Rifting and Salt Deposition on Continental Margins: Differences and Similarities Between the Red Sea and the South Atlantic Sedimentary Basins

  • Webster MohriakEmail author


The results of regional deep seismic acquisition in the South Atlantic continental margins provide new constraints on the birth and development of sedimentary basins formed during the Gondwana breakup. The interpretation of these seismic profiles integrated with gravity and magnetic potential field data suggest alternative models for the birth of oceanic basins that evolve from an earlier phase of intracontinental rift, salt deposition and continental breakup by mantle exhumation or by development of oceanic spreading centres preceded by igneous intrusions and extrusions in the transition from continental to oceanic crust. The analysis of regional deep-penetrating seismic profiles in the South Atlantic and Red Sea, integrated with potential field methods and plate reconstructions, provides a template for the interpretation of the tectono-sedimentary features that are characterized from the proximal rifts onshore and in the platform. Basinward, more elusive features are characterized toward the transitional and oceanic crust in divergent margins. This work discusses alternative interpretations for syn-rift successions and salt distribution in regional seismic profiles from the Red Sea, which have been integrated with results of wells that penetrated the stratigraphic section below the evaporites in a few exploratory wells along the Arabian and African conjugate margins. These interpretations can be compared with similar tectono-stratigraphic settings in the South Atlantic, which are constrained by several exploratory wells that penetrated the syn-rift sequence in both shallow and deep waters. The temporal development of syn-rift structures, magmatism, salt deposition, oceanic propagators and development of the divergent margins suggest that the Red Sea constitutes a better analogue for the development of the South Atlantic divergent continental margins than the Iberian margin.



The author wishes to thank several geoscientists at PETROBRAS—Petroleo Brasileiro S. A. for enlightening discussions and participation in previous projects conducted in the 2000’s, which focused on the geology of the Red Sea and the analogies with petroleum systems and exploratory plays in the South Atlantic. I am also grateful to many colleagues and students at UERJ—State University of Rio de Janeiro for providing suggestions and improvements for this work, particularly S. Wischer who revised the text of an earlier draft. The Red Sea Team at Saudi Aramco provided a unique opportunity to participate in a field trip in the Midyan Basin in 2013, and I enjoyed working with the large regional dataset offshore Saudi Arabia.

The AAPG Distinguished Lecturer Program is also thanked for their invitation to participate in the 2014 program and present the summary of the chapter included in the book “Conjugate Divergent Margins”, published by the Geological Society of London in 2013. I am grateful to the Saudi Geological Survey staff for the organization of the Jeddah meeting in early 2016, which was very well organized and integrated several branches of science in the search for a better understanding of the geological, biological and anthropogenic backgrounds of the Red Sea. Dr. Najeeb Rasul and Dr. Ian Stewart had key roles in the conference logistics and also helped in the preparation of the book chapters. Special thanks are owed to N. Augustin for kindly providing high-resolution bathymetric data on the Mabahiss Deep and to M. Ligi for technical discussions on the Red Sea geology. The final review of this contribution was provided by Ian Davison, Michael R. Hudec and Nickolas Raterman. I greatly appreciated their enlightening comments on key concepts and constructive suggestions that helped to substantially improve the scientific content and clarity of the text.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UERJ—State University of Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil

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