New insights into the hercynian orogeny, and their implications for the paleozoic hydrocarbon system in the arabian plate

Mohammad Faqira*, Martin Rademakers, Abdulkader Alafifi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


During the past decade, considerable improvements in the seismic imaging of the deeper Paleozoic section, along with data from new well penetrations, have significantly improved our understanding of the mid-Carboniferous deformational event. Because it occurred at the same time as the Hercynian Orogeny in Europe, North Africa and North America it has been commonly referred to by the same name in the Middle East. This was the main tectonic event during the late Paleozoic, which initiated or reactivated many of the N-trending block uplifts that underlie the major hydrocarbon accumulations in eastern Arabia. The nature of the Hercynian deformation away from these structural features was poorly understood due to inadequate seismic imaging and insufficient well control, along with the tectonic overprint of subsequent deformation events. Three Hercynian NE-trending arches are recognized in the Arabian Plate (1) the Levant Arch, which extended from Egypt to Turkey along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, (2) the Al-Batin Arch, which extended from the Arabian Shield through Kuwait to Iran, and (3) the Oman-Hadhramaut Arch, which extended along the southeast coast of Oman and Yemen. These arches were initiated during the mid-Carboniferous Hercynian Orogeny, and persisted until they were covered unconformably by the Khuff Formation during the Late Permian. Two Hercynian basins separate these arches: the Nafud-Ma'aniya Basin in the north and Faydah- Jafurah Basin in the south. The pre-Hercynian Paleozoic section was extensively eroded over the arches, resulting in a major angular unconformity, but generally preserved within the basins. Our interpretation suggests that most of the Arabian Shield, except the western highlands along the Red Sea, is the exhumed part of the Al-Batin Arch. The Hercynian structural fabric of regional arches and basins continue in northern Africa, and in general appear to be oriented orthogonal to the old margin of the Gondwana continent. The Hercynian structure of arches and basins was partly obliterated by subsequent Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonic events. In eastern Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait, regional extension during the Triassic formed N-trending horsts and graben that cut across the NE-trending Hercynian mega-structures, which locally inverted them. Subsequent reactivation during the Cretaceous and Neogene resulted in additional growth of the N-trending structures. The Hercynian Arches had major impact on the Paleozoic hydrocarbon accumulations. The Silurian source rocks are generally preserved in the basins and eroded over the arches, which generally confined Silurian-sourced hydrocarbons either within the basins or along their flanks. Furthermore, the relict Hercynian paleo-topography generally confined the post-Hercynian continental elastics of the Unayzah Formation and equivalents to the Hercynian basins. These elastics contain the main Paleozoic oil and gas reservoirs, particularly along the basin margins where they overlie the sub-crop of the Silurian section with angular unconformity, thus juxtaposing reservoir and source rock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-228
Number of pages30
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology


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