Adriatic and Ionian seas:  proven petroleum systems and future prospects

By A. Zelilidis1* and A.G. Maravelis2

1 Laboratory of Sedimentology, Department of Geology, University of Patras, Greece.

2 School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan 2308 NSW, Australia.

*author for correspondence:

Fold-and-thrust belts have been extensively explored for hydrocarbons in many parts of the World and in some areas have yielded substantial reserves of oil and gas (e.g. Albania, southern Italy, Iran and Iraq, and Canada). Exploration successes in fold-and-thrust belt systems are often due to the occurrence of large-scale anticlines with which traps for hydrocarbons are associated (Nemcoc et al., 2005; Morley et al., 2011). Nevertheless, significant commercial discoveries have only been reported in relatively few fold-and-thrust belt systems, and the long-term preservation of hydrocarbons is often problematic due to factors including erosion, fault leakage, biodegradation and gas flushing (Nemcoc et al., 2005). Hydrocarbons will tend to seep from all traps over time, regardless of seal quality (Miller, 1992) and are most likely to be preserved in relatively young fold-and-thrust belts (Late Mesozoic and Cenozoic). The presence of an accumulation is usually attributed to factors controlling preservation rather than to the volumes of petroleum originally present (Macgregor, 1996).

Hydrocarbon discoveries are often confined to the frontal thrusts of thin-skinned fold-and-thrust belts, or to linear zones of reactivated basement faults in inverted basins. A clustering of fields often occurs along the length of a fold-and-thrust belt due to the physical conditions which control hydrocarbon charging and entrapment and the preservation of pools (Nemcoc et al., 2005).

An opportunity to examine many of the factors mentioned above is offered by the composite fold-and-thrust belt system which surrounds the Adriatic and Ionian Seas (Fig. 1) and which, together with the intervening foreland, is the focus of this Special Issue of the Journal of Petroleum Geology. This region has been the subject of long-standing industry interest and is a well-established hydrocarbon-producing province. In the context of increased exploration interest in the Adriatic, this brief introduction is intended to summarise past exploration activities and the proven hydrocarbon systems in the region; and to outline the area’s future prospects.

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