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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 100, No. 11 (November 2016), P. 1723-1747.

Copyright ©2016. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

DOI: 10.1306/05241616009

Megaflaps adjacent to salt diapirs

Mark G. Rowan,1 Katherine A. Giles,2 Thomas E. Hearon IV,3 and J. Carl Fiduk4

1Rowan Consulting, Inc., 850 8th St., Boulder, Colorado 80302; [email protected]
2Institute of Tectonic Studies, Department of Geological Sciences, The University of Texas at El Paso, 500 West University Ave., El Paso, Texas 79968; [email protected]
3ConocoPhillips Technology and Subsurface, 600 N. Dairy Ashford Rd., Houston, Texas 77079; [email protected]
4Freeport-McMoRan Oil and Gas, 717 Texas Ave., Ste. 2100, Houston, Texas 77002; [email protected]


Megaflaps are steep stratal panels that extend far up the sides of diapirs or their equivalent welds. They have multiple-kilometer fold widths and structural relief and are thus distinct from smaller-scale composite halokinetic sequences. Maximum dips range from near-vertical to completely overturned. Although overturned megaflaps are associated with flaring salt, there is no direct link between megaflap formation and the initiation of salt sheets. Strata within a megaflap are usually convergent, and the lower boundary is typically concordant with the top salt. The upper boundary ranges between a prominent onlap surface and a more diffuse zone of gradual rotation and thinning, and growth strata likewise display both onlap and stacked wedge geometries.

We use quantitative cross-section restoration to elucidate the origin and development of megaflaps. Megaflaps typically represent the relatively thin roofs of early salt structures that include single-flap active diapirs, passive diapirs, salt pillows, and salt sheets. They develop during halokinetic drape folding as the minibasin sinks, during contractional squeezing of the diapir and its roof, or during some combination of the two. The kinematics are dominated by either limb rotation or kink-band migration, in which roof strata move through a fold hinge into a lengthening steep megaflap. Both restoration results and direct field evidence suggest that internal strain is minor, with little bed lengthening and thinning.

Recognition and understanding of megaflaps are critical to successful petroleum exploration of three-way truncation traps against salt. Megaflaps also have implications for the lateral seal of stratigraphic traps and fluid pressures in minibasins.

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