Physical modelling of the interplay between salt-detached gravity gliding and spreading across complex rift topography, Santos Basin, offshore Brazil
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBasin Research. 2022, 34 (6), 2042-2063. 10.1111/bre.12695
The Santos Basin, offshore Brazil contains a complex set of salt-tectonic structures, the origins of which are debated, that is, the Albian Gap and the São Paulo Plateau (SPP). The Albian Gap is a ca. 450 km long, 60 km wide feature characterized by a post-Albian, counter-regional rollover overlying depleted Aptian salt, and in which the Albian is largely absent. The SPP, located immediately downdip, is defined by a pre-salt structural high overlain by ca. 2.5 km thick salt. Another prominent feature is the Merluza Graben, a rift-related depocentre that underlies the southern portion of the Albian Gap and displays significant (3–4 km) base-salt relief along its main faults. Two competing hypotheses have been proposed to explain the kinematics of these provinces. One invokes post-Albian extension in the Albian Gap and kinematically-linked contraction in the SPP. The other invokes post-Albian salt expulsion in the Albian Gap and salt inflation in the SPP. Recent studies, however, suggest these processes likely alternate in time and space, contributing nearly equally to the evolution of these domains. We apply 3D physical modelling to (i) test this hypothesis; and (ii) to more generally understand how gravity gliding and spreading over three-dimensionally variable base-salt relief control regional salt tectonics. The results show a similar salt-related evolution and structural styles to those proposed in the most recent studies. They also (i) explain the origin of the ca. 25 km wide diapir precursor of the Albian Gap by early salt inflation against base-salt steps; (ii) show that normal faults with different polarities and rollover types form due to the interplay between gliding and spreading over different base-salt domains and (iii) provide a mechanism for the origin of strata encased within salt structures. This improves our understanding of the distribution and origin of salt-related structural styles in worldwide salt basins.