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AAPG Bulletin


(Begin page 1055)

AAPG Bulletin, V. 85, No. 6 (June 2001), P. 1055-1082.

Copyright ©2001. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Geologic evolution of the Cuu Long and Nam Con Son basins, offshore southern Vietnam, South China Sea

Gwang H. Lee,1 Keumsuk Lee,2 Joel S. Watkins3

1Department of Oceanography, Kunsan National University, Kunsan 573-701, Korea; email: [email protected]
2Department of Oceanography, Kunsan National University, Kunsan 573-701, Korea; current address: Department of Geography and Geology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, 33431; email: [email protected]
3Department of Geology and Geophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, 77843; email: [email protected]


Gwang H. Lee is associate professor at Kunsan National University, Korea. His research interests include application of seismic reflection to basin research and sequence stratigraphy. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in oceanography from Seoul National University, Korea, in 1981 and 1983, respectively, and a Ph.D. in geological/geophysical oceanography from Texas A&M University in 1990. From 1991 to 1994 he worked for Shell Offshore Inc. in New Orleans.

Keumsuk Lee received a B.S. degree in mathematics (1994) and an M.S. degree in geological oceanography (1999) from Kunsan National University, Kunsan, Korea. He is currently attending Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida. His main research interest is application of geophysical methods to various geological and environmental problems.

Joel S. Watkins is the Earl F. Cook Professor, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Texas A&M University. He was co-investigator for the NASA Active Seismic Experiment (Apollo missions 14, 16, and 17), 1964-1972; co-chief scientist on DSDP Leg 66 (Middle America Trench), and project director, manager, and vice president with Gulf Oil, 1977-1985. He is the author or co-author of more than 130 scientific publications and senior editor of AAPG Memoirs 29, 34, and 53. His interests are structure and stratigraphy of small ocean basins and seismic reservoir characterization.


This study was funded in part through a grant (Brain Korea 21) from the Ministry of Education of Korea. We thank Halliburton Energy Services for providing seismic reflection data. We also thank the Korea National Oil Corporation for providing formation top data. Robert M. Mitchum, Donald B. Macurda, Kenneth E. Peters, Neil F. Hurley, and an anonymous reviewer provided very helpful comments.


Rifting and regional subsidence characterize the Cuu Long and Nam Con Son basins, offshore southern Vietnam. Initial rifting began in the Eocene-early Oligocene, followed by the uplift and rotation of the crustal blocks in the late Oligocene. The erosion of the uplifted blocks marked the transition from rifting to regional subsidence in the Cuu Long Basin. A second phase of rifting began in the Nam Con Son Basin, lasting until the late Miocene. Parts of the Nam Con Son Basin experienced inversion in the middle to late Miocene.

The synrift and postrift units in the Cuu Long Basin consist of nonmarine deposits and paralic to shallow-marine sediments, respectively. The synrift deposits in the Nam Con Son Basin can be divided into the early synrift unit, corresponding to the initial rifting phase, and the late synrift unit, deposited during the second rifting phase. The early synrift and late synrift units consist of nonmarine sediments and nonmarine to shallow-marine sediments, respectively; the postrift unit is composed of shelf and deeper marine deposits.

The data compiled from the published reports suggest that the Cuu Long Basin is oil-prone, with the oil reservoired mainly in fractured basement highs, whereas the Nam Con Son Basin is generally gas-prone, with the gas trapped in Miocene sands and late Miocene carbonates. These distinct trends may be attributed to differences in timing of trap formation and the disruption of trap integrity caused by prolonged rifting and inversion in the Nam Con Son Basin.

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