Mexico and Gulf of Mexico

Exploration Framework Atlas 4: Mexico and Gulf of Mexico

4th Edition, October 2006 - A Major Upgrade and Reassessment

The fourth in our series of Exploration Framework Atlases addresses the regional evolution of the Gulf of Mexico. The Atlas synthesizes structural and paleogeographic evolution in sufficient detail to inspire the definition of new plays and new ways of looking at both deep and shallow water areas. We highlight mechanisms of basin formation, basement type, relations of salt to basement and to younger stratigraphy, sedimentation patterns and timing of key events, allowing the explorationist to move quickly into the details of specific exploration plays or targets.

This edition combines upgraded plate kinematic parameters, significant changes to the geologic timescale, newly identified geologic relationships, and entirely new approaches to basin analysis and modeling to resolve outstanding areas of misunderstanding about the Gulf and its margins.

The atlas now benefits from our recent work in Mexico and elsewhere around the Gulf. Iteratively modeled paleotectonic maps are cross-checked against enormous amounts of additional data.

The result defines state-of-the-art understanding of the entire Gulf region. The text is completely revised and updated to include discussion of newly-recognised tectonic processes and their implications for sedimentary patterns and hydrocarbon systems.

The Atlas is presented as 121 A3 (11" x 17") pages of maps, text and explanatory figures, including 18 paleotectonic maps and 10 paleofacies maps, with additional supporting material. The atlas maps were developed in a GIS environment, allowing us to integrate geo-referenced well, seismic and other data, and to present the final maps as geotiffs and shapefiles (optional GIS package) for integration into client mapping projects. The Atlas is transmitted on CD-ROM in a variety of editable formats.

Main Components of this Atlas:


  • Application of new, quantitative asymmetric rifting models; consequences for subsidence and thermal history of US and Mexican margins of the Gulf
  • Use of public-domain geophysical data to identify limits of stretched continental crust, continent-ocean boundary and original limits of in-situ salt
  • New, and novel, model for relationship of salt to basement, and estimates of original pre-Oxfordian salt thickness
  • Regional depth to basement, sediment thickness and stretching factor maps
  • Prediction of a relatively shallow (1000-2000 m max. water depth), long-lived, salt-cored shelf or plateau in the northern and western Gulf, and semi-quantitive predicitons of paleobathymetry through time in deepwater areas
  • Identification of the Challenger seismic horizon as the K-T Chicxulub impact ejecta layer: one of Mexico's primary offshore reservoir intervals and a key time marker throughout the Gulf
  • Our salt model explicitly predicted that a deepwater Wilcox clastic trend would be found before the recent "Jack" announcements were made

Major Issues Addressed:

  • Opening history of Gulf of Mexico and Mexican back-arc basins
  • Transition from non-rotational rifting to strongly rotational drift and ocean crust formation
  • Early history of salt deposition in deep Gulf and relationship to ocean crust basement in the Central Gulf
  • Influence of salt models on paleogeography
  • Implications of salt mode for distribution of early Tithonian source rocks and later clastic reservoir rocks (e.g. Wilcox)
  • Laramide shortening history in Mexico, interaction of Cuba with Yucat√°n
  • Caribbean Plate as a driver for deformation in southern Mexico and Guatemala (see also - Caribbean Page)

Tectonics and palinspastic maps:

  • Restoration of the pre-Atlantic, early Jurassic configuration of Pangea, with implications for Gulf basins
  • Development of a two stage (ca. 180-158 Ma and 158-138 Ma) model for the Gulf of Mexico
  • Detailed discussion of the methods used to generate palinspastic basemaps
  • Palinspastic basemaps of greater Mexico, the Gulf, Florida, and adjacent regions, progressively remove the effects of deformation and terrane migration
  • We assess Lower-Middle Jurassic sinistral shear of northern South America away from Mexico and SE-ward migration of Yucatan and blocks of central and southern Mexico, and formation of initial marine embayments in the interior basins
  • We restored Late Jur.-E. Cret. S-ward rotation and migration history of Yucatan Block along eastern Mexican margin, migration of central and southern Mexican Blocks, and opening of backarc basins,
  • We explore the evidence for timing and extent of salt-tectonics in the southwestern and northern Gulf
  • This approach allows tectonics and sedimentation patterns to be coherently linked in diagrammatic form
  • We develop maps for the interval Lower Jurassic (Reconstruction of Pangea, ca. 180 Ma) through to the Late Miocene and Recent

Related Published Papers:

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