A general agreement on what actually happened during the Messinian salinity crisis (MSC) has been reached in the minds of most geologists but, in the deepest settings of the Mediterranean Basin, the picture is still far from being finalized and several different scenarios for the crisis have been proposed, with different significant implications for hydrocarbon exploration. The currently accepted MSC paradigm of the ‘shallow-water deep-basin’ model, which implies high-amplitude sea-level oscillations (> 1500 m) of the Mediterranean up to its desiccation, is usually considered as fact. As a consequence, it is on this model that the implications of the MSC events on the Mediterranean petroleum systems are commonly based.
In fact, an alternative, deep-water, non-desiccated scenario of the MSC is possible: it (i) implies the permanence of a large water body in the Mediterranean throughout the entire Messinian salinity crisis, but with strongly reduced Atlantic connections; and (ii) envisages a genetic link between Messinian erosion of the Mediterranean margins and deep brine development.
In this work, we focus on the strong implications of an assessment of the petroleum systems of the Mediterranean and adjoining areas (e.g. the Black Sea Basin) that can be based on such a non-desiccated MSC scenario. In particular, the near-full basin model delivers a more realistic definition of Messinian source-rock generation and distribution, as well as of the magnitude of water-unloading processes and their effects on hydrocarbon accumulation.