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The Evolving Exploration of the Subsalt Play in the Offshore Gulf of Mexico
Dwight "Clint" Moore (1), Robert O. Brooks (2)
The co-existence of horizontal components of salt movement with subsalt traps in the south additions of the Louisiana and Texas shelf and slope, has been recognized within the last decade (Brooks and Moore, 1993). Throughout the 1970's & 1980's hundreds of wells were drilled into salt on the outer shelf and slope of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. These wells barely penetrated salt features that are now known to be laterally emplaced horizontal salt sheets. Drilling was typically stopped thousands of feet short of testing the potential sizable petroleum reservoirs of the subsalt exploration play, which is now being pursued and developed. It is apparent that the evolutionary vertical remobilization of portions of these sheets has structured many of the supra-salt giant fields discovered in younger, overlying sediments (Brooks and Denman, 1995; Brooks and Hall, 1995).
Horizontal emplacement of Gulf of Mexico salt sheets, and their effect on subsalt drilling results, can be demonstrated using 2-D time seismic sections, well logs, and biostratigraphy from over 30 wells drilled through varying thicknesses of the salt sheets. The presence of thick subsalt sands, such as those observed in SMI 200, are now also proven. Subsalt petroleum discoveries, announced in SS 349, ST 260, and MC 211, have confirmed the play and encourage future exploratory drilling. As advanced acquisition and processing techniques provide improvements in seismic image resolution, and subsalt well control refines geologic models and concepts, geoscientific" integration will lead to additional significant discoveries in multiple-style traps beneath the horizontal-salt sheets of the offshore Gulf of Mexico.
The 1990's should be the "Decade of Discovery" for this significant subsalt petroleum potential, hidden by these salt sheets that have obscured subsalt seismic images for decades.
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