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AAPG Bulletin


Subsalt Play, Gulf of Mexico: A Review

Scott L. Montgomery1 and Dwight "Clint" Moore2


Exploration for deep-water sandstone reservoirs beneath allochthonous salt in the Gulf of Mexico represents a major new frontier play in North America. More than 30 wells thus far have been drilled with subsalt targets, resulting in 8 discoveries, at least 3 of which are commercial and 3 that have reserves of 100 million bbl oil equivalent or more. Reservoirs consist of Miocene-Pleistocene sandstones deposited in submarine fan channel system environments on the paleoslope, where salt deformation has a complex late Cenozoic history. Salt sheets exist at various stratigraphic levels and have overridden sandstone fairways on the present-day outer continental shelf and upper slope, where water depths are moderate and where pipeline and other infrastructure facilities already exist. Potential reserves for the subsalt play have been estimated at 1.2 billion bbl of oil and 15 Tcf* gas from 25 or more significant fields.

Recent success in the subsalt play has depended upon (1) advances in 3-D (three-dimensional) seismic acquisition and processing (in particular, 3-D prestack depth imaging) and (2) improved geologic modeling of salt deformation and depositional systems. In addition, better understanding of the drilling 

©Copyright 1997. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

1Petroleum Consultant, 1511 18th Avenue East, Seattle, Washington 98112.

2Anadarko Petroleum, 17001 Northchase Drive, Houston, Texas 77060.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to Anadarko Petroleum, Phillips Petroleum, TGS-Calibre Geophysical Company and Geco-Prakla for permission to use data included in this report. Appreciation is also extended to Holly Harrison for helpful comments, to Anadarko Petroleum for preparation of figures, to Floyd Bardsley for additional artwork, and to Robert O. Brooks, Clint Moore's coauthor.

Send reprint requests to AAPG Publications Manager, P.O. Box 979, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74101-0979.

*Tcf = trillion cubic feet; Gcf = billion cubic feet; Mcf = million cubic feet.

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