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Early Paleozoic to Recent Plate Animation of Gulf of Mexico Evolution as a Framework for Understanding Its Diverse Hydrocarbon Resources

Abstract

We have used GIS to systematically compile and georeference recent geologic and geophysical data to better constrain a continuous and animated Gulf of Mexico plate reconstruction that illustrates the following tectonic phases that have all impacted its diverse, petroleum systems: 1) early to middle Paleozoic passive margin phase of the Gulf of Mexico; 2) late Paleozoic collisional phase between North and South America with the intervening Yucatan block; 3) first phase of Triassic-early Jurassic continental rifting and Middle Jurassic sag phase with salt deposition; 4) second phase of oceanic spreading and counterclockwise rotation of the Yucatan block with separation of the salt-filled sag basin into the US and Mexican salt basins; 5) Cretaceous passive margin phase that is locally interrupted in the area of eastern Mexico by the Late Cretaceous to Eocene Laramide orogeny and in the area of Cuba by the Late Cretaceous to Eocene collision of the Caribbean arc with the Straits of Florida and Bahamas platform; and 6) sediment filling and loading phase mainly by the Miocene to recent Mississippi delta and fan. Key elements of the reconstruction include: 1) improved maps of continent-ocean boundaries with better estimates of pre-breakup stretching in order to reduce continental overlap problems; 2) better defined areas of volcanic and non-volcanic rifted margins and fossil transform margins using compilations of deep seismic and refraction data; 3) use of linear, geologic “piercing points” mapped from magnetic data to precisely match the conjugate margins of the northern Yucatan block and western Florida; 4) improvement of Gulf of Mexico, second-phase, late Jurassic opening based on 2014 marine satellite gravity data showing its central ridge-transform system and extent of oceanic crust; 5) realignment and restoration of US and Mexico salt basins into their original, middle Jurassic sag basin overlying first phase rifts; 6) compilation of all producing oil and gas areas and seeps and relating these to their generation and traps according to their respective phase of basin opening; and 7) demonstration of the early asymmetrical opening of the GOM with the northern GOM as a lower plate and the southern GOM (Yucatan block) as the upper plate.