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The structure of the Papuan fold belt differs substantially from the classical thin-skinned structures of the Canadian Rockies, mainly due to the weak and broken Papuan lithosphere and incompetent clastic section, compared to the strong cratonic lithosphere in Canada overlain by limestones and quartzites. The Papuan margin was dissected by Mesozoic extensional faults, in part reactivated during Neogene compression, which created basement-involved anticlines or elevated plateaus in the Papuan fold belt. The sedimentary section in the fold belt is deformed into large ramp anticlines in the southwest, smaller Miocene and Mesozoic duplexes in the center, and fault-propagation folds in the northeast. Hydrocarbon discoveries to date have occurred in the southwestern anticlines, which are interpreted as reactivated extensional structures. The precursor rollover anticlines trapped oil generated in the Late Cretaceous such that present accumulations probably result from preservation of that oil during Neogene thrusting. Mesozoic duplex structures are likely to be prospective but difficult to define, and fault propagation folds rely upon unproven Upper Cretaceous sandstones as a reservoir.
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