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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 26 (1942)

Issue: 5. (May)

First Page: 903

Last Page: 904

Title: Geophysical Evidence on the Mechanics of Salt Domes: ABSTRACT

Author(s): L. L. Nettleton

Article Type: Meeting abstract


In 1934 the author presented a theory of salt-dome formation and illustrated it with a model which indicated: (1) that the motive force causing salt uplift is essentially the gravitational force resulting from the fact that the density of the salt is less than that of the surrounding sediments and (2) that both salt and sediments behave essentially as highly viscous fluids. The present paper considers the experimental and theoretical work, largely by others, carried out since that time which has a bearing on this fluid-mechanical theory.

Hubbert in 1937 derived, from dimensional considerations, the numerical relations between the physical constants of a model and its prototype in nature which should be fulfilled to give true dynamic similarity. Dobrin in 1941 determined physical constants of a fluid salt-dome model, applied Hubbert's analysis, and established that the model

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fulfilled the dimensional criteria. By measurement of flow rates and viscosities in a model, he determined the equivalent viscosity for the sediments arriving at a value which is in reasonable accord with determinations by other means. The experiments by Griggs and the thermodynamic development of the physics of stressed solids by Goranson in recent years have interpreted the physical properties of rock material, in terms of long time stresses. This work has clarified and evaluated certain fundamental properties such as "strength," "plasticity," etc. that are directly applicable to the fluid mechanical postulate of salt-dome formation. Finally, recent extensive geophysical work and drilling around salt domes have revealed the frequent existence of rim synclines which are a natural con equence of the fluid-mechanical theory and which were relatively unknown or unrecognized as such at the time of the earlier paper. All of this work seems to confirm the general hypothesis that salt-dome formation is largely a fluid-mechanical process.

A dynamic model illustrating the fluid mechanics of dome formation will be available when the paper is given, and it is hoped it can be seen in operation in connection with other exhibits of the convention.

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Copyright 1997 American Association of Petroleum Geologists