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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 92, No. 1 (January 2008), P. 53-76.

Copyright copy2008. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.


Petroleum generation and migration in the Ghadames Basin, north Africa: A two-dimensional basin-modeling study

Ruth Underdown,1 Jonathan Redfern2

1North Africa Research Group, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom; [email protected]
2North Africa Research Group, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom; [email protected]


The Ghadames Basin contains important oil- and gas-producing reservoirs distributed across Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Regional two-dimensional (2-D) modeling, using data from more than 30 wells, has been undertaken to assess the timing and distribution of hydrocarbon generation in the basin. Four potential petroleum systems have been identified: (1) a Middle–Upper Devonian (Frasnian) and Triassic (Triassic Argilo Greseux Inferieur [TAG-I]) system in the central-western basin; (2) a Lower Silurian (Tannezuft) and Triassic (TAG-I) system to the far west; (3) a Lower Silurian (Tannezuft) and Upper Silurian (Acacus) system in the eastern and northeastern margins; and (4) a Lower Silurian (Tanezzuft) and Middle–Upper Devonian (Frasnian) system to the east-southeast. The Lower Silurian Tanezzuft source rock underwent two main phases of hydrocarbon generation. The first phase occurred during the Carboniferous, and the second started during the Cretaceous, generating most hydrocarbons in the eastern (Libyan) basin. The Frasnian shales underwent an initial, minor generative phase in the central depression during the Carboniferous. However, the main generation occurred during the Late Jurassic–Cenozoic in the western and central depression. The Frasnian shales are currently only marginally mature in the eastern part of the basin.

Modeling indicates that the Alpine (Eocene) exhumation of the eastern (Libyan) basin margin had a significant control on the timing of hydrocarbon generation from the Lower Silurian source rock. The preferred burial-history model calibrates source rock maturity data by incorporating late exhumation and reduced subsidence prior to the Hercynian (Carboniferous) orogeny. As a result, the Tannezuft shales preserve their generative potential into the Mesozoic–Cenozoic, with renewed hydrocarbon generation during subsequent reburial, which can migrate to post-Hercynian (Carboniferous) traps, hence favoring the preservation of hydrocarbon accumulations.

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