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Mesozoic dissolution tectonics on the West Central shelf, UK Central North Sea

Marine and Petroleum Geology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0264-8172(98)00040-3
  • Evaporite Karst
  • Salt Tectonics
  • North Sea
  • Zechstein


Abstract 3-D seismic mapping of the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation on the West Central Shelf in the Central North Sea reveals a complex fault array which is constrained by seismic interpretation and well control to be of late Jurassic/early Cretaceous age. Fault shapes in plan-view range from linear to circular. Linear fault lengths are 200–300 m to 5 km, the strongly curved and circular faults range in diameter from 100–1000 m. Fault trends are apparently random and display no correlation in location or trend with basement (sub-Zechstein) structures. There is, however, a strong link between this fault pattern and the structure of the top Zechstein (top salt) surface. Linear faults occur at the edges of elongate salt walls and the circular faults lie directly above structures which have been interpreted here as tall, steep-sided salt chimneys. The salt chimneys are present only in the thick, elongate minibasins of Triassic sediment which lie between the salt walls. It is argued that salt dissolution controls the timing, location, orientation and shape of the late Jurassic/early Cretaceous faults. A model is provided to account for the development of both salt walls and chimneys. We suggest that early Triassic karstification of the Zechstein evaporites led to development of an array of circular collapse features. During the ensuing episode of Triassic halokinesis which led to minibasin subsidence and salt wall growth, salt passively ‘intruded’ the circular collapse features within the subsiding minibasins to form narrow salt chimneys. The resulting array of salt walls and chimneys was subject to dissolution during subsequent subaerial exposure and the late Jurassic marine transgression of the basin (creating the observed fault array), prior to sealing of the salt from circulating groundwater by compaction of the Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous shales which blanket the area.

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