I. Struss*, V. Artiles, B. Cramer and J. Winsemann

*University of Hannover, Germany.

Present address: StatoilHydro, Bergen, Norway.


The underexplored Sandino Basin (Nicaragua Basin/Trough) is located within the forearc area of western Nicaragua and NW Costa Rica. Exploration activity since 2004 has focussed on the onshore sector of the basin, and has included the first drilling campaign for over 30 years. Recent 2D basin modelling of the offshore sector together with organic geochemical studies has attempted to reassess the basin’s petroleum potential. Geochemical data from the deepest offshore well indicate that Middle Eocene to Lower Oligocene sediments of the Brito Formation, as well as Upper Oligocene to Lower Miocene sediments of the Masachapa Formation, may have source rock potential. A third and perhaps more significant potential source rock interval is associated with the Lower Cretaceous black shales of the Loma Chumico Formation, which has been studied in the adjacent forearc area in NW Costa Rica (Tempisque Basin) and is inferred to be present in the Sandino Basin.

The thermal history of the forearc basin is controlled by the low basal heat flow (39 mW/m2). 2D modelling has shown that the Sandino Basin is thermally mature, resulting in the potential for hydrocarbon generation in organic-rich intervals in the Brito and Masachapa Formations. A petroleum-generating “kitchen” has tentatively been identified on a NE-SW seismic section which crosses the basin. Modelling suggests that this kitchen has been active from the Late Eocene until the present day, and that the main phases of petroleum generation in general coincide with phases of maximum subsidence in the Late Eocene, Late Oligocene and Plio-Pleistocene. Hydrocarbon migration most probably occurred from the deep basin towards the flanks. Significant volumes of petroleum may have been lost prior to the Late Miocene before the formation of a coastal flexure which can be recognised in the NE of the seismic profile

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