Wallace G. Dow, 1977. "Petroleum Source Beds on Continental Slopes and Rises", Geology of Continental Margins, Joseph R. Curray, William R. Dickinson, Wallace G. Dow, Kenneth O. Emery, Donald R. Seely, Peter R. Vail, Hunter Yarborough
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Continental slopes and rises are often the sites of high organic productivity because of nutrients supplied by deep water upwelling and river runoff. This marine organic matter has a much higher petroleum convertibility than terrestrial material which predominates on continental shelves. Incorporation of organic matter into sediments prior to oxidation is essential and requires reducing conditions as occur where irregularities in bottom topography result in closed anoxic basins. Slope sediments average 0.6 to 1.0 weight percent organic carbon and are typically the most organic-rich continental margin deposits.
Conversion of organic matter to petroleum requires appropriate time-temperature conditions influenced by the geothermal gradient, the sedimentation rate, and the age of the source section. Deep wells on continental shelves have shown that on pull-apart margins, 2 to 4 km of burial is required for oil generation and 3 to 7 km for gas generation. Warmer compressional margins need less burial, but this is compensated in part by much younger rocks. Most of the sedimentary section under present day slopes and rises is not mature enough to have generated petroleum and many of the deeper intervals were deposited in unfavorable source environments.
The section beneath slopes and rises contain oil and gas source beds only where organic content and maturity requirements are met. The most effective generation and expulsion occur in areas of rapid burial or high geothermal gradients. Migration and accumulation are most efficient where reservoir sequences prograde over deeply buried source intervals and in areas of structural complexity. Source beds for large amounts of oil and gas do exist on slopes and rises, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The challenge is to find them.
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Written in 1977 the publication presents interpretations of then-new data bearing on the geology and geophysics of continental margins. The book includes a discussion of plate tectonics and evolution of continental margins; presentations on the stratigraphy and structure of pull-apart and compressional margin;, prospective petroleum source rocks, their organic content, rate of burial, and distribution on slopes and rises of different margin types; prospective reservoir rock patterns in relation to depositional processes and to the sedimentary and structural histories for different types of continental margins; and seismic recognition of depositional facies on slopes and rises for different margin types with varying rates of sediment supply during eustatic sea-level changes.