Salt flow around minibasins: Insight from the interaction of salt walls and faults surrounding the Lyons minibasin, Gulf of Mexico
Minibasins, i.e., small basins that can be up to 8 km in depth and a few tens of km in diameter, often form in regional salt basins and on salt-rich passive margins. As salt walls grow through time, brittle strain localizes in zones directly above the salt walls leading to complex fault arrays surrounding the minibasins. These fault arrays provide insight into the relative movement of minibasins and the local deformation field, which influences the hydrocarbon exploration around them. Using high-resolution bathymetry and 2D reflection seismic data, we have examined fault systems and their interaction with salt walls around the Lyons minibasin in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore USA. This analysis shows that the geometry of salt walls varies and controls the development of faults form in the overlying sedimentary layer. The wide plateau-like salt wall creates a mechanical constraint that restricts the development of faults vertically and laterally. The narrow ridge of the salt wall has less mechanical restriction and allows faults to grow in displacement. Deformation is more localized above the narrow ridge of salt wall. This study suggests that the intricate fault patterns around minibasins result from multi-phase deformation caused by the variation of salt flow within the salt walls. Initially, minibasin subsidence expels salt upward and outward. After the minibasins is welded, the regional slope enhances the lateral flow and allows salt to flow around welded minibasins. During this stage, the lateral flow of salt is constrained by the salt wall orientation. Moreover, this study demonstrates a new approach that provides an additional perspective to understand the evolution of minibasins and their interaction, which is a limitation of 2D modeling studies.