11 Feb 2022
11 Feb 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal SE.

Reconstructing 3D subsurface salt flow

Stefan Back1, Sebastian Amberg1,2, Victoria Sachse2,3, and Ralf Littke2 Stefan Back et al.
  • 1Geological Institute, EMR, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
  • 2Institute of Geology and Geochemistry of Petroleum and Coal, EMR, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
  • 3Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Projektträger Jülich, Germany

Abstract. Archimedes' principle states that the upward buoyant force exerted on a solid immersed in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid that the solid displaces. In this 3D salt-reconstruction study we treat Zechstein evaporites in the subsurface of the Netherlands, Central Europe, as a pseudo-fluid with a density of 2.2 g/cm3, overlain by a lighter and solid overburden. 3D sequential removal (backstripping) of a differential sediment load above the Zechstein evaporites is used to incrementally restore the top Zechstein surface. Assumption of a constant subsurface evaporite volume enables the stepwise reconstruction of base Zechstein and the approximation of 3D salt-thickness change and lateral salt re-distribution over time.

The salt restoration presented is sensitive to any overburden thickness change irrespective if caused by tectonics, basin tilt or sedimentary process. Sequential analysis of lateral subsurface salt loss and gain through time based on Zechstein isopach difference maps provides new basin-scale insights into 3D subsurface salt flow and redistribution, supra-salt depocentre development, the rise and fall of salt structures, and external forces' impact on subsurface salt movement. The 3D reconstruction procedure described can serve as a template for analyzing other salt basins worldwide and provides a stepping stone to physically sound fluid-dynamic models of salt tectonic provinces.

Stefan Back et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on se-2021-153', Frank Peel, 01 Mar 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Stefan Back, 14 Apr 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on se-2021-153', Anonymous Referee #2, 10 Mar 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Stefan Back, 14 Apr 2022

Stefan Back et al.

Stefan Back et al.


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Short summary
3D backstripping based on the > 2000-year-old Archimedes' principle restored through time changes in 3D subsurface evaporite thickness; 3D salt loss and gain; and 3D subsurface salt movement. The methodology presented is sensitive to any process that influences overburden thickness, in this case sedimentation, erosion and tectonics. The restoration approach can be integrated into existing backstripping workflows and can serve as a benchmark for physics-based numerical modelling of salt tectonics.