Volume 24, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1354-0793
  • E-ISSN:


Extensive 3D seismic datasets acquired during exploration offshore southern Tanzania have revealed the complex architecture of two contrasting styles of hybrid turbidite–contourite deposits that formed in the Cretaceous (Albian–Early Campanian) and Paleogene (Paleocene–Oligocene). Both sequences are characterized by migrating channel-levee complexes, interpreted to record, and be diagnostic of, the synchronous interaction of eastward, downslope flowing turbidity currents and northerly, along-slope flowing contour currents. Flow stripping of the fine-grained suspended part of the turbulent flow by weak contour currents led to the formation of expanded levee-drifts on the northern (downstream) side of the channels, which prograded southwards (upstream), driving southwards migration of the turbidite channel axis.

The difference in the architecture of the two successions is due to the variation in slope topography at the time turbidite activity commenced and the frequency of coarse clastic input into the basin. Cretaceous (Albian–Campanian) turbidite systems were strongly controlled by the position of pre-existing contourite drifts and moats. The contorted geometry of the system provided loci for the deposition of Cretaceous reservoirs comprising thick, amalgamated channel deposits with a high net-to-gross ratio (N:G) and good vertical connectivity, and intra-slope fans with lower N:G and poor vertical connectivity.

Paleogene turbidite channels initially evolved on a smooth slope. Sustained southward channel migration produced Paleogene reservoirs comprising complexly laterally-connected sheets of channel and lobe deposits above a southward-younging, diachronous compound unconformity. In both hybrid systems, contour current influence modified the geometry of the turbidite systems, resulting in temporal and spatial partitioning of the depocentres on the slope.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Bendias, D., Contreras, F., Palermo, D., Luciani, A., Catanzaro, M., Benvenuti, C. & Maioli, F.
    2017Sedimentology and architecture of deepwater turbidite systems offshore Mozambique – from concept to application. Presented at the16th PESGB/HGS African E&P Conference, 31 August–1 September 2017, London.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Breitzke, M., Wiles, E., Krocker, R., Watkeys, M.K. & Jokat, W.
    2017. Seafloor morphology in the Mozambique Channel: evidence for long-term persistent bottom-current flow and deep-reaching eddy activity. Marine Geophysical Research, 38, 241–269, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11001-017-9322-7
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Decalf, C., Stirling, E. & Hossack, J.
    2016. Contourite deposition over time along the offshore Tanzania margin: controls, architectures and effects on hydrocarbon prospectivity. In: East Africa: From Research to Reserves Conference Abstract Book, 13–15 April 2016, London. Geological Society, London, 63–64, https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/∼/media/shared/documents/specialist%20and%20regional%20groups/petroleum/East%20Africa%20Abstract%20Book2.pdf?la=en
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Faugères, J.C., Stow, D.A., Imbert, P. & Viana, A.
    1999. Seismic features diagnostic of contourite drifts. Marine Geology, 162, 1–38, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0025-3227(99)00068-7
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Ferguson, R., Kane, I., Fuhrmann, A., Barker, S., Siversen, C., Brunt, R. & Martinsen, O.J.
    2018. Progressive confinement and downslope propagation of submarine slope channels. Presented at theAAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, 20–23 May 2018, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Fuhrmann, A., Kane, I.A. et al.
    2017. Drift influence on deep marine channel/lobe transition: A case study of Well X, offshore Tanzania, Block 2. Presented at theThird EAGE Eastern Africa Petroleum Geoscience Forum, 7–9 November 2017, Maputo, Mozambique, https://doi.org/10.3997/2214-4609.201702440
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Fuhrmann, A., Kane, I.A., Ferguson, R.A., Barker, S., Siversen, C. & Brunt, R.L.
    2018. Drift influence on deep-marine slope channel facies and geometries: implications for reservoir quality distribution – Block 2, offshore Tanzania. Presented at theAAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, 20–23 May 2018, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Garden, R.
    2016. Reservoir quality and producibility of deepwater Tanzania gas reservoirs. In: East Africa: From Research to Reserves Conference Abstract Book, 13–15 April 2016, London. Geological Society, London, 58–59, https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/∼/media/shared/documents/specialist%20and%20regional%20groups/petroleum/East%20Africa%20Abstract%20Book2.pdf?la=en
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Gong, C., Wang, Y., Zhu, W., Li, W. & Xu, Q.
    2013. Upper Miocene to Quaternary unidirectionally migrating deep-water channels in the Pearl River mouth Basin, northern South China Sea. AAPG Bulletin, 97, 285–308, https://doi.org/10.1306/07121211159
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Gong, C., Wang, Y., Rebesco, M., Salon, S. & Steel, R.J.
    2018. How do turbidity flows interact with contour currents in unidirectionally migrating deep-water channels?Geology, 46, 551–554, https://doi.org/10.1130/G40204.1
    [Google Scholar]
  11. He, Y., Xie, X., Kneller, B.C., Wang, Z. & Li, X.
    2013. Architecture and controlling factors of canyon fills on the shelf margin in the Qiongdongnan Basin, northern South China Sea. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 41, 264–276, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2012.03.002
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Kearney Cunningham, F.
    2016. Large volume event beds; their origin, significance and implications for development of the Mzia Field. In: East Africa: From Research to Reserves Conference Abstract Book, 13–15 April 2016, London. Geological Society, London, 61, https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/∼/media/shared/documents/specialist%20and%20regional%20groups/petroleum/East%20Africa%20Abstract%20Book2.pdf?la=en
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Kurnosova, O. & Cazzola, C.
    2016. Oligocene to Quaternary turbidites and contourites of the Zambezi and Angoche basins south of the Mozambique Channel. In: East Africa: From Research to Reserves Conference Abstract Book, 13–15 April 2016, London. Geological Society, London, 55–56, https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/∼/media/shared/documents/specialist%20and%20regional%20groups/petroleum/East%20Africa%20Abstract%20Book2.pdf?la=en
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Lu, H., Fulthorpe, C.S. & Mann, P.
    2003. Three-dimensional architecture of shelf-building sediment drifts in the offshore Canterbury Basin, New Zealand. Marine Geology, 193, 19–47, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0025-3227(02)00612-6
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Michels, K.H., Kuhn, G., Hillenbrand, C.D., Diekmann, B., FÜtterer, D.K., Grobe, H. & Uenzelmann-Neben, G.
    2002. The southern Weddell Sea: combined contourite–turbidite sedimentation at the southeastern margin of the Weddell Gyre. In: Stow, D.A.V., Pudsey, C.J., Howe, J.A., Faugères, J.-C. & Viana, A.R. (eds) Deep-Water Contourite Systems: Modern Drifts and Ancient Series, Seismic and Sedimentary Characteristics. Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 22, 305–323, https://doi.org/10.1144/GSL.MEM.2002.022.01.22
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Mulder, T., Faugères, J.-C. & Gonthier, E.
    2008. Mixed turbidite–contourite systems. In: Rebesco, M. & Camerlenghi, A. (eds) Contourites. Developments in Sedimentology, 60, 435–456, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0070-4571(08)10021-8
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Normark, W.R., Piper, D.J., Posamentier, H., Pirmez, C. & Migeon, S.
    2002. Variability in form and growth of sediment waves on turbidite channel levees. Marine Geology, 192, 23–58, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0025-3227(02)00548-0
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Palermo, D., Galbiati, M., Famiglietti, M., Marchesini, M., Mezzapesa, D. & Fonnesu, F.
    2014. Insights into a new super-giant gas field – Sedimentology and reservoir modelling of the Coral reservoir complex, offshore northern Mozambique. Presented at theOffshore Technology Conference – Asia, 25–28 March 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, https://doi.org/10.4043/24907-MS
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Phethean, J.J., Kalnins, L.M., van Hunen, J., Biffi, P.G., Davies, R.J. & McCaffrey, K.J.
    2016. Madagascar's escape from Africa: A high-resolution plate reconstruction for the Western Somali Basin and implications for supercontinent dispersal. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 17, 5036–5055, https://doi.org/10.1002/2016GC006624
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Rasmussen, S., Lykke-Andersen, H., Kuijpers, A. & Troelstra, S.R.
    2003. Post-Miocene sedimentation at the continental rise of Southeast Greenland: the interplay between turbidity and contour currents. Marine Geology, 196, 37–52, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0025-3227(03)00043-4
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Rebesco, M. & Stow, D.
    2001. Seismic expression of contourites and related deposits: a preface. Marine Geophysical Research, 22, 303–308.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Rebesco, M., Camerlenghi, A. et al.
    2007. Interaction of processes and importance of contourites: insights from the detailed morphology of sediment Drift 7, Antarctica. In: Viana, A.R. & Rebesco, M. (eds) Economic and Palaeoceanographic Significance of Contourite Deposits. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 276, 95–110, https://doi.org/10.1144/GSL.SP.2007.276.01.05
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Rebesco, M., Hernández-Molina, F.J., Van Rooij, D. & Wåhlin, A.
    2014. Contourites and associated sediments controlled by deep-water circulation processes: state-of-the-art and future considerations. Marine Geology, 352, 111–154, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2014.03.011
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Reeves, C.V.
    2017. Earthworks Research Update No. 5, http://www.reeves.nl/upload/2017-05%20Research%20Update.pdf
  25. 2018. The development of the East African margin during Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous times: a perspective from global tectonics. Petroleum Geoscience, 24, 41–56, https://doi.org/10.1144/petgeo2017-021
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Reeves, C.V., Teasdale, J.P. & Mahanjane, E.S.
    2016. Insight into the Eastern Margin of Africa from a new tectonic model of the Indian Ocean. In: Nemčok, M., Rybár, S., Sinha, S.T., Hermeston, S.A. & Ledvényiová, L. (eds) Transform Margins: Development, Controls and Petroleum Systems. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 431, 299–322, https://doi.org/10.1144/SP431.12
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Sansom, P.
    2012. Insights from the first deep water core, offshore Tanzania. In:East Africa Petroleum Province of the 21st Century Conference Abstract Book, 24–26 October 2016, London. Geological Society, London, 88, https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/∼/media/shared/documents/specialist%20and%20regional%20groups/petroleum/East%20Africa%20Abstract%20Book.pdf?la=en
    [Google Scholar]
  28. 2017. A new stratigraphic model for Tanzania: Insights from deep water exploration. Presented at theThird EAGE Eastern Africa Petroleum Geoscience Forum, 7–9 November 2017, Maputo, Mozambique, https://doi.org/10.3997/2214-4609.201702406
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Shanmugam, G., Spalding, T.D. & Rofheart, D.H.
    1993. Process sedimentology and reservoir quality of deep-marine bottom-current reworked sands (sandy contourites): an example from the Gulf of Mexico. AAPG Bulletin, 77, 1241–1259.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Siversen, C., Schomacker, E. & Coffey, T.
    2017. Cretaceous to paleogene deep water depositional systems, Block 2, offshore Tanzania. Presented at theThird EAGE Eastern Africa Petroleum Geoscience Forum, 7–9 November 2017, Maputo, Mozambique, https://doi.org/10.3997/2214-4609.201702407
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Snedden, J.W. & Liu, C.
    2010. A compilation of Phanerozoic sea-level change, coastal onlaps and recommended sequence designations. AAPG Search and Discovery Article 40594, http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/pdfz/documents/2010/40594snedden/ndx_snedden.pdf.html
  32. Stow, D.A., Hernández-Molina, F.J., Llave, E., Sayago-Gil, M., Díaz del Río, V. & Branson, A.
    2009. Bedform-velocity matrix: the estimation of bottom current velocity from bedform observations. Geology, 37, 327–330, https://doi.org/10.1130/G25259A.1
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Thieblemont, A., Hernández-Molina, F.J. & Raisson, F.
    2017. Giant mounded drifts in the Mozambique continental margin: Origins and global implications for the history of thermohaline circulation. Presented at theThird EAGE Eastern Africa Petroleum Geoscience Forum, 7–9 November 2017, Maputo, Mozambique, https://doi.org/10.3997/2214-4609.201702437
    [Google Scholar]
  34. TPDC
    . 2017. Activity Map, September 2017 . Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, http://tpdc.co.tz/activitymap.php
  35. Wynn, R.B. & Stow, D.A.
    2002. Classification and characterisation of deep-water sediment waves. Marine Geology, 192, 7–22, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0025-3227(02)00547-9
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Zhu, M., Graham, S., Pang, X. & McHargue, T.
    2010. Characteristics of migrating submarine canyons from the middle Miocene to present: implications for paleoceanographic circulation, northern South China Sea. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 27, 307–319, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2009.05.005
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article

Most Cited This Month Most Cited RSS feed

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error