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Abstract

Despite the existence of proven Neoproterozoic–Early Cambrian (‘Infracambrian’) hydrocarbon plays in many parts of the world, the Neoproterozoic Eon, from 1000 Ma to the base of the Cambrian at 542 Ma, is relatively poorly known from a petroleum perspective. The so-called ‘Peri-Gondwanan Margin’ is one region of the Neoproterozoic world that is exciting particular interest in the search for ‘old’ hydrocarbon plays, mainly due to exploration success in time-equivalent sequences of Oman. The ‘Infracambrian’ succession in North Africa is widely accessible, and is already emerging as a hydrocarbon exploration target with considerable potential and with proven petroleum systems in different areas. The Taoudenni Basin (Mauritania, Mali, Algeria) in western North Africa is an underexplored basin, despite the Abolag-1 well (Texaco 1974) gas discovery. New palynological data have recently provided the first definitive Late Riphean age dates for the stromatolitic limestone reservoir sequence in Abolag-1. The widespread presence of stromatolitic carbonate units of potential reservoir facies in many parts of North Africa has been confirmed by new fieldwork in the Taoudenni Basin, in the Anti-Atlas region of Morocco and in the Al Kufrah Basin of Libya. Similar biostratigraphic age constraints have also been obtained from subsurface sequences of the Cyrenaica Platform bordering the East Sirte Basin of Libya, many of which have been traditionally assigned an ‘unconstrained’ Cambro-Ordovician age on the basis of lithological characteristics. Besides the proven, producing, weathered-granite reservoir in East Sirte Basin, the hydrocarbon potential of Neoproterozoic–Early Cambrian sequences developed in structural troughs bordering the south Cyrenaica Platform is still being evalutated. Neoproterozoic–Early Cambrian organic-rich strata with hydrocarbon source rock potential are widespread along the Peri-Gondwanan Margin. Some of the black shales encountered on the West African Craton may be as old as 1000 Ma and predate the Pan-African orogenic event. The Late Ordovician–Early Silurian systems in North Africa and the Middle East may form a good analogue for post-glacial source rock depositional systems in the Neoproterozoic, where black shale deposition may also have been triggered by post-glacial sea-level rise.

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