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A diapir (/ˈd.əpɪər/;[1] French, from Greek diapeirein, to pierce through) is a type of geologic intrusion in which a more mobile and ductily deformable material is forced into brittle overlying rocks. Depending on the tectonic environment, diapirs can range from idealized mushroom-shaped Rayleigh–Taylor-instability-type structures in regions with low tectonic stress such as in the Gulf of Mexico to narrow dikes of material that move along tectonically induced fractures in surrounding rock. The term was introduced by the Romanian geologist Ludovic Mrazek, who was the first to understand the principle of salt tectonics and plasticity. The term "diapir" may be applied to igneous structures, but it is more commonly applied to non-igneous, relatively cold materials, such as salt domes and mud diapirs.

Geological cross section through the Northwestern Basin of Germany (Ostfriesland-Nordheide). Salt domes have penetrated younger layers and moved near to the surface. They sometimes form pockets where petroleum and natural gas can collect. Excavated salt domes are also used for underground storage.

Diapirs or piercement structures are structures resulting from the penetration of overlaying material. By pushing upward and piercing overlying rock layers, diapirs can form anticlines, salt domes and other structures capable of trapping petroleum and natural gas. Igneous intrusions themselves are typically too hot to allow the preservation of preexisting hydrocarbons.[4]

See also