The Caucasus petroleum province can be considered as encompassing the region from Crimea and the Sea of Azov in the west to the South Caspian in the east. The region has extremely large proven hydrocarbon reserves (approximately 30 billion bbl oil equivalent), and speculation in the industry is that there is perhaps as much again yet to find. Outcrop-based studies of potential reservoirs and source rock intervals helps to constrain the uncertainty over the future potential of the region and can help reduce risk and increase exploration success rates.
The Caucasus region has undergone a complex tectonic history of back-arc rifting, subsidence, compression, and inversion, which has interacted with sediment supply to lead to the deposition of uncommonly thick Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary succession. This interaction between sediment supply and basin subsidence is the primary control of the development of the Caucasus petroleum system.
Following the collision of Africa and Eurasia, the Caucasus Mountains began developing during the Eocene. By the Oligocene–Miocene, a foreland basin had developed, which was initially starved of sediment and had a stratified water column, leading to the preservation of organic matter. This was the time of the deposition of the Maikop Suite, and the presence of this source rock across the Caucasus petroleum province is the key reason for the existence of its hydrocarbon reserves. Outcrop-based studies indicate that although other source rocks may exist, these are of relatively minor importance, and it is the Maikop Suite that is the key source rock and can be geochemically correlated with oils from fields in the province. Major reservoirs are therefore typically stratigraphically above the Maikop Suite source or thrown up by faulting to be onmigration routes from Maikop source kitchens.