The successful application of sequence stratigraphy in the petroleum industry is linked to its capability to predict stratigraphic architecture accurately. This includes the distribution and nature of petroleum system elements (reservoir, source rock, and seal) away from subsurface control points. These predictions generally address the intermediate, or third-order sequence scale, and related systems tracts. An up-scaled view can help determine the long-term temporal and large-scale spatial stratigraphic patterns link to eustasy and related or coinciding global events. The ultimate objective of such an endeavor is to identify and predict stratigraphic sweet spots (i.e., those moments in time when all factors align to create effective petroleum habitats). The existence of such sweet spots is demonstrated by the uneven distribution of petroleum resources throughout geological time.
A two-stepped approach is advocated to identify stratigraphic sweet spots. First, the character of the sea-level curve is documented, paying particular attention to amplitude and frequency. Secondly, its relationship to other global events and the resulting stratigraphic patterns are illustrated. Two examples are presented — the hydrocarbon-rich Lower Cretaceous Aptian and Valanginian stages. In both cases, well documented, high-amplitude sea-level fluctuations occur, but they are characterized by very different petroleum habitats. Factors responsible for this difference are the rate of sea-level fluctuations, the coincidence with an Oceanic Anoxic Event (OAE), and the plate tectonic configuration.