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Petroleum geology and total petroleum systems of the Widyan Basin and Interior Platform of Saudi Arabia and Iraq

December 1, 2002

Two total petroleum systems are associated with the Widyan Basin - Interior Platform Province in northern Saudi Arabia and western Iraq. In the Paleozoic Qusaiba/Akkas/Abba/ Mudawwara Total Petroleum System, which consists of one assessment unit - the Horst/Graben-Related Oil and Gas Assessment Unit - high-gravity, low-sulfur crude oil, as well as natural gas, occurs in horst/graben-related traps that formed prior to, during, and after Hercynian deformation (Carboniferous). The source of oil and gas is from organic-rich marine shale at the base of the Silurian sedimentary sequence (Qusaiba, Akkas, Mudawwara, and Abba Formations) that was deposited under dysoxic to anoxic conditions in an intra-shelf basin located north of the Central Arabian Arch. Onset of oil generation in Iraq began about 250 million years ago (Ma) and in eastern Saudi Arabia about 160 Ma, reaching peak generation, expulsion, migration, and entrapment during the Jurassic Period. In Saudi Arabia, petroleum migrated into fluvial and eolian quartzose sandstones of the Carboniferous-Early Permian Unayzah Formation that overlies the Hercynian unconformity, filling in rifts and half-grabens to thicknesses ranging to more than 400 meters. Combined stratigraphic-structural traps exist where the Unayzah Formation is the reservoir, as is the case in central Saudi Arabia. Oil and gas are sealed in those reservoirs by overlying tight carbonate- evaporite strata, and by subunconformity pinchouts of Pre-Unayzah clastic reservoir units against impermeable facies. In Iraq, reservoirs are sandstones of the Ordovician Upper Khabour and Silurian Akkas Formations. Over most of the Southwestern Desert of Iraq, Lower Silurian shale is a seal for hydrocarbons in the underlying Ordovician Khabour Formation.

The Jurassic Gotnia/Barsarin/Sargelu/Najmah Total Petroleum System has two assessment units: the Platform Horst/Graben- Related Oil Assessment Unit and the Basinal Oil and Gas Assessment Unit. All reservoirs are in the Upper Jurassic Najmah Limestone and Gotnia Formation in Iraq, and the correlative Arab Formation in Saudi Arabia, occurring as lenses of marine bar or shelf-margin calcarenites, calcarenitic limestone, and dolomite. These strata grade eastward into organic-rich source rocks that were deposited under anoxic and dysoxic conditions in three restricted intra-shelf basins - from north to south, the Gotnia, Arabian, and Southern Arabian Gulf Basins. Maturation of the Upper Jurassic source-rock formations (Sargelu and Naokelekan Formations in Iraq) began around 90 Ma; peak generation took place from 85 to 13 Ma. With time, the oil migrated updip and was trapped in calcarenite lenses. Later, oil remigrated and was trapped in anticlines that began to form in Early Cretaceous time. Younger Jurassic shale and anhydrite seal rocks are distributed throughout the total petroleum system.

The Widyan Basin-Interior Platform Province (2023) ranks 17th in the world, exclusive of the United States, with 62.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent of total petroleum endowment (cumulative production plus remaining petroleum plus estimated mean undiscovered volumes). Mean estimates of undiscovered petroleum for the province, which includes both Paleozoic and Jurassic petroleum systems as well as portions of three additional total petroleum systems from adjacent provinces, are 21.22 billion barrels of oil, 94.75 trillion cubic feet of gas (15.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent), and 6.85 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. The Paleozoic total petroleum system is dominantly gas prone, whereas the volumetrically larger Jurassic total petroleum system is oil prone - resulting in the characterization of the province as an oil province. The discovery maturity for the province is a relatively low 31 percent, meaning that much of the province petroleum potential lies in the future.

Publication Year 2002
Title Petroleum geology and total petroleum systems of the Widyan Basin and Interior Platform of Saudi Arabia and Iraq
DOI 10.3133/b2202E
Authors James E. Fox, Thomas S. Ahlbrandt
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Bulletin
Series Number 2202
Index ID b2202E
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse