Tectonostratigraphic and subsidence history of the northern Llanos foreland basin of Colombia



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The Llanos foreland basin of Colombia is located along the eastern margin of the northern Andes. The Llanos basin is bounded to the north by the Mérida Andes, to the east by the Guiana shield, to the south by the Serrania de la Macarena, and to the west by the frontal foothills thrust system of the Andes (the Cordillera Oriental). The Llanos foreland basin originated in the Maastrichtian, after a post-rift period during the Mesozoic, and recorded an abrupt pulse of middle Miocene subsidence possibly in response to subduction and collision events along the Pacific margin of northwestern South America. Regional east-west shortening, driven in part by collision of the Panama arc along the Pacific margin of Colombia, has built the widest part of the northern Andes. This wide area (~600 km) includes a prominent arcuate thrust salient, the Cordillera Oriental, which overthrusts the Llanos foreland along a broad V-shaped salient that projects 40 km over the northern Llanos foreland basin. In this study, I interpret 1200 km of 2D seismic data tied to 18 wells and regional potential fields (gravity and magnetic) data. Interpreted seismic data are organized into four regional (300 to 400-km-long) transects spanning the thrust salient area of the northern Llanos basin. I performed 2D flexural modeling on the four transects in order to understand the relative contributions of flexural subsidence due to tectonic and sedimentary loading. Sedimentary backstripping was applied to the observed structure maps of six Eocene to Pleistocene interpreted horizons in the foreland basin in order to remove the effects of sedimentary and water loading. Regional subsidence curves show an increase in the rate of tectonic subsidence in the thrust salient sector of the foreland basin during the middle to late Miocene. The flexural models predict changes in the middle Miocene to recent position of the eastern limit of foreland basin sediments as well as the changing location and vertical relief of the flexurally controlled forebulge. Production areas of light oil in the thrust belt and foreland basin are located either south of the thrust salient (Cusiana, Castilla, Rubiales oilfields) or north of the salient (Guafita-Caño Limon, Arauca oilfields) but not directly adjacent to the salient apex where subsidence, source rock thicknesses, and fracturing were predicted by a previous study to be most favorable for hydrocarbons. There are no reported light oil accumulations focused on the predicted present or past positions of the forebulge, but detailed comparisons of seismic reflection data with model predictions may reveal stratigraphic onlap and/or wedging relationships that could provide possible traps for hydrocarbons.