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The demand for ever more refined stratigraphic tools remains a high priority in every hydrocarbon exploration programme despite the significant advances that have been made during the past two decades in the fields of 2-D and 3-D seismic interpretation. This need has in fact become accentuated by the wide-scale application of horizontal drilling technologies. Advances that have been made in chemostratigraphy, sedimentology and heavy mineral analysis have contributed to the resolution of many of the problems but the potential for biostratigraphy to provide reliable evidence of both age and palaeoenvironmental interpretation remains unsurpassed.

Historically, the development of biozonations throughout the stratigraphical column has been based on the classic stratotype and reference sections in the former Euramerican Province with relatively little fundamental research being carried out on the northern margin of Gondwana, and in particular, on the Arabian Plate. Increasingly, the greater understanding of provincial impact on palaeobiogeographies has resulted in the realisation that throughout much of geological time both faunas and floras from these regions were likely to be distinctive in composition. In order to maximise the unique potential from this resource and avoid the pitfalls of long range correlations, it is clearly necessary to develop a regionally specific set of biostratigraphic units in the Arabian Peninsula.

Biostratigraphical studies carried out on the Euramerican Plate had the advantage of having the possibility of cross calibration of one biozonation scheme with another, i.e. chitinozoa with graptolites in the Silurian or spores with ammonoids in the Devonian or Carboniferous. Unfortunately that luxury is not yet available on the Arabian Plate or throughout much of the northern margin of Gondwana. The palynological schemes which are currently emerging must be seen as provisional, representing the documentation of the sequences of change in palynomorph assemblages but not yet uniformly being able to claim the same chronostratigraphical precision as may be found in the regions to the north.

This special publication marks the achievements that have been made in the past decade by a group of palynologists from the Exploration Organisation of Saudi Arabian Oil Company in collaboration with colleagues from the Commission Internationale de Microflore du Paléozoïque (CIMP). The programme of research was initiated in 1990, following a series of major Palaeozoic hydrocarbon discoveries, with the initial objectives to resolve several of the major stratigraphic problems encountered by the establishment of a unique zonation scheme. Many of those objectives have been achieved but tantalisingly new problems continue to emerge and further research is still required. It is important however that the progress achieved is documented and made available to a wider scientific audience in the Gulf Region, and beyond, in order that the unique character of the palynomorph assemblages of the Arabian Plate is recognised.

Initial results from the project were reported at the 8th International Palynological Conference in Aix, France, in 1992 and published in a Special Issue of the Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology in 1995. Results from Phase II of the project were presented at the CIMP Workshop in Pisa, Italy, in 1998, whilst important presentations of the more specialised results in the Ordovician were presented at the International Conference on the Ordovician System in Prague in early 1999.

The Management of Saudi Aramco is pleased to make this information available in the hope that it will make a significant contribution to the broader understanding of the Palaeozoic stratigraphy of the Arabian Peninsula. We wish to thank all contributors to this valuable effort.

Mahmoud Abdul-Baqi

Vice President, Exploration Saudi Arabian Oil Company

Mahmoud Abdul-Baqi is Vice-President, Exploration Organization at Saudi Aramco. After graduating with a degree in Geology in 1966, he worked for three years in academia and two years in engineering geology, before joining the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) in 1971. During his 29 years with the same company, which is now the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), Abdul-Baqi’s responsibilities included technical work in the exploration and field development areas, and managerial responsibilities culminating in his current post. He is a member of the DGS, AAPG, SPE, SEG, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Arabian Drilling Company.

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