Bachirou Mfayakouo Chavom a,*, François Baudin b, Josiane F. Kwéa Nzouedjioa a, Johann Schnyder b, Aicha Malouma a, and Serge Edouard Angoua Biouélé c

a University of Maroua, Faculty of Science, Laboratory of Geosciences and Sustainable Development, P.O. Box 814-Maroua, Cameroon.

b Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Institut des Sciences de la Terre, UMR 7193, 4 place Jussieu, 75005 Paris, France.

c National Hydrocarbons Corporation, P.O. Box 955-Yaoundé, Cameroon.

* Corresponding author:,

The synrift Mayo Oulo-Léré Basin in Northern Cameroon is located in the transition zone between the West and Central African Rift Systems. Structural and stratigraphic elements of the basin resemble those of the Yola Basin in NE Nigeria, an extension of the Upper Benue Trough. The Lower Cretaceous lacustrine shales with source rock potential which occur in nearby rift basins are also present in the Mayo Oulo-Léré Basin. These shales were investigated at two outcrop locations (Badesi and Tchontchi), and samples collected (n = 60) were subjected to palynofacies and bulk geochemical analyses to evaluate their petroleum generation potential and to interpret their depositional environment. At the studied locations, shales were divided into two lithofacies: grey to black laminated shales containing algal-bacterial OM together with common woody (phytoclast) debris (“facies Fml”); and cm-bedded shales which had a higher content of algal-bacterial OM but a lower phytoclast content (“facies Fmlc”).

Palynological and bulk geochemical data indicate that the shales contain well-preserved organic matter (OM) and locally display good to excellent oil generation potential. Average TOC contents are 2.7% and 1.4% for samples of the Fmlc and Fml facies shales respectively. HI values (94-889 mg HC/g TOC and 131-638 mg HC/g TOC respectively) suggest that the shales contain Types I to III kerogen. Organic material in the Fmlc facies shales is dominated by amorphous organic matter (AOM: 90% on average) with a low phytoclast content (6% on average); whereas samples of the Fml facies shales contain less AOM (74% on average) and have a higher phytoclast content (23% on average). AOM in the Fmlc shales is highly fluorescent; these shales are interpreted to have been deposited in dysoxic to anoxic conditions. The AOM in the Fml shales is weakly fluorescent and the shales were deposited under more oxic conditions. The kerogen in the shales ranges from immature to early oil window mature. Average values of the pyrolysis S2 yield are 15.5 mg HC/g of rock and 7 mg HC/g of rock for samples from Fmlc and Fml facies shales respectively. The shales increase in thickness northwards towards the Logone Birni Basin where they may have reached the oil window, as in neighbouring basins. The results of this study of lacustrine shales from the Mayo Oulo-Léré Basin suggests that there may be potential for oil exploration in northern Cameroon.

Key words: Lacustrine shale, source rock, palynofacies, hydrocarbon potential, Lower Cretaceous, Mayo Oulo-Léré Basin, Cameroon, West and Central African Rift System.

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