Linking extensional basin formation and fill observational data to conceptual models is essential in order to reduce play element uncertainty, particularly as the high demand for new hydrocarbon resources drive exploration farther offshore where the technical challenges and cost increase significantly. The geologic variability on this kind of margin is considerable and margin-scale hydrocarbon system archetypes are only end-member combinations of a continuum of tectonic and depositional variables. In order to optimize the assessment of extensional margin hydrocarbon plays, we suggest a “Building Block” approach that isolates the characteristic tectonic and basin fill elements responsible for the basin architecture and the geometry of the basin infill, and from this, environments of deposition and the distribution of hydrocarbon system elements are predicted. Several key themes have emerged from this approach: 1) commonly used tectono-stratigraphic terminology, such as “syn-rift”, needs to be used with extreme caution when describing play elements as basin events are not a direct predictor of facies, the criteria for interpretation are non-diagnostic, and tectonic events are not always synchronous with stratigrahy; 2) extensional basin motifs can be delineated by contrasting the tectonic timing with the marine incursion timing and/or character, and that these motifs can help focus play prediction analogs; and 3) this methodology can be used for improved regional context specifically for basin margin wedge plays.


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