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Phanerozoic Petroliferous Basins of India


Phanerozoic Petroliferous Basins of IndiaP.K. BHOWMICK*

Keshav Deo Malviya Institute for Petroleum Exploration, Oil and Natural Gas Commission, 9, Kaulagarh Road, Dehradun - 248 195 The term Phanerozoic or revealed life, which is applied to Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras, represents a relatively brief geological period of half-a-billion years that constitutes the age of multi-cellular animal life on Earth, and which left a detailed fossil record and built up complex and diverse ecosystems. Though there was complex Late Precambrian (Vendian/Ediacaran) biota, the Phanerozoic period defines the period of development and evolution of higher groups of organisms like arthropods, mollusks, vertebrates, etc. The sedimentary basins of India have received attention of geoscientists due to increased activities for petroleum exploration since 1950s. Sophisticated geophysical technique together with drilling made it possible to obtain vast amount of subsurface data, and tied wherever possible with surface geology. These gave new insight into the mechanisms of various types of basin formation and their relationship with the different petroleum occurrences. In India, hydrocarbons have been struck in different basins ranging in age throughout the Phanerozoic. The most relevant feature has been the occurrence of most of the commercial hydrocarbons within the Cenozoic successions both on land and offshore. The Mesozoic, comprising a shallow marine Jurassic succession in Kutch-Rajasthan and poorly developed shallow shelf facies of the Cretaceous in most parts of the eastern coastal basins between Assam and southern tip of India, have had relatively lesser hydrocarbon finds till date. We have, however, the Gondwana successions in several parts of the country which contains rich coal deposits where exploration for coal bed methane (CBM) has taken off in a big way. Not all the Phanerozoic sedimentary basins in India are equally prospective, as borne out by the oil exploration programme and a small number of basins produce most of the hydrocarbons. Proven petroliferous sedimentary basins with commercial production include the Mumbai offshore, Cambay, Assam-Arakan, Cauvery, KrishnaGodavari and Tripura-Cachar basins. Sedimentary basins with known occurrence of hydrocarbons but lacking commercial production include Andaman-Nicobar, Bengal, Mahanadi, Himalayan Foothills and Rajasthan basins. Basins which on general geological grounds appear fairly prospective but where significant amounts of hydrocarbon have not yet been found, the Kutch-Saurashtra and KeralaKonkan basins. Lastly, basins like Arunachal Foothills, Deccan syneclise, Ganga Valley, Karewa (Kashmir Valley), Mizoram-Manipur and Narmada basins, could still be considered in the initial phase of exploration. The geoscientific studies by ONGC in the petroliferous basins of India from are summarized in the present contribution, and* E-mail:

takes into account, the interpretations based on real well data, the seismic and other geophysical information, multimicrofossil bio-stratigraphy, sedimentology and geochemistry. More specifically, we deal with, 1. Sedimentary petroliferous basins along the Western margins: viz. Rajasthan, Cambay, Kutch, Mumbai Offshore and Kerala- Konkan 2. East Coast Basins: Cauvery, Krishna-Godavari, Mahanadi and Bengal basins 3. Northeast Basins: Assam and Assam-Arakan basin 4. Central Indian Basins: Ganga and Purnea basins Each basin has been discussed with reference to its basin architecture, sedimentary fill, major unconformities, sequences and petroleum system, in light of latest understanding of these basins and their hydrocarbon prospectivity. SEDIMENTARY PETROLIFEROUS BASINS ALONG THE WESTERN MARGINS Two important phases of basin evolution are recorded along the western continental margin. There is an initial record of the Mesozoic basins in Jaisalmer, Bikaner-Nagaur, Barmer (Rajasthan Basins), Kutch, and Cambay that could be traced to the Mesozoic basins occurring along the western margin of Madagascar. (Fig. 1). The first stage of separation of the Western Gondwanaland (South America and Africa) from the Eastern Gondwanaland (Madagascar, IndiaSeychelles, Antarctica and Australia) is recorded during Late Triassic/Jurassic (~196-203Ma) and is closely associated with Karoo volcanism in South Africa, the conjugate of which is seen in Antarctica. The second stage was the separation of Seychelles-India from Madagascar in Late Cretaceous (~93Ma), associated with minor volcanism found on conjugate margins of southwestern India and southeast Madagascar. The final breakup of Seychelles at KTB (~65Ma) contiguous with the Deccan volcanism is associated with a series of rift basins along the western continental margins in which the Cenozoic basins evolved viz. Barmer basin, Cambay Basin and its southern continuation in Mumbai Offshore. A description of these basins is given from the north to the south. Basins in Rajasthan The western Rajasthan shelf located to the west of Aravalli ranges, possesses three important basins viz., Jaisalmer, Bikaner-Nagaur and Barmer, stretching over an area of about 1,20,000 sq. km. The Jaisalmer Basin This is the westernmost is separated from the BikanerNagaur basin (Fig. 2) by the Pokaran-Nachana high to the northwest and from the Barmer basin by the Barmer-DevikotNachana high in the south. A pronounced NW-SE-trending


Glimpses of Geoscience Research in India

Fig. 2: Structural map of western Rajasthan Fig. 1: Paleo-tectonic reconstruction of the Madagascar-Seychelles India during the Mesozoic, showing the structural trends, the Jurassic outcrops (in grey) and the Mesozoic rifts (in red) regional step-faulted Jaisalmer-Mari high zone, marked by the Kanoi and Ramgarh faults that traverse the centre of the basin and divides it into the Shahgarh sub-basin, the Miajalar sub-basin and the Kishangarh sub-basin. This basin in the northwestern Indian shield extends as far as the Mari region of Pakistan, and is tectonically related to the Indus Basin from the beginning of the Triassic. The aerial extent is over 30,000 km2.This basin is controlled by wrench-fault tectonics. The outcrop and the well-data indicate sedimentation from the Cambrian to the Tertiary (Fig. 3). Three distinct sequences are identified, based on the basin forming tectonic events namely, the Proterozoic to early Cambrian rift sequence comprising mainly the thickly bedded sandstone with shale intercalations in the lower part and dolomitic and cherty limestone with shale and sandstone interbeds in the upper part, Permian to Eocene shelfsag, and Pleistocene to Recent sequences. The Proterozoic-early Cambrian succession unconformably overlies the Precambrian basement rocks, while the unconformable upper contact of the sequence with Permian, has a hiatus span of about 190 Ma. Exploration by ONGC & OIL in Jaisalmer basin has resulted in discoveries of several gas fields, namely Mahera Tibba from the Cenozoic and Cinnewala Tibba from Cenozoic and Cretaceous reservoirs, respectively. The gas from these fields is methane-rich and commercially viable. Gas from the other fields viz. Ghotaru, Bankia, Bhakari Tibba, Khartar and Sadewala is nitrogen-rich and is commercially not viable. Oil shows have also been reported in wells Chinnawala Tibba-1 and Ghotaru-2 from early-late Cretaceous sequence, though as of now there is no commercially viable discovery of liquid hydrocarbons. The potential source-rock layers are from Late Jurassic and early Cretaceous. Genetic correlation of known accumulation of gases in Cenozoic and Cretaceous reservoir suggests that they have been generated from sediments at higher maturity and have been trapped at their present locale after longdistance migration. The Bikaner-Nagaur Basin is mostly a Paleozoic basin with a considerable thickness of Paleozoic sediments, overlain by a thin veneer of Tertiary/Mesozoic sediments. The Paleozoic sediments include evaporites and carbonates, and are similar to more NW Pakistan. Potential source and reservoir rocks have been identified in the Paleozoic sediments. The Cenozoic sedimentation in the BikanerNagaur basin began with the coal-bearing Palana Formation that was deposited during the Paleocene in subtropical swampy conditions on the continental part. Marine sedimentation indicates encroachment of the sea during the Upper Paleocene to Lower Eocene. The exploration drilling by ONGC, Oil India and a Joint Venture Private Company has indicated presence of heavy oil in haline/carbonates. Baghewala, Nanuwala and Binjybala areas have indicated hydrocarbon occurrences. The Barmer Basin is interpreted as a narrow, N-Strending graben, a northern extension of Cambay rift. The faults exposed at Fatehgarh, on Barmer Hill near Barmer and at Sarnu constitute the peripheries of the Barmer Basin. The pre-rift sediments deposited on the Late Proterozoic Malani Igneous Suite, represented by Randha, and Birmania Formations (a siliceous facies-shales, sandstone, orthoquartzite) and calcareous facies-limestone, phosphorites and dolomudstone) respectively, are exposed on the western margin of the basin. The Sarnu Formation (co-relatable with the sandstones of Jodhpur Group) exposed on the eastern margin of the basin, comprises thin and fining-upward sand bodies with intervening red siltstone.

Phanerozoic Petroliferous Basins of India


Fig. 3: Stratigraphy of the Barmer, Bikaner-Nagaur and Jaisalmer Basins The Lathi Formation exposed at the northern periphery the basin, comprises medium to coarse, fining upward fluvial sands with fossils. The syn-rift sediments: Barmer Hill and Fatehgarh Formations are exposed at Barmer and Fatehgarh. The Barmer Hill Formation comprises sandstone and clast supported conglomerates, exposed along the western boundary of the basin and r


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