ABSTRACT

With more than 6000 m of sedimentary thickness and several superimposed petroleum systems, the Neuquén Basin of Argentina has all the elements to be considered a super basin. The basin developed during the Triassic–Early Jurassic in a rift environment that generated a localized petroleum system. Continued subsidence during the Early Jurassic resulted in the first marine ingression (Los Molles Formation, total organic carbon [TOC] 1%–7%). This unit matured 120 to 55 m.y.a., before the formation of major structures, with the exception of the Huincul high. A fast marine flooding in a retroarc setting occurred during the latest Jurassic–Early Cretaceous. At its base lies the Vaca Muerta Formation, a 50- to 1000-m-thick world-class source rock, composed by calcareous shales and marls (TOC 2%–9%). This unit reached maturity at 95 Ma, when the only traps available were structures along the Huincul high or stratigraphic. A new marine ingression occurred during the Early Cretaceous, depositing bituminous shales and marls (Agrio Formation, TOC 2%–5%) that matured during the Paleogene.

These superimposed petroleum systems, combined with different structural settings, gave rise to numerous plays and trapping configurations that resulted in the discovery of 14 billion BOE. In addition, the unconventional potential of the Vaca Muerta is now being developed, with estimated resources of 91.5 TCF and 14.3 billion bbl of oil. The Neuquén Basin has gone through three main phases of development: conventional, tight, and unconventional. After a century of production, the basin still shows a wide variety of opportunities for both conventional and world-class unconventional plays.

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