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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 104, No. 4 (April 2020), P. 913-938.

Copyright ©2020. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

DOI: 10.1306/08301918030

Extensional fault–related folding of the North West shelf, Western Australia

Sam McHarg,1 Chris Elders,2 and Jane Cunneen3

1School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia, Australia; [email protected]
2School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia; [email protected]
3School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia; [email protected]


The occurrence of fault-related folds in extensional settings has been gaining increased recognition during the past 20 yr. Passive margins and rift basins often present intriguing structural complexities that are potential sites for the development of extensional fault–related folds. Fault-related folds are important anticlinal traps for hydrocarbon exploration, and understanding their evolution is critical for derisking the timing of trap formation and hydrocarbon generation. This study presents folds from three areas across the North West shelf (NWS) of Western Australia and aims to determine their relationship to associated extensional faults. A series of kinematic forward models are presented as well as detailed structural and stratigraphic interpretation of folding at the three locations. The models suggest each of the three examples have formed under extension that impacted the region during the Mesozoic. The modeling also highlights different characteristics of folding that are caused by fault geometry (ramp–flat) and a propagating fault tip (trishear) that can be used as diagnostic features to distinguish different fold mechanisms. Historical exploration across the NWS has targeted a relatively small number of these anticlinal traps, some of which have been successful (e.g., Marina-1 well, Petrel subbasin) and some have not (e.g., Candace-1, Sholl Island fault anticline). This paper suggests that the prospectivity of anticlinal structures should be more carefully assessed to determine whether or not they are related to extensional activity and hence likely to have formed prior to the bulk of the hydrocarbon charge. Similar structures undoubtedly exist in other basins that have experienced repeated extension.

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