Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Analysis of Salt-Sediment Interaction Associated with Steep Diapirs and Allochthonous Salt: Flinders and Willouran Ranges, South Australia, and the Deepwater Northern Gulf of Mexico
by Hearon, Thomas E., IV, Ph.D., Colorado School of Mines, 2013, 195; 3602617
Abstract (Summary)

The eastern Willouran Ranges and northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia contain Neoproterozoic and Cambrian outcrop exposures of diapiric breccia contained in salt diapirs, salt sheets and associated growth strata that provide a natural laboratory for testing and refining models of salt-sediment interaction, specifically allochthonous salt initiation and emplacement and halokinetic deformation. Allochthonous salt, which is defined as a sheet-like diapir of mobile evaporite emplaced at younger stratigraphic levels above the autochthonous source, is emplaced due to the interplay between the rate of salt supply to the front of the sheet and the sediment-accumulation rate, and may be flanked by low- to high-angle stratal truncations to halokinetic folds. Halokinetic sequences (HS) are localized (<1000 m) unconformity-bound successions of growth strata adjacent to salt diapirs that form as drape folds due to the interplay between salt rise rate (R) and sediment accumulation rate (A). HS stack to form tabular and tapered composite halokinetic sequences (CHS), which have narrow and broad zones of thinning, respectively. The concepts of CHS formation are derived from outcrops in shallow water to subaerial depositional environments in La Popa Basin, Mexico and the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Current models for allochthonous salt emplacement, including surficial glacial flow, advance above subsalt shear zones and emplacement along tip thrusts, do not address how salt transitions from steep feeders to low-angle sheets and the model for the formation of halokinetic sequences has yet to be fully applied or tested in a deepwater setting. Thus, this study integrates field data from South Australia with subsurface data from the northern Gulf of Mexico to test the following: (1) current models of allochthonous salt advance and subsalt deformation using structural analysis of stratal truncations adjacent to outcropping salt bodies, with a focus on the transition from steep diapirs to shallow salt sheets in South Australia; and (2) the outcrop-based halokinetic sequence model using seismic and well data from the Auger diapir, located in the deepwater northern Gulf of Mexico. Structural analysis of strata flanking steep diapirs and allochthonous salt in South Australia reveals the transition from steep diapirs to shallowly-dipping salt sheets to be abrupt and involves piston-like breakthrough of roof strata, freeing up salt to flow laterally. Two models explain this transition: 1) salt-top breakout, where salt rise occurs inboard of the salt flank, thereby preserving part of the roof beneath the sheet; and 2) salt-edge breakout, where rise occurs at the edge of the diapir with no roof preservation. Shear zones, fractured or mixed `rubble zones' and thrust imbricates are absent in strata beneath allochthonous salt and adjacent to steep diapirs. Rather, halokinetic drape folds, truncated roof strata and low- and high-angle bedding intersections are among the variety of stratal truncations adjacent to salt bodies in South Australia. Interpretation and analysis of subsurface data around the Auger diapir reveals similar CHS geometries, stacking patterns and ratios of salt rise and sediment accumulation rates, all of which generally corroborate the halokinetic sequence model. The results of this study have important implications for salt-sediment interaction, but are also critical to understanding and predicting combined structural-stratigraphic trap geometry, reservoir prediction and hydrocarbon containment in diapir-flank settings.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Trudgill, Bruce D.
Commitee: Aschoff, Jennifer L., Humphrey, John D., Nummedal, Dag, Rowan, Mark G.
School: Colorado School of Mines
Department: Geology and Geological Engineering
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-B 75/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geology, Geochemistry
Keywords: Allochthonous, Allochthonous salts, Auger, Australia, Flinders ranges, Halokinetic, Salt tectonics, Salt-sediment interactions
Publication Number: 3602617
ISBN: 978-1-303-55699-9
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