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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 86, No. 7 (July 2002),Copyright ©2002. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

The petroleum system of the central Perija fold belt, western Venezuela

Oswaldo Gallango,1 Enrique Novoa,2 Asdrubal Bernal3

1PDVSA-Intevep, Apartado de Correos 76343, Caracas 1070A, Venezuela; email: [email protected]
2PDVSA-Intevep, Apartado de Correas 76343, Caracas 1070A, Venezuela; email: [email protected]
3Basin and Stratigraphic Studies Group, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom; email: [email protected]


Oswaldo Gallango is a senior researcher in organic geochemistry. He graduated from the School of Chemistry at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He joined PDVSA-Intevep in 1979, where he is currently an advanced specialist in organic geochemistry and leader of the Organic Geochemistry Group.

Enrique Novoa received a B.Sc. degree in geological engineering from Universidad Central de Venezuela in 1990 and a Ph.D. in structural geology from Princeton University in 1997. He joined PDVSA-Intevep in 1992 as a structural geologist. He is also a part-time professor at Universidad Simon Bolivar. He investigates complex folding and faulting in the upper crust through the development and application of fault-related folding theories. His research interests also include the petroleum system evolution of the Venezuelan fold belts.

Asdrubal Bernal received a B.Sc. degree in engineering geophysics from Simon Bolivar University in Caracas in 1997. He joined PDVSA-Intevep in 1997 as a staff geophysicist working in structural interpretation and imaging of subsurface data. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the Department of Earth Science, University of Manchester. He investigates the morphology of syntectonic sediments and river networks in three-dimensional compressional settings using numerical techniques.


We are grateful to PDVSA Exploracion, Produccion y Mejoramiento and PDVSA-Intevep for giving permission to publish this article. Special thanks are due to J. Crux for providing the stratigraphic chart published in this article and C. Zambrano for helping with some of the figures. This article benefited from constructive suggestions by J. H. Shaw, J. Helwig, S. C. Talukdar, J. Kupecz, and J. A. Curiale.


The timing of hydrocarbon migration relative to trap formation remains a factor in evaluating the exploration potential of the Perija fold belt on the west flank of the Lake Maracaibo Basin. Based on the data from this article, there is evidence of structural traps being filled by two oil migration events.

At least four major events of deformation have been identified in the area from the Late Cretaceous to the Holocene. The first event is Late Cretaceous in age and characterized by compressional structures. The second event is characterized by extensional features and occurred from the Late Cretaceous to the middle Eocene. The third and fourth events are characterized by compressional structures that developed during the late Eocene and late Miocene-Holocene, respectively.

Based on oil-oil and oil-source rock correlations and one-dimensional (1-D) basin modeling, two phases of oil generation and migration are proposed as responsible for oil accumulation in the central Perija fold belt. The first phase occurred from a kitchen of late Paleocene-late Miocene age located to the west-southwest of the study area. The second phase occurred during the middle Miocene-Holocene from a kitchen located to the east of the study area. The older kitchen is responsible for oil accumulations found in the Upper Cretaceous traps. The younger kitchen is responsible for possible oil accumulations in traps of both Cretaceous and Tertiary reservoirs located in the eastern part of the study area.

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