Basin geohistory and proven and potential petroleum plays,
Offshore Indian Sedimentary Basins
Main author-Dr. Mark Cowgill
Nick Stronach, Rachael Harrison, Simon Otto and TELLUS Project Team, Fugro
Robertson Ltd, Llandudno, UK

Description and application of work
Integration of a series of extensive public and non-proprietary in-house petroleum geological
evaluation studies has allowed a full catalogue of the existing petroleum plays to be defined for the
Indian Offshore Sedimentary Basins, along with identification of key geohistory events and controls.
This creates a platform for prioritising potential and for defining appropriate future work programmes.

Observations and analysis
Six of the offshore sedimentary basins are described here – Kachchh, Mumbai-Saurashtra, KonkanKerala, Cauvery, Krishna-Godavari and Mahanadi. Plays are categorised by their principal reservoir
package and are related to the megasequences of the basins’ tectonic history (Figure 1). In each
case, rift, post-rift and passive margin phases can be defined and punctuated by tectonic and thermal
The Kachchh Basin contains three proven plays of Early Cretaceous to Eocene age, spanning the
second Proto-Indian Ocean Rift event through to the Cenozoic Passive Margin megasequence. The
Mumbai-Saurashtra Basin has eight proven plays from the fractured gneiss of the Precambrian
basement to the Middle Miocene sediments deposited during the extensive passive margin phase.
The Konkan-Kerala Basin has similar stratigraphic coverage, however the petroleum system is spans
a shorter interval of time and lacks major discoveries. Four unproven plays span the early Paleogene
Deccan Uplift event to the Pliocene epoch of the passive margin phase. The Cauvery Basin has eight
plays from the Upper Gondwana rift sediments of the Late Jurassic to the Oligocene rocks of the
Passive Margin megasequence. Seven of the plays contain significant discoveries. Ten plays occur in
the Krishna-Godavari Basin, ranging from the Permo-Triassic Lower Gondwana Rift event to the
Pliocene epoch of the passive margin megasequence. Nine of the plays are proven and eight are
currently productive. The Mahanadi Basin has only documented three unproven plays, all of which lie
within the passive margin section of the Upper Cretaceous to Pliocene.


-2- Regional Play Elements Chart .

• Deposition recommenced in the Upper Paleocene in the southwest of the basin as a result of thermally driven subsidence. with a regional shelf edge developing through to the Indus Basin. Sedimentation was initially dominated by fine-grained clastics but as with the Mumbai-Saurashtra Basin. • Basement reservoirs can be found on local highs. • Hotspot related uplift occurred in the Late Cretaceous accompanied by the development of a regional unconformity and the extrusion of Deccan lavas at the Cretaceous Tertiary boundary. leading to redistribution of earlier-formed hydrocarbons. • Passive margin sedimentation in the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous consisted of transgression and carbonate deposition on pre-existing highs. flexural subsidence induced by the Himalayan collision and by loading generated by the development of the Indus Fan to the northwest. Seven of the plays are productive with discoveries in the eighth. as in the Konkan-Kerala Basin. Continuing strike-slip motion propagated along the Western Indian margin creating localised Paleocene depocentres and source rock formation. Topography developed at this time generated influxes of coarse sandstone and causing episodic progradation of the shelf to the northwest. Lower Tertiary paleohighs were probably fringed by carbonate deposits that became more frequent later in the Tertiary. The exact age of the continental basement is unknown but its involvement in the petroleum system didn’t occur until the Eocene with the deposition of localised source and seal rocks. • The Pre-Deccan sedimentary section is obscure – there is some evidence of Neocomian synrift strata in the Saurashtra Basin. This was followed by the northward passage of India and the late Tertiary Himalayan collision. including the Bombay high where secondary porosity and permeability has developed due to a combination of fracturing and weathering. Despite this burial continued offshore due to the rapid development of shelf deltas. but it is believed to be more extensively developed. • Kachchh Basin There are three proven plays in this basin from Cretaceous to Eocene. NNW striking rifts nucleated along the ancestral “Delhi-Aravalli” structural grain. in both clastic and carbonate reservoirs. with absences over major structural highs where the basement play is likely to exist. Continuing activity of this inferred basement structure controlled the distribution and thickness of the volcanics. • Mumbai-Saurashtra Basin Eight proven plays exist in the Mumbai-Saurashtra Basin ranging from fractured Precambrian basement to the Miocene clastics and carbonates. but these were supplanted in the Late Oligocene to Early Miocene by westward tilting of the basin and clastic progradation of the Tapti Delta.Key events in geohistory (i) West Indian Offshore Basins on the West Indian Margin developed as a result of the phased rifting and separation of first Madagascar and then the Seychelles from the Indian Plate. Discoveries exist within each play. Renewed extension along preexisting lineaments took place through the Cretaceous. Tilting occurred as a result of cooling of the passive margin. • Regional Miocene Himalayan collision caused regional onshore uplift and localised transpressional inversions. • Rifting as old as Triassic occurs as part of the incipient Indian Ocean opening or as a result of extension related to the Tethyan margin to the north. Localised fluvio-lacustrine basins may contain potential source and reservoir. however the basin remains non-productive. -3- . • Lower Tertiary carbonates on the shelf and on outer shelf margin highs form a dominant reservoir.

Deposition of sediments above these horst and graben-like structures lead to the formation of compaction and drape style traps in the overlying sediment. • Highly oblique break-up in the Santonian of India/Seychelles from Madagascar led to the formation of a series of transtension sinistral NNW-SSE structures with dextral motion on the conjugate transverse structures. these represent an important distal potential reservoir facies. confirming the generation of hydrocarbons within the basin. now orientated towards the southeast fed largescale deltas and distal fan turbidites as the shelf edge propagated. -4- . although carbonate build-ups did occur on sediment-starved horst blocks. in part by continuing strike slip motion during the northward passage of India. reaching the continental margin in the Miocene. Eventually increased sediment supply in late Miocene restricted carbonate accumulation to the far west during the final burial of the basin. Oil shows have been observed in three out of four plays (all except the Upper Miocene to Pliocene Sandstone Play). Potential is mainly clastic. An addition potential Lower Tertiary play has been found to contain shows within a carbonate sequence. This period localised syn-rift source deposition. The prevailing structures supported a northeast drainage pattern and aided the development of basement plays on elevated footwall blocks. with carbonates on starved horsts. • Cauvery Basin Seven proven plays exist within the Cauvery Basin. However. Thus a series of half graben and associated shelf edges are maintained providing a number of potential source (mainly Lower and Upper Cretaceous) and reservoir horizons. particularly in the west of the basin away from the influence of clastic input. • Shallow water sandstones on attenuated/oceanic crust of Paleocene age indicate uplift at the time of break-up and/or eustatic lowstand. (ii) East Indian Offshore Basins on the East Indian Margin record the separation of India from Australia-Antarctica and the creation of the Bay of Bengal. Distal highs are associated with localised potential carbonate build-ups. • The final stage of basin development was associated with tilting and the establishment of a slope-shelf system. however. These include the Kori-Comorin Ridge. now plunging beneath the continental margin to the south. Continuing reactivation of the syn-rift structural fabric led to the development of localised depocentres. These limestones form both reservoir and seal horizons within the basin. restricting potentially mature kitchens to localised depocentres distal of the Late Tertiary shelf edge. interpreted as a late Mesozoic volcanic high associated with separation from Madagascar. • The basin is essentially a failed Upper Gondwana. Five of these plays are productive with discoveries in the other two. Its structure. • The initial collision with Eurasia in the Middle Miocene led to subsidence. Limestone deposition became dominant from Early to Mid Eocene times. Transfer zones and arches on the continental margins controlled clastic sediment input points.• Konkan-Kerala Basin Four potential plays are defined in reservoirs from Upper Cretaceous to Pliocene age. clastic input points from westward draining rivers are limited. • Late Cretaceous uplift – manifest as extensive bauxite and laterite formation – preceded the eruption of the Deccan Traps and the final separation of India from the Seychelles. propagates through the Cretaceous and Palaeogene. Polarities of the half-grabens change at WNW transfer faults. The drainage network. drowning of the shelf and even more widespread deposition of carbonates. with reservoirs ranging from Precambrian to Oligocene in age. Late Jurassic rift.

with associated carbonate build-ups. a series of discrete basaltic extrusions. -5- . • Unlike the Mahanadi to the north there are no major break-up volcanics. This rapid influx of sedimentled to the development of basinward-thinning deltaic wedges containing shallow. In addition late structuring at the shelf edge may have resulted from propagation of transpressive motion along the margin of the Upper Tertiary delta. controlled by the ENE-WSW trending syn-rift faults. appearing to result from changes in the direction of spreading and resultant intra-plate stress. which are among the most productive in the basin. with production of oil and gas from eight. with associated NNW-SSE oriented transfer zones. preceding the rifting seen in the Mahanadi Basin to the north and Cauvery Basin to the south. but the endCretaceous Deccan event is recognised in the Razole Volcanics. • Early Tertiary tilting led to the creation of a pronounced shelf edge. • Mahanadi Basin Three unproven plays are defined in the Cretaceous – Pliocene sandstones of the Mahanadi Basin. • The key factors governing potential are the development of structuration in the Upper Cretaceous sandstone play. • Early Tertiary tilting of the entire Indian plate due to thermally induced uplift associated with the Deccan Trap event lead to rejuvenated sedimentation. Basement faults in the Prahnita-Godavari rift appear reactivated as dextral slip transfer faults in the major NE-trending horsts and grabens. There is in addition uplift and transpression as a result of the eruption of the Rajmahal Trap basalts at continental break-up (~118-107Ma) and development of the immediately succeeding 85oE ridge (~107-102Ma). • There is clear evidence of an early phase. Two of the three plays have drilled hydrocarbon shows. Major uplift and shelfal exposure. with additional potential in lower Tertiary. Tertiary traps are highly dependant on syn-sedimentary growth structures. beyond which lies a potential Eocene kitchen able to charge younger Tertiary reservoirs. which dominate the basin.• Krishna-Godavari Basin Nine proven plays exist in Triassic to Pliocene reservoirs. listric structures and diapirism of the Lower Tertiary shales responsible for the main Tertiary plays. led to potential lowstand sandstone deposition during the Oligocene. Horsts formed at this time may localise carbonate build-ups. Permo-Triassic Lower Gondwana rift with a second phase of Jurassic reactivation. and possibly Cretaceous carbonate reservoirs. These rifting events localise source rock deposition and restricted it to the west of the basin. A potential play is indicated by shows in Permian sandstones. in part controlled by underlying basement extensional faulting.

containing both potential source and reservoir rocks. Timing and extent of major uplifts including those associated with Gondwana break-up. -6- . affecting sedimentation patterns. source rock deposition and burial history.Conclusions and recommendations Key controls on existing and future potential include: • • • • • Extent. Definition of sub-volcanic structure and stratigraphy. preservation and generation. It has defined a series of key local and regional events. Deccan Volcanics and Rajmahal Volcanics. Significance and usefulness of work This integrated project defines the existing and potential plays of six of the Indian Offshore Sedimentary Basins on a consistent basis and in direct relation to their geological history. localisation of carbonate distribution. the understanding of which is critical to developing future hydrocarbon potential. Generation of continental margin/oceanic ridges and resultant effect on clastic sediment transport. basement controls and orientation of Early Gondwana (East India) and Proto Indian Ocean (West India) rifts. migration and remigration of hydrocarbons. Late Cretaceous to Tertiary phases of reorientation of drainage and clastic input as a result of eastward cratonic tilting.