Niger Delta gravity-driven deformation above the relict Chain and Charcot oceanic fracture zones, Gulf of Guinea: Insights from analogue models

Jonathan Wu, Kenneth McClay, Edyta Frankowicz

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The Niger Delta is a classic example of a passive margin delta that has gravitationally deformed above an overpressured shale decollement. The outboard Niger Delta clastic wedge, including the Akata Formation overpressured shale decollement, is differentially thickened across relict oceanic basement steps formed at the Chain and Charcot fracture zones. In this study, five analogue models were applied to investigate the effects of a differentially thickened overpressured shale decollement across relict stepped basement on Niger Delta gravity-driven deformation. Gravity-driven delta deformation was simulated by allowing a lobate, layered sandpack to deform by gravity above a ductile polymer. A first series of experiments had a featureless, horizontal basement whereas a second series had differentially thickened polymer above Niger Delta-like basement steps. Two syn-kinematic sedimentation patterns were also tested. Surface strains were analysed using digital image correlation and key models were reconstructed in 3D. All five model deltas spread radially outward and formed plan view arcuate delta top grabens and arcuate delta toe folds. The arcuate structures were segmented by dip-oriented radial grabens and delta toe oblique extensional tear faults, which were formed by along-strike extensional strains during spreading. Basement steps partitioned delta toe gravity spreading into dual, divergent directions. Similarities between the analogue model structures and the Niger Delta strongly suggest a history of outward radial gravity spreading at the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta western lobe has potentially spread downdip more rapidly due to a thicker or more highly overpressured underlying Akata Fm. shale detachment. Faster western lobe spreading may have produced the Niger Delta toe ‘dual lobe’ geometry, perturbed up dip Niger Delta top growth fault patterns, and implies that western lobe toe thrusts have been very active
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43 - 62
Number of pages22
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
Issue number1
Early online date14 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015

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