A three dimensional (3D) finite element model is used to study the conditions leading to mechanical decoupling at a salt layer and vertically varying stress fields in salt-bearing sedimentary basins. The study was inspired by observational data from northern Germany showing stress orientations varying up to 90° between the subsalt and the suprasalt layers. Parameter studies address the role of salt viscosity and salt topology on how the plate boundary forces acting at the basement level affect the stresses in the sedimentary cover above the salt layer. Modelling results indicate that mechanical decoupling occurs for dynamic salt viscosities lower than 1021
Pa·s, albeit this value depends on the assumed model parameters. In this case, two independent stress fields coexist above and below the salt layer, differing in tectonic stress regime and/or stress orientation. Thereby, stresses in the subsalt domain are dominated by the shortening applied, whereas in the suprasalt section they are controlled by the local salt topology. For a salt diapir, the orientation of the maximum horizontal stress changes from a circular pattern above to a radial pattern adjacent to the diapir. The study shows the value of geomechanical models for stress prediction in salt-bearing sedimentary basins providing a continuum mechanics–based explanation for the variable stress orientations observed.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited