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Beef veins and thrust detachments in Early Cretaceous source rocks, foothills of Magallanes-Austral Basin, southern Chile and Argentina: Structural evidence for fluid overpressure during hydrocarbon maturation

Abstract : We describe (1) bedding-parallel veins of fibrous calcite (beef) and (2) thrust detachments, which we believe provide good evidence for fluid overpressure in source rocks for petroleum. Our examples are from the surface or subsurface of the Magallanes-Austral Basin, which lies at the southern tip of South America. There, the best source rocks for petroleum are of Early Cretaceous age. In the central parts of the basin these source rocks have become overmature, but at the eastern edge, onshore and offshore, they are today either immature or in the oil window. In Tierra del Fuego, the foothills of the Andes consist mainly of sedimentary rocks, which have undergone thin-skinned thrusting. In the Vicuña area (Chile), Early Cretaceous source rocks have reached the surface above thrust detachments, which are visible on seismic data and well data. At the surface, we have found calcite beef, containing hydrocarbons (solid and/or fluid), in the Rio Jackson and Vicuña formations, which have reached the wet gas window. In the Rio Gallegos area (Argentina), the source rocks have not reached the surface, but seismic and well data provide good evidence for thin-skinned thrusting above flat-lying detachments in Early Cretaceous source rock, where it is in the early oil window. In contrast, there is little or no deformation where the source rock is still immature. Thus the deformation front coincides with the maturity front. Next to the central parts of the basin, where the source rocks have reached the surface within the Andes proper, they have undergone low-grade metamorphism. Within these source rocks, we have found beef veins, but of quartz, not calcite. To the east, within the foreland basin, seismic and well data provide evidence for a few compressional structures, including thin-skinned detachments in the deeply buried source rock. Finally, in the northern part of the basin (Santa Cruz province, Argentina), where it is shallower, the source rocks have reached the surface in the foothills, above a series of back-thrusts. At Lago San Martín, the source rocks have reached the oil window and they again contain calcite beef. In conclusion, where we have examined Early Cretaceous source rocks at the surface, they contain either calcite beef (if they have reached the late oil window or wet gas window) or quartz beef (if they are overmature). Independent evidence for overpressure, in the form of source-rock detachments, comes from subsurface data, especially at the southern end of the basin, where the source rocks are not overmature and deformation is relatively intense. Thus we argue that hydrocarbon generation has led to overpressure, as a result of chemical compaction and load transfer, or volume changes, or both.
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https://hal-insu.archives-ouvertes.fr/insu-01004036
Contributor : Isabelle Dubigeon <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 10:29:23 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - 11:08:02 AM

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Alain Zanella, Peter Robert Cobbold, Lisandro Rojas. Beef veins and thrust detachments in Early Cretaceous source rocks, foothills of Magallanes-Austral Basin, southern Chile and Argentina: Structural evidence for fluid overpressure during hydrocarbon maturation. Marine and Petroleum Geology, Elsevier, 2014, 55, pp.250-261. ⟨10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2013.10.006⟩. ⟨insu-01004036⟩

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