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Kansas Geological Survey, Current Research in Earth Sciences, Bulletin 250, part 1
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Summary

This paper has attempted to synthesize what is known about the Precambrian geology of Kansas and to interpret Precambrian tectonic history that may be pertinent to further development of the Kansas oil and gas resource base. One assumption is that precursor Precambrian structures affect the deposition and diagenesis of younger sedimentary bodies and that precursor structures can be reactivated, although the sense of direction may be inverted. It is clear from both new mapping (plate 1) and from the literature that there are many basement faults in Kansas, occupying two significant directional trends, north-northeast and northwest.

Several tectonic episodes deformed the cratonic rocks of Kansas. Northern province rocks (Southern Yavapai Province of CD-ROM working group, 2002) were deformed approximately 1.6 b.y.B.P., and southern province rocks (Matzatsal Province of CD-ROM working group, 2002) were deformed approximately 1.4 b.y.B.P., both apparently by a series of compression events that welded successive bodies of crust to the craton.

A subsequent rifting event at about 1.1 b.y.B.P. created the Midcontinent Rift System, which stretches from Oklahoma to Lake Superior and created the north-northeast tectonic trend. Estimates are that there are more than 20,000 ft of rift fill in Kansas, including basalts, basic sills, and arkosic clastic detritus.

A late-rift-phase compression event occurred, prior to the deposition of the Upper Cambrian Reagan Sandstone, resulting in thrust faulting within the graben that displaced graben contents at least 6 mi horizontally and about 1 mi vertically. This faulting is not reflected in the Paleozoic cover. Thousands of feet of detrital sediments were deposited in basins flanking the uplifted or overthrust basalt ridge.

Northwest-trending faults must have been fractured by this time, creating the Central Kansas uplift at the margin of the two major old Precambrian lithologic and age provinces, and offsetting the Nemaha structure faults. Recently encountered thick accumulations of sandstone along one of these faults in eastern Kansas argue for both vertical and horizontal displacement. There has been renewed movement along these fractures during Mississippian and Pennsylvanian time.

Minor structural movements have been identified in lower Paleozoic rocks, at a minimum corresponding to the major cratonic sequence unconformities. The last significant tectonic episode is the Ancestral Rocky Mountain episode, occurring during latest Mississippian and early Pennsylvanian time. This episode created a total of over 3,000 ft vertical displacement along the Nemaha structure, the eastern border of the Midcontinent Rift. The nature of the faults and other evidence cited herein strongly suggests that the eastern and western margins of the Nemaha are reverse or thrust faulted. These faults may conceal significant petroleum accumulations.

The juncture of north-northeast of the Midcontinent Rift and the northwest faults that have created the Central Kansas uplift apparently shunted petroleum migrating from the southeast, south and southwest, creating a migration shadow in the Salina basin to the north. The same shunts helped charge oil fields along the southern Nemaha, the entire Central Kansas uplift, and perhaps some fields in southern Nebraska. Previous literature had suggested there was insufficient oil generated to charge the Salina basin, but the presence of the Sleepy Hollow field in Nebraska argues that there was sufficient petroleum, but limited migration access.

Figure 21--A. Simplified diagrammatic model of Nemaha fault geometry preferred by this study. The most likely new traps will be along the eastern, or frontal, edge of the Nemaha. Traps possibly could be located in residual Paleozoic rocks under thrusts on the western margins, but charging of those possible traps is less likely. B. More complex diagrammatic model showing assumed complexity along the eastern margin of the thrust.

simple fault model may create additional structural traps

The major conclusion of this paper is that there may be a potential new oil play to be made by exploring under the Nemaha. Although the boundary faults of the Nemaha are partly strike slip, the major measurable offset is vertical. Earthquake history, Precambrian structural history, drilled duplicated sections, and theoretical restorations of movements suggest thrust or reverse faulting be considered in evaluating the Nemaha Ridge structure. Models suggest that the amount of overthrust on the eastern flank can range between 1,650 ft (503 m) and over 2 mi (3.2 km). Such displacement can easily accommodate slices of Paleozoic reservoir rocks in trap position. Fault burial of Arbuckle and Simpson rocks could enhance local oil generation by placing these rocks within the oil window.

Acknowledgments and Author's Note

The major contribution of this work is to bring a number of disparate elements together, describe their interplay, and describe potential benefit to the industry and to the Kansas economy by virtue of new interpretation. This work, although articulated by one writer, is the work of many people. Besides the citations of preceding literature, debates, discussion, and assistance from W. Lynn Watney, D. F. Merriam, and K. David Newell were vital to understanding many of the complexities of Kansas geology and a guide to the voluminous literature. Susan Nissen provided a needed viewpoint and material assistance in the interpretation of COCORP seismic data. Janice Sorensen kept filling my request for ever more literature, some from remote sources. Gina Ross persevered over the preparation of plate 1, managed to find a way to overlay the Precambrian subsurface on modern drainage without which plate 1 could not have been prepared, and created the final product. Pat Acker has always prepared my illustrations with skill, artistry, and timeliness; she has done so again. I thank Larry Skelton who reviewed this manuscript and made many good suggestions for its improvement, and Marvin P. Carlson of the Nebraska Geological Survey Division, who suggested significant manuscript revisions and with whom I carried on an extensive dialogue about the geologic history of the Midcontinent rift. Marlan Downey, Larry Richardson, and John Rold reviewed the manuscript and made many helpful suggestions for its improvement. All these contributions are appreciated.

To my colleagues:

After years in the administration of this Survey, this project has led me to better appreciate the technical competence and creativity of the Survey's scientists and staff. I have read some of the most creative and solid conceptual science about the geology of Kansas and its place in the greater North American craton ever written, by my esteemed colleagues. The efficiency and skills of our staff to provide the materials, information, and expertly created products necessary for this project continues to amaze me. I thought I appreciated you and your work from my previous perspective. Now I much better understand what you do for Kansas. Thank you!

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Plate 1

Preliminary lineament map of Kansas (PDF file, 9.9 MB). You will need the Acrobat PDF Reader, available free from Adobe, to view the map. This is a large PDF file.

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