D149 Practical Salt Tectonics

Course Facts

Course Code:
4 days
Virtual Classroom
3.2 Continuing Education Units
32 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


Business Impact: Geoscientists completing this class will help their companies: identify, evaluate and risk salt-related prospects; build more accurate velocity models in areas of tough seismic imaging; and assess the results of appraisal wells and plan development scenarios.

This class provides a comprehensive overview of all aspects of global  salt tectonics, covering content ranging from  the depositional and tectonic settings of salt basins,  mechanics, diapirism, structural styles of salt deformation, salt-sediment interaction and the impact of salt on the petroleum systems.  The virtual course comprises lectures and exercises involving interpretation of seismic data from basins around the world.

Duration and Training Method

A virtual workshop divided into 8 sessions emphasising the geometry and evolution of salt structures and their impact on petroleum systems. It consists of lectures, discussion and exercises.

Participants will learn to:
  1. Summarise the nature of layered-evaporite basins and their tectonic settings.
  2. Evaluate how salt impacts deformation in different tectonic environments including rift basins, passive margins and convergent-margin fold-and-thrust belts.
  3. Describe how salt differs from other lithologies and what factors drive salt flow.
  4. Characterise the ways in which differential loading, extension and contraction trigger salt flow and diapir growth.
  5. Interpret typical salt and stratal geometries associated with salt evacuation and diapirism, welds, turtle structures and expulsion rollovers.
  6. Predict how drape folding around passive diapirs impacts stratal geometries, faulting, and reservoir distribution in diapir-flank traps.
  7. Evaluate the geometries that result from extension or shortening of pre-existing diapirs and minibasins.
  8. Interpret salt structures on seismic data, while avoiding the pitfalls associated with complex salt bodies.
  9. Assess the effect of salt on various aspects of the petroleum system, including reservoir presence and quality, hydrocarbon maturation and migration, and weld seal.
  • Introduction
  • Salt basins
    • Layered evaporite sequences
    • Tectonic settings
  • Exercise 1 – Salt and presalt, Kwanza Basin and Gulf of Mexico
  • Mechanics
  • Exercise 2 – Intrasalt deformation, North Sea and Santos Basin
  • Extensional salt tectonics
    • Thin-skinned extension
    • Diapir initiation and reactivation
    • Thick-skinned extension
  • Exercise 3 – Extensional structures, Espiritu Santo Basin
  • Contractional salt tectonics
    • Thin-skinned contraction
    • Diapir initiation and reactivation
    • Thick-skinned contraction
  • Exercise 4 – Contractional structures, Espiritu Santo Basin
  • Strike-slip salt tectonics
  • Vertical salt tectonics
    • Differential loading
    • Expulsion-rollover and turtle structures
    • Passive diapirs
  • Exercise 5 – Diapirs and minibasins, Nordkapp Basin
  • Near-diapir deformation
  • Salt dissolution
  • Exercise 6 – Diapir flanks, Gulf of Mexico
  • Allochthonous salt tectonics
    • Emplacement and advance
    • Salt-sheet styles
  • Exercise 7 - Allochthonous salt, Gulf of Mexico
  • Petroleum Systems Implications
    • Trap
    • Reservoir distribution and facies
    • Hydrocarbon maturation and migration
    • Seal
  • Interpretation guidelines

Who should attend

Exploration and development geologists and geophysicists working in salt basins around the world

Prerequisites and linking courses

A basic working knowledge of structural geology (as offered in N016, N090 or N220) and seismic interpretation (as offered in N085 or N040) is required.

Potential attendees should note that salt tectonics courses N071 and N232 have similar classroom content taught by Mark Rowan. The principal differences are: N071 - US-based classroom course with an emphasis on Gulf of Mexico tectonic styles and geophysical aspects of salt systems, less information on salt in thick-skinned tectonic regimes. N232 - classroom content similar to N149 but includes 4 days in the field in the Basque-Cantabrian fold belt with associated regional geological context and seismic exercise based on local data.

Click on a name to learn more about the instructor

Mark Rowan

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