Datapages, Inc.Print this page

The Gulf of Mexico Basin: A Natural Laboratory of Sedimentary Processes, New and Evolving Exploration Plays, and New Insights on the Mesozoic Framework

Snedden, John W.; Galloway, William E.; Fulthorpe, Craig; Ganey-Curry, Patricia E.; Xu, Jie; Sanford, Jason C.; Norton, Ian; Whiteaker, Timothy L.; Olson, Hilary C.; Cunningham, Robert

The Gulf of Mexico basin is one of the richest hydrocarbon basins of the world, with estimated ultimate recoverable hydrocarbon reserves exceeding 140 BBOE. The foundation of such a rich endowment is the unique confluence of sedimentary processes, ranging from a continental-scale drainage network, robust depositional systems, unusual extrabasinal perturbations, long-lived salt tectonics, and multiple world-class source rocks. This combination of factors has allowed the Gulf of Mexico to continue to "reinvent itself", generating a spectrum of new exploration plays: onshore to offshore, suprasalt to subsalt, fluvial to deep-water, conventional to unconventional. The surprising emergence of several new exploration plays and new ideas on the basin history demonstrates that we have much more to learn and harvest from this natural laboratory of sedimentary processes.

New ideas are leading to a reevaluation of the framework history, including how the Chicxulub impact event at the end of the Cretaceous altered the deep Gulf of Mexico seascape and set up subsequent deep-water deposition. New models have been formulated for the timing and distribution of salt deposition and sea-floor spreading. Our understanding of the interaction of sediment and salt since the Mesozoic continues to evolve. The Gulf of Mexico has also provided dramatic improvements in Neogene and Mesozoic chronostratigraphy resulting from interpretation of new biostratigraphic data from deep-water wells.

Wells drilled in the deep subsalt province have altered our view of the Mesozoic source to sink depositional pathways, leading us to question previous North American paleogeographic maps. Recent hydrocarbon discoveries in the Perdido fold belt of the Mexican deep-water may increase the Paleogene (Wilcox) play extent to the south.

Onshore, exploitation of source rocks as shale gas plays in the Jurassic Haynesville and Cretaceous Eagle Ford have generated significant drilling activity and this in turn has stimulated a reexamination of interpreted Mesozoic source rock distributions, including offshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Our perspective on the eastern Gulf of Mexico Mesozoic potential is likely to change as well, given new and ongoing seismic refraction and reflection work.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90163©2013AAPG 2013 Annual Convention and Exhibition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 19-22, 2013