Structural framework and seismic geomorphology of the Cretaceous beneath the Mad Dog Area, deep to ultradeep waters Gulf of Mexico
Recent drilling of deep stratigraphy in subsalt offshore Gulf of Mexico has revealed the presence of thick, amalgamated, Cretaceous siliciclastic reservoirs with the potential to become valid exploration targets. Similar to the Lower Tertiary deepwater play, the significant down-dip distance (> 400 km) from the source deltaics, the data gap across the modern structurally complex salt-tectonics-dominated slope and the difficulties of imaging subsalt stratigraphy pose challenges for the construction of meaningful deepwater system models to aid in exploration and appraisal efforts. A 3D seismic dataset in the Mad Dog field at the basinward end of the modern allochthonous salt canopy and outboard of the Sigsbee Escarpment offers the opportunity to study the nature of the deep stratigraphy at central positions in the basin. The nature of the Cretaceous sedimentary system has been investigated through detailed structural and seismic geomorphologic mapping. An early syndepositional contractional event has been identified and temporally associated with Mesozoic emplacement of a deep salt sheet. These events are masked by the major Neogene-age phase of fold amplification that dominates the present-day subsalt structural framework. Ponded-basin deepwater sedimentation processes control early phases of deposition in the Cretaceous Mad Dog area and sediment-gravity flows are deposited as complexes of low sinuosity amalgamated channelized deposits in roughly-confined sediment pathways. Ponded fills show internal lateral accretion architectures that grow sigmoid in nature as the migrating systems interact with the approaching minibasin margins making evident the structural control on sediment architecture. Later phases of deposition are characterized by slightly sinuous feeder channels with multiple lobe development at their terminus. Variable directions of sediment source pathways indicate a linear-sourced slope apron depositional model for these systems. In addition to the more structured morphologic elements, there were also pervasive mass-transport processes active, presumably triggered by Mesozoic halokinesis. Data in sparse deep wells in the GoM that penetrate the Cretaceous suggest that the Late Cretaceous deepwater depositional system was composed of coarse-grained high density gravity flows. The geometries seen in seismic beneath the Mad Dog area support the existence of such a basinwardly extensive deepwater fan systems developed during the Cretaceous, and the low sinuosity channel geometries and small length:width ratio and amalgamated nature of fan lobes suggest that these systems may have indeed been high-density in nature.