systems are predictable within the basin classification and structural styles frameworks mentioned above. and pro-delta facies. We broadly classify sediment accumulations as clastic. a deltaic depositional system can be subdivided into delta plain. Within this broad framework.g. aromatic with carbonates). We have chosen the hierarchy shown in Table 1. and finally into sedimentary facies. within the marginal marine setting. A depositional system is the stratigraphic equivalent of a modern depositional environment. In this hierarchy. Several different depositional systems may follow one another as a basin evolves. carbonate. Table 2. so that we can predict the patterns within our basin. we can define a group of sedimentary settings based on both modern and ancient accumulations. which is distinct chemically. combination traps related to high blocks. delta front. we can predict many of the play elements within the framework of a given depositional system. A depositional system consists of an interconnected set of depositional environments that exist at a given stage of basin filling. .

Setting Non-marine System Lacustrine Dune Caliche Cave deposit Beach Tidal flats (sabkhas) Organic swamp Mud banks Tidal delta Muddy shelf sand Patch reef Sand sheet Shelf basin Ecologic reef Oolitic/skeletal sand body Marginal Marine Shelf Shelf Margin .Setting Non-marine System Alluvial fan Braided stream Meandering stream Eolian Lacustrine Deltaic Beach Estuarine Barrier Island Tidal flat Lagoon Sand sheet Sand ridge Canyon fill Submarine fan Slope-apron deposit Basin shale Marginal Marine Shelf Slope Slope Fringe Basin Plain Table 1: Clastic depositional settings and systems.

Patch reef Beach Foreslope Turbidite Pinnacle reef Skeletal debris fans Basin mud Basin chalk Turbidite sand Basin Table 2: Carbonate depositional settings and systems. . braided stream. source. In order to perform an effective play analysis. meandering stream. and meandering stream systems grade one into the other as we move progressively downstream. We need to understand the relationships among these elements because they affect stratigraphic and structural traps. marginal marine. In the non-marine setting. and marine settings. Although familiarity with such models will help in constructing paleogeographic maps. from eroding uplands to a marginal marine setting. The alluvial fan. as well as maturation and migration. Clastic Depositional Systems Clastic sediments can accumulate in all depositional settings within a basin ( Table 1 ). Setting Non-marine System Lacustrine sabkhas Interdune sabkhas Sabkha Salina Platform Basin-wide Marginal Marine Marine Table 3: Evaporite depositional settings and systems. and seal units. climate.). we must understand the potential depositional settings and systems in our area of interest so that we can analyze the accumulation and geometry of reservoir. five major systems exist: alluvial fan. it is important to remember that tectonics. eolian and lacustrine ( Figure 1 . The best approach to analyzing depositional systems within a basin is to construct paleogeographic maps to show the distribution of systems and facies during deposition. We will present several models that show the relationships among depositional systems in nonmarine. and other variables differ in each basin. braided stream. sediment supply. The five general nonmarine environments relevant to petroleum exploration.

however. Braided stream deposits suffer from the same constraints on source and seal deposition that affect the alluvial fan system. and seal are high risk. which provide better reservoir rock characteristics. is the least prospective petroleum target. They grade basinward into more favorable braided stream deposits. a good indicator of proximity to the basin margin and are sensitive records of the rate of tectonic uplift. Alluvial fans are. the alluvial fan system. including improved sorting and continuity. Shales are equally discontinuous and thin. precluding extensive source and seal accumulation.Figure 1 Of these three systems. source. Reservoir units are laterally discontinuous and poorly sorted. Setting Non-marine System Alluvial fan Braided stream Meandering stream Eolian Lacustrine Deltaic Beach Marginal Marine . where the elements of reservoir.

and continuity between porous and permeable sediments deposited in the two systems may provide migration pathways for oils sourced in marginal marine and marine environments. Only large lakes. hydrocarbongenerating and trapping system (Montgomery and Selley. as in the Rotliegendes play in the southern North Sea Basin. braided streams. our primary concern is the lack of associated source and sealing units. Overlying source rocks and seals may also be deposited during marine transgression. except where dunes form near the marginal marine or lacustrine settings and interfinger with more shale-prone systems. and sealing units. The geometry and distribution of individual channel sands are also difficult to predict. Tectonics may also play an important part in juxtaposing source and seal units with eolian sands. While reservoir sorting may improve. Here. which comprise potential reservoir. Figure 2 illustrates the major facies in the lacustrine system of Lake Uinta. reservoir continuity is poorer here than in the braided stream system. and these are typically associated with interior sag and rift basins. 1984). including eolian sands.Estuarine Barrier Island Tidal flat Lagoon Shelf Slope Slope Fringe Sand sheet Sand ridge Canyon fill Submarine fan Slope-apron deposit Basin shale Basin Plain Table 1: Clastic depositional settings and systems. This system commonly grades basinward into the deltaic systems of the marginal marine environment. however. followed by maturation and gas migration as extensional tectonism and subsidence continued. such as dunes. well-sorted quartz sandstones that are excellent reservoirs and may be good pathways for hydrocarbon migration. The meandering stream system occurs closest to the marginal marine environment. Lacustrine systems also occur in a variety of locations in the non-marine setting. Lacustrine systems can produce rich oil-prone source rocks that may interfinger with the reservoir units of other non-marine systems. source. Trap formation occurred next. . Eolian deposits may accumulate in a variety of locations. overlie truncated Pennsylvanian coal measures eroded prior to subsidence of the North Sea Basin. Marine infilling led to the deposition of overlying evaporitic seal units. have the potential to generate significant quantities of hydrocarbons. They often form sheet-like units of clean. Lower Permian non-marine sediments. adjacent to any of the deposits in the other non-marine systems. Once again. A large lake may also form a self-contained. and alluvial fans.

While non-marine sediments may not be the most prospective. Tectonic events can juxtapose non-marine reservoirs with sources and seals. combined with rapid basin subsidence common in active rift environments. and basin geometry. or these systems may interfinger with favorable facies in marginal marine systems. they are important indicators of climate. Extensive eolian deposits are often indicative of an arid to semi-arid climate. Lacustrine shales are also very important source units in a series of large rift basins of Cretaceous to early Tertiary age in eastern China. . Some non-marine systems are good tectonic regime indicators. while non-marine clastic depositional systems can host major hydrocarbon accumulations in many sedimentary basins. So. Large lacustrine systems with thick basinal shale deposits indicate high subsidence rates relative to sedimentation rates. as are certain types of lake deposits. reservoir. Only the lacustrine system is favorable for deposition of a complete suite of source. their remoteness from favorable source and sealing unit depositional environments makes them high risk. and only in large lakes. Thick alluvial fan and braided stream deposits are often related to uplift along basin margins. tectonics.Figure 2 Sandy shoreline deposits pinch out into basinal source shales to form stratigraphic traps with reserves that exceed 100 million barrels. and seal units.

because potential reservoir facies are commonly adjacent to potential source and sealing facies. deltaic (delta front and distributary channel). and non-marine meandering stream system sands interfinger with potential source and sealing facies in the deltaic (prodelta). . Figure 3 shows the relationships between several interconnected depositional systems in the Eocene Wilcox Group of Texas.Depositional systems in the marginal marine setting ( Table 1 ) provide more favorable sites for hydrocarbon accumulation. tidal flat. and marine shelf systems. Figure 3 An idealized model of sandy reservoir facies in the Wilcox Group ( Figure 4 ) shows how barrier island.

or lobe. Deltas build outward into a basin by progradation. a wave/currentdominated delta.Figure 4 We are particularly interested in the deltaic depositional system in the marginal marine setting because it is the thickest and most widespread system (note scale. . As one portion of the offshore fills with sediment. other systems deposit sediment and build up intricate stratigraphic columns ( Figure 5 .). deposition shifts to a new location. As abandoned lobes subside due to compaction or rising sea level. Composite stratigraphic column of recent deposits from Senegal River delta. Figure 3 ).

) . Figure 6 (Idealized block diagram and cross sections showing principal environments and facies of a regressive barrier island system.Figure 5 These vertical relationships are good clues to deltaic deposition.

and tidal delta sands) and potential source and seal facies (lagoon. showing the relationships between potential reservoir facies (shoreface. Figure 7 is a model of a barrier island system (regressive). Sediment in the barrier island system. is usually supplied by a deltaic system and redistributed by currents.Figure 6 illustrates the stratigraphic relationships between the meandering stream system and the deltaic system in the Wilcox Group and the modern Mississippi Deltas. beach-dune. and deltaic sediments are redistributed into other systems in the marginal marine setting. and shelf shales). Deltaic facies (marsh and swamp) may source updip fluvial systems. washover fan. marsh. the other marginal marine system of most interest to us. both in cross section and in map view. .

Figure 7 Repeated episodes of transgression and regression along a coastline will produce stair-stepped groups of individual barrier island systems ( Figure 8 ). .

Within the marine setting. and currents. They also indicate tectonic controls.Figure 8 Depositional systems in the marginal marine setting are influenced by both nonmarine and marine controls. tides. Paleogeography during deposition of the Shannon Sandstone. while gentler slopes associated with passive (pull-apart) margins allow marginal marine environments to become laterally extensive and continuous (Morrill. and provenance. Preserved systems give us clues to climate.). sediments accumulate in the shelf. Wyoming. and therefore to organic productivity. The former include river discharge. slope fringe. and basin plain depositional systems ( Figure 9 . slope. . Powder River Basin. Steeper slopes associated with active margins tend to restrict coastal deposition and enhance the transport of material into deeper water. while the latter include waves. 1987). sediment supply.

. Figure 10 . which may cover tens of thousands of square kilometers and be tens of meters thick. except in channels that carry sediment into the deeper basin. The Upper Cretaceous Shannon Sandstone of the Western Interior Basin of North America is a classic example of a productive shelf depositional system. a model of a canyon-fed submarine fan. Sheets and ridges are usually encased in shelf shales. Ridges may be 50 km long and up to 3 km wide. shows how the channel fill in the canyon feeds directly into the channeled upper fan facies of a submarine fan. where the sediment accumulates as sand sheets or ridges. They may occur on top of extensive sand sheets. They may also interfinger with marginal marine deposits at the top of the shelf. Sand ridges can occur in parallel ridges. Sand moves in large waves within sand sheets. Very little sediment accumulates on the slope. with a thickness of several tens of meters. or as singular ridges related to topographic highs. which can provide both seal and source.Figure 9 Tidal currents and storm currents disperse clastic sediments across the shelves.

Two sand facies predominate in the slope-fringing system: the submarine fan and the slope-apron facies. e.Figure 10 Slope channel systems may be prospective. . sediments lack feeder channels on the slope and also lack channels in the sediments accumulated on the basin plain. The submarine fan facies is sourced by a channel that carries sediment through the slope onto the basin plain. 1963).g. Slope channel deposits are mainly useful as a guide to the location of the slope-fringing systems deposited along the edge of the slope. Figure 11 compares models for a canyon-fed submarine fan and a delta-fed submarine ramp (one type of slopeapron deposit). where it accumulates in a fan shape. the Rosedale channel sandstone of southern California (Martin. In the slope-apron facies. Multiple sediment sources feed sand over a non-channeled slope.

but density currents can distribute sand in the deep-marine environment. Fans formed on pull-apart margins tend to become elongated within the large. The Ramsey Sandstone of the Upper Cretaceous Bell Canyon Formation was deposited on the basin plain by density currents that cut and filled channels in the basin shales. The modern Mississippi Fan is a good example of an elongated fan. relatively flat basin plain. Radial fans typically form along active margins in restricted basins floored by continental crust (Morrill. The slope-fringing system forms in different configurations within different tectonic habitats. Basin-plain systems are dominated by mud deposition. The sands in both submarine fan and slopeapron facies interfinger with basin plain shales that have both source and seal potential. also fed from a single channel. 1991). Fine-grained sands and muds predominate because of the distance from sediment source.5 . tend to be composed of coarsergrained clastics with a high ratio of sand to shale. These fans. The areal extent and thickness of slope-fringing systems are highly variable.Figure 11 These models also show the relationship between marginal marine deltaic sediment sources and the downslope systems. The channels range from 1. Slope-apron deposits also tend to form along active margins and are usually coarser-grained. and are usually fed by a single channel.

Figure 1 shows the model in profile and map view. rather than transported into the basin. and basin shales envelope the sand bodies to provide seals. Figure 12 Interbedded organic rich shales within the sands provide source rocks. . Extensive research over the past 40 years. Waves and currents redistribute carbonate particles through the various depositional systems. has led to a conceptual model for carbonate deposition. This "carbonate shelf" model is reviewed in detail by Rose (1987). Carbonate Depositional Systems Carbonate sediments typically accumulate in tropical and subtropical marine settings where clastic sediment input is small. Shallow-water carbonate sediments can accumulate to great thicknesses where sediment production keeps pace with subsidence. Carbonates are generated in place by organic activity within a basin. as are clastics. investigating both modern and ancient carbonate 6 km in width and are generally 10 to 25 m thick ( Figure 12 ).

. dolomitization is most common in the inter. We can subdivide an arid tidal flat (sabkha) system into supra-. Dolomitized carbonates have fine intercrystalline porosity.and sub-tidal facies ( Figure 2 . and associated evaporite layers can serve as seals. Tidal flat systems in the marginal marine setting are excellent stratigraphic benchmarks. indicating both paleo-sea levels and paleo-shoreline locations (Rose. Interbedded carbonate and evaporite deposition is common in tidal flat systems.Figure 1 We will discuss only a few of the many depositional settings and systems of the model. They are easily identified due to characteristic sedimentary structures and geometry. as is synsedimentary dolomitization. Idealized tidal flat model combining onlap and offlap features of Andros Island and Persian Gulf tidal flats to show stratigraphic traps and related porous accumulations. inter-. 1987). They are also important petroleum reservoirs worldwide. and sub-tidal facies.).

Figure 2 Trapping conditions occur where intertidal and channel facies pinch out beneath and within relatively impermeable supratidal facies. Giant oil fields in the Permian San Andres Formation of western Texas produce from these two facies. North-south cross section showing three reservoirs sealed by impermeable anhydritic facies to the north. Additional reservoir development may occur in tidal deltas and channel and barrier island sands that lie seaward of supratidal and continental facies. . where supra-tidal anhydritic dolomites provide seals ( Figure 3 .).

Rose (1987) emphasizes the characteristic topographic relief associated with both ecologic and stratigraphic reefs. Two of the most prospective systems. are the most extensively developed along the shelf margin. This setting also includes an array of potential carbonate reservoir targets that grade basinward into organic-rich basin plain mud. showing the environmentally-controlled zonation of the different reef-building organisms across the reef.Figure 3 The shelf margin is another important stratigraphic benchmark in the carbonate shelf model. In the latter. . reefs and sand bodies. sediment-binding framework that forms a wave-resistant topographic feature. The former is the result of organisms that produce a rigid. 1987).to deep-water depositional settings. Figure 4 illustrates a modern ecologic reef. marking the transition zone from shallow. topographic relief may be the result of penecontemporaneous inorganic cementation (Rose.

but we can correlate growth form with environment and can use reef zonation to interpret basinward and landward orientation. Rose.Figure 4 Reef-building activity. and a detailed understanding of the carbonate depositional model and carbonate diagenesis is not necessary for most exploration geologists. Shelf margin sand deposition can be contemporaneous with active reef deposition. The subject of carbonate diagenesis is beyond the scope of this module. 1987) Carbonate rocks are far more susceptible to extensive diagenetic changes than are clastic rocks. talus. Shelf margin depositional systems grade basinward into foreslope systems. but in fact there is a strong association between evaporites and petroleum reserves. and turbidite deposits. as in the Poza Rica trend. 1963. The Golden Lane trend in the Gulf of Mexico lies on the shelf margin setting and is the provenance for carbonate detrital material in the foreslope (Boyd. those with sediments directly derived from reef systems include debris flows. or may predominate along the shelf margin when environmental conditions inhibit reef growth. Evaporite Depositional Systems At first glance. as well as types of reef-building organism. evaporite depositional systems ( Table 1 ) may seem to be a nonprospective rock type. Warren (1992) summarizes the reasons for this association: Setting System . where gravity and debris flow sediments of the Tamabra Formation form reservoirs that interfinger basinward with lime mud source and sealing lime. Mexico. has varied through time. These may form prolific plays.

Play Elements • Source Without an adequate source rock. Warren (1992) lists potential sabkha-associated reservoirs and cites several examples of ancient sabkha-related production. In addition. In a frontier basin we have to answer such basic questions as: . • Thick. The importance of the marginal marine sabkha to petroleum exploration was mentioned in Section excellent potential reservoir. The amount and type of organic matter present in the source rock dictate not only whether petroleum is generated.Non-marine Lacustrine sabkhas Interdune sabkhas Sabkha Salina Basin-wide Marginal Marine Marine Platform Table 1: Evaporite depositional settings and systems. • Beds of ancient evaporites overlying or up-dip from porous sediments create impressive seals for any underlying potential reservoirs. • Evaporite diagenesis releases large quantities of magnesium-rich brine that can alter limestone to sucrosic dolomite -. He also presents a thorough discussion of the sabkha depositional model and synsedimentary dolomitization. but also the amount and type of petroleum.3. Kirkland and Evans (1981) document the close association between source rock deposition and evaporite depositional settings.2. Evaporites. also mobilize within their surrounding sediments and create hydrocarbon traps. creating areas of secondary porosity. buried halite units are often remobilized into salt structures which then create potential reservoirs in surrounding sediments. Our primary concern with source rock is its ability to generate petroleum. the other play elements become irrelevant. in addition to acting as potential source and sealing units and potential diagenetic agents. • The subsurface movement of pore waters can leach evaporites in carbonate and siliciclastic matrices.

Lower portion of the figure shows annual production rate [tons] per unit area [km2].e. greater than approximately 0. Total organic carbon produced per year .5%? · What type of organic matter does it contain? · How mature is the source? The type and content of organic matter within a source rock are influenced by the depositional setting and depositional system.• Does the source rock exist? · Does it have sufficient organic content -.. which are in turn influenced by basin type and tectonic setting. Figure 1 Upper portion of the figure shows the percent of Earth’s terrestrial or aqueous areas covered by a general environments. which may later become source sediments.i. Figure 1 (Abundance of organic matter by common environments. The highest productivities occur in settings where nutrients and light are abundant. High biologic productivity is a key element in the generation of organic material.

Both types of organic activity require oxygenated conditions within sediments. . Less than . Nonmarine environments other than lakes produce mainly plant debris. because organisms active in newly deposited sediments usually destroy it.5 percent will migrate to reservoirs. less than 2 percent will become bitumen. while planktonic debris predominates in most marine environments. Figure 2 (Loss of carbon and related petroleum potential in the sedimentary cycle) illustrates the great inefficiency of organic matter preservation in sediments. The type of organic matter produced will also vary according to environment. Sediment-eating organisms ingest unconsolidated sediments and digest organic material before excreting "cleaned" sediments. Maturation transforms these organic sedimentary components into petroleum. Of this debris. It is rare for organic matter to be preserved in sedimentary rocks. Bacteria also digest organic material in unconsolidated sediments.1 percent of the remaining carbon will be preserved as carbonaceous debris in the subsurface. Algal material predominates in lacustrine and some marine environments. Figure 2 Less than one in fifty thousand carbon atoms involved in life processes will be preserved and accumulate in a petroleum reservoir. Of this remnant. More than 80 percent of the carbon will be converted to terrestrial and aqueous areas is approximately equal) shows the abundance of organic matter in common depositional settings. less than .

Lagoons may develop restricted circulation. or over-mature? · At what time did the source rock enter the oil window? The gas window? . in which case bottom waters can become reducing and organic matter can be preserved. Organic matter in these environments will be a mixture of both phytoplankton and zooplankton. Once again. mature. biologic activity within newly deposited sediments must be reduced or halted. We must consider such questions as: · Is the source immature. • Maturation Once we have considered the type and amount of organic content in the source element. Large lake systems with potential source rocks may develop in interior sag and rift basins. Sediments deposited on the shelf can develop into favorable source rocks in areas of high organic productivity. In pro-delta shales. with the possible addition of some land-derived vegetation debris. The lacustrine system is the only depositional system within the non-marine setting that produces significant source rocks. These depositional systems can develop in almost any tectonic setting or basin type. we must have both quantitative and qualitative measures of organic content. significant thicknesses of organic-rich sediment can accumulate. Source rocks can develop in shallow shelves trapped behind sills. The organic matter in the deep-lake muds is algal and tends to be preserved if the lake is stratified with reducing bottom conditions. Both swamp-derived shales and shales from the deeper lake interior can have high organic content. such as zones of upwelling. and tends to be preserved because of local reducing conditions. these depositional systems are not restricted to any particular type of basin or tectonic setting. Delta-plain environments consist of marshes and swamps where thick coal layers are deposited in interdistributary shales. if circulation becomes restricted and reducing bottom conditions are maintained. The organic matter found in swamp-derived shales is vegetation debris. as do lagoons. The deltaic depositional system is particularly favorable for the accumulation of source rocks because of high rates of deposition and high organic productivity. high organic input is preserved by rapid sedimentation rates. Sedimentation on the basin plain typically occurs under reducing conditions. The opportunities for source rock deposition are much more diverse in the marginal marine environment. Reducing conditions encourage the preservation of organic matter. In order to evaluate the source potential of a given rock.In order for organic materials to be preserved. generally by rapid deposition or the development of anoxic zones within the water column. Swamps and marshes also develop in association with barrier island systems. The organic material input into these environments is largely terrestrial vegetation debris. and although sedimentation rates may be slow. our next step is to determine the maturity of the source. which bury organic materials before they can be consumed.

Type I kerogen. and 2) the temperature/pressure conditions to which the source has been subjected.Potential source rocks exist throughout the geologic column. We classify kerogens by the type of organic material from which they are derived ( Figure 1 . Type III kerogen. Kerogen classification systems. is the product of woody vegetation debris and generates small amounts of bitumen during catagenesis. alginite. Type III kerogen yields primarily gas. is usually produced in lacustrine systems and is derived from organic material very high in algal content. is derived primarily from the remains of plankton deposited in marine systems and during catagenesis generates both oil and gas at efficiencies up to 60 percent. exinite. During the second stage. catagenesis. Different kerogen types produce different hydrocarbons during catagenesis. and thermal processes. This stage is followed by metagenesis. Type II kerogen. but most have never been exposed to the temperature and pressure necessary to generate oil. During catagenesis. The organic material in sedimentary rocks matures and passes through several stages on its path to generating hydrocarbons. the intense thermal alteration of kerogen. Figure 1 This summary diagram compares organic matter origin with visual and chemical kerogen classifications and inferred generative character). vitrinite. although oil has been generated from some coal units (Thompson et . diagenesis. the direct precursor to petroleum. kerogen matures into bitumen. and petroleum into methane and pyrobitumen (solid bitumen). Type I kerogen is primarily oil-generative. alginite converts into bitumen with efficiencies of up to 80 percent. through biological. transforms plant and animal organic matter into kerogen. The first stage. Two important aspects of maturation we must investigate are 1) the organic matter/kerogen type present in the source rock. chemical. bitumen.

Figure 3 shows the relationship between hydrocarbon maturation and depth. inertinite. which is essentially nongenerative. Figure 2 Hydrocarbon maturation is controlled primarily by temperature. 1985. Figure 2 shows the principal stages of kerogen evolution and the products generated during catagenesis. Type IV kerogen. consists of recycled or oxidized organic material that can occur in any Tissot 1984). or as heat flow within the section increases. . which increases within sediments as they are buried to greater depths.

.Figure 3 and Figure 4 shows the relationship between maturation and temperature.

but continues below the oil floor to depths possibly as great as 7 km in very cool basins. Oil generation begins at temperatures above 60 degrees C. There are several physical and chemical characteristics of kerogen we can use in order to determine maturation levels in source rocks within a basin. Oil generation takes place primarily between 2 and 5 km. and an increase in vitrinite reflectance. Condensates form between about 100 and 175 degrees C. and previously formed hydrocarbons will continue to crack into gas up to about 315 degrees C. Chemical characterization involves heating a source rock sample in the laboratory (pyrolysis) to measure the total amount of bitumen present in the sample before heating (called S1) versus the amount of kerogen remaining in the sample after heating (called S2). We evaluate both characteristics visually. depending on geothermal gradients and duration of burial. Kerogens generate only gas between about 175 and 225 degrees C. as shown in Figure 5 . catagenesis begins at depths between 1 and 2 km. and peaks at a temperature of about 100 degrees C. below which source rocks cease generating hydrocarbons. the oil window.Figure 4 In most sedimentary basins. Gas is cogenerated with oil. Physical changes in kerogen during maturation involve a darkening in color. The relationship between S1 and S2 changes as maturation increases. .

The next key element is migration. Our concerns about migration include: · Are carrier units present in close association with the source units? . such as shales and lime muds. relatively non-porous rocks.Figure 5 The temperature at which the maximum S2 response occurs (Tmax) increases as maturation increases. • Migration Most source units are fine-grained. which can act to either concentrate petroleum into an economic accumulation. impermeable seals. and trap configurations that can hold a concentration of petroleum in place. Source rock deposition and maturation are the first key elements necessary for creating an economic petroleum accumulation. Bitumen generated within source rocks must migrate from these finergrained units into porous and permeable reservoir rocks before it can be produced. Whether concentration or dispersal occurs depends on the presence of porous and permeable carrier/reservoir units. or disperse it and lead to its loss and destruction.

· Are these carrier units porous and permeable? · Do migration pathways exist between the source and reservoir units? Migration occurs in two distinct steps that involve different transport mechanisms. In primary migration. Lateral migration. such as foreland and sag basins ( . In secondary migration. but let’s look more closely at secondary migration. which occurs predominantly along layers in reservoir beds. Figure 1 Primary migration is a familiar topic. bitumen moves into a permeable reservoir bed. Secondary migration occurs when petroleum moves as discrete oil droplets in a water-wet reservoir unit. can occur over distances as great as 160 km. There are several types of petroleum systems where lateral migration dominates. Buoyancy and capillary pressure move petroleum through reservoir beds until pore spaces become too small. or until a seal or trap halts further movement. such as a sandstone or limestone. Figure 1 illustrates primary and secondary migration. Secondary migration can occur either laterally or vertically. oil or gas moves through porous and permeable reservoir beds into a trap.

Figure 2 . high- . Figure 2-Example of a supercharged. Figure 3 and Figure 4 . laterally drained. Figure 2 Figure 3 .

United States. low-impedance petroleum system. a foreland basin. a weak to moderate degree of compressive structural deformation. Patterned after the eastern Venezuela foreland basin. Vertical migration also occurs in pull-apart margins affected by growth faulting and salt tectonics. wrench. Figure 4 Patterned after the North Slope of Alaska. These systems require a laterally continuous regional seal resting on a widespread. 1991). Patterned after the Williston Basin.). Large accumulations of heavy oil found near the margins of the basin in shallow immature sedimentary strata. and uninterrupted homoclinal ramps (Demaison and Huizanga. Figure 3Example of a normally charged. a sag basin.impedance petroleum system. . Figure 4-Example of a supercharged. Extensional. United States. Rift and pull-apart basin migration styles are illustrated in Figure 5 and Figure 6 (Figure 5-Example of a supercharged. low-impedance petroleum system. and thrust tectonics produce fault and fracture systems that function as avenues for focused vertical migration. 1991). laterally drained. laterally drained. Vertical migration is associated with structural deformation that breaches sealing units through fracturing or faulting. permeable reservoir unit. particularly if tectonic activity keeps these avenues open for much of their geologic history (Demaison and Huizanga.

Figure 5 vertically drained. high-impedance petroleum system. Figure 6 .

The petroliferous part of the basin is vertically drained and has a high impedance [left side of figure]. Mexico. United Kingdom.). high-impedance petroleum system. vertically drained. Rift basins tend to be vertically drained due to petroleum transfer along faults and fracture systems. Figure 7 Figure 8 and Figure 9 (Figure 7-Example of a normally charged. another sector of the basin is laterally drained and has low impedance but is petroleum poor [right side of figure]. Figure 8 . Figure 6-Example of a supercharged. North Sea. In contrast. Patterned after the Campeche-Reforma Basin. a sag basin. Figure 7 .Patterned after the Central graben.

laterally extensive and continuous are the reservoir units? · Are the reservoirs closely associated with the source rocks? . Nigeria. Figure 8-Example of a supercharged.vertically drained. high-impedance petroleum system. we must answer such questions as: · What are the porosity and permeability of our potential reservoirs? · How thick. and migration are key elements in petroleum generation and accumulation. vertically drained. Source deposition. maturation. The presence of an effective top seal causes part of the system to show high impedance [right side of figure]. United States. When evaluating the reservoir element in a play analysis. Tertiary deltas are usually vertically drained due primarily to the formation of listric faults.) illustrate migration styles in Tertiary deltas. high-impedance petroleum system. Patterned after the Los Angeles Basin.General example of a vertically drained. Figure 9 Patterned after the Niger delta. wrench basins. but all three are ineffective without a reservoir rock into which the petroleum can migrate • Reservoir We can often predict reservoir characteristics based on depositional systems models. fold-and-thrust belt. and fold-thrust belts. Wrench basins typically show vertical migration of petroleum through fault systems. while the lack of seals results in a lowimpedance sector of the fold-and-thrust belt [left side of figure]. Figure 9.

or clay-dominated depending on sediment source (Morrill. including delta and barrier island systems. The former tend to be sanddominated. so reservoir continuity is poorer here than in non-marine settings. in non-marine settings. but tend to have poor reservoir characteristics because of low permeability in poorly sorted sands. coarse grain size favors high porosity and permeability. . although poor sorting may reduce both factors. Reservoir geometries tend to be elongated rather than sheet-like. Here. Slope-fringe sands include slope-apron and submarine fan systems. excellent reservoir-quality sandstones may occur in several systems. Figure 1 In marginal marine environments. while the latter may be sand. Braided stream deposits can range from hundreds to thousands of feet in thickness. we can predict that. Nomenclature of sandstone bodies).In the case of clastic reservoirs. the braided stream system should offer a good environment for the development of favorable clastic reservoirs. 1991). Both sand ridges and sand sheets deposited in the shelf setting may have favorable reservoir geometries. with excellent continuity between separate sandstone bodies in the sheet. They tend to be sheet-like deposits ( Figure 1 .

chemical and biological factors which can interact in countless ways. Also. A basic understanding of carbonate depositional systems allows us to predict potential favorable trends within a carbonate setting. If a porous unit is juxtaposed with a sealing unit across an inactive fault. Sometimes. however. heavily fractured metamorphic or igneous rocks can also serve as reservoirs. The Monterey Formation in southern California and the Austin Chalk in south-central Texas are examples of fractured reservoir plays containing large fields with very high production rates. Fractured reservoirs are. however. Diagenesis. Typical seals are fine-grained clastics such as shales. So. 1987). Fractured limestones. In carbonate rocks. involving physical. calcite. Course-grained rocks cemented with silica. the characteristics in carbonate reservoirs are only partially controlled by depositional processes. we must ask ourselves: • • • How laterally extensive are the seals? How thick are they? Do the seals have the optimal structural geometry to be effective? The simplest type of seal is a contact between the reservoir and an overlying roof rock where this surface has been deformed into a convex-upward shape (Milton and Bertram. Fault surfaces can also be seals. which we can use to make reasonable predictions about the presence or absence of potential reservoir and seal units. we can often link diagenetic processes to particular depositional systems and settings. finegrained clastic and carbonate rocks can also serve as reservoirs. which makes them very attractive targets because of rapid payout for drilling investments. 1992). the fault generally . or anhydrite and other evaporites. • Seal & Trap A seal usually consists of an impermeable unit that overlies or surrounds a reservoir. Carbonate diagenesis can radically alter rock textures. fine-grained limestones. Other sealing surfaces include sedimentary contacts and facies changes. halite. diagenesis is often the primary factor in determining which sediments become seals and which become reservoirs. and shales can be prolific reservoirs with very high production rates. our play will fail without an effective seal. preventing vertical or lateral movement of reservoired petroleum. A majority of petroleum reserves are found in clastic or carbonate reservoirs that retain primary or diagenetic porosity and permeability. we can develop maps of depositional facies. However. While we may not be able to definitively assess the diagenesis to which a particular carbonate reservoir has been subjected. Even with ideal source and reservoir units. chalks. A sandstone/shale couplet deformed into a dome is an example of this type of sealing situation.Carbonate rocks with reservoir potential can be deposited in a variety of depositional settings. making it difficult to unravel the true diagenetic history of a carbonate reservoir. is a complex topic. These maps may also yield clues about the type and distribution of porosity in the reservoir units. however. and asphalt also act as seals. and often determines the ultimate quality of reservoirs. By doing so. Occasionally. carbonate rocks often experience several episodes of diagenesis. difficult to predict and may be economic only when developed using techniques such as horizontal drilling. but we must also be familiar with diagenetic controls on carbonate reservoir development (Lloyd.

will act as a seal. and water within a reservoir. and shows the distribution of oil. A pressure difference between two porous units across a fault zone can also create sealing conditions. we need to consider its relationship to the trap element. After petroleum has been generated and has migrated into a reservoir unit. There are four major types of traps: structural. and combination ( Table 1 ). Figure 1 Trap size and geometry also determine the effectiveness of a trap. gas. we must consider: • • • • Are the traps plausible. hydrodynamic. Clay or shale distributed in a gouge zone can produce a sealing fault. stratigraphic. To truly understand the importance and effect of the seal element. When considering the trap element. it will continue to migrate through that unit unless it encounters a seal and is trapped in some way. given the structural styles we expect to be present in the basin? How are these traps sourced? What sort of mechanisms do we require to source the traps? To seal the traps? Figure 1 (Nomencalture of a trap using a simple anticline as an example) illustrates the various parts of a classic anticlinal trap. Trap types Structural Traps Fold Traps Compressional Folds Compactional Folds Diapir Folds Fault Traps Causes Tectonic processes Depositional/Tectonic processes Tectonic processes Tectonic processes .

Differential compaction may also be a locally important mechanism.5) or an impermeable section across the fault from the reservoir unit. Structural traps are created by either folding or faulting. Schematic cross section of Nigerian field. Northwest-southeast cross section through Painter Reservoir field). Figure 2 Fault traps require a sealing fault. showing traps .Stratigraphic Traps Hydrodynamic Traps Depositional morphology or diagenesis (See Table 2 ) Water flow Combination of two or more of the Combination Traps above processes. Table 1: Classification of hydrocarbon traps. (see Section 3. Growth faults create several trapping configurations ( Figure 3 . Common fold traps are created by compressional folding due to thrusting or wrenching ( Figure 2 .

Figure 4 . Figure 4 (a) and Figure 4 (b) show schematic examples of the two classes. or adjacent to an unconformity ( Table 2 ).and possible accumulation model). Figure 3 Stratigraphic traps can be classified according to whether they occur within a conformable sequence.

in which porous and permeable units are in depositional contact with seal and trap units. Depositional or facieschange traps include channels. This type of trap is rare (Selley and Morrill. . In both cases. Two subclasses of traps occur within conformable sequences. depositional geometry creates the trapping configurations. In these traps. and often the source as well. a combination of hydrodynamic and structural effects is more common. For example. a stratigraphic trap may be enhanced by structural folding or tilting. such as those found in the North Sea ( Figure 5 . Those that occur above an unconformity include onlapping sands. Hydrodynamic traps rely on downward-moving water within a reservoir unit to restrict upward movement of petroleum. Southwest-northeast structural cross section. Those that occur below the unconformity are called truncation traps. Diagenetic traps are formed when secondary porosity develops in a non-reservoir unit by replacement. A truncation at an unconformity may be tilted by faulting to form traps. Stratigraphic Traps Within Normal Comfortable Sequence Depositional or Facies change Diagenetic Channels Barrier Bars Reefs Replacement Solution Fracturing Adjacent to Unconformities Above Unconformity Onlap Strike Valley Channel Truncation Below Unconformity Table 2: Classification of stratigraphic type hydrocarbon traps. and reefs. Combination traps are caused by two or more effective trapping mechanisms. or fracturing. while solution porosity can develop in both carbonate and sandstone units. Dolomitization of pre-existing limestone creates secondary (replacement) porosity. bars. 1983). North Sea. Stratigraphic traps adjacent to unconformities are also subdivided into two classes. and sands that fill channels cut into an unconformity. Fracturing can affect igneous and metamorphic as well as sedimentary rocks.while Figure 4 (c) shows the overlap between classes in the case of channel traps. Piper field. solution. an overlying shale is the typical seal.).

These diapir-associated traps include structural. stratigraphic. and combination configurations ( Figure 6 . .Figure 5 Diapirism can also lead to several types of traps. Schematic of the distribution of potential reservoirs in carbonates [right side of figure] and siliciclastics [left side of figure] during the three stages of salt structure growth.

. Both salt and mud diapirs have led to significant hydrocarbon accumulations.).Figure 6 See original text for detailed explanation of specific trap types.

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