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Journal of Petroleum Geology, Vol.

30(4), October 2007, pp 389-402

389

SOURCE ROCK POTENTIAL OF THE BLUE NILE (ABAY) BASIN, ETHIOPIA


A. Wolela*
The Blue Nile Basin, a Late Palaeozoic Mesozoic NW-SE trending rift basin in central Ethiopia, is filled by up to 3000 m of marine deposits (carbonates, evaporites, black shales and mudstones) and continental siliciclastics. Within this fill, perhaps the most significant source rock potential is associated with the Oxfordian-Kimmeridgian Upper Hamanlei (Antalo) Limestone Formation which has a TOC of up to 7%. Pyrolysis data indicate that black shales and mudstones in this formation have HI and S2 values up to 613 mgHC/gCorg and 37.4 gHC/kg, respectively. In the DejenGohatsion area in the centre of the basin, these black shales and mudstones are immature for the generation of oil due to insufficient burial. However, in the Were Ilu area in the NE of the basin, the formation is locally buried to depths of more than 1,500 m beneath Cretaceous sedimentary rocks and Tertiary volcanics. Production index, Tmax, hydrogen index and vitrinite reflectance measurements for shale and mudstone samples from this areas indicate that they are mature for oil generation. Burial history reconstruction and Lopatin modelling indicate that hydrocarbons have been generated in this area from 10Ma to the present day. The presence of an oil seepage at Were Ilu points to the presence of an active petroleum system. Seepage oil samples were analysed using gas chromatography and results indicate that source rock OM was dominated by marine material with some land-derived organic matter. The Pr/Ph ratio of the seepage oil is less than 1, suggesting a marine depositional environment. nalkanes are absent but steranes and triterpanes are present; pentacyclic triterpanes are more abundant than steranes. The black shales and mudstones of the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation are inferred to be the source of the seepage oil. Of other formations whose source rock potential was investigated, a sample of the Permian Karroo Group shale was found to be overmature for oil generation; whereas algal-laminated gypsum samples from the Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation were organic lean and had little source potential
INTRODUCTION The NW-SE trending Blue Nile (or Abay) Basin is a Late Palaeozoic - Mesozoic intracratonic rift basin covering an area of about 120, 000 sq. km in central and NW Ethiopia (Fig. 1). The sedimentary succession in the basin reaches a maximum thickness of 3,000 m. In previous studies, the Oxfordian-Kimmeridgian Upper Hamanlei (Antalo) Limestone Formation has been investigated as a potential source rock (Wolela,
*Department of Petroleum Operations, Ministry of Mines and Energy, PO Box 486, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. email: Wolela_am@yahoo.com

1997; 2002; 2004). Oil seepages occur in the bed of the Mechela River near Were Ilu in the NE of the basin (Fig. 2), indicating the presence there of an active petroleum system. However, little information is available regarding potential source rocks or geochemical characteristics of the Were Ilu seepage oil. This paper reports on the hydrocarbon potential of the Blue Nile Basin, focussing in particular on potential source rocks (black shales and mudstones) in the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation. The geochemical characteristics of the Were Ilu seepage oil are also briefly reviewed.
Key Words: Blue Nile Basin, source rocks, Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation, Ethiopia, Were Ilu, oil seepage.

2007 The Authors. Journal compilation 2007 Scientific Press Ltd

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Source rock potential of the Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia

36

38

40

42

44

46

48

16

White Nile Rift

Fig. 1. Location map of the Blue Nile Basin, central-NW Ethiopia.

RED SEA ERITREA

SAUDI ARABIA

14

SUDAN
12

Mekele Basin

YEMEN GULF OF ADEN

10

Blue Nile Basin

Main Ethiopian Rift

SOMALIA

Gambella basin

ETHIOPIA
Ogaden Basin

SUDAN KENYA
4

Legend
Blue Nile Basin Miocene and later rift

Previous studies of the Blue Nile Basin include Getaneh (1980, 1981, 1991) who described the clay mineralogy and lithostratigrapy of the Middle Hamanlei (Gohatsion) Formation and the Early Cretaceous Mugher Mudstone and overlying Debre Libanose Sandstone Formations. Assefa and Wolela (1986) reported on coal occurrences in the Getema (Arjo) area in the SW (Fig. 2). Mohr (1962) and Serawit and Tamrat (1995, 1996) investigated the geology of the Jimma River and Gundo Meskel-Ejere areas, while Tamrat and Tibebe (1997) studied the Gendeberet-Jeldu and Amuru-Jarty areas. Wolela (1997, 2002, 2004) investigated aspects of the evolution and hydrocarbon potential of the Blue Nile Basin. GEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND Stratigraphy (Fig. 3) Basement rocks in the Blue Nile Basin consist of Precambrian basic to acidic rocks (Kazmin, 1975). These are overlain unconformably by a Permo-Triassic Karroo succession around 450 m thick, generally

interpreted to have been deposited in alluvial fan and fluviatile settings (Wolela, 1997). In contrast to the Karroo succession in the Ogaden Basin (Tamrat and Astin, 1992), up to 200 m of Karroo rocks may have been erosively removed in the Blue Nile Basin (Wolela, 1997). The Karroo succession is unconformably overlain by the up to 850 m thick, fluviatile-dominated Triassic-Liassic Adigrat Sandstone Formation, composed of conglomerates, sandstones, siltstones and mudstones. The formation is 450 m thick at Dejen-Gohatsion, 850 m thick at Amuru Jarty, 750 m thick at Fincha River, 200 m thick in the Getema (Arjo) area, and 150 m thick in Ejera area (Assefa and Wolela, 1986; Serawit and Tamrat, 1996; Tamrat and Tibebe, 1997). The upper part of the formation is composed of alternating carbonaceous mudstones, carbonaceous siltstones and sapropelic coals (Assefa and Wolela, 1986; Wolela, 1991). Coalbearing sediments are interpreted to have been deposited in lacustrine depositional environments. Palynomorphs include Corollina spp., Caamospora tender, Dictyophyllidites mortonii and Exesipollenites tumulus. Overlying the Adigrat Sandstone is a 50 m

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11 Tilli Abay River Debre Markose Abay River 10 Fincha Dejen Bichena Were Ilu Weleka River

11

Legend Precambrian basement rocks Palaeozoic- Mesozoic sedimentary rocks Volcanic rocks Contact

Jimma River Gohatsion Debre Birhan

10

Fault Oil seepage Sampled areas

Fincha River

Gendebert

N
Ambo 9

Nekemte Addis Ababa Arjo Weliso 36 37


0 50

38
100km

39

40

g
Era Period
Quaternary

Epoch

Formation
Alluvium and volcanic

Lith- Maximum ology Thickness in (m)

Lithology and environment

Hydrocarbon system components

Fig. 2. Geological map of the Blue Nile Basin (simplified after Kazmin, 1972).

CENOZOIC

Up Palaeogene Neogene

Miocene-Pliocene

Volcanic 1100

Tertiary

Basalt, trachyte, rhyolite with beds of tuff

Seal

Palaeocene-Miocene

Volcanic

Aptian-Cenomanian

Cretaceous

Debre Libanose Sandstone

240

Lower

Fluviatile sandstonel with intercalation of siltstone

Reservoir

Portlandian-Aptian Portlandian

Muger Mudstone Transitional Facies

320 30

Fluviatile mudstone with intercalation of Reservoir siltstone and sandstone Fluviatile and marine facies Shelf marine limestone with intercalation Source of shales Tidal flat and fluvatile gypsum,mudstone Seal siltstone, and limestone Flvial and marine facies

M E S O Z OI C

Upper

Jurassic

Oxfordian-Kimmeridgian

Upper Hamanlei Limestone Middle Hamanlei (Gohatsion) Limestone Transitional Facies

720

Lower Middle

Bathonian-Oxfordian

350

Lias

50

Upper

Lower Triassic-Lias

Adigrat Sandstone

850

Triassic

Alluvial fan and fluviatile sandy conglomerate, sandstone and siltstone

Reservoir

Lower Mid.

Lower Triassic to -Upper Permian

Karroo sediments

450

Fluviatile sandstone and shales

Reservoir/ source (?)

Palaeozoic

Upper Paleozoic

P R E C A M B R I A N

Basement rocks

Fig. 3. Chrono- and lithostratigraphy of the Blue Nile Basin.

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Source rock potential of the Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia

thick Transitional Zone with shales, limestones, sandstones, dolostones and evaporites (Fig. 3). This is overlain by the transgressive Middle and Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formations which reach a maximum thickness of 1,140 m, thickening towards the north and NE. The Bathonian-Oxfordian Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation (420 m thick) is composed of dolostones, gypsum, mudstones, marls and shales, with common algal stromatolites, green algae, foraminifera, gastropods and bivalves. The Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation (Oxfordian Kimmeridgian), up to 720 m thick in the Blue Nile Basin, was deposited during a major regional transgression which covered the whole of East Africa (cf. Bosellini, 1989; Russo et al., 1994). The formation is composed of limestones (skeletal packstonewackestones, oolitic-skeletal packstones) alternating with black mudstones and black shales. Bioclasts include brachiopods, corals, algae, gastropods and echinoids. Intervals at least 30-50 m thick, composed of alternating beds of black mudstones, black shales and limestones are exposed at Dejen and Jimma River, respectively (locations in Fig. 2). The black mudstones, shales and limestones are equivalent to the Agula Shale of the Mekele Outlier (basin) in northern Ethiopia (Fig. 1: Beyth, 1972), and to the Urandab Formation in the Ogaden Basin (Raaben et al., 1979; Hunegnaw et al., 1998). Overlying the Upper Hamanlei Limestone is the Lower Cretaceous Muger Mudstone Formation (320 m thick), and the Aptian-Cenomanian Debre Libanose Sandstone Formation (420 m thick) (Getaneh, 1991) (Fig. 3). Some 50 m of section is assumed to have been erosively removed before the onset of Tertiary volcanic flows and trap volcanism dated at 49 Ma (Grasty et al., 1963). Structural history NE Africa has undergone several phases of rifting during the Phanerozoic. A Karroo phase (Late Carboniferous to Triassic) led to the formation of northsouth, NW-SE and NE-SW oriented rift basins including the Ogaden and Blue Nile Basins (Raaben, 1979; Tamrat and Astin, 1992; Gebre Yohanse, 1989; Hunegnaw et al., 1998). Associated basinal deposits are known as the Karroo Group. The Blue Nile Basin is interpreted as a NW-SE trending failed arm of the Karroo rift system (Russo et al., 1994; Korme et al., 2004) (Fig. 1). A second phase of rifting occurred in the Early to Middle Jurassic. A coeval marine transgression resulted in the deposition of marine sediments in the Ogaden, Blue Nile, Southern Red Sea and Mandwa areas including carbonates, evaporites and siliciclastics (Wolela, 1997; Hunegnaw et al., 1998; Bunter et al., 1998). During the Miocene, normal fault blocks developed, possibly reactivated along NW-SE

trending Karroo Rift trends. These are exposed in the Bichena, Fincha, Dejen-Gohatsion and Abay River areas (Fig. 2). Beginning at the end of the Cretaceous, rifting began in the Gulf of Aden area and ultimately resulted in the formation of the Red Sea and the Main Ethiopian Rift (McConnel, 1972; Kent, 1974; Bunter et al., 1998; Korme et al., 2004) (Fig. 1). The Karroo rift system is thus dissected by the Main Ethiopian Rift which separates the Blue Nile Basin from the Ogaden Basin. The NE-SW and north-south to NNESSW trending fault systems of the Main Ethiopian Rift are exposed in the western rift escarpment in the eastern part of the Blue Nile Basin (Fig. 2). MATERIALS AND METHODS Thirty one samples of potential source rocks were collected from the Karroo Group, Adigrat Sandstone Formation, Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation and Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation. The samples came from the Dejen, Gohatsion, Gende Beret, Fincha, Weleka, Jimma and Arjo areas (Table 1) and comprised (i) dark grey Karroo shale (one sample), (ii) lacustrine sapropelic coals from the upper part of the Adigrat Sandstone Formation (two samples); (iii) algal-rich gypsum from the Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation (three samples); and (iv) limestones and black shales and mudstones from the upper part of the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation (25 samples). All samples were collected from outcrop exposures as there are no wells in the basin. The samples were cleaned in an ultrasonic water bath. Crushed black shale and mudstone samples were placed in a crucible and pyrolyzed at 300C for 3 min, followed by programmed pyrolysis at 25C/ minute to an optimum temperature of 600C in a helium atmosphere. Standard S1, S2, S3 and Tmax measurements were recorded with a Rock-Eval II instrument, as were the hydrogen index (HI) and oxygen index (OI). The production index (PI), defined as the ratio S1/(S1+ S2) (Peters, 1986), was also determined. Gold-coated black mudstones from the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation were examined under a JEOL 6400 scanning electron microscope equipped with an energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX) system with accelerating voltage 10 to 15 kV, to study the mineral composition and distribution of authigenic minerals. Other samples were mounted on aluminium pin stubs and polished to 0.5 m for visual analysis. A Nicrphot-Fxa reflectance microscope attached to a Fiber optic light source, light collecting Pi, monochromatic filter, oil immersion lenses (10x, 20x, 40x, 60x), and oil

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Type I 750

0.5

Hydrogen index (mg/gTOC)

Legend
Limestone, Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation Algal-rich gypsum, Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation Shale, Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation Coal, Adigrat Sandstone Formation Shale, Karroo sediment 1.3 isoreflectance

Fig. 4. Cross-plot of hydrogen index versus Tmax for 22 shale and limestone samples from the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation, together with samples from the Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation, Adigrat Sandstone and Karroo Group (see data in Table 1).

600

450

Type II 300

150 Type III

1.3

420

440

460

480

500

520

Tmax C
Immature Mature Supermature

refractive index 1.56 were used for vitrinite reflectance studies. Samples of seepage oil were collected from the Were Ilu locality (Fig. 2) and were analysed by (i) liquid chromatography to determine the saturate, aromatic, NSO and asphaltene fractions; (ii) gas chromatography of the saturate and aromatic hydrocarbon fractions and (iii) GC-MS biomarker analysis of the saturate fractions. Steranes were monitored at m/z 217 (regular steranes), m/z 218 ( steranes), and m/z 259 (diasteranes) and m/z 191 (terpanes). Carbon isotope ratios of the whole-oil saturate and aromatic hydrocarbon fractions were also determined. Lopatin (1971, in Waples, 1980) described a simple method to estimate the effect of time and temperature on source rock maturation. For this study, burial history curves and thermal maturities were constructed using a modified Lopatin-type software programme developed at the Queens University of Belfast (Monson, 1995). Inputs included the age and thickness of the formation; the geothermal gradient (assumed to be 27oC/km by analogy with similar rift basins); and the erosional history of the basin. Using this data, the programme reconstructed the burial history of specific formations and determines the Lopatin time and temperature index (TTI). The software also indicates the peak time and duration of oil and wet gas generation, and the time of dry gas generation.

RESULTS TOC and kerogen type (Table 1, Fig. 4) The shale sample from the Karroo Group had a TOC of 0.13%. Sapropelic coal samples from the Adigrat Sandstone Formation had TOCs between 1 and 6%, and contained Type II kerogen. Algal-rich gypsum intervals in the Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation had low TOC contents (0.04-0.1%) and contained Type II kerogen. TOC values for limestones from the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation ranged from 0.03 to 0.11%, whereas black mudstones and shales from this formation had TOCs ranging from 0.7 to 7.2% with Type II kerogen. Rock-Eval pyrolysis The shale sample from the Karroo Group had Tmax and S 2 values of 474C and 0.03 gHC/kg rock, respectively. For coal samples from the Adigrat Sandstone Formation, S2 ranges from 7 to 30 gHC/kg rock, while Tmax and HI values are 421-426 C, and 501-508 mgHC/gCorg, respectively. Algal-rich gypsum samples from the Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation had Tmax and S2 values of 438440C and 0.08-0.25 gHC/kg, respectively. Limestones from the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation had Tmax values of 427-445C, and S2 values of 0.09 to 1.4 gHC/kg rock, indicating poor source rock potential. Black shales and mudstones from the

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Area OxfordianKimmeridgian Bathonian

Sample Type

Formation

Age

Sample No TOC in % S1HCg/kg S2HCg/kg S3HCg/kg

PI

HImgHC/g OImgCO2 Corg /g

Tmax in o C

Dejen Section OxfordianKimmeridgian

1.24 0.23 0.2 0.14 1.1 1.1 0.8 1 0.9 1.1 1 0.6 0.2 0.66 9

29.5 575 650 467 17 16 19 29 31 7 7 9

Gohatsion Section WE-02 WE-01 GB-1 JM-4 JM-5 0.2 0.6 1.4 0.16 0.15 0.25 9.11 4.02 60 3.52 0.13 0.42 6.7 2.1 1.2 1.6 10.2 1.6 10.1 1.2 0.14 0.15 0.06 0.4 0.03

Shale Limestone Limestone Gypsum Shale Shale Shale Mudstone Shale Shale Mudstone Shale Shale Shale Mudstone Shale Limestone Limestone Shale Gypsum OxfordianKimmeridgian 0.6 0.17 0.22 0.7 0.06 420 320 660 330 321 33 155 440 18 200 10 9 38 280 441 440 445 426 438 438 0.9 0.89 0.6 0.2 0.5

UHF UHF UHF MHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF UHF MHF

WA-2 WA-57 WA-32 WA-40 BNS-1 BNS-2 BNS-3 BNS-4 BNS-6 BNS-7 BNS-8 BNS-9 BNS-10 BNS-11 BNS-12 BNS-13 WA-41 WA-47 BNS-5 WA-63

4.2 0.04 0.04 0.03 6.8 4.7 1.9 5.2 2.82 6.8 3.3 0.7 6.68 7.11 2.55 1.86 0.11 0.05 5.4 0.03

2.86 0.08 0.07 0.05 1.5 1 0.2 2 0.13 1.6 0.6 0.05 0.27 2.9 0.06 1.09 0.16 0.07 0.6 0.06

25.23 0.12 0.09 0.1 35.2 30.6 6 24.3 16.35 35.2 16.9 4.1 37.38 38 12.99 8.12 0.22 0.09 16 0.08

0.1 0.4 0.44 0.33 0.04 0.03 0.03 0.06 0.01 0.04 0.03 0.01 0.01 0.07 0.02 0.02 0.42 0.44 0.03 0.43

600 300 225 333 518 417 613 465 579 518 520 580 560 535 560 436 200 180 573 260

426 442 428 434 440 441 436 445 424 426 424 424 425 441 439 431 427 443 445 440

Vitrinite reflectance (Ro) in % 0.5 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.8 0.5 0.3 0.7 0.5 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.6 0.5 0.7 0.1 0.7 0.7

Weleka Section Oxford.-Kimm. Bathonian OxfordianKimmeridgian OxfordianKimmeridgian L. Triassic Permian

Mudstone

UHF

Shale

UHF

Bathonian OxfordianKimmeridgian OxfordianKimmeridgian

Gende Beret

Shale

UHF

Source rock potential of the Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia

Gypsum

MHF

Jimma

UHF

Arjo

30 16 18 16 19

0.8 0.9 1.1 0.3 1

Finchaa

Black limestone Shale Shale Shale Coal Coal Shale JM-1 JM-2 JM-3 AR-1 AR-2 FS-1 0.87 7.22 1.95 1.33 5.96 0.13 1.13 1.11 1.07 0.03 0.17 0.01

UHF UHF UHF ASF ASF KS

4.27 5.13 8.82 6.75 29.83 0.03

0.42 1.2 0.27 0.2 0.4 0.7

0.2 0.18 0.11 0.01 0.01 0.25

425 425 438 508 501 15

446 431 452 426 421 474

Table 1.Pyrolysis and vitrinite reflectance analyses for samples from the Blue Nile Basin. UHF: Upper Hamanlei Formation; MHF: Middle Hamanlei Formation; ASFL Adigrat Sandstone Formation; KS: Karroo sample.

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Formation Volcanics Upper Sandstone (Mugher Mudstone and Debre Libanose Sandstone) Upper Hamanlei Limestone Middle Hamanlei Limestone Adigrat Sandstone Karroo

Time in million years 49 110 150 180 230 280

Thickness in metres 300 560 420 350 450 450

Depth in metres 300 860 1280 1630 2080 2530

Geothermal Erosion in gradient metres 27C / km 27C / km 27C / km 27C / km 27C / km 27C / km 50

200

Table 2. Data used for reconstruction of the burial history curves in the Dejen-Gohatsion area. Geothermal gradient value is based on that in similar intercratonic rift basins.

Formation Volcanics Upper Sandstone (Mugher Mudstone and Debre Libanose Sandstone) Upper Hamanlei Limestone Middle Hamanlei Limestone Adigrat Sandstone Karroo

Time in million years 49 110 150 180 230 280

Thickness in m 1100 560 720 350 850 450

Depth in m 1100 1660 2380 2730 3580 4030

Geothermal Erosion in gradient in m 27C / km 27C / km 27C / km 27C / km 27C / km 27C / km 50

200

Table 3. Data used for reconstruction of the burial history curves in the Were Ilu area. Geothermal gradient is based upon that in similar intercratonic rift basins.

formation have Tmax values generally ranging from 424 to 445 C (Fig. 4). S2 yields are up to 37.3 gHC/kg, and the HI ranges between 465 and 660 mgHC/gCorg. Production index and vitrinite reflectance values for the black mudstones and shales of the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation are low in terms of oil generation in the Dejen-Gohatsion area; however, they are sufficiently high for oil generation to occur for samples from the Jimma and Weleka areas (Table 1). Vitrinite reflectance (Table 1) Black shales from the Karroo succession had vitrinite reflectance (Ro) of 1.1%. The Ro of sapropelic coals from the Adigrat Sandstone Formation ranged from 0.3 to 0.4%. The black shales and mudstones from the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation had Ro values of 0.20.9%. SEM studies Scanning electron microscope (SEM) studies showed that the black mudstones and shales from the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation from Dejen included pyrite crystals, plant remains, algal bodies, thin organicrich laminae and authigenic clay minerals such as smectite. The presence of pyrite crystals in the black mudstones and shales is an indicator of a marine depositional environment (Curtis, 1978) or of a later marine transgression which diagenetically influenced the underlying sediments.

TTI modelling Data used for the reconstruction of burial history curves for the Dejen-Gohatsion and Were Ilu areas are given in Tables 2 and 3. Burial history reconstruction and TTI modelling indicate that the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation has not entered the oil window in the Dejen-Gohatsion area (Table 2, Fig. 5). Here, the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation is overlain by a 300 m thick volcanic succession but burial is not sufficient for oil generation to occur. At Were Ilu, the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation is overlain by a 560 m thick Mesozoic sedimentary succession and 1100 m of Tertiary volcanic rocks. The formation is modelled to have entered the oil window and to have generated oil from 10 Ma to the present day (Table 3, Fig. 6). GEOCHEMICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WERE ILU SEEPAGE OIL The occurrence of an oil seep at Were Ilu is possibly related to the presence of near-vertical NW-SE, NESW and north-south trending fractures present within alkali olivine basalts on the bed of the Mechela River. These deep-seated fractures may have allowed the upward migration of hydrocarbons to the surface. The seepage oil takes the form of a black, sticky tar (Fig. 7a,b), Geochemical studies of the Were Ilu seepage oil indicated that the

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Age scale
Palaezoic Permian Triassic Mesozoic Jurassic Cenozoic Cretaceous
Palaeogene Neog

Formation

1km

Volcanic rocks

Depth 2km

Upper Sandstone Upper Hamanlei Middle Hamanlei Adigrat sandstone Karroo sediment

Fig. 5. Burial history reconstruction for the Dejen-Gohatsion area, Blue Nile Basin.
Age scale
Palaeozoic Permian Triassic Mesozoic Jurassic Cretaceous Cenozoic Palaeogene Neog.
FORMATION

1km

2km

Depth
Trap volcanics

3km
Upper Sandstone Upper Hamanlei

4km

Middle Hamanlei Adigrat Sandstone Karroo sediments

Legend
Oil window Peak of oil generation

Fig. 6. Burial history reconstruction for the Were Ilu area, Blue Nile Basin. The estimated time of peak oil generation in the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation is indicated.

aromatic hydrocarbon content is 53%, saturates 26%, asphaltenes 17% and NSO compounds 6%. Dominant hydrocarbons include C27 to C29 steranes (Figs. 8,9,10). The m/z 191 chromatogram indicates an abundance of terpanes (Fig. 11) as well as C17 and higher hopanes (C 31+). The relatively low abundance of tricyclic terpanes probably reflects the effects of microbial degradation. The oil has a relatively low sulphur content (total sulphur: 0.5%). The m/z 217 chromatogram indicates that C 29 steranes are approximately equal to C27 steranes. The Pr/Ph ratio of the seepage oil is 0.90 (Fig. 9). The seepage oil has probably undergone moderate biodegradation and water washing, removing water-

soluble hydrocarbons such as benzene and toluene (Palmer, 1991). Biodegraded oils are in general identified by their low contents of n-paraffins relative to branched hydrocarbons (e.g. C 19 and C 20 isoprenoids, pristane and phytane) and cyclic hydrocarbons (naphthenes and aromatic hydrocarbon) (Williams et al., 1986). DISCUSSION AND INTERPRETATION Tmax values below 435 C are associated with rocks which are thermally immature with respect of oil generation, while values in the range of 435-460 C indicate peak maturities (Tissot and Welte, 1984;

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Fig. 7. Outcrop photos from the Were Ilu area: (a) bitumen (Bt) veins and limestone clast (C ); 30cm hammer for scale. (b) bitumen in veins (Bt) and geoids (Btg), and weathered volcanic ash (A); 15cm pencil for scale.

Fig. 8. GCMS 217 ion chromatogram showing compounds of steranes, Were Ilu oil seepage sample (GAX 96223.D), Blue Nile Basin. Peak identification: A 13, 17-diacholestane (20S); B 13, 17-diacholestane (20R); C 13, 17-diacholestane (20S); D 13, 17-diacholestane (20R); E 24-methyl-13, 17-diacholestane (20S); F 24-methyl-13, 17-diacholestane (20R); G 24-methyl-13, 17-diacholestane (20S) +14, 17-cholestane (20S); H 24-ethyl-13, 17-diacholestane (20S) +14,17-cholestane (20R); I 14, 17-cholestane (20S) +24-methyl-13, 17-diacholestane (20R); J 14, 17-cholestane (20R); K 24-ethyl-13, 17-diacholestane (20R); L 24-ethyl-13, 17-diacholestane (20R); M 24-methyl-14, 17-cholestane (20S); N 24-methyl-14, 17-cholestane (20R) + 24-ethyl-13, 17-diacholestane (20R); O 24-methyl-14B, 17-cholestane (20S); P 24-methyl-14, 17-cholestane (20R); Q 24-ethyl-14, 17-cholestane (20S); R 24-ethyl-14, 17-cholestane (20R); S 24-ethyl-14, 17-cholestane (20S); T 24-ethyl-14, 17-cholestane (20R).

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Source rock potential of the Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia

Fig. 9. Gas chromatogram result showing saturates, steranes and triterpanes. Prominent C19, C20 isoprenoid alkanes, pristane and phytane are labelled, Were Ilu oil seepage sample (GAX 96223.D), Blue Nile Basin.

Fig. 10. GC MS 218 ion chromatogram showing steranes compound, Were Ilu oil seepage sample (GAX 96223.D), Blue Nile Basin. Labels referring to clusters of peaks.

Peters, 1986; Peters and Cassa, 1994). Pyrolysis results of the Karroo Group sample indicated that it is overmature, whereas the coal samples from the Adigrat Sandstone Formation are oil-prone but immature (Fig. 4). Algal-rich gypsum in the Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation and the limestones from the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation have TOC and S2 values too low for significant hydrocarbon generation (Table 1). The hydrogen index of the black shales and mudstones in the Upper Hamanlei Limestone

Formation was between 465 and 660 mgHC/gCorg, indicating good source rock potential (c.f. Peters, 1986; Peters and Cassa, 1994). Vitrinite reflectance results for these black shales and mudstones are up to 0.9%, consistent with peak oil generation (cf. Senftle and Landis, 1991). A plot of (S1+S2) versus TOC for the black mudstones and shales (Fig. 12) indicates Type II kerogen with good source potential. The Were Ilu seepage oil sample had a Pr/Ph ratio of 0.90 (Fig. 9) and C29 steranes equal to C27 steranes, suggesting derivation from a marine carbonate-

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Fig. 11. Gas chromatogram 191 ion showing pentacyclic triterpanes, Were Ilu oil seepage sample (GAX 96223.D), Blue Nile Basin. Pead identification: 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 18(H)-22, 29, 30-trisnorhopane (Ts); 17 (H)-28, 30-bisnorhopane; 17-normoretane; 17-moretane; C31 homohopane (22R) C32 bishomohopane (22R); C33 trishomohopane (22R); C34 tetrakishomohopane (22R); C35 pentakishomohopane (22R). 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 17 (H)-22, 29, 30-trisnorhopane (Tm); 17 (H)-norhopane; 17-hopane; C31 homohopane (22S); C32 bishomohopane (22S); C33 trishomohopane (22S); C34 tetrakishomohopane (22S); C35 pentakishomohopane (22S);

Maturity ST1 = 0.42 ST2 = 0.48 ST3 = *** ST4 = *** MP1 = *** MP2 = *** TT2 = 0.11 TT3 = 0.13 TT4 = 60%

Source ST5 = 35, 24, 41 ST7 = 0.34 TT6 = *** TT7 = *** TT8 = *** TT9 = ***

Maturity/source ST =0.94 TT1= 0.40 TT5 = *** TT10 = *** TT11 = ***

Table 4. Biomarker data for the Were Ilu seepage oil sample (GAX 96223.D).

dominated source rock. The sterane and terpane distributions indicated that the source rock included terrestrial material. The distribution of steranes (m/z 218) indicated that the contribution by terrestrial terrigenous materials was significant. The distribution of diasteranes (peaks A, B, H and K in Fig. 8) indicates catalysis of steranes resulting from interactions with clay minerals within the source rocks. Within a source rock, the ratio of C29 20S to 20R steranes (ST1) varies according to the

diagenetic history. ST1 and ST2 values of 0.42 and 0.48, respectively (Table 4) indicate that the seepage oil was generated by an early to mid- mature source rock. This is consistent with a Ts/Tm value of 0.40, also indicating early to mid oil window maturity. Carbon isotope ratios Previous studies of the seepage oil resulted in carbon isotope compositions (13C) of -25.91 for aromatics, -26.9 for saturates and -26.1 for oil. The canonical

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S1+S2

Fair

Good

Excellent

100

TOTAL HYDROCARBON GENERATION POTENTIAL (mg HC/g rock)

Fig. 12. Cross-plot of TOC versus (S1+S2) for black shales and mudstones from the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation, and for other samples analysed.

10

Legend
Black shale and mudstone

Poor

Black limestone, Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation Algal-rich gypsum, Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation

0.1 0.1

TOTAL ORGANIC CARBON (%)


1 10 TOC

Poor

Good

Excellent

value (- 2.53 (13Csats) + 2.22 (13Carom) -11.65) is -1.15 (Geochemical Service, 1990). The canonical value (CV) can be used to differentiate algal (marine or nonmarine) sourced oils from oil generated from terrestrial organic matter. Algal-sourced oils tend to produce canonical values < 0.47, whereas terrestrial-sourced oils give values > 0.47 (Sofer, 1991). In general, oils that are isotopically heavy (less negative) are considered to have a marine origin, whereas isotopically light (more negative) oils are thought to be derived from terrestrial sources (Scalan and Morgan, 1970). The canonical value of the seepage oil was -1.15 suggesting that it was derived from a marine shale dominated source rock. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS (1) Black mudstones and shales within the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation in the Blue Nile Basin have significant source rock potential. Burial history reconstruction and TTI modelling suggest that the formation is within the oil window in the northern part of the basin. A seepage oil here was analysed and was found to have been generated by an early to mid oil window source rock. (2) Pyrolysis of a shale sample from the PermianTriassic Karroo Group indicated that it is overmature,

whereas samples of sapropelic coals from the Adigrat Sandstone Formations are oil-prone but immature. Algal-rich gypsum in the Middle Hamanlei Limestone Formation and limestones in the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation have little source rock potential. Black mudstones and shales in the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation have TOC values up to 7.2%, with Ro of 0.3-0.9%. A plot of (S1+S2) versus (TOC) indicated Type II kerogen; HI was 465-660 mgHC/gCorg. The black shales and mudstones are immature in the Dejen-Gohatsion area due to shallow burial; they are more deeply buried in the Jimma and Weleka areas and are sufficiently mature here to generate oil. (3) Lopatin modelling indicates that the black mudstones and shales in the Upper Hamanlei Limestone Formation entered the oil window at 10 Ma and continue to generate oil at the present day. (4) An oil seepage at Were Ilu in the northern part of the basin indicates the presence of an active petroleum system. Gas and liquid chromatography, GC-MS biomarker analysis of the saturate fractions and carbon isotope data indicate that the seepage oil was derived from a marine source rock with an influx of terrestrial organic matter. The seepage oil is moderately biodegraded, which resulted in the loss of normal alkanes and aromatic hydrocarbons

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(benzene and toluene), whereas iso-alkanes, tetracyclic alkanes and pentacyclic alkanes are preserved. The Pr/Ph ratio of the oil seepage is less than 1, suggesting marine shelf sediment. Carbon isotope data corroborates the biomarker data suggesting a marine depositional environment. The abundant distribution of steranes indicating mixed type of organic materials (marine and terrestrial) for the oil generation. Pentacyclic triterpanes are more abundant than steranes. Higher hopanes are well developed. The presence of diasteranes indicates a high clay content in the parent source rocks. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This paper uses data from the authors Ph.D thesis (Wolela, 1997). Previous drafts of the manuscript were read by John Parnell whose comments are gratefully acknowledged. E. Geirlowski-Kordesch, A. Ruffel and A. Hunegnaw are also thanked for constructive and valuable reviews. A previous version of the manuscript benefited from journal review by M. Pearson and M. Russell. Most of the laboratory work was carried out at the Queens University of Belfast whose staff are acknowledged for their support and help. The research was financially supported by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Ethiopia and the School of Geosciences, Queens University of Belfast. REFERENCES
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