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Book Chapter

Generation, Migration, Accumulation, and Dissipation of Oil in Northern Iraq1

H. V. Dunnington
H. V. Dunnington
Kirkuk, Iraq
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January 01, 1958


Most of the known oil accumulations of Northern Iraq probably originated by upward migration from earlier, deeper accumulations which were initially housed in stratigraphic or long-established structural traps, and which are now largely depleted. The earlier concentrations had their source in basinal sediments, into which the porous, primary-reservoir limestones pass at modest distances east of the present fields.

Development of the region favored lateral migration from different basinal areas of Upper Jurassic and Lower-Middle Cretaceous time into different areas of primary accumulation. Important factors affecting primary accumulation included—1. early emergence and porosity improvement of the reservoir limestones, followed by burial under seal-capable sediments; 2. the timely imposition of heavy and increasing depositional loads on the source sediments, and the progressive margin ward advance of such loads; 3. progressive steepening of gradients trending upward from source to accumulation area; 4. limitation of the reservoir formations on the up-dip margin by truncation or by porosity trap conditions. In late Tertiary time, large-scale folding caused adjustments within the primary reservoirs, and associated fracturing permitted eventual escape to higher limestone reservoirs, or to dissipation at surface.

The sulfurous, noncommercial crudes of Miocene and Upper Cretaceous reservoirs in the Qaiyarah area are thought to stem from basinal radiolarian Upper Jurassic sediments, which lie down dip, a few tens of miles east of these fields. Upper Cretaceous oils of Ain Zalah and Butmah drained upward from primary accumulations in Middle Cretaceous limestones, which were filled from basinal sediments of Lower Cretaceous age situated in a localized trough a few miles northeast of these structures. The huge Kirkuk accumulation, now housed in Eocene-Oligocene limestones, ascended from a precedent accumulation in porous Middle-Lower Cretaceous limestones, which drew its oil from globigerinal-radiolarian shales and limestones of the contemporaneous basin, a short distance east of the present field limits.

Eocene-Oligocene globigerinal sediments, considered by some the obvious source material for Kirkuk oil, seemingly provided little or no part of the present accumulation. The reservoir formation may have been filled from these sources, to lose its oil by surface dissipation during the erosional episode preceding Lower Fars deposition. Upper Cretaceous basinal sediments probably contributed nothing to known oil field accumulations, though they may have subscribed to the spectacular impregnations of some exposed, Upper Cretaceous reef-type limestones. Neither Miocene nor pre-Upper Jurassic sediments have played any discernible role in providing oil to any producing field. Indigenous oils are thought to be negligible in the limestone-reservoir formations considered.

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AAPG Special Publication

Habitat of Oil

Lewis G. Weeks
Lewis G. Weeks
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American Association of Petroleum Geologists
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 1958




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