Exploration on the Arabian Plate – Far From a Lost Cause

The Middle East is arguably the most prolific and mature hydrocarbon province in the world. Exploration over the past century has unearthed some of the largest oil fields ever discovered, but success rates in recent years have slowed, as most of the conventional and easy-to-find plays have already been exploited. Is there anything left to discover? Finding what remains in mature basins requires the application and integration of in-depth regional understandings, and a willingness to think ‘outside of the box’.


On Thursday 11th May Landmark Exploration Insights will be hosting the 8th London Earth Model Forum at The Geological Society, during which Thomas Jewell (Technical Sales Consultant), will present on the Exploration in the Middle East: New stratigraphic models, new plays

Abstract: The largest Middle Eastern fields were discovered decades ago in simple structural traps. Exploration has traditionally focused on these “easy-to-find” structures. However, with the exception of the Zagros fold and thrust belt, most have been drilled. Thus, a change in exploration focus to more subtle trapping styles, associated with stratigraphic and diagenetic variations, is necessary.

While carbonate lowstands are undoubtedly present, they are difficult to seal from their preceding highstands. However, they are important in forming productive brittle units in Arabian Plate resource plays. A more prospective conventional exploration option comprises traps formed by drowned isolated platforms sealed by an overlying deeper-water facies. This play relates to periods of increased subsidence, particularly in the Late Cretaceous foredeep.

Siliciclastic lowstands have occurred periodically and offer significant exploration potential across the region. Notable examples are present in the Cretaceous of Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Iraq. The basal Oligocene stratigraphy of Iraq and Iran also contains untested lowstand siliciclastics. During major lowstand periods, which originated from the combined effects of eustatic fall and tectonism, it is anticipated that these systems generated basin margin-perched siliciclastic deltas, with corresponding outboard deep-marine fan deposits.

Other levels of major siliciclastic reservoir potential including Paleozoic sandstones deserve further analysis. Recent discoveries in the Rub al Khali Basin demonstrate the importance of the rejuvenation of old structures, leading to sand reworking and the generation of new plays. This paper will present an analysis of these and other stratigraphic traps to assess the remaining exploration potential across the Arabian Plate.


This one of a series of technical presentations which will be delivered by Landmark Exploration Insights on Thursday 11th May at our LIFE London event: The Earth Model Forum, at The Geological Society, London. The full details of the event and agenda can be found here. Join us as we address some of the key geological challenges facing exploration and unveil the latest developments at the heart of our offering.  


This event is free of charge, but spaces are limited. Reserve your place today by contacting us at LIFE.EMF@Halliburton.com