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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Special Volumes



Dynamic Interplay among Tectonics, Sedimentation, and Petroleum Systems: An Introduction and Overview

Dengliang Gao1

1Department of Geology and Geography, West Virginia University, 98 Beechurst Ave., Morgantown, West Virginia; email: [email protected]


Dave Pivnik and Frank Ettensohn provided constructive comments for this Chapter. This chapter is a contribution to the West Virginia University Advanced Energy Initiatives program.


In the past few decades, the petroleum industry has seen great exploration successes in petroliferous sedimentary basins worldwide; however, the net volume of hydrocarbons discovered each year has been declining since the late 1970s, and the number of new field discoveries per year has dropped since the early 1990s. We are finding hydrocarbons in more difficult places and in more subtle traps. Although geophysical and engineering technologies are crucial to much of the exploration success, fundamentally, the success is dependent on innovative play concepts associated with spatial and temporal relationships among deformation, deposition, and hydrocarbon accumulation.

Unraveling the dynamic interplay among tectonics, sedimentation, and petroleum systems in the subsurface is a challenge and relies on an integrated approach that combines seismic imaging, well logging, physical and/or computational modeling, as well as outcrop analogs. In recent decades, an increasing coverage of high-quality three-dimensional (3-D) seismic data, along with state-of-the-art 3-D visualization technologies, extensive well tests, sophisticated modeling capabilities, and field (outcrop) analogs, has significantly added to our understanding of subsurface complexities in structure, stratigraphy, and petroleum systems. This volume is intended to provide a snapshot of the most recent advances in petroleum exploration by presenting state-of-the-art reviews and overviews, current case studies, and the latest modeling results. The reviews and overviews offer the current status of knowledge in extensional, strike-slip, and contractional tectonic settings, as well as their influence on sedimentation and hydrocarbon accumulation. The case studies cover diverse geologic settings, with special reference to the most prolific high-profile frontier sedimentary basins, such as those in west Africa, east Africa, east Brazil, Gulf of Mexico, South China Sea, Russian Arctic, and the Mediterranean Sea. The models provide both numerical and physical simulations of basin structures as well as their spatial variation and temporal evolution in response to different tectonic processes. The objective of this volume is to contribute toward an enhanced understanding of the spatial and temporal relationships among tectonics of different structural styles, syntectonic sedimentation, and hydrocarbon accumulation. Achieving this objective is the key to overcoming the challenges that we face in the exploration for hydrocarbons in complex reservoirs, subtle traps, and in increasingly difficult places at a time of growing global demand for energy.

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