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Salt tectonics at passive margins: Geology versus models

Jean-Pierre Brun 1 Xavier Fort
1 Systèmes Tectoniques
GR - Géosciences Rennes
Abstract : Salt tectonics at passive margins is currently interpreted as a gravity-driven process but according to two different types of models: i) pure spreading only driven by differential sedimentary loading and ii) dominant gliding primarily due to margin tilt (slope instability). A comparative analysis of pure spreading and pure spreading is made using simple mechanics as well as available laboratory experiments and numerical models that consider salt tectonic processes at the whole basin scale. To be effective, pure spreading driven by sedimentary loading requires large differential overburden thicknesses and therefore significant water depths, high sediment density, low frictional angles of the sediments (high fluid pore pressure) and a seaward free boundary of the salt basin (salt not covered by sediments). Dominant gliding does not require any specific condition to be effective apart from the dip on the upper surface of the salt. It can occur for margin tilt angles lower than 1° for basin widths in the range of 200-600 km and initial sedimentary cover thickness up to 1 km, even in the absence of abnormal fluid pressure. In pure spreading, salt resists and sediments drive whereas in dominant gliding both salt and sediments drive. In pure spreading, extension is located inside the prograding sedimentary wedge and contraction at the tip. Both extension and contraction migrate seaward with the sedimentary progradation. Migration of the deformation can create an extensional inversion of previously contractional structures. In pure spreading, extension is located updip and contraction downdip. Extension migrates downdip and contraction updip. Migration of the deformation leads to a contractional inversion of previously extensional structures (e.g. squeezed diapirs). Mechanical analysis and modelling, either analogue or numerical, and comparison with margin-scale examples, such as the south Atlantic margins or northern Gulf of Mexico, indicate that salt tectonics at passive margins is dominated by dominant gliding down the margin dip. On the contrary, salt tectonics driven only by differential sedimentary loading is a process difficult to reconcile with geological evidence.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 9:17:43 AM
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Jean-Pierre Brun, Xavier Fort. Salt tectonics at passive margins: Geology versus models. Marine and Petroleum Geology, Elsevier, 2011, 38 (6), pp.1123-1145. ⟨10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2011.03.004⟩. ⟨insu-00611678⟩



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