Deformation of intrasalt competent layers in different modes of salt tectonics

Rowan, Mark G.; Urai, Janos L.; Fiduk, J. Carl; Kukla, Peter A.

Layered evaporite sequences (LESs) comprise interbedded weak layers (halite and, commonly, bittern salts) and strong layers (anhydrite and usually non-evaporite rocks such as carbonates and siliciclastics). This results in a strong rheological stratification, with a range of effective viscosity up to a factor of 105. We focus here on the deformation of competent intrasalt beds in different endmember modes of salt tectonics, even though combinations are common in nature, using a combination of conceptual, numerical, and analog models, and seismic data. In bedding-parallel extension, boudinage of the strong layers forms ruptured stringers, within a halite matrix, that become more isolated with increasing strain. In bedding-parallel shortening, competent layers tend to maintain coherency while forming harmonic, disharmonic, and polyharmonic folds, with the rheological stratification leading to buckling and fold growth by bedding-parallel shear. In differential loading, extension and the resultant stringers dominate beneath suprasalt depocenters, while folded competent beds characterize salt pillows. Finally, in passive diapirs, stringers generated by intrasalt extension are rotated to near vertical and encased in complex folds during upward flow of salt. In all cases, strong layers are progressively removed from areas of salt thinning and increasingly disrupted and folded in areas of salt growth as deformation intensifies. The varying styles of intrasalt deformation impact seismic imaging of LES and associated interpretations. Ruptured stringers are often visible where they have low dips, as in slightly extended salt layers or beneath depocenters, but are poorly imaged in passive diapirs due to steep dips. In contrast, areas of slightly to moderately shortened salt typically have well-imaged, mostly continuous intrasalt reflectors, although seismic coherency decreases as deformation intensifies. Similarly, wells are most likely to penetrate strong layers in contractional structures and salt pillows, less likely in extended salt because they might drill between stringers, and unlikely in tall passive diapirs because the stringers are near vertical. Thus, both seismic and well data may be interpreted to suggest that diapirs and other areas of more intense intrasalt deformation are more halite rich than is actually the case.

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Rowan, Mark G. / Urai, Janos L. / Fiduk, J. Carl / et al: Deformation of intrasalt competent layers in different modes of salt tectonics. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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