Application of Geochemistry to Petroleum Exploration a case study from the San Joaquin Basin

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Denver SIPES April 28, 2016 Meeting

Application of Geochemistry to Petroleum Exploration – a case study from the San Joaquin Basin”, presented by Paul Lillis

Our Presenter:

Paul Lillis is a petroleum geochemist with the Central Energy Resources Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Denver, Colorado. He received a B.A. in geology from San Jose State University, an M.S. in geology from San Diego State University, and a Ph.D. in geochemistry from Colorado School of Mines. He was a petroleum exploration geologist with Atlantic Richfield for eight years (1978 to 1986) in Colorado, California, and Texas, and has been with the USGS in Denver since 1987. His research focuses on the application of petroleum and source-rock geochemistry to identifying, characterizing, and mapping petroleum systems.


New analyses of 120 oil samples combined with 139 previously published oil analyses were used to characterize and map the distribution of oil types in the San Joaquin Basin, California. The results show that there are at least four oil types designated MM, ET, EK, and CM. Most of the oil from the basin has low to moderate sulfur content (less than 1 weight percent sulfur), although a few unaltered MM oils have as much as 1.2 weight percent sulfur. Reevaluation of source rock data from the literature indicate that the EK oil type is derived from the Eocene Kreyenhagen Formation, and the MM oil type is derived, in part, from the Miocene to Pliocene Monterey Formation and its equivalent units. The ET oil type is tentatively correlated to the Eocene Tumey formation of Atwill (1935). Previous studies suggest that the CM oil type is derived from the Late Cretaceous to Paleocene Moreno Formation. Maps of the distribution of the oil types show that the MM oil type is restricted to the southern third of the San Joaquin Basin Province. The composition of MM oils along the southern and eastern margins of the basin reflects the increased contribution of terrigenous organic matter to the marine basin near the Miocene paleoshoreline. EK oils are widely distributed along the western half of the basin, and ET oils are present in the central and west-central areas of the basin. The CM oil type has only been found in the Coalinga area in southwestern Fresno County. The oil type maps provide the basis for petroleum system maps that incorporate source rock distribution and burial history, migration pathways, and geologic relationships between hydrocarbon source and reservoir rocks. These petroleum system maps were used for the 2003 U.S. Geological Survey resource assessment of the San Joaquin Basin Province.

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