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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

CSPG Special Publications


Facts and Principles of World Petroleum Occurrence — Memoir 6, 1980
Pages 887-911
Worldwide Petroleum Provinces

The Tectono-Sedimentary History of Caribbean Basins and Their Hydrocarbon Potential

Jack L. Walper


Evaluation of the petroleum potential of Caribbean basins involves the delineation of the area’s modern lithospheric plate boundaries, and the interpretation of the tectono-sedimentary history of its sedimentary basins in relation to the plate margin regimes in which they evolved. Notwithstanding the divergent views on the former, which on a global scale appear distinct but in numerous areas become less precise, a synthesis based on seismic, gravimetric, and tectonic evidence indicates the configuration of the plate boundaries and allows recognition of the boundary regimes. Because these are dominantly of convergent and transform type, characteristics such as rate of plate convergence, segmentation of island arc-trench systems by transverse faulting, and evolution of accretionary prisms (consisting of forearc basin, subduction complex, and trench fill, all in the arc-trench gap, and all common to the former types of margin, yet variable in any particular setting) are examined and compared to Caribbean examples. A brief tectonic history of the Caribbean plate summarizes its time of formation and tectonic evolution in terms of plate tectonic theory. From this analysis it becomes apparent that if appreciable amounts of oil and gas are present, the greatest potential for their occurrence lies in the ancient accretionary prisms, now strongly deformed throughout the Greater Antilles, along the northern margin of South America, and in the evolving accretionary prism flanking the southern portion of the Lesser Antilles.

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