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Chicontepec Basin, Mexico: Main Basin Stages and Importance for Hydrocarbons


The Chicontepec basin (CB) is multi-stage basin along the east-central coast of Mexico whose evolution and timing closely parallels events other rifts present in other parts of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) including the area of the SE GOM near the Straits of Florida and in the eastern GOM near Florida. Recognition of the importance of these discrete, regional tectonic phases on the stratigraphy of the basin is a key step in understanding the basin's history and petroleum potential. Subsurface mapping constrains a rhomboidal, symmetrical rift of Jurassic age underling the central part of the CB that we interpret as a right-stepping pull-apart formed along the NS transform fault that allowed CCW rotation of the Yucatan block during the early rift stage of the GOM. Gravity and magnetic mapping constrain the presence of a parallel and more continuous offshore lineament coincident with the continent-ocean boundary and inferred to be part or the paleo-transform fault zone. A large, post-rift sag basin filled with organic-rich source rocks formed above this central basin as well as smaller sag basins to the north and south. The sag basin is overlain by a Cretaceous passive margin section. The timing of the Laramide collision phase in this part of Mexico is consistent with the latest Cretaceous-Eocene foreland basin phase observed in the Chicontepec basin, the onshore structure of eastern Mexico, evidence of the Laramide orogeny in the western USA, rapid increases in burial and subsidence rates from wells, and the presence of a large offshore, submarine fan that emanates from the area of the Chicotepec basin in eastern Mexico and extends 500 km into the central GOM. Thrust reactivation and partial inversion of normal faults created during the Laramide collision and foreland basin phase are observed as would be expected in this setting adjacent to the Laramide thrust front of the Sierra Madre Oriental. Subsequent events following the Laramide phase – including gravitationally-driven normal faulting – are not recognizable in the rift, passive margin and foreland-controlled basinal rocks of the Chicontepec basin – due to the isolated position of the basin adjacent to the Tuxpan platform – but these normal faults and linked toe thrust systems are well documented by offshore studies in the deeper, western GOM.