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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 86, No. 6 (June 2002), P. 961-978.

Copyright ©2002. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Evolution of large normal faults: Evidence from seismic reflection data

Chris K. Morley1

1Department of Petroleum Geoscience, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam; email: [email protected]


Chris Morley is currently an associate professor in the Department of Petroleum Geoscience at the University of Brunei Darussalam. Previously, he worked for Amoco, Elf Aquitaine, and Aberdeen University. He has worked extensively on the structural geology of sedimentary basins and the impact of structure on sedimentation. His current areas of interest include deformation associated with mobile shales, the structural geometry and evolution of rift basins, the impact of fault segmentation and linkage on sedimentation, the integration of outcrop and subsurface structural geology, and the structural and tectonic evolution of southeast Asia. His key geographic areas of research include the East African rift system, the Baram Delta province, Brunei, and the Tertiary rift basins of Thailand.


I would like to thank Amoco Petroleum Company and the National Oil Company of Kenya (as it then was) for allowing me access to publish the East African rift data and the many colleagues in Amoco who helped to work up the data set. The Cairo Hedberg conference and field trip to the Gulf of Suez led to many stimulating discussions, some of which have found expression in this article. Thanks are also due to John Dolson and GUPCO for funding that indirectly led to this article.


Recent advances have been made in understanding how extensional faults and basins develop as faults propagate and link. Evidence for these linkage patterns in seismic reflection data can be seen in data from East Africa. Early fault linkage patterns for boundary faults can follow three possible paths. Fault linkage and propagation occur either (1) prior to significant basin formation, (2) after minor faulting has created an extensive area of subsidence, or (3) during basin development. The data from East Africa show examples mainly of paths 1 and 2. Transverse anticlines (anticlines developed parallel to and in the hanging wall of the strike of faults) associated with boundary faults are common features. They represent either the sites of old synthetic transfer zones or a region of low fault displacement along the strike of a fault where two or more depocenters of different ages overlap. As fault activity decreases over time, displacement tends to be concentrated on progressively narrower parts of the fault. This pattern is developed particularly well in continental rifts and may help discriminate late synrift sedimentation from postrift sedimentation where strike lines across the hanging wall of the fault are observable.

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