The Dynamics of Sedimentary Basins

Panel on the Geodynamics of Sedimentary Basins

U.S. Geodynamics Committee

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1997



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--> The Dynamics of Sedimentary Basins Panel on the Geodynamics of Sedimentary Basins U.S. Geodynamics Committee Board on Earth Sciences and Resources Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1997

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--> NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Support for this study by the Panel on the Geodynamics of Sedimentary Basins was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Government. Research supported by the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior, under USGS Agreement No. 1434-95-A-01313, and by the U.S. Department of Energy under DOE Grant No. DE-FG22-95BC14823. U.S. DOE patent clearance is not required prior to publication of this report. Copies of this report are available from: U.S. Geodynamics Committee Board on Earth Sciences and Resources National Research Council 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20418 Copyright 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America 0-309-05679-9

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--> Panel on the Geodynamics of Sedimentary Basins WILLIAM R. DICKINSON, Chair, University of Arizona, Tucson, Emeritus ROGER N. ANDERSON, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York KEVIN T. BIDDLE, Exxon Production Research Co., Houston, Texas H. EDWARD CLIFTON, Conoco, Inc., Houston, Texas GRANT GARVEN, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland MICHAEL C. GURNIS, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena RAYMOND V. INGERSOLL, University of California, Los Angeles MICHELLE A. KOMINZ, University of Texas at Austin ELIZABETH L. MILLER, Stanford University, Stanford, California LYNN M. WALTER, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JEFFREY L. WARNER, Chevron Petroleum Technology Company, La Habra, California PAUL WEIMER, University of Colorado, Boulder JOSEPH T. WESTRICH, Shell Oil Co., Houston, Texas PETER KARL ZEITLER, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania National Research Council Staff CHARLES MEADE, Study Director VERNA J. BOWEN, Administrative Assistant

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--> U.S. Geodynamics Committee WILLIAM R. DICKINSON, Chair, University of Arizona, Tucson, Emeritus DON L. ANDERSON, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena KEVIN T. BIDDLE, Exxon Production Research Co., Houston, Texas RICHARD CARLSON, Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. THURE CERLING, University of Utah, Salt Lake City MARK P. CLOOS, University of Texas at Austin RICHARD S. FISKE, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. GRANT GARVEN, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland THOMAS A. HERRING, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge RAYMOND JEANLOZ, University of California, Berkeley ELIZABETH L. MILLER, Stanford University, Stanford, California DAVID T. SANDWELL, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California LYNN M. WALTER, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor National Research Council Staff CHARLES MEADE, Senior Program Officer VERNA J. BOWEN, Administrative Assistant

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--> Board on Earth Sciences and Resources J. FREEMAN GILBERT, Chair, University of California, San Diego THURE CERLING, University of Utah, Salt Lake City MARK P. CLOOS, University of Texas at Austin JOEL DARMSTADTER, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C. KENNETH I. DAUGHERTY, E-Systems, Fairfax, Virginia WILLIAM R. DICKINSON, University of Arizona, Tucson, Emeritus MARCO T. EINAUDI, Stanford University, Stanford, California NORMAN H. FOSTER, Independent Petroleum Geologist, Denver, Colorado CHARLES G. GROAT, University of Texas, El Paso DONALD C. HANEY, University of Kentucky, Lexington SUSAN M. KIDWELL, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois SUSAN KIEFFER, Kieffer & Woo, Inc., Palgrave, Ontario PHILIP E. LaMOREAUX, P.E. LaMoreaux and Associates, Inc., Tuscaloosa, Alabama SUSAN M. LANDON, Thomasson Partner Associates, Denver, Colorado J. BERNARD MINSTER, University of California, San Diego ALEXANDRA NAVROTSKY, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey JILL D. PASTERIS, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri EDWARD C. ROY, Jr., Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas National Research Council Staff CRAIG M. SCHIFFRIES, Director THOMAS M. USSELMAN, Associate Director WILLIAM E. BENSON, Senior Program Officer ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer CHARLES MEADE, Senior Program Officer LALLY A. ANDERSON, Staff Associate VERNA J. BOWEN, Administrative Assistant JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Administrative Assistant JUDITH ESTEP, Administrative Assistant

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--> Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Chair, University of Virginia, Charlottesville PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JAMES P. BRUCE, Canadian Climate Program Board, Ottawa, Ontario WILLIAM L. FISHER, University of Texas at Austin JERRY F. FRANKLIN, University of Washington, Seattle DEBRA S. KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. PERRY L. McCARTY, Stanford University, Stanford, California JUDITH E. McDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts S. GEORGE PHILANDER, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park ELLEN K. SILBERGELD, University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida National Research Council Staff STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director MORGAN GOPNIK, Assistant Executive Director GREGORY SYMMES, Reports Officer JAMES MALLORY, Administrative Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, PC Analyst

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--> The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is interim president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and interim vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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--> Preface On behalf of the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources of the National Research Council, the U.S. Geodynamics Committee (USGC) examines the health and efficacy of geoscience research programs important for the national interest. As early as 1992, the USGC had identified basic research on the genesis and evolution of sedimentary basins as a crucial arena because of its value for reconstructing vertical movements of the lithosphere and varied environmental changes through geologic time, its impact on understanding the scope and distribution of vital resources of fossil fuels, and its implications for ground-water management and waste disposal. The USGC also perceived that needed advances in the field were at potential risk for two reasons: (1) changes in funding practices by governmental agencies and industry groups have called into question traditional patterns of research support, and (2) salient opportunities for future research entail interdisciplinary collaboration among groups of geoscientists not accustomed to close coordination. In early 1995 the National Research Council appointed the Panel on the Geodynamics of Sedimentary Basins of the USGC. The panel was charged with identifying and evaluating significant research problems that can and should be addressed by multidisciplinary studies of sedimentary basins, new techniques and approaches that could be brought to bear on aspects of the required research, and the cross-

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--> disciplinary ties and collaborative efforts essential to attack key questions in the field. The panel met twice over six months. The present report incorporates the findings and recommendations of the panel from its detailed appraisal of the current status and future prospects for research on the origins and development of sedimentary basins. In all its deliberations the panel adopted a firmly integrative approach to the subject, embodying the dual vision that studies conducted within basins have broad implications for geodynamic relations outside basins and that studies about basins include insights derived from knowledge of general geodynamic relations in the world as a whole. Mindful of the severe fiscal constraints currently faced by research managers both within and outside government, the panel's report does not call for infusions of new funding to pursue needed avenues of research. Instead, it attempts to outline strategies whereby available support can be used more efficiently within a context of collaborative efforts designed to achieve more integrative analysis of the dynamics of sedimentary basins by researchers in government, industry, and academia. From the perspective of the panel, professional societies also have a key role to play in fostering joint work with a total impact greater than the simple sum of its parts. The report is thus intended for a double audience. On the one hand, it calls to the attention of individual researchers ways in which their particular expertise can be applied effectively to outstanding questions in a collaborative context. On the other hand, it calls to the attention of research managers and other professional leaders ways in which a more integrative approach to basin analysis can lead to enhanced dividends from research expenditures. The advice that the panel offers is intentionally not phrased in overly specific terms, which would not be appropriate for a wide audience. The panel believes that the fresh perspectives it presents have the potential to stimulate innovative research design and programmatic arrangements that can improve the net intellectual yield from future research efforts. Because of the centrality of basin analysis to many fundamental and practical aspects of geoscience, basin studies have the potential to exert a powerful integrative influence on future geoscience research. Our report attempts to show how. WILLIAM R. DICKINSON, PANEL CHAIR

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--> Contents     Executive Summary   1 1   Introduction   5     Basin Fill   6     Future Research   7     Charge to the Panel   8 2   Emerging Multidisciplinary Research Opportunities   11     Tectonics of Sedimentary Basins   11     Historical Record of the Climate and Oceans in Sedimentary Basins   19     Fluid Migration and Chemical Mass Transfer in Sedimentary Basins   22     New Technologies for Multidisciplinary Studies of Sedimentary Basins   28     Funding Mechanisms for Basin Research   29 3   Conclusions and Recommendations   33     Development of a Comprehensive Set of Basin Models   35     Data for Basin Research   36     Role of Scientific Societies   37     References   39

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