Geochemistry of the Upper Jurassic Tuwaiq Mountain and Hanifa Formation Petroleum Source Rocks of Eastern Saudi Arabia

  • W. J. Carrigan
  • G. A. Cole
  • E. L. Colling
  • P. J. Jones
Part of the Casebooks in Earth Sciences book series (CASEBOOKS)


Thick, regionally extensive, laminated organic-rich lime mudstone units are present within the late Jurassic Hanifa and Tuwaiq Mountain Formations. These potential source rocks were deposited during the late Callovian to early Kimmeridgian within a relatively short-lived intra-shelf basin, the Arabian basin. This basin formed on the northeastern continental shelf of the Afro-Arabian plate, in what is now eastern Saudi Arabia, as a result of relative sea level rise in combination with differential subsidence and/or local structuring within the shelf. The Arabian basin was at least partially separated from the open neo-Tethys ocean by flanking paleo-highs composed of grainstone shoal/barrier island facies. The source rocks, defined as units having TOC > 1%, have an average TOC content of about 3%, with contents as high as 13%. Total pyrolytic yield (S1 + S2 from Rock-Eval) is as high as 88 mg HC/g rock, with an average yield of 25 mg HC/g rock, indicating excellent source rock potential. Hydrogen indices of thermally immature rocks are between 600 and 800 mg HC/g TOC, which indicates an oil-prone kerogen. The organic material is dominated by lamalginite, with subordinate amounts of vitrinite and inertinite, most of which is fluorescent. Kerogen from immature rocks isolated for elemental analysis plot as type II on a van Krevelen diagram. These results show that organic-rich units within the Hanifa and Tuwaiq Mountain Formations contain type II kerogen having excellent, oil-prone source rock potential.

Major oil accumulations occur in several late Jurassic carbonate reservoirs in Saudi Arabia. Representative oils from these reservoirs show very similar chromatographic and biomarker fingerprints to bitumen extracted from the Hanifa and Tuwaiq Mountain Formation source rocks, suggesting that the oils were derived from these source rocks. The similar stable carbon isotope ratios between the oils (avg. δ 13C = - 26.6‰) and the kerogen (avg. δ 13C = - 26.4‰) and bitumen (avg. δ 13C = - 27.1‰) is also consistent with an origin from the Hanifa and Tuwaiq Mountain Formations.

The thermal maturation history of the Hanifa and Tuwaiq Mountain source rocks was calculated using kinetic models. Results indicate that oil generation and expulsion began about 75 Ma B.P. in the eastern part of the basin. By 50 Ma B.P. the oil kitchens had expanded westward and oil had started filling the broad, gentle structures that had formed during the late Cretaceous. Today, the Hanifa and Tuwaiq Mountain source rocks east of the Ghawar structure have passed through the oil generation window. The source rocks in the basin center are still within the oil generation window. In the western part of the basin, the source rocks are either immature or just starting to enter the oil window.


Source Rock Saudi Arabia Vitrinite Reflectance Hydrogen Index Potential Source Rock 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abu-Ali MA, Franz UA, Shen V, Monnier F, Mahmoud MD, Chambers TM (1991) Hydrocarbon generation and migration in the paleozoic sequence of Saudia Arabia. SPE Prof Pap 21376, Proc 7th Ann SPE Middle East Oil Show, Bahrain, 345–355Google Scholar
  2. Ala MA, Kinghorn RRF, Rahman M (1980) Organic geochemistry and source-rock characterization of the Zagros petroleum province, SW Iran. J Petrol Geol 3: 61–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alsharhan AS, Kendall CGStC (1986) Precambrian to Jurassic rocks of Arabian Gulf and adjacent areas: their facies, depositional setting, and hydrocarbon habitat. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 70: 977–1002Google Scholar
  4. Ayres MG, Bilal M, Jones RW, Slentz LW, Tartir M, Wilson AO (1982) Hydrocarbon habitat in main producing areas, Saudi Arabia. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 66: 1–9Google Scholar
  5. Beydoun ZR, (1991) Arabian Plate hydrocarbon geology and potential — a plate tectonic approach. Am Assoc Pet Geol, Tulsa, Stud Geol 33: 76Google Scholar
  6. Clark JP, Philp RP (1989) Geochemical characterization of evaporite and carbonate depositional environments and correlation of associated crude oils in the Black Creek basin, Alberta, Bull Can Petrol Geol 37: 401–416Google Scholar
  7. Clayton CJ (1991a) Effect of maturity on carbon isotope ratios of oils and condensates. Org Geochem 17: 887–900CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clayton CJ (1991b) Carbon isotope fractionation during natural gas generation from kerogen. Mar Petrol Geol 8: 232–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cole GA, Carrigan WJ, Colling EL, Halpern HI, Al-Khadrawi MR, Jones PJ (1994) The organic geochemistry of the Jurassic petroleum system in Eastern Saudi Arabia. In: Beauchamp B, Embry AF, Glass D (eds). Carboniferous to Jurassic Pangea, Can Soc Petrol Geol, Calgary, Mem 17 (in press)Google Scholar
  10. Connan J, Dessort D (1987) Novel family of hexacyclic hopanoid alkanes (C32–C35) occurring in sediments and oils from anoxic paleoenvironments. Org Geochem 11: 103–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Connan J, Bouroullec J, Dessort D, Albrecht P (1986) The microbial input in carbonate-anhydrite facies of a sabkha paleoenvironment from Guatemala: a molecular approach, Org Geochem 10: 29–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cook AC, Sherwood NR (1991) Classification of oil shales, coals and other organic-rich rocks. Org Geochem 17: 211–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dow WG, O’Connor DI (1982) Kerogen maturity and type by reflected light microscopy applied to petroleum exploration, In: How to assess maturation and paleotemperatures. Soc Econ Paleontol Mineral, Tulsa, Short Course Number 7, pp 133–158Google Scholar
  14. Droste H (1990) Depositional cycles and source rock development in an epeiric intra-platform basin: the Hanifa Formation of the Arabian peninsula. Sediment Geol 69: 281–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Droste H (1993) Source rock development and relative sea-level changes in an intra-platform basin: the upper Jurassic Hanifa Formation of the Arabian Peninsula, Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 77: 533.Google Scholar
  16. Huang WY, Meinschein WG (1979) Sterols as ecological indicators. Geochem Cosmochem Acta 43: 739–745CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Katz BJ (1983) Limitations of Rock-Eval pyrolysis for typing organic matter. Org Geochem 4: 195–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Langdon GS, Malecek SJ (1987) Seismic stratigraphic study of two Oxfordian carbonate sequences, Eastern Saudi Arabia. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 71: 403–418Google Scholar
  19. Langford FF, Blanc-Valleron MM (1990) Interpreting Rock-Eval pyrolysis data using graphs of pyrolizable hydrocarbons vs. total organic carbon. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 74: 799–804Google Scholar
  20. Mahmoud MD, Vaslet D, Husseini MI (1992) The lower Silurian Qalibah Formation of Saudi Arabia: an important hydrocarbon source rock. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 76: 1491–1506Google Scholar
  21. McGillivray JG, Husseini MI (1992) The Paleozoic petroleum geology of Central Arabia. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 76: 1473–1490Google Scholar
  22. McGuire MD, Koepnick RB, Markello JR, Stockton ML, Waite LE, Kompanik GS, Al-Shammery MJ, Al-Amoudi MO (1993) Importance of sequence stratigraphic concepts in development of reservoir architecture in upper Jurassic grain-stones, Hadriya and Hanifa reservoirs, Saudi Arabia. SPE Prof Pap 25578, Proc 8th Ann SPE Middle East Oil Tech Conf & Exhibition, Manama, Bahrain, pp 489–499Google Scholar
  23. Mello MR, Telnaes N, Gaglianone PC, Chicarelli MI, Brassell SC, Maxwell JR (1988) Organic geochemical characterization of depositional paleoenvironments in Brazilian marginal basins, Org Geochem 13: 31–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moldowan JM, Seifert WK, Gallegos EJ (1985) Relationship between petroleum composition and depositional environment of petroleum source rocks. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 69: 1255–1268Google Scholar
  25. Murris RJ (1980) Middle East: stratigraphic evolution and oil habitat. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 64: 597–618Google Scholar
  26. Oil & Gas Journal (1992) Worldwide production report 90 (52): 39–85Google Scholar
  27. Pelet R (1983) A model for organic sedimentation on present-day continental margins. In: Brooks J, Fleet AJ (ed) Marine Petroleum Source Rocks, Geol Soc, London, Spec Publ 26:167–180Google Scholar
  28. Peters KE (1986) Guidelines for evaluating petroleum source rocks using programmed pyrolysis. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 70: 318–329Google Scholar
  29. Peters KE, Moldowan JM (1991) Effects of source, thermal maturity, and biodegradation on the distribution and isomerization of homohopanes in petroleum, Org Geochem 17: 47–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Peters KE, Moldowan JM (1993), The biomarker guide — interpreting molecular fossils in petroleum and ancient sediments. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NY, 585 ppGoogle Scholar
  31. Powers RW, Ramirez LR, Redmond CD, Elberg EL (1966) Sedimentary geology of Saudi Arabia, In: Geology of the Arabian Peninsula. USGS Prof Pap 560-D, 150 ppGoogle Scholar
  32. Robert P (1988) Organic metamorphism and geothermal history: microscopic study of organic matter and thermal evolution of sedimentary basins. Elf-Acquitaine and Reidel, Boston, 311 ppGoogle Scholar
  33. Seifert WK, Moldowan JM (1978) Application of steranes, terpanes, and monoaromatics to the maturation and migration, and source of crude oils, Geochim Cosmochim Acta 42: 77–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Steineke M, Bramkamp RA, Sander NJ (1958) Stratigraphie relations of Arabian Jurassic oil. In: Weeks LG (ed) Habitat of Oil, Am Assoc Pet Geol symp 40th ann meeting New York, March 28–30, 1955: 1294–1329Google Scholar
  35. Stoneley R (1990) The Middle East basin: a summary overview. In: Brooks J (ed) Classic petroleum provinces, Geol Soc, London, Spec Publ 50: 293–298Google Scholar
  36. Suess E (1980) Particulate organic flux in the oceans — surface productivity and oxygen utilization. Nature 288: 260–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Summons RE, Walter MR (1990) Molecular fossils and micro-fossils of procaryotes and protists from Proterozoic sediments. Am J Sci 290-A: 212–244Google Scholar
  38. Tissot BP, Weite DH (1984) Petroleum formation and occurrence. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, 699 ppGoogle Scholar
  39. Van Gijzel P (1982) Characterization and identification of kero-gen and bitumen and determination of thermal maturation by means of qualitative and quantitative microscopical techniques. In: How to assess maturation and paleotemperatures. Soc Econ Paleontol Mineral, Tulsa, Short Course Number 7, pp 159–216Google Scholar
  40. Volkman JK (1986) A review of sterol markers for marine and terrigenous organic matter. Org Geochem 9: 84–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Waples DW, Machihara T (1991) Biomarkers for geologists -A practical guide to the application of steranes and triterpanes in petroleum geology. Am Assoc Pet Geol, Tulsa, Methods 9, 91 ppGoogle Scholar
  42. Waples DW, Kamata H, Suiza M (1992a) The art of maturity modeling. Part 1: Finding a satisfactory geologic model. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 76: 31–46Google Scholar
  43. Waples DW, Suiza M, Kamata H (1992b) The art of maturity modeling. Part 2: Alternative models and sensitivity analysis. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 76: 47–66Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. J. Carrigan
    • 1
  • G. A. Cole
    • 1
  • E. L. Colling
    • 1
  • P. J. Jones
    • 1
  1. 1.Lab R&D CenterSaudi Arabian Oil CompanyDhahranSaudi Arabia

Personalised recommendations