The ca. 1.5–1.3 Ga Roper Group of the greater McArthur Basin is a component of one of the most extensive Precambrian hydrocarbon-bearing basins preserved in the geological record, recently assessed as of 429 million bbl oil (68 million cubic meters of oil) and between 8 and 118 TCF (222.56 billion cubic meters) of gas (in place). It was deposited in an intracratonic sea, referred to here as the McArthur-Yanliao gulf.

The Velkerri Formation forms the major deep-water facies of the Roper Group. Trace metal redox proxies from this formation indicate that it was deposited in stratified waters, in which a shallow oxic layer overlay suboxic to anoxic waters. These deep waters became episodically euxinic during periods of high organic carbon export. The Velkerri Formation has organic carbon contents that reach ∼10 wt. %. Variations in organic carbon isotopes are consistent with organic carbon enrichment being associated with increases in primary productivity and export, rather than flooding surfaces or variations in mineralogy.

Although deposition of the Velkerri Formation in an intracontinental setting has been well established, recent global reconstructions show a broader mid to low latitude gulf, with deposition of the Velkerri Formation being coeval with the widespread deposition of organic-rich rocks across northern Australia and northern China. The deposition of these organic-rich rocks may have been accompanied by significant oxygenation associated with such widespread organic carbon burial during the Mesoproterozoic.

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