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SEAPEX Exploration Conference 2001

Orchard Hotel, Singapore
4th – 6th April 2001

By Marita Bradshaw,
AGSO, GPO Box 378, Canberra 2601 Australia
Since Wallace drew his line, the Australasian region has been recognised as
a pivotal place on the earth's surface, where across a sharp gradient we step
from one world to another. In the biological realm, Asian elephants, tigers and
weaver birds are juxtaposed to Australian cockatoos, giant goannas and
marsupials across a narrow gap of deep water running between Borneo and
Sulawesi and continuing between Bali and Lombok (van Oosterzee, 1997).
These faunal changes reflect a geological history along the border zone
between the great southern continent of Gondwana, the ancient Tethyan
ocean and an evolving Asian landmass.
The legacy of this history for petroleum exploration is a complex and diverse
region where a multitude of petroleum systems, ranging in age from the
Cambrian to the Neogene, can be exploited (Bradshaw et al., 1997).
Hydrocarbons have been generated from marine, lacustrine, deltaic and coal
swamp facies; and both carbonate and siliciclastic source rocks occur. The
most prolific petroleum systems are the product of organic rich rocks
accumulated in tropical environments, not unlike the present day regime.
There are important synergies to be gained in considering the petroleum
geology of the Australasian region as a whole, and in particular by recognising
the shared petroleum systems between northern Australia, New Guinea,
Timor and other parts of eastern Indonesia. The complex geology of the
region is a natural consequence of its location at the plate boundary today and
in the past. This history is being progressively unravelled and a number of
detailed plate model reconstructions (Hall, 1999; Metcalfe, 1997) are now
available for the region. Just as macro-fossils such as Glossopteris helped in
the recognition of the various fragments of Gondwana, so molecular fossils
such as biomarkers in oils (Peters and Moldowan, 1993) may also be used to
identify relationships between areas later disconnected by plate movements.
The comparisons and linkages between the petroleum systems and oil
geochemistry of the region has been previously discussed by ten Harven and
Schiefelbein (1995); Bradshaw et al., (1997), Howes (1997), Schiefelbein and
Cameron (1997), Todd et al., (1997) and others. This abstract aims to provide
an up date for the Australian region to the information compiled in Fraser et
al., (1997) and Howes and Noble (1997). In the intervening years, new
petroleum systems have been identified and have come into production. The
gulf in age between the Indonesian systems, dominated by oil sourced from
Copyright SouthEast Asia Petroleum Exploration Society

across the what is now the Arafura Sea and the southern half of New Guinea. condensate and oil on Australia’s North West Shelf. Discoveries attributed to Permian source rocks have been made both sides of the border . 1). Early Palaeozoic In the Cambrian Australia was locked into the jig-saw puzzle of Gondwana with various continental blocks now located in Asia arrayed along the current North West Shelf margin ( central Australia (Mereenie field. Amadeus Basin) and in the Tarim Basin of western China (Fig. and on into the continental blocks that later amalgamated to form China and south-east Asia (Metcalfe. and more modest accumulations of gas. the Early Copyright SouthEast Asia Petroleum Exploration Society .giant gas fields Irian Jaya. The Cretaceous is now recognised as a proven source rock interval in the Bonaparte and Browse Basins and in onshore Irian Jaya. There is oil production from Ordovician reservoirs at the opposite ends of this now dismembered shallow seaway . and the Jurassic and older Australian petroleum systems has narrowed.SEAPEX Exploration Conference 2001 Orchard Hotel. Carbon-rich oil prone source rocks were deposited in these warm shallow waters of the palaeo-tropics. Singapore 4th – 6th April 2001 Tertiary rocks. In terms of organic matter content. 1997).1). the region straddled the equator and shallow seas stretched through central and northern Australia. As today.

. 1997. 2001) located offshore Irian Jaya. Rich source rock intervals are recognised in the early to middle Cambrian. Significant oil shows have been reported from the Palaeozoic sediments of the Arafura Basin in both Australian and Indonesian waters. Advances in the understanding of the thermal history of the region (Moore et al. (1998). 1996.. They have been linked together as part of the Larapintine Petroleum Supersystem (Bradshaw et al. 1994) and their distinctive oil geochemistry has been described by AGSO and GeoMark (1996). the Early Ordovician and Late Devonian. 1990). Edwards et al. 1997) as further confirmed by the recent interpretation of re-processed seismic data reported by Moss (2001).. 1998) have been recovered from Ordovician carbonates and Devonian sandstones in the Australian sector in Arafura -1 (Bradshaw et al. Summons et al.. Bradshaw et al.... 1996) and improved seismic coverage will enable Copyright SouthEast Asia Petroleum Exploration Society .. Singapore 4th – 6th April 2001 Palaeozoic marine shales deposited in northern and central Australia are the richest potential source rocks on the continent.. (1997) and Summons et al. The prospective zone for the Larapintine Petroleum Supersystem extends across the stable platform from northern Australia into eastern Indonesia (Moore et al. Oils correlated to Cambrian source rocks (Edwards et al. and oil shows are reported from Siluro-Devonian carbonates in Kola-1 (Moss.SEAPEX Exploration Conference 2001 Orchard Hotel.

and from this time onwards the geological histories of Australia and China diverged dramatically. Tropical conditions continued on the Chinese continental fragments.. ODP drilling unexpectedly recovered Rhaetian reefal carbonates from the northern margin of Australia's Exmouth Plateau (Exon et al. 1994). 2).. with the characteristic Cathaysian faunas being in sharp contrast to the glacial deposits and high latitude coals typical of the Gondwanan continents. the Meso-Tethys had opened as the Cimmerian continent rifted off from the Gondwanan core (Metcalfe. in press) and to the Carnarvon Basin (George. (in press) detail the evidence for a Permian petroleum system that has sourced oil.. Late Palaeozoic In the late Devonian. Vorwata) in the Birds Head (Fig. (2000) and Edwards et al. 1994) of the North West Shelf. 1997). of the Bonaparte Basin (Fig. Buton. and by the Late Carboniferous-earliest Permian was partially covered by an ice sheet. 2001) in the eastern Timor Sea. et al. the Palaeo-Tethys ocean opened separating the South China. Bradshaw et al. Buru and Timor may also extend to the outer Bonaparte and Browse Basins (Edwards et al.. Tarim. 1998). Onshore Permian coal basins are important suppliers of domestic gas in Australia (Bowen and Cooper Basins) and undeveloped Permian gas accumulations also occur offshore in the Petrel Sub-basin. as well as gas and condensate in the Bonaparte Basin. 1993. 2).... 1997). 1998) is characterised by hydrocarbons sourced from deep water marls rather than marine shales with a significant higher plant input as found in the inboard failed rifts (Bradshaw et al.. There is also some geochemical evidence to suggest that the oils sourced from Mesozoic carbonate facies seen in Seram. 1991). Singapore 4th – 6th April 2001 explorers to better target the Palaeozoic potential of the Arafura Basin than the previous limited drilling. Mesozoic By the Triassic. one is left to speculate whether Permian sediments are also the source for the recent Abadi-1 gas/condensate discovery in the Indonesian Masela PSC Block (Oil and Gas Australia. Kennard et al. A picture is emerging of another petroleum system developed out beyond the typical Late Jurassic Westralian system (Bradshaw et al. Indochina and North China blocks from Gondwana (Metcalfe. The Caledonia Orogeny in China and the Alice Springs Orogeny in Australia signal these events. The Mesozoic carbonate belt running along the northern shores of Tethys is well known from the Austrian Alps to the Middle East (Baudin. Australia as part of Gondwana. There is a close similarity of the Late Permian sedimentary sequences from northern Australia and Irian Jaya. shifted southwards into polar regions. This “Sahul” system (Summons et al..SEAPEX Exploration Conference 2001 Orchard Hotel. 1997) indicates that the coals and associated shales of the Permian Ainim Formation are the likely source of the giant gas fields (Wiriagar. Copyright SouthEast Asia Petroleum Exploration Society . 3). In this context. 1995). The geological and geochemical evidence (Perkins and Livsey. and evidence has accumulated in recent years of a similar zone mirrored on the southern shores of Tethys (Fig.

1994). (2000) report an Early Cretaceous petroleum system from Warim in the foldbelt of Irian Jaya. However. fragmented and sheared (Hall. Preston and Edwards. Cainozoic The region has had a dramatic Cainozoic tectonic history as the Australian.. and McConachie et al. in the global context. the last of the continental fragments had rifted from Australia's north-west margin. 2000). Pacific and Asian plates have collided.SEAPEX Exploration Conference 2001 Orchard Hotel. the Australasian region is very under-represented in oil reserves derived from mid Cretaceous (Aptian-Turonian) source rocks (Klemme and Ulmishek.. subducted. and the Indian Ocean began to open as the major blocks of Gondwana separated. This gap in the distribution may be filled with further finds on the North West Shelf and into eastern Indonesia. The Late Jurassic Westralian Petroleum Supersystem extends along the western and northern Australian margin from the Carnarvon Basin to the Papuan Basin (Bradshaw et al. 1991). Copyright SouthEast Asia Petroleum Exploration Society ... 2000). buckled. as well as along Australia's southern margin (Totterdell et al. Oil accumulations sourced from Early Cretaceous marine shales are now proven in the Browse and Bonaparte Basins (Blevin et al. Singapore 4th – 6th April 2001 By the Late Jurassic. 1998. and there is now evidence of viable Cretaceous oil source rocks over a similar wide geographic range. 1999) producing a host of young petroliferous basins.

deep sea in dark blue and basins with Cambro-Ordovician petroleum systems shown in green. deep sea in dark blue. SC = South China. Copyright SouthEast Asia Petroleum Exploration Society . Gas fields in the Bonaparte Basin. Singapore 4th – 6th April 2001 Cainozoic petroleum systems are dominant in Indonesia. shallow seas in light blue. 1995). Land shown in orange. Reconstruction of the Tethyan region for the Late Triassic from Metcalfe (1997). QI = Qiangtang. Figures Figure 1. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Brian Hack is thanked for drafting. Perhaps these organic-rich facies may also occur offshore in basins where they may be mature for oil generation (Longley et al. Land and sea distribution compiled from Golonka et al. to Miocene carbonates in the Salawati Basin of the Birds Head (ten Haven and Schiefelbein. L = Lhasa. L = Lhasa. NC = North China. Land and sea distribution compiled from Golonka et al. 2001). shallow seas in light blue. ranging from Eocene lake basins in Sumatra. In contrast. QI = Qiangtang. Australia and Irian Jaya considered to be sourced from Late Permian source rocks indicated by red stars.. Reconstruction of the Tethyan region for the Late Permian from Metcalfe (1997). SC = South China. T = Tarim. SG = Songpan Ganzi accretionary complex. I = Indochina. NC = North China. (1994) and Struckmeyer & Totterdell (1990). SC = South China. WC = Western Cimmerian Continent. QI = Qiangtang.. S = Sibumasu.SEAPEX Exploration Conference 2001 Orchard Hotel. Areas of carbonate facies shown in green from Baudin (1995). Roger Summons and Clinton Foster are thanked for reviewing the text. NC = North China. (1994) and Struckmeyer & Totterdell (1990). (1994) and Struckmeyer & Totterdell (1990). deep sea in dark blue. WB = West Burma.. WB = West Burma. I = Indochina.. I = Indochina. S = Sibumasu. The one significant exception being the Gippsland Basin in south-eastern Australia where the Late Cretaceous to Eocene lower delta plain deposits of the Latrobe Group are the accepted source rock. The author publishes with the permission of the Chief Executive Officer. S = Sibumasu. deltaic complexes in Kalimantan. L = Lhasa. Australian Geological Survey Organisation. WC = Western Cimmerian Continent. Land and sea distribution compiled from Golonka et al. Land shown in orange. GI = Greater India. Eocene oil shales occur onshore in Queensland in small lake basins close to the current coastline where a pilot plant has been established to retort oil from the crushed shale. shallow seas in light blue. Land shown in orange. on the old Gondwanan core of Australia most known hydrocarbons are derived from Mesozoic and Palaeozoic sources. Figure 3. However. and John Laurie. Figure 2. Reconstruction of eastern Gondwana for the Cambro-Ordovician from Metcalfe (1997).

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