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Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104

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Biostratigraphy and depositional setting of Maastrichtian e Eocene oil

shales from Jordan
Mohammad Alqudah a, *, Mohammad Ali Hussein a, Sander van den Boorn b,
rg Mutterlose a
Olaf G. Podlaha b, Jo
Ruhr-Universitat Bochum, Institute for Geology, Mineralogy und Geophysic, Universita
tsstrae 150, 44801 Bochum, Germany
Shell Global Solutions International B.V., Projects and Technology, Netherlands

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Large distance correlation of sedimentary organic rich facies units in Jordan has been established by
Received 22 February 2014 means of calcareous nannofossil biostratigraphy. Based on a biostratigraphic framework, a better un-
Received in revised form derstanding of the deposition and distribution of Maastrichtian to Eocene oil shales is obtained. A total of
21 July 2014
812 samples representing 29 wells located across Jordan were studied for calcareous nannofossil
Accepted 24 July 2014
Available online 5 December 2014
The results reveal major regional changes in paleogeography leading to a change in oil shales distri-
bution in time. The tectonic settings have been determined for four different oil shale sequences of
Calcareous nannofossil biostratigraphy
Maastrichtian, Paleocene, Early Eocene and Middle Eocene age. Large variations in thickness over short
Oil shales distances indicate syndepositional subsidence control in several fault bound sedimentary sub-basins.
Cretaceous During the Early Maastrichtian transgression, a thick oil shale dominated succession was accumulated
Paleocene in the south of Jordan. This transgression continued into the Paleocene as represented by a thick
Eocene sequence of oil shales in nannofossil Zone NP 3. In the Late Paleocene, the gradual progradation of the oil
shale facies from south to north coincided with an uplift of the Sirhan Sub-basin in east Jordan.
Accordingly, the oil shale distribution varies locally and shows a scattered geographic distribution in the
Late Paleocene. An up to 60 m thick succession of Early Eocene oil shales was found in central Jordan.
Localized restricted conditions, which prevailed during the YpresianeLutetian transition (nannofossil
Zone NP 14), were caused by the subsidence of the Azraq-Hamza and Sirhan sub-basins. These move-
ments resulted in thick oil shale accumulation in the southeastern and central parts of Jordan. A gradual
relative sea level fall during the Bartonian resulted in a prograding and thinning of the oil shale facies
from west to east in central Jordan.
2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction 1989) in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and
Lebanon). The genesis of the sedimentary basins, their tectonic
Considering the economic value of their sedimentary deposits, structure, basin-ll geometry and subsidence history based on the
oil shales and phosphates have been reported either as large scale thicknesses of their stratigraphic units have been investigated in
occurrences or have been studied in localized occurrences repre- past paleogeographic studies (Flexer, 1971). These studies are of
senting special environments. These sedimentary deposits have importance to understand the extend of the oil shale sequences
been described for various basins in the Near East (Abed, 2013). (Einsele, 1992). Most of the basins and their source rock deposits
Recent ndings of oil shale deposits in the Near East relate to were dated according to their paleogeography and litho-facies
sedimentary basins controlled in their development by major (Abu-Jaber et al., 1989; Flexer, 1971), an approach that can easily
bounding faults, e.g. the Sirhan Turrayf Graben (Abu-Jaber et al., lead to erroneous correlation of stratigraphic units. Lithologically
homogenous facies types do not necessarily represent synchronous
units; studies purely based on lithostratigraphy should therefore be
* Corresponding author. Ofce: NA 2/125, Tel.: 49 234 32 25459; fax: 49 234 used with caution. More reliable analyses using micropaleonto-
32 14571. logical or absolute age correlations are scarce or locally constrained
E-mail address: (M. Alqudah).
0264-8172/ 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
88 M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104

Table 1 to Late Cretaceous and Paleogene deposits of the Near East

Stratigraphic and geochemical studies on oil shale occurrence in the Middle East. (Alqudah et al., 2014a).
Country Age Author Oil shale deposits are mainly known as source rock deposits in
Saudi Arabia Miocene Cole et al., 1994
North America and the Middle East, due to their widespread
(Red Sea Alsharhan and Salah, 1997 occurrence. These rocks range in age from the Cambrian to the
and Midyan) Neogene and were formed in a variety of marine, continental and
Egypt (Red Sea) Maastrichtian e Danian El Kassas and Khaled, 1997 lacustrine depositional environments (e.g. Dyni, 2003; Flexer,
Paleocene e Eocene Schulte et al., 2011
1971). A summary of oil shale research conducted in the Middle
Jordan Paleozoic, Mesozoic Naylor et al., 2013
Cenomanian e Turonian Bender, 1975 East is given in Table 1. The thickest strata have been found in
Maastrichtian e Paleocene Powell, 1989 graben settings such as the Sirhan-Turrayf Basin (Saudi Arabia,
Futyan, 1976 Jordan, Syria and Lebanon) and the Euphrates Basin (Syria).
Hamam, 1977
Oil shale occurrences are reported across Jordan and throughout
Yassini, 1979
Eocene Basha, 1982
several geological periods and eras. Localized potential oil shales
Alqudah et al., 2014a have been described for the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic
Palestine Hauterivian e Campanian Flexer et al., 1986 (Armstrong et al., 2005; Beydoun et al., 1992; Dill et al., 2009;
(Negev) Miocene Yoffe et al., 2002 Naylor et al., 2013). Widespread deposits of Late Campanian to
Syria Campanian e Maastrichtian Ismail et al., 2010
Paleogene oil shales in Jordan are well documented; they occupy
Paleocene e Eocene Jassim and Gailani, 2006
Iraq Maastrichtian Jassim and Gailani, 2006 thousands of square kilometers throughout Jordan (e.g. Alqudah
Paleocene e Eocene et al., 2014a; Basha, 1982; Yassini, 1979). These oil shales were
Turkey Santonian e Campanian Inan et al., 2010 deposited in various sub-basins (Yarmouk Sub-basin, Sirhan Sub-
Onal et al., 2006 basin, Hamza-Azraq Sub-basin, Jafr Sub-basin, Lajjun Sub-basin)
as indicated in Figure 1. Their distribution, thickness and organic
carbon content make them the most prominent source rock for oil
in Jordan (Aqleh et al., 2013; Hamarneh, 2006). Examples of the

Figure 1. Cross section of Jordan showing the main paleogeographical features in Jordan, the Sirhan Graben and the Rutbah Uplift. Cross section after Abu-Jaber et al. (1989).
M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104 89

occurrences in different parts of Jordan are Umm Rijam in the biostratigraphy (Fig. 2) using light microscopy with a magnication
south, Lajjun in the centre, and the Yarmouk valley in the north of 1250.
(Hamarneh, 2006; Mihdawi and Mustafa, 2007). The oil shales have The zonal scheme used here follows the standard calcareous
often been referred unspecically as the Late Cretaceous oil shales nannofossil zonation (UC Upper Cretaceous, NP Nannoplank-
of Jordan or Jordan Maastrichtian oil shales giving the incorrect ton Paleogene) of Burnett (1998) and Martini (1970). TOC and
impression of them being exclusively representing a subset of their CaCO3 content data were measured using a calibrated
true time equivalence. Also time transgressive formation names LECOeCSe230 elemental analyzer by the Jordan oil shales com-
have been used to refer to them and give an inadequate information pany (JOSCO). The term oil shale as used in this study refers to
of the absolute age. A commonly used and often published term is marls containing more than an average 8% TOC. The Late Creta-
the Muwwaqar Chalk Marl (MCM) oil shales which are of Maas- ceous, Paleocene and Eocene tectono-sedimentary and shoreline
trichtian age. In reality, however, this formation spans the Maas- reconstructions presented here are based on the new biostrati-
trichtian to Eocene interval (Bender, 1975). graphic data, the TOC content (JOSCO), and the structural map of
This study aims to reconstruct the distribution of Late Maas- Jordan (Diabat and Masri, 2005; Johnson, 1998; Quennell, 1959).
trichtian, Paleocene and Eocene oil shale sequences across Jordan
within a chronological framework. This will allow the correlation of
3. Geological setting
sediment and organic facies units over large distances, irrespective
of their former formation assignments. The correlation enhances
Throughout the Maastrichtian to Eocene, Jordan was located in
the understanding of the Upper Cretaceous and Paleogene depo-
an epicontinental sea of 14 e22 paleolatitude (Butterlin et al.,
sitional environments beyond the oil shale deposits. The correla-
1993a; Camoin et al., 1993a) (see Fig. 3). It formed a part of the
tion allows the recognition of other potential resources associated
southern margin of the Neo-Tethys (Butterlin et al., 1993a; Camoin
with oil shales deposits, such as phosphates.
et al., 1993a). The latter was divided into ve geographic domains.
These domains, characterized by distinctive water masses sepa-
2. Material and methods rated by shallow water platforms, include the Caribbean Neo-
Tethys, the Atlantic Neo-Tethys, the Mediterranean Neo-Tethys,
Located across Jordan, twenty nine wells were drilled. These the Eastern Neo-Tethys and the Himalayan-Indonesian Neo-
wells are aligned along two main transects (NWeSE; NEeSW). Well Tethys (Camoin et al., 1993b). The Eastern Neo-Tethys domain
numbers and approximate locations are illustrated in Figure 1. extended across the Eurasian and Arabian margins and opened
Sample material from ve cored wells and 24 wells with cuttings widely eastwards, in the west it was separated from the Medi-
was selected as shown in Table 2. A total of 812 simple smear slides terranian Neo-Tethys domain (Camoin et al., 1993b). The Arabian
have been studied from the 29 wells for calcareous nannofossil Platform collided with the Eurasian Plate during the Eocene and
enhanced the inuence of syn-sedimentary tectonics (Butterlin
et al., 1993b). Such inuence is pronounced in shallow epiconti-
nental seas by the formation of internal shelf basins structured by
Table 2 shallow swells (segmented basins) (Einsele, 1992; Powell and
Names, location of wells and samples used in this study. Moh'd, 2011). These sub-basins were strongly inuenced by
Well Sample Section climate, tectonic and relief of the hinterland. All these factors
controlled the inux of terrigenous material (Alqudah et al., 2014a).
Name Location Type Number Thickness Stages

OS-1 South west Core 56 183 MaastrichtianeEocene 4. Lithostratigraphy

OS-2 South west Core 18 190 Maastrichtiane
Futyan (1976) and Powell (1989) have assigned a Campanian to
OS-3 South west Cutting 5 118 Maastrichtian
OS-4 South west Cutting 25 262 PaleoceneeEocene Paleocene age to the Jordanian oil shales and the corresponding
OS-5 South west Cutting 25 211 Maastrichtian MCM. The MCM formation, which hosts the Jordan oil shales,
OS-6 South east Cutting 31 296 PaleoceneeEocene typically consists of thick bedded chalky marls, soft chalks, marls,
OS-7 South east Cutting 4 250 PaleoceneeEocene marly limestones and locally microcrystalline limestones (Ali
OS-8 South east Cutting 23 160 Maastrichtiane
Hussein et al., 2014). It ranges in thickness from a few meters in
OS-9 South east Cutting 31 147 MaastrichtianeEocene the south to more than 750 m in the Sirhan Sub-basin in the central
OS-10 South east Cutting 30 163 MaastrichtianeEocene east. The thickest sequences are restricted to the center of the sub-
OS-11 South east Cutting 5 277 MaastrichtianeEocene basins, which contain typically more than 200 m of bituminous
OS-12 South east Cutting 35 251 MaastrichtianeEocene
marly limestones (Bender, 1975; Powell, 1989). The age of this
OS-13 South east Cutting 4 250 MaastrichtianeEocene
OS-14 Central east Cutting 63 530 Eocene lithostratigraphical unit in the sub-basins ranges from Maas-
OS-15 Central east Cutting 6 466 Eocene trichtian to Early Eocene (Andrews, 1992; Bender, 1975).
OS-16 Central west Cutting 5 274 Eocene The Um Rijam Chert-limestone (URC) Formation overlies the
OS-17 Central west Cutting 6 494 Eocene MCM Formation. The URC Formation is composed of massive
OS-18 Central west Cutting 5 477 Eocene
OS-19 Central west Cutting 10 172 Eocene
chalky limestones alternating with thin bedded limestones, chert
OS-20 Central west Cutting 33 175 MaastrichtianeEocene layers and locally bituminous marls. It is therefore in part the
OS-21 Central west Cutting 17 91 Maastrichtian time-equivalent of the upper part of the MCM Formation. Other
OS-22 Central west Core 111 220 Eocene studies suggest that the URC can typically be found on swell-
OS-23 Central west Core 103 255 Eocene
settings, whilst the MCM was deposited as bituminous marly
OS-24 North Cutting 4 93 Eocene
OS-25 North Cutting 17 221 Eocene limestones in the sedimentary sub-basins during the Early Eocene
OS-26 North east Cutting 4 150 Eocene (Bender, 1968, 1975). The thick sequences of the MCM and the URC
OS-27 North east Cutting 6 232 Eocene formations are found in the north of Jordan, they gradually
OS-28 Central east Core 89 184 MaastrichtianeEocene decrease in thickness towards the south and southeast (Powell,
OS-29 North west Core 41 262 MaastrichtianeEocene
90 M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104

Figure 2. Schematic sketch showing the locations of different wells. Absolute ages after Gradstein et al. (2012).

5. Results evidence for oil shales older than Early Maastrichtian in the studied
wells. This is, however, not an exclusive criterion as the wells did
5.1. Biostratigraphy not penetrate older, i.e. deeper, sections than reported here.
Cretaceous and Paleocene species are abundant while Eocene
Calcareous nannofossils have been used to dene the species are rare. Furthermore a complete but condensed section of
biostratigraphic framework. Age diagnostic taxa, dening the Paleocene and Early Eocene age was found only in core OS-28, hiati
Cretaceous biozones UC 17 to UC 20, include Tranolithus orionatus, or sedimentation breaks are present in the studied wells for parts of
Reinhardtites levis, Lithraphidites quadratus, Micula murus, and the Paleocene and Early Eocene. These hiati were not necessarily
Micula prinsii. The marker species for the Paleocene biozones NP 1 correlated, i.e. some missing zone patterns were not correlatable
to NP 9 are Cyclagelosphaera reinhardtii, Markalius inversus, Cruci- across wells or are limited to a subset of wells.
placolithus tenuis, Chiasmolithus danicus, Ellipsolithus distichus,
Fasciculithus tympaniformis, Toweius pertusus, Discoaster mohleri, 5.2. Oil shale distribution
Zygodiscus adamas, Neochiastozygus junctus, and Discoaster multi-
radiatus. The Early to Middle Eocene biozones NP 10 to NP 17 are The oil shales are geographically grouped into south, east, cen-
indicated by the marker species Rhomboaster cuspis, Tribrachiatus tral, and north Jordan deposits. When age differences between
bramlettei, Tribrachiatus orthostylus, Discoaster lodoensis, Coccolithus these regional groups were found, the oil shales were chronologi-
crassus, Discoaster sublodoensis, Nannotetrina quadrata, Retic- cally (biozonation) divided into stratigraphic units. The following
ulofenestra umbilicus and Chiasmolithus solitus. For details see stratigraphically different oil shale units have been recognized
Alqudah et al. (2014a,b). A major difculty for dating the wells in here: 1) Maastrichtian, 2) Paleocene, 3) Early Eocene and 4) Middle
this study are the inconsistent abundance patterns of calcareous Eocene oil shales. Each of these units reects a different sub-basin
nannofossil marker species typically used for dening the base or architecture. Each of the sub-basins had its own bounding faults,
top of the biozones. Toweius pertusus (NP 6), Zygodiscus adamas and paleotopography, paleogeography, sediment thicknesses and li-
N. junctus (NP 8) are used here instead of the marker species thologies. Sub-basin specic movements therefore resulted in
Heliolithus kleinpellii and Heliolithus riedelii to dene the base of the respective local accommodation space against the background of
NP 6 and NP 8 zones respectively. the regional sea level.
The oil shales discussed in this study are assigned an Early Maastrichtian oil shales were found throughout most of the
Maastrichtian to late Middle Eocene age (Fig. 4). There is no studied wells (wells OS-1, -2, -3, -5, -8, -9, -10, -11, -12, -13, -20,
M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104 91

Figure 3. Paleogeographic map of Jordan for the Maastrichtian and Eocene. Jordan was located in the northwest part of the Arab Peninsula. Late Maastrichtian map after Camoin
et al. (1993b), Eocene map after Butterlin et al. (1993b).

-21, -26, -27, -28, -29) with different thicknesses (Fig. 4). The -10, -11, -12, -15) (Fig. 4). The geographic distribution of oil shales
geographic distribution of the oil shales based on the calcareous based on the calcareous nannofossils biozones are illustrated in
nannofossil biozones is illustrated in Figures 5 and 6. The oil shales Figures 7 and 8.
representing Zone UC 17 (Early Maastrichtian) occur in wells OS-2, The earliest Paleocene (nannofossil Zone NP 1) is represented by
-8, -10, -20, -21, -26, -27, -28, the thickest section is found in the a sedimentation break observed in the southwest, southeast (wells
wells located along the border of Saudi Arabia (OS-10, 53 m, OS- OS-08, -11, -13) and in the north (wells OS-20, -21). Oil shales
28, 36 m, Fig. 6). Early Late Maastrichtian oil shales (nannofossil dominate in nannofossil zones NP 2 and NP 3 in southeast Jordan
Zone UC 18) occur in wells OS-1, -2, -8, -9, -12, -28. Zone UC 18/19 (wells OS-1, -2, -8, -9, -11) and locally in the southwest (well OS-4)
is represented by 18 m and 20 m thick oil shales in wells OS-1 and in nannofossil Zone NP 4. Early Paleocene strata of more than 80 m
-2 respectively. During Zone UC 20A, thin oil shales were accu- thickness were found in the southeast wells (OS-06, NP 3; OS-9, NP
mulated in wells OS-2, -8, -9, -10, -12 while wells OS-1, -3, -5, -20, 3), coinciding with very condensed non-oil shales deposition in
showing thicker successions with thicknesses between central east Jordan (well OS-28). Oil shale deposition continued
62 me125 m. Low organic matter sediments were found in well during the early Late Paleocene (zones NP 5 and NP 6) in well OS-6.
OS-21. In the latest Maastrichtian (nannofossil Zone UC 20B), oil A synchronous sedimentation break can be observed in wells OS-7,
shales occur in wells OS-1, -2, -8, -9, -11, -12, -13, -20, -28, -29. In -9, -10, -11. Deposition of oil shales decreased against an increasing
Zone UC 20B, oil shales are thickening in 8 wells (OS-1, 9 m, -2, general sedimentation during zones NP 7 and NP 8. In consequence,
9 m, -8, 28 m, -9, 15 m, -12, 23 m, -28, 25 m, -29, 221 m). In thick strata represent these Late Paleocene biozones in wells OS-6,
comparison to other oil shale sequences in this study, the Maas- -7; 55 m, 25 m respectively.
trichtian oil shales reect a high sedimentation rate (i.e. high ratio Early Eocene oil shales were assigned to wells drilled in central
of thickness versus biozone absolute age). The sedimentation rate Jordan and some along the Saudi border (wells OS-6, -7, -11, -12,
of the UC 20 A Zone (Late Maastrichtian) was 16.2 cm/1000 years -18, -22, -23, -28) (Fig. 4). Locally, Early Eocene non-oil shale de-
in core OS-01. posits were found (wells OS-4, -29). Stratigraphic distribution of
Paleocene oil shales were found in the southwest, southeast, the Early Eocene oil shales based on the nannofossil biozones are
central east and northeast of Jordan (wells OS-1, -2, -4, -6, -7, -8, -9, illustrated in Figure 9.
92 M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104

Figure 4. Map showing the distribution of oil shales in Jordan for the Maastrichtian e Eocene.
M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104 93

Figure 5. Map showing the distribution of the Maastrichtian biozones in Jordan.

A very condensed oil shales succession of Early Eocene age During the Middle Eocene, oil shales were deposited in central
(nannofossil zones NP 10 and NP 11) was observed in wells OS-6, -7 west, east and northeast Jordan (wells OS-14, -15, -17, -18, -19, -22,
and -12. A 30 m oil shale section assigned to the late Early Eocene -23, -24, -25, -27) (Fig. 4). No oil shales were observed in the
(nannofossil zones NP 12 and NP 13) was drilled in wells OS-11and southeast wells (OS-6, -9, -13), the central west well (OS-20), and
-28. Potentially synchronous occurrences, though thinner, were the northeast well (OS-26). The proposed biozones are based on
encountered in wells OS-22 and -23. These sections (wells OS-22, nannofossil biostratigraphy and the resulting correlation is shown
-23) were left as unassigned in the wells OS-22 and -23 due to in Figures 10 and 11. The thickest strata of early Middle Eocene
the absence of the marker species. Non-oil shale sedimentation (nannofossil Zone NP 14) occur in wells OS-6 (85 m), -9 (38 m),
during the Early Eocene (nannofossil zones NP 12 and NP 13) was and 25 (63 m). The northern wells (OS-24, -25) include oil shales.
found in wells OS-9, and -12. Oil shales of nannofossil Zone NP 15 age are restricted to the center
94 M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104

Figure 6. Correlation chart of Maastrichtian to Early Eocene oil shales in Jordan.

and the north, they contain thick bituminous marls. The oil shales conguration has been changed during the Maastrichtian due to
in wells OS-14, -15, -16, -17, -19, -22 and 23 have thicknesses of the convergence of the Arabian Plate with the Eurasian Plate (Abd
more than 100 m. The thickest package is found in OS-14. The El-Motaal and Kusky, 2003). For the entire Maastrichtian to Late
thickening of the deposits continues into nannofossil Zone NP 16. Eocene, the plate-tectonic movements played a major role in
More than 250 m of this zone have been recorded from well OS-14. regional and local basin formation, with resulting topography
Zone NP 17 is found in wells OS-14 and OS-18. controlling the sediment facies types and transport mechanisms
Hiati and sedimentation breaks of Maastrichtian strata were (Alqudah et al., 2014a). Oil shales accumulated in silled sub-basins
observed in some of the wells during zones UC 18/19 (wells OS-10, distributed throughout the eastern Mediterranean and surrounded
-11), UC 20A (wells OS-11, -13) and UC 20B (well OS-3). It are by paleohighs. These paleohighs obstructed the Tethyan Circum-
documented for the Paleocene in the southwest (wells OS-1, -2, -4, global Current (Abed, 2013). The sub-basins were strongly inu-
-5), southeast (wells OS-7, -9, -10, -11) and northwest parts (well enced by climate, tectonic and relief of the hinterland (Alqudah
OS-29). Hiati and sedimentation breaks are presented in wells OS-4, et al., 2014a, 2014b). In addition, the Maastrichtian to Eocene
-6, -10, -20, -21 and 29 during Early Eocene. Complete sections phosphorite deposits consist mainly of reworked granular mate-
ranging from zones NP 14 e NP 17 were observed without any rials (Ali Hussein et al., 2014).
hiatus in all central Jordan wells (OS-22, -23, -24). In this study, the data obtained from the 29 wells shows thick-
ness variations of the oil shale occurrences. These relate to the
6. Discussion ancient paleotopography, i.e. the position of the well versus the
hinterland, submarine swells and sub-basins resulting from active
6.1. Oil shale deposition fault movements, and synchronous or asynchronous movements of
different locations during the Maastrichtian and Paleogene. Based
The giant phosphorite and oil shale occurrences in the eastern on these controls, several phases of major regional paleogeographic
Mediterranean regions are associated with the upwelling currents change can be distinguished. These phases resulted in the varia-
which came from the Tethyan Circumglobal Current that owed tions of oil shale distribution and thicknesses across Jordan.
along the Afro-Arabian Platform (Abed and Amireh, 1983; Almogi-
Labin et al., 1993; Abed, 2013). The upwelling spreads cold 6.2. Tectonic framework
nutrient-rich water mass from the deep Neo-Tethys Ocean to the
surface causing high productivity and organic rich deposition Differential movement between the Arabian and Eurasian Plates
during the Turonian to Campanian times. However, the land-sea created intensive deformation along their boundaries. This resulted
M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104 95

in the uplift of some areas and an increasing overprint of the sub- System (Fig. 12A). The resulting Jafr Sub-basin, Sirhan Sub-basin,
basins by subsidence (Lopes and Cunha, 2007). The evaluation of Azraq-Hamza Sub-basin, Lajjun and Yarmouk sub-basins were
the history of the sub-basin subsidence can be reconstructed by bounded by these faults. Each of the sub-basins has its own
linking these sub-basins to the movement of the faults and subsidence history, architecture and accommodation space.
resulting uplifted areas. Activation of the faults could have enhanced the subsidence of
Five major faults documented for the Late Cretaceous e the graben and therefore causing a thickening of the deposited
Paleogene of Jordan created ve tectono-sedimentary sub-ba- sediments during the time of movement. Additionally, such
sins. These faults are the Salawan Fault, the Karak Fayha Fault, movements could have boosted the presence of horsts and thus
the Siwaqa Fault, the Zarqa Main Fault and the Sirhan Fault the erosion of the strata.

Figure 7. Map showing the distribution of the Early Paleocene biozones in Jordan.
96 M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104

Figure 8. Map showing the distribution of the Late Paleocene biozones in Jordan.

The Jafr Sub-basin is bounded by the Salawan and Karak Fayha Paleocene and Eocene oil shales accumulated in this sub-basin
Faults. A 130 m thick Maastrichtian to Paleocene successions of with different thicknesses. This indicates that the sedimenta-
bituminous marls was deposited, implying that the two faults were tion rate was affected by the northwest-southeast fault system,
active during the Maastrichtian and Early Paleocene. causing the subsidence of the graben. Missing Paleocene bio-
The Sirhan Sub-basin, stretching through the northwest of zones indicate that this fault system was active during the
Saudi Arabia (Al-Jawf Basin; Aoudeh and Al-Hajri, 1994), is Paleocene.
connected to the Sirhan Faults System (Al-Jawf rifting). It is a The Azraq-Hamza Sub-basin has an irregular-shaped, it is a
narrow, northwest e southeast trending domain marked by tectonically more complex structure than the other three sub-
disconformities as observed in wells OS-6, -9, -10. Maastrichtian, basins. This sub-basin was bounded by the Sirhan, Siwaqa and
M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104 97

Figure 9. Map showing the distribution of the Early Eocene biozones in Jordan.

Zarqa Main faults, in addition to minor faults in between. In the 6.3. Paleoshoreline and oil shale facies
eastern area of the sub-basin, the downthrown of the eastern
block allowed the deposition of oil shales, more than twice The deposition of Early Maastrichtian sediments in the Jafr,
the thickness was found in the western equivalent block. Lajjun and Sirhan sub-basins coincided with a relative sea level rise
Cretaceous to Middle Eocene oil shales were deposited in this (Fig. 13). Local tectonics might are considered to be the responsible
sub-basin. for a relative sea level change. Subsidence of the grabens could have
The Yarmouk Sub-basin is connected to the fold system created increased the space of the sub-basin and thereby caused a relative
by Syrian Arc system. Cretaceous oil shales were accumulated in sea level rise (Sluijs et al., 2008; Alqudah et al., 2014b). This could be
this sub-basin, indicating that compressional stress occurred dur- the reason behind the widespread distribution of oil shales in this
ing the Late Cretaceous. period. A hiatus at the Cretaceous/Paleocene boundary in west
98 M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104

Figure 10. Map showing the distribution of the Middle Eocene biozones in Jordan.

Jordan is a consequence of a relative sea level fall. The occurrence of periods (Fig. 12B). The Maastrichtian and Paleocene shorelines
oil shales in the east of Jordan during the Early Paleocene coincided were xed at the same position, sediment thicknesses only
with the subsidence of the Sirhan Sub-basin. A subsequent sea level changed locally due to changes of the sea level and tectonic ac-
rise during the Late Paleocene and Early Eocene correlates with the tivities. In the Early Eocene to early Middle Eocene the shorelines
presence of oil shale deposits in east Jordan. A subsequent gradual shifted, however, to the east and north. This shift was accompa-
sea level fall during the Middle Eocene was accompanied by the nied by the subsidence of the Jafr Sub-basin where oil shales
deposition of oil shales only in the deeper parts of the sub-basins in accumulated. Findings of Early Eocene sediments in southwest
central Jordan. Jordan suggest that this part of Jordan was covered by an
Based on the biostratigrapic data the paleoshoreline has been epicontinental sea (Momani, 2005). A major regression during
reconstructed for the Maastrichtian, Paleocene and Eocene the Middle Eocene (Zone NP 15) led to a shift of the shoreline
M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104 99

Figure 11. Correlation chart of Middle Eocene oil shales in Jordan.

toward central Jordan. Three stratigraphically different oil shale along with an uplift of the sub-basin. Meanwhile, a thick succession
facies can be differentiated: was deposited during Zone NP 5 in southwest Jordan.
A hiatus in most of the studied wells indicates further uplift of
6.3.1. Cretaceous facies (Fig. 6) the Sirhan Sub-basin during the Late Paleocene (NP 7 e NP 8).
During the transgression in the Early Maastrichtian, a thick Another hiatus is recorded in northwest Jordan suggesting local
succession dominated by oil shales was deposited in southern tectonic movements which coincide with a regional stable sea level
Jordan (wells OS-10, -28). A low sedimentation rate in the Sirhan (Haq and Al-Qahtani, 2005). A subsequent regional transgression
Sub-basin versus a high one in the Jafr Sub-basin superimposed on led to the deposition of sediments during NP 9 as represented in the
the early Late Maastrichtian regression led to different sediment Sirhan Sub-basin wells.
sequences. The Sirhan Sub-basin wells OS-1 and -5 suggest a local
uplift. A more widespread and less local deposition of oil shales 6.3.3. Eocene facies (Fig. 6)
occurred during the Late Maastrichtian suggesting a regional tec- A major progradation of oil shales has been observed from the
tonic phase and a dominance of regional sea level uctuations. Late Paleocene to the Early Eocene where a thick succession of
Early Eocene oil shales was recorded in the central Jordan wells
6.3.2. Paleocene facies (Fig. 6) (OS-12, -28). A major sea level fall during the Late Ypresian to
During the Danian, retrogradation and deposition of oil shales in Early Lutetian (Zone NP 14) corresponds with the occurrence of a
localized settings as observed in thick successions in zones NP 2 locally thick succession in southeast Jordan (well OS-6). It is pro-
and NP 3 (well OS-6) was followed by a gradual progradation from posed that this could have resulted from a high rate of subsidence
the south to the north. Coinciding subsidence occurred in the east in the Sirhan Sub-basin. The subsequent gradual sea level fall
of the Sirhan Sub-basin (wells OS-6, -10, -9). A major hiatus in the during the Bartonian coincided with the progradation of the oil
Sirhan Sub-basin corresponds with the Selandian regression going shale from the west to the east in central Jordan. This indicates
Figure 12. A- Structural map of Jordan showing the oil shale distributions correlated to the major faults in Jordan. The structural map after Diabat and Masri (2005) and Johnson (1998).
B- The oil shale distribution map of Jordan showing the constructed shoreline from Late Cretaceous to late Middle Eocene, Late Cretaceous shoreline after Powell and Moh'd (2011).
M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104 101

Figure 13. Sea level curve for the Late Cretaceous to late Middle Eocene. Relative sea level curve after Haq and Al-Qahtani (2005). Absolute ages taken from Gradstein et al. (2012).

that the shallowing water levels no longer allowed oil shale superimposed on the Middle Eocene global regression and coin-
deposition in central west Jordan. Local movements in the Azraq- cided with the Alpine Orogeny. These factors led to restricted oil
Hamza Sub-basin in east-central Jordan led to favorable conditions shale deposition in deep sub-basins in central Jordan with a high
for oil shale deposition. These conditions changed into a highly amount of terrigenous input. Potentially, Middle Eocene oil shales
condensed section towards the east. The eastern ank of the can also be found in other deep sub-basins in the Middle East.
Azraq-Hamza Sub-basin is proposed to have been very steep and Regionally, sedimentation continued during the Maastrichtian.
tectonically active. The Late Maastrichtian Rutbah Uplift in Iraq and east Jordan formed
a widespread hiatus (Jassim and Gailani, 2006). This hiatus is due to
6.4. Regional correlations the sub-regional tectonic event which coincided with the Late
Maastrichtian regression (Haq and Al-Qahtani, 2005). The se-
Three tectonic events inuenced the geology of the Near East quences in Syria, Iraq, central east Jordan and Qatar show sedi-
during the Maastrichtian to Paleogene: the Syrian Arc, the Al-Jawf mentation breaks during the Early Danian (Alsharhan and Nairn,
rifting and the Alpine Orogeny. The wide distribution of oil shales 2003). Some locations in Jordan, Iraq and Qatar exhibit the
during this period is thought to be related to the Syrian Arc extend of the hiati during the Late Paleocene. Localized and
affecting the regional sea level and inuencing the deposition of oil accentuating subsidence movements of sub-basins during the Early
shales in the epicontinental sea along southern Neo-Tethys margin. Eocene (e.g. Sirhan Turrayf Basin and Euphrates Basin) enhanced
Many Middle East countries have Maastrichtian oil shale deposits the effect of the marine transgression. Regional deposition during
(Fig. 14), (Shiranish Formation, Syria and Iraq, Jassim and Gailani, the Middle Eocene can be found in central Jordan, Syria and Iraq.
2006; Duwi Formation, Egypt, El Kassas and Khaled, 1997;
Muwaqqar Chalk Marl Formation, Jordan, Yassini, 1979). 7. Conclusion
Oil shales deposition continued during the Paleocene in Syria,
Lebanon and Jordan due to the Al-Jawf rifting that affected the Investigation of wells based on calcareous nannofossil biostra-
regional topography. The Sirhan Sub-basin and the Al-Jawf Graben tigraphy throughout Jordan reveals that there are major regional
underwent several episodes of active rifting throughout their long changes in the paleogeographic setting. These in turn led to
history (Aoudeh and Al-Hajri, 1994). In the Paleocene, the rift was changes of the oil shale distribution through time across Jordan.
rejuvenated, causing subsidence movements and the formation of The evaluation of the sub-basins, tectonic structures, sea level
the sub-basins, juxtaposed to uplift of other blocks. With rising sea changes, and subsidence history derived from the thickness of
level during the Early Eocene, oil shale deposition became more stratigraphic units are the main criteria to understand the paleo-
widespread toward the east of Jordan and in the time-equivalent geographic changes of the depositional environment. Large varia-
Alijan Formation in south Syria and Iraq (Jassim and Gailani, tions in thickness over short distances indicate syndepositional
2006). An overall regressive regional sea level trend was subsidence of fault bound sub-basins during the Maastrichtian and
102 M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104

Figure 14. Regional correlation of lithological units including potential source rocks. The lithologies are taken from Alsharhan and Nairn (2003), Jassim and Gailani (2006), Brew
et al. (2001), Flexer et al. (1986), Yoffe et al. (2002), Samuel et al. (2008), Morsi et al. (2008), El Kassas and Khaled (1997) and Farouk et al. (2013).

Paleogene. During a sea level rise in the Early Maastrichtian, a thick southeast Jordan (well OS-6). A subsidence of the Azraq-Hamza
succession of oil shales was deposited in southeast and southwest Sub-basin during this period is the most likely explanation. The
Jordan. A low sedimentation rate in the Sirhan Sub-basin, being continuing regional marine regression during the Bartonian co-
high at the same time in the Jafr Sub-basin, corresponds with an incides with a retrogradation of oil shale facies from west to the
early Late Maastrichtian regressive event and probably with uplift east of central Jordan.
of the Sirhan Sub-basin. A major progradation of the oil shales
occurred during the Late Maastrichtian. Acknowledgment
There is a gradual progradation from south to north during the
Danian coinciding with a retrogradation of the oil shale facies in a The authors would like to thanks Royal Dutch Shell plc for
thick succession of Zone NP 3. A major hiatus in the Sirhan Sub- funding this project. We would like to thank the Jordan Oil Shale
basin coincides with the Selandain regressive event and supports Company (JOSCO) for their support. We also would like to thank
the further uplift of the Sirhan Sub-basin. Oil shales retrograding Prof. Nizar Abu-Jaber and Robert Lemanis for helpful comments.
toward the southwest were detected in well OS-6 within thick
sequences of zones NP 4 and 5. During the Late Paleocene hiati in Appendix
most of the studied wells indicate continuing uplift of the Sirhan
Sub-basin. A synchronous hiatus was recorded in the northwest of List of species in alphabetical order:
Jordan, though this setting should be rather related to the Paleo-
cene oil shales of northern Negev and southern Lebanon. Across Chiasmolithus Hay, Mohler and Wade 1966
most wells a quieter period led to deposits representing the latest
Paleocene (Zone NP 9). C. danicus (Brotzen 1959) Hay and Mohler 1967
A major progradation of the paleoshoreline has been observed C. solitus (Bramlette and Sullivan 1961) Locker 1968
throughout the Early Eocene to Middle Eocene, while Middle
Eocene oil shales become restricted to central Jordan. A major sea Coccolithus Schwarz 1894
level fall during Latest Ypresian to Early Lutetian, which represents
Zone NP 14 coincides with the occurrence of thick successions in C. crassus Bramlette and Sullivan 1961
M. Alqudah et al. / Marine and Petroleum Geology 60 (2015) 87e104 103

Cruciplacolithus Hay and Mohler in Hay et al., 1967 Toweius Hay and Mohler 1967

C. tenuis (Stradner 1961) Hay and Mohler in Hay et al., 1967 T. pertusus (Sullivan 1965) Romein 1979

l 1965
Cyclageolsphaera Noe Tribrachiatus Shamrai 1963

C. reinhardtii (Perch-Nielsen 1968) Romein 1977 T. orthostylus Shamrai 1963

T. bramlettei (Bronnimann and Stradner 1960) Proto Decima
Discoaster Tan 1927 et al., 1975

D. lodoensis Bramlette and Riedel 1954 Zygodiscus Bramlette and Sullivan 1961
D. mohleri Bukry and Percival 1971
D. multiradiatus Bramlette and Reidel 1954 Z. adamas Bramlette and Sullivan 1961
D. sublodoensis Bramlette and Sullivan 1961

Ellipsolithus Sullivan 1964

Appendix A. Supplementary data
E. distichus (Bramlette and Sullivan 1961) Sullivan 1964
Supplementary data related to this article can be found at http://
Fasciculithus Bramlette and Sullivan 1961

F. tympaniformis Hay and Mohler in Hay et al., 1967 References

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