|Photograph of pump unit atop an oil well in Los Gatos, Calif. The pump unit and well are in a fenced enclosure in the parking lot of a commercial office building on Los Gatos Boulevard near Garden Lane. According to the current owner, the well has not produced oil for many years, but unconfirmed reports suggest that the well yielded about 8 barrels of oil per day in 1953. Geologic and organic-geochemical information from this and other historical oil wells in the Los Gatos area provide important insights into the subsurface geology and geologic history of the southwestern Santa Clara Valley ("Silicon Valley"); see text for further discussion.|
Gravity anomalies, historical records of exploratory oil wells and oil seeps, new organic-geochemical results, and new stratigraphic and structural data indicate the presence of a concealed, oil-bearing sedimentary basin beneath a highly urbanized part of the Santa Clara Valley, Calif. A conspicuous isostatic-gravity low that extends about 35 km from Palo Alto southeastward to near Los Gatos reflects an asymmetric, northwest-trending sedimentary basin comprising low-density strata, principally of Miocene age, that rest on higher-density rocks of Mesozoic and Paleogene(?) age. Both gravity and well data show that the low-density rocks thin gradually to the northeast over a distance of about 10 km. The thickest (approx 4 km thick) accumulation of low-density material occurs along the basin's steep southwestern margin, which may be controlled by buried, northeast-dipping normal faults that were active during the Miocene. Movement along these hypothetical normal faults may been contemporaneous (approx 1714 Ma) with sedimentation and local dacitic and basaltic volcanism, possibly in response to crustal extension related to passage of the northwestward-migrating Mendocino triple junction. During the Pliocene and Quaternary, the normal faults and Miocene strata were overridden by Mesozoic rocks, including the Franciscan Complex, along northeastward-vergent reverse and thrust faults of the Berrocal, Shannon, and Monte Vista Fault zones. Movement along these fault zones was accompanied by folding and tilting of strata as young as Quaternary and by uplift of the modern Santa Cruz Mountains; the fault zones remain seismically active. We attribute the Pliocene and Quaternary reverse and thrust faulting, folding, and uplift to compression caused by local San Andreas Fault tectonics and regional transpression along the Pacific-North American Plate boundary.
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