'Bulls-eye' pockmarks and polygonal faulting in the Lower Congo Basin: Relative timing and implications for fluid expulsion during shallow burial

Katrine Juul Andresen, Mads Huuse

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This study describes a new type of pockmark association from the Lower Congo Basin offshore West Africa, consisting of up to 8 stacked paleopockmarks separated by intervals of drape and onlap fill. The stacked paleopockmarks occur within the depocentres of polygonally-faulted Plio-Pleistocene sediments and are distributed evenly in the downslope parts of two salt mini-basins. The majority of the stacked pockmarks initiated synchronously in the late Pliocene (~. 3. Ma) with a subordinate initiation phase in the mid Pliocene (~. 4. Ma). The primary agents in pockmark formation are interpreted to be pore water expelled during early-stage compaction together with biogenic methane. Bottom simulating reflections (BSRs) associated with free gas overlain by gas hydrates are currently found in the area. It is speculated that biogenic methane accumulated within and below a clathrate cap, which was repeatedly breached, forming pockmarks at discrete horizons separated by intervals of draping sedimentation. The mid and late Pliocene pockmark initiations appear to coincide with sea-level falls following periods of relatively stable highstand conditions. Several subsequent pockmark horizons may similarly correlate with subsequent sea-level falls during the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene. The stacked paleopockmarks are completely surrounded by polygonal faults and consistently occur within polygonal fault cells that crosscut the succession containing the stacked pockmarks. Early-stage compaction and dewatering of the Pliocene sediments thus preceded polygonal faulting, providing a constraint on the conditions leading to polygonal faulting of the fine-grained host sediments. The relationship documented here is interpreted as due to the presence of a hydrate cap in the Plio-Pleistocene mini-basins which may have retarded the normal compaction processes and facilitated pockmark formation by allowing the build up of gas hydrate and free gas in the basin centres. The relative timing and spatial relationships implies that fluids expelled due to polygonal faulting were not implicated in pockmark formation in this area. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)111-127
    Number of pages16
    JournalMarine Geology
    Issue number1-4
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2011


    • Biogenic methane
    • Polygonal faulting
    • Sediment dewatering
    • Stacked paleopockmarks


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