Interpretation of source rock depositional environment and age from seep oil, east coast of New Zealand

Abstract

Biomarker fingerprints of crude oil samples from four onshore East Coast Basin oil seeps were analyzed to assess source rock characteristics including type of organic matter input, redox conditions, sedimentary facies, and age. Results show that samples generally form two groups, correlating with geographic location: a northern and a southern group. Source rocks associated with all seep samples are interpreted to be marine. However, results suggest northern samples had more terrigenous organic matter input to their source rock(s), while southern samples had more marine input. Results suggest northern sample source rock(s) had more oxic depositional environments, whereas southern sample source rock had more reducing environments. A shale source rock sedimentary facies was indicated for all samples. These observations suggest that southern samples may be derived from slightly higher quality source rocks (higher HI, deposited in more reducing conditions), although source rocks in both regions are oil prone. Biomarker age parameters suggest that the northern oil samples are from a younger (Cenozoic) source rock, whereas the southern oil samples are from an older (Cretaceous) source rock. Source rock characteristics (depositional environment and age) point to the presence of two different source rocks. We postulate that northern oils samples from younger source rock with more terrigenous organic matter input represent the upper Paleocene Waipawa Formation, whereas southern oil samples from older source rock with more marine organic matter input represent the Upper Cretaceous to Paleocene Whangai Formation.

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Fig. 1

Modified after Burton et al. (2018)

Fig. 2

Modified after Bland et al. (2015)

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Change history

  • 02 May 2019

    “The authors wish to rescind the speculated correlation of the northern oils with the upper Paleocene Waipawa Formation given that these oils do not match the carbon isotopes or C<Subscript>30</Subscript> 24-propyldiacholestane ratios of Waipawa Formation rocks or Waipawa-sourced oils (Sykes et al. 2012). Instead, we now infer the northern and southern oils to be derived from separate organofacies within a Cretaceous, Whangai-type marine source rock unit, with the northern organofacies being more oxic and having more terrigenous organic matter input than the southern organofacies. The actual source rock unit, however, remains uncertain as none of the known occurrences of Whangai Formation have any significant oil potential.”

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Andrew Hanson and Gary Muscio for their comments and review which improved the manuscript, and also thank editors Wolf-Christian Dullo and Peter Kukla. ZB would like to thank the Stanford University Basin and Petroleum System Modeling (BPSM) Industrial Affiliates Program, the AAPG Grants-In-Aid Program, and the Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences McGee/Levorsen Research Grant Program for funding and the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory for a Professional Internship/Fellowship. ZB also would like to thank Allegra Hosford Scheirer, Inessa Yurchenko, William Thompson-Butler, and the staff at GNS Science, Biomarker Technologies, Inc., and GeoMark Research for useful comments and assistance. RS would like to thank the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for funding through the GNS Science-led research program on New Zealand petroleum source rocks, fluids, and plumbing systems (contract C05X1507).

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Correspondence to Zachary F. M. Burton.

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Burton, Z.F.M., Moldowan, J.M., Magoon, L.B. et al. Interpretation of source rock depositional environment and age from seep oil, east coast of New Zealand. Int J Earth Sci (Geol Rundsch) 108, 1079–1091 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00531-018-01675-6

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Keywords

  • New Zealand
  • Oil seeps
  • Source rock
  • Depositional environment
  • Age
  • East Coast Basin