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Exploration Potential on the Margins of the Caribbean Plate

Bowman, Scott1 and Saunders, Mike
1[email protected]

Analysis of modern seismic lines in the Caribbean shows the margins of the Caribbean Plate contain a large variation of extensional, strike-slip, and compressional structural provinces with productive hydrocarbon basins as well as basins with unexplored potential.

A plate tectonic reconstruction illustrates the interaction between the North and South American plates and the stable Caribbean plate are the main drivers of deformation in the region. Although North and South America are moving 20 cm/yr to the west, the Caribbean plate is relatively stable with respect to the mantle. The Caribbean plate is protected from the stresses created by westerly migrating North and South America by a west dipping subduction zone along the Lesser Antilles. This creates a backstop preventing the westward movement of the North America as the subducting oceanic crust is trapped in the mantle.

The Sinu Basin of northwest Colombia contains a thick accumulation in a foreland basin with a large array of compressional fold and thrust structures. The compressive Pacific margin of Colombia and Peru has an accumulation of stratigraphic section but erosion during Eocene uplift and continued compression has removed some of the section.

Tensional basins formed in parts of Venezuela, Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada and the Cayos region offshore Nicaragua. This tension creates deep basins that accumulate large volumes of sediment if they are proximal to siliciclastic sources and carbonate platforms when they are distal. Trinidad is surrounded by large extensional basins, some which have been deformed by a transpressional system of folds and thrusts. Eastern Barbados is composed of an accretionary wedge which has remained submergent and has accumulated a mixture of potentially organic-rich marine sediment and continental derived siliciclastic sediment. The northwest Caribbean plate, near the Chortis block is composed of a series of east-west trending horsts and grabens. Beneath the Cayos region, offshore eastern Nicaragua, lies a series of horst and grabens with an East-West extensional axis. Jamaica is underlain by a large carbonate bank that formed on a series of horsts between grabens. Here minor short-lived compression events have created a few compressional folds. Extension between the Aves ridge and the Lesser Antilles began approximately 15 Ma as north-south compression pinned the western Caribbean plate as it was trapped between the converging North and South America.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90166©2013 AAPG International Conference & Exhibition, Cartagena, Colombia, 8-11 September 2013