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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


DOI: 10.1306/07111818014

Geochemically distinct oil families in the onshore and offshore Santa Maria basins, California

K. E. Peters,1 P. G. Lillis,2 T. D. Lorenson,3 and J. E. Zumberge4

1Schlumberger, Mill Valley, California; Geological Sciences Department, Stanford University, Stanford, California; [email protected], [email protected]
2Emeritus, US Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado; [email protected]
3US Geological Survey, Santa Cruz, California; [email protected]
4GeoMark Research, Ltd., Houston, Texas; [email protected]


The purpose of this work is to identify genetic affinities among 48 crude oil samples from the onshore and offshore Santa Maria basins. A total of 21 source-related biomarker and stable carbon isotope ratios among the samples were assessed to assure that they were unaffected by secondary processes. Chemometric analysis of these data identifies six oil families with map and stratigraphic distributions that reflect organofacies variations within the Miocene Monterey Formation source rock. The data comprise a training set that was used to create a chemometric decision tree to classify newly collected oil samples. Three onshore families originated from two synclines, which may contain one or more pods of thermally mature source rock. Multiple biomarker parameters indicate that the six oil families achieved early oil window maturity in the range of 0.6%–0.7% equivalent vitrinite reflectance. The offshore oil samples consist of one family from Point Pedernales field and two families from the “B” prospect. Geochemical characteristics of these families indicate origins under differing water column and sediment oxicity and carbonate versus siliceous and detrital input in ‘carbonate,’ ‘marl,’ and ‘shale’ organofacies like those in the lower calcareous–siliceous, carbonaceous marl, and clayey–siliceous members of the Monterey Formation elsewhere in coastal California. The corresponding lithofacies and organofacies appear to be linked to the early–middle Miocene climate optimum and subsequent paleoclimatic cooling after circa 14 Ma, a systematic up-section increase in the stable carbon isotope composition of related oil samples, decreased preservation of calcium carbonate shells from planktic foraminifera and coccoliths, and increased preservation of clay-sized siliceous shells of diatoms and radiolarians. The results show that organofacies within the Monterey source rock are responsible for many of the geochemical differences between the oil families. This paleoclimate–organofacies model for crude oil from the Monterey Formation can be used to enhance future exploration efforts in many areas of coastal California.

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