Arabian Intrashelf Basins


Block diagram of the southern margin of the Hanifa Intrashelf Basin 

Introduction to Intrashelf Basins 

Isolated intrashelf basins (ISBs) are carbonate systems that punctuate the carbonate sedimentary sections of intracratonic plates throughout the Phanerozoic. These intrashelf basins are the product of carbonate depositional systems responding almost instantaneously to fill accommodation space caused by relative sea level change. This means that Phanerozoic platform carbonates commonly contain thick successions of meter-scale aggradational cycles, filling accommodation space and maintaining very low-relief depositional topography landward of a well-defined platform margin. Widespread carbonate platform lithosomes of the geologic record are exemplified by sections of the Cambro-Ordovician of North America, the Khuff Formation (Permo-Triassic) of the Arabian Plate and much of the Mesozoic of the North American Gulf Coast and the trailing margin of the Arabian Plate on the south coast of the Tethys Ocean.

The adjacent figure (click on image) shows how periods of extensive platform carbonate accumulation were interrupted by episodes of rapid relative sea level rise during which the platform margin retreated large distances onto the adjacent platform to form a new margin. Following this, a new margin aggraded and prograded towards the earlier platform margin position while, seaward, local carbonate accumulated and caught up with sea level rise forming a barrier which isolated the newly formed an intrashelf basin (ISB).

Examples of these intrashelf  basins have been are captured on the chronostratigraphic chart of the region (click on image).  ISBs are the subject of recent studies of carbonate depositional systems of the Arabian Gulf region (see bibliography below). At least four periods of intrashelf basin occurred during the Jurassic and Cretaceous: early Toarcian; Oxfordian to early Tithonian; late Aptian-early Albian; and late Turonian-early Cenomanian.

Similar episodes of widespread intrashelf basin formation can be recognized in the Paleozoic: Silurian (Michigan, Illinois, and Appalachian basins); Devonian (Williston-Western Canadian Sedimentary basin, Canning Basin, Western Australia, and Poland); Early Carboniferous (numerous basins with Waulsortian buildups in North America and NW Europe), and Permo-Pennsylvanian (Permian and Midland basins, Paradox basin, and Sacramento Mts).

Most of these episodes of intrashelf basin formation were accompanied by basin starvation and deposition of organic-rich source rocks which subsequently matured and charged oil and gas reservoirs. In the Middle East, these source rocks include the basinal Toarcian Marrat, the Kimmeridgian Hanifa-Najmah-Naokelekan, the “tar” zone of the Bab Member of the Shuaiba Fm., and the Shilaif Fm. All of these except the Hanifa-Najmah-Naokelekan are also recognized as Oceanic Anoxic events (OAEs).

Larger-than-normal changes in sea level cause the carbonate depositional systems to evolve from a “keep up” mode to “catch up” and then to “give up” (click on image). The area of significant carbonate deposition retreats to shallower portions of the platform, where aggradation gradually forms a new intrashelf platform margin which subsequently progrades and infills the intrashelf basin until the margin returns to its original position. These intrashelf basin histories can be subdivided into distinct stages and recreated in computer simulations that model rates of sediment accumulation, and relative sea level change.

Phelps et al,(2014) have suggested that platform margin retreat can be correlated to changes in the width and length of the ridge system and/or rates of spreading and so a response to changes in the volume of the ocean basin. These reorganizations of the plate tectonic system coincided with larger changes in world wide sea level.

Intrashelf Basins of Eastern Margin of Arabian Plate - Jurassic & Cretaceous Sediment Fill 

The Middle Eastern Mesozoic intrashelf basins (ISB) contain the world's largest oil fields (De   Keyser and Kendall, (2014), most in the carbonate sediment of the AP 7 Megatectonic cycle of Sharland et al, 2001. These Arabian Plate ISBs developed while rifting occurred in Yemen, the Indian Ocean and Tethyan margin. These ISB were initiated when a rapid sea level rise exceeded the carbonate production and subsequent accumulation over the platform interior.  At first the character of the sedimentary fill reflect an organic-rich condensed/starved basin while platform carbonates aggraded on the surrounding a  margin then prograded and infilled into water commonly of less than 100 m.

Upper Jurassic Tuwaiq Mt to Arab fill of Central Arabian Intrashelf Basin, from well cross section just south of Rimthan Arch beneath borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Above table has links to movies of fill of northern margin of central Arabian Hanifa Intrashelf Basin with sediments from the Rimthan Arch that includes the Tuwaiq Mountain to Arab Formation.

Jurassic Arabian Plate ISBs include: Marrat, Hanifa, Najmah, and Gotnia, whose dominant fill is shallow marine arid climate limestones and dolomites with common evaporites and interbedded minor transitional marine shales and basin margin grain carbonates. Cretaceous ISBs include: Garau of Iraq, Kazhdumi of Iran and Bab of the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman, that were filled by humotropic carbonate with dolomites and shales but few evaporates, while ISB margins accumulated rudistid clinoforms.
The giant oil fields of both Jurassic and Cretaceous sections occur in grain carbonates these are associated with rudistid buildups in the reservoirs of the Cretaceous intrashelf margins. Source rocks, include the Hanifa Fm. the Najmah Sh., the Naokelekan in Iraq, and the Aptian “tar” of the Bab Member of the Shuaiba Fm. Collectively Jurassic and Cretaceous source rocks formed the prolific petroleum systems of the ISBs. Expanding exploration now includes stratigraphic plays in the ISBs, providing new exploration opportunities.
Sedimentary Simulations
The shared geologic history of the Southern Tethys region means similar tectonic and depositional settings and a stratigraphy that can be correlated across the region. Critical conceptual sequence stratigraphic models for exploration and production have been analyzed with sedimentary computer simulations of the sedimentary fill of the Intrashelf Basins (ISB) of the Eastern margin the Arabian Plate (Kendall et al, 2014 & Bourgomano et al, 2014).
For instance Kendall et al, 2014, tracked the Hanifa Basin  fill from Jurassic argillaceous carbonates to evaporites. The Hanifa ISB simulation demonstrates that the Lower to Middle Jurassic sediments onlapped the uplifted eastern plate margin of the UAE and Oman as carbonates prograded and filled westward. Uplift ended Middle Jurassic accumulation with subaerial and progressive erosion of the Tuwaiq and Dhruma Formations on the eastern plate margin. Margin collapse caused a drowning unconformity. Westward of the platform margin the intra-shelf basin a base-level fall accompanied Arab and Hith evaporites accumulation.
Both Kendall et al, 2014 and Bourgomano et al, 2014 have modeled the Cretaceous Aptian/Albian fill of the Bab ISB during a glacially induced sea level low (Maurer et al, 2013) . In the Early Cretaceous, the platform extended to North Oman with deposition of argillaceous hemipelagic carbonates of the Habshan. The lack of evaporites supports a climatic change from the Jurassic arid climate to a Cretaceous humid one.
The simulation of the Mid Cretaceous carbonates supports division into Early Aptian and Late Aptian carbonate platform second order supersequences that aggraded and prograded to fill the Bab ISB. An unconformity initiates the sequence with westward prograding lowstand clinoforms onlapping eastward onto the Lower to early Upper Aptian carbonate platform of the SW margin of the Bab ISB. The simulation captures an initial sharp sea-level drop of 35–40 m from the early Upper Aptian shelf break to the topset of the first lowstand clinoform, and the sea-level drop by another 10 m during the progradation of following eight clinoforms. Each progradational pulse of the clinoforms is modeled over 405 k.y. Simulation illustrates the initial sharp sea-level drop of some 40 m followed by continued slow sea-level fall producing lowstand clinoforms prograding towards the ISB. Sedpak, developed at the University of South Carolina assumes clastic transport based on slopes and carbonate production based on water depth.

Output geometries display a sequence stratigraphic framework of erosional and depositional surfaces of the simulated section enabling the extension of interpretation of depositional setting and predictions of lithofacies geometries away from well data.

The literature related to the geology of the intrashelf basins of the Arabian Plate is immense and ever growing. The most comprehensive collections of papers are those of GeoArabia and the AAPG and some of these are listed in the annotated Bibliography below. For more illustrations and conceptual ideas you should visit the Search and Discovery pages of the AAPG website. Links to some of these pages include:
Links to Pdf files of Recent Posters of Arabian Plate ISBs
Borgomano Jean, Lanteaume Cyprien, Ridet Olivier, Rousseau Mathieu, and Vilasi-Marmier Nadège, 2014, 3D Stratigraphic Forward Modelling for the Prediction of carbonate Platform Architectures: Evaluation of Stratigraphic Trap Potential in Middle East Mesozoic carbonate sequences; Search and Discovery Article #41328 AAPG. 
De Keyser Tom, Kendall Christopher G., 2014, Jurassic and Cretaceous sedimentary fill of intrashelf basins of the Eastern margin the Arabian Plate, 2014 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, 6-9 April, 2014, Search and Discovery AAPG Posters,#30322 (2014)
Kendall, Christopher G., Moore, Phil; Viparelli, Enrica; Alsharhan, Abdulrahman S., De Keyser, Tom; and Kloot, Cameron: Simulation and analysis of sequence stratigraphic models for the Jurassic Cretaceous sedimentary fill of the Eastern margin the Arabian Plate; 2014 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, 6-9 April, 2014, Search and Discovery AAPG Posters, #30326 (2014)
De Keyser Thomas, and Kendall, Christopher, 2014, Intrashelf basins respond to plate tectonic movement and paleogeographic position, Proceedings of SEPM Research Conference Autogenic Dynamics of Sedimentary Systems, August 3-6, 2014, Grand Junction, CO, USA ; Abstract, p 35.
Bibliography Related to Arabian Plate ISBs (Many sourced from van Buchem publications)
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