Petroleum geochemistry of the Albian-Turonian Sarvak reservoir in one of the oil fields of southwest Iran

Document Type: Research Paper


1 School of Geology, College of Science, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 Oil and Gas Engineering Group, School of Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Tehran, Tehran, IranInstitute of Petroleum Engineering (IPE), College of Engineering, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran


Organic geochemical investigations using thin layer chromatography-flame ionization detection (TLC-FID), Gas Chromatography (GC), Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), API gravimetry, elemental analysis, and isotope-ratio mass spectrometry (IR-MS) were carried out on eleven oil samples from the Sarvak reservoir in the Abadan Plain (SW Iran). Oil chemical composition, source, thermal maturity, age, lithology, and depositional environment of these oils’ source rock were determined in this study. Moreover, Sarvak oils are mainly naphthenic and paraffinic type. Their API degree between 16.2 and 20.14 and about 4.6% sulfur content indicate heavy and sulfur-rich oils. The results of the study of biomarkers, stable carbon isotope composition, trace elements, aromatic and sulfur content indicated that all oil samples are related to a marine-carbonate source rock with strongly anoxic conditions. The absence of oleanane in all oil samples, the variation of Pr/Ph versus δ13C of the whole oil, and C28/C29 steranes versus geological age proved that these oils had been produced earlier than the Late Cretaceous. Furthermore, the distribution of n-paraffins, calculation of Rc (%) from aromatic compounds, CPI (Carbon Preference Index) from gas chromatograms, and biomarker maturity indices indicated that the Sarvak oils are mature. Although the Sarvak oils are heavy, they show approximately maturity of peak oil-generative window, which represents a challenge in this study. It is guessed that the high sulfur content and low API gravity in the Sarvak reservoir oils are due to the presence of sulfur-rich organic matter (type IIS kerogen) in the source rock.


  1. Dembicki Jr H (2017) Practical petroleum geochemistry for exploration and production petroleum ­ geochemistry for exploration and production, 1st ed., Elsevier, 1-342. ##
  2. Kaufman RL, Ahmed AS, Elsinger RJ (1990) Gas chromatography as a development and production tool for fingerprinting oils from individual reservoirs: Applications in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf coast oils and gases: Their characteristics, origin, distribution, and exploration and production significance, Proceedings of the 9th Annual Research Conference of the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists (SEPM), New Orleans, 263-282. ##
  3. Paez RH, Lawerence JJ, Zhang M (2010) Compartmentalization or gravity segregation? Understanding and predicting characteristics of near-critical petroleum fluids, Reservoir compartmentalization, Geological Society, London, Special Publications,347: 43-53. ##
  4. Larter S R, Aplin A C (1995) Reservoir geochemistry: methods, applications and opportunities, Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 86: 5-32.
  5. Bissada KK, Elrod LW, Darnell LM, Szymczyk HM, Trostle JL (1992) Geochemical inversion – a modern approach to inferring source-rock identity from characteristics of accumulated oil and gas. In: Proceedings of the 21st Annual Convention of the Indonesian Petroleum Association, 11: 165–199. ##
  6. Peters KE, Walters CC, Moldowan JM (2005) The Biomarker Guide 2: Biomarkers and isotopes in petroleum exploration and earth history, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1-471. ##
  7. Fuex A (1977) The use of stable carbon isotopes in hydrocarbon exploration, Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 7: 155–188. ##
  8. Galimov EM (1975) Carbon isotopes in oil – gas geology, 1st ed., Moscow, Nedra, 1-384. ##
  9. Stahl WJ (1979) Carbon isotopes in petroleum geochemistry, In: Lectures in Isotope Geology, 1st ed., Springer-Verlag, New York, 274–223. ##
  10. Barwise AJG (1990) Role of nickel and vanadium in petroleum classification, Journal of Energy Fuels, 4: 647-652. ##  
  11. Alavi M (2004) Regional stratigraphy of the Zagros fold-thrust belt of Iran and its proforeland evolution, American Journal of Science, 304: 1-20. ##
  12. Beydoun ZR (1991) Arabian plate hydrocarbon geology and potential-a plate tectonic approach, AAPG Studies in Geology, 33-77. ##
  13. Murris RJ (1980) Middle East: Stratigraphic evolution and oil habitat, AAPG Bulletin, 64: 597-618. ##   
  14. Zeinalzadeh A, Moussavi-Harami R, Mahboubi A, Sajjadian VA (2015) Basin and petroleum system modeling of the Cretaceous and Jurassic source rocks of the gas and oil reservoirs in Darquain field, south west Iran, Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering, 26: 419–426. ##
  15. Pitman JK, Steinhouer D, Lewan MD (2004) Petroleum generation and migration in the Mesopotamian Basin and Zagros Fold Belt of Iraq: Results from a basin modeling study, Geo Arabia, 9: 41–72. ##  
  16. Kobraei M, Rabbani A, Taati F (2019) Upper Jurassic-lower cretaceous source-rock evaluation and oil—source rock correlation in the Abadan plain, Southwest Iran, Geochemistry International, 57, 7: 790–804. ##
  17. Kobraei M, Rabbani AR, Taati F (2017) Source rock characteristics of the Early Cretaceous Garau and Gadvan formations in the western Zagros Basin–southwest Iran, Journal of Petroleum Exploration and Production Technology, 7, 4: 1051–1070. ##
  18. Kobraei M, Sadouni J, Rabbani AR (2019) Organic geochemical characteristics of Jurassic petroleum system in Abadan Plain and north Dezful zones of the Zagros basin, southwest Iran, Journal of Earth System Science, 128: 1-18. ##
  19. Du Y, Chen J, Cui Y, Xin J, Wang J, Li YZ, Fu X (2016) Genetic mechanism and development of the unsteady Sarvak play of the Azadegan oil field, southwest of Iran, Petroleum Science, 13, 1: 34–51. ##  
  20. Alizadeh B, Saadati H, Rashidi M, Kobraei M (2016) Geochemical investigation of oils from Cretaceous to Eocene sedimentary sequences of the Abadan Plain, Southwest Iran, Marine and Petroleum Geology, 73: 609-619. ##
  21. Zeinalzadeh A, Moussavi-Harami R, Mahboubi A, Sajjadian VA (2018) Source rock potential of the Early Cretaceous intervals in the Darquain field, Abadan Plain, Zagros Basin, SW Iran, Geosciences Journal, 22: 569-580. ##  
  22. Christian L (1997) Cretaceous Subsurface Geology of the Middle East Region, GeoArabia, 2, 3: 239-256. ##  
  23. Setudehnia A (1978) The Mesozoic sequence in southwest Iran and adjacent areas, Journal of  Petroleum Geology, 1(1): 3–42. ##  
  24. Bordenave ML, Hegre JA (2005) The influence of tectonics on the entrapment of oil in the Dezful Embayment, Zagros Foldbelt, Iranian Journal of Petroleum Geology, 28: 339–368. ##
  25. Rahimpour-Bonab H, Mehrabi H, Enayati-Bidgoli AH, Omidvar M (2012) Coupled imprints of tropical climate and recurring emergence on reservoir evolution of a middle Cretaceous carbonate ramp, Zagros Basin, southwest Iran, Cretaceous Research, 37: 15–34. ##
  26. Tissot BP, Welte DH (1984) Petroleum Formation and Occurrence, 2nd ed., Springer Verlag, Berlin, 1-699.27. Baskin DK, Peters KE (1992) Early generation and characteristics of a sulfur-rich Monterey kerogen, American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, 76: 1–13. ##
  27. Hunt JM (1996) Petroleum Geochemistry and Geology, 2nd ed., New York, 1-743. ##
  28. Waples DW (1985) Geochemistry in petroleum exploration, Human Resources Development Corporation, Boston, 1-232. ##
  29. Bourbonniere RA, Meyers PA (1996) Sedimentary geolipid records of historical changes in the watersheds and productivities of Lakes Ontario and Erie, Limnology and Oceanography, 41: 352–359. ##  
  30. Powell TG, McKirdy DM (1973) The effect of source material, rock type and diagenesis on the n-alkane content of sediments, Geochimistry Cosmochim Acta, 37: 523 – 633. ##  
  31. Talukdar SC, De Toni B, Marcano F, Sweeney J,  Rangel A (1993) Upper Cretaceous source rocks of northern South America, AAPG Bulletin, 77, 1-351. ##   
  32. Connan J, Bouroullec J, Dessort D, Albrecht P (1986) The microbial input in carbonate-anhydrite facies of a sabkha palaeoenvironment from Guatemala: a molecular approach, Organic Geochemistry, 10: 29–50. ##   
  33. McKirdy DM, Aldridge AK, Ypma PJM (1983) A geochemical comparison of some crude oils from Pre-Ordovician carbonate rocks. In: Advances in Organic Geochemistry, Advances in Organic geochemistry, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 99–107. ##
  34. Moldowan JM, Dahl J, Huizinga BJ, Fago FJ, Hickey LJ, Peakman TM, Taylor DW (1994) The molecular fossil record of oleanane and its relation to the angiosperms, Science, 265: 768–771. ##  
  35. Sinninghe Damste JS, Kenig F, Koopmans MP, Sinninghe Damsté JS, Kenig F, Koopmans MP, Koster J, Schouten S, Hayes JM, de Leeuw JW (1995) Evidence for gammacerane as an indicator of water-column stratification, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 59: 1895–900. ##
  36. Huang WY, Meinschein WG (1979) Sterols as ecological indicators, Geochim. Cosmochim, Acta, 43: 739–745. ##  
  37. Mackenzie A, Hoffmann C, Maxwell J (1981) Molecular parameters of maturation in the Toarcian shales, Paris Basin, France—III, Changes in aromatic steroid hydrocarbons, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 45, 8: 1345–1355. ##
  38. Shanmugam G (1985) Significance of coniferous rain forests and related organic matter in generating commercial quantities of oil, Gippsland Basin, Australia, AAPG Bulletin, 69, 8: 1241–1254. ##
  39. Moldowan JM, Seifert WK, Gallegos EJ (1985) Relationship between petroleum composition and depositional environment of petroleum source rocks, American association of petroleum geologists--bulletin, 69: 1255-1268. ##
  40. Volkman JK (1988) Biological marker compounds as indicators of the depositional environments of petroleum source rocks, Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 40, 1: 103–122. ##
  41. Volkman JK, Barrett SM, Blackburn SI, Mansour MP, Sikes EL, Gelin F (1998) Microalgal biomarkers: a review of recent research developments, Organic Geochemistry, 29: 1163–1179. ##
  42. Shekarifard A, Daryabandeh M, Rashidi M, Hajian M, Röth J (2019) Petroleum geochemical properties of the oil shales from the Early Cretaceous Garau Formation, Qalikuh locality, Zagros Mountains, Iran, International Journal of Coal Geology, 206: 1–18. ##
  43. Grantham P J, Wakefield LL (1988) Variations in the sterane carbon number distributions of marine source rock derived crude oils through geological time, Organic Geochemistry, 12: 61–73. ##
  44. Lewan M (1984) Factors controlling the proportionality of vanadium to nickel in crude oils, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 48, 11: 2231–2238.
  45. Galarraga F, Reategui K., Martïnez A., Martínez M., Llamas J., Márquez G (2008) V/Ni ratio as a parameter in palaeo environmental characterization of nonmature medium-crude oils from several Latin American basins, Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, 61: 9-14. ##  
  46. Sofer Z (1984) Stable carbon isotope composition of crude oils: Application to source depositional environments and petroleum alteration, American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, 68: 31-49. ##
  47. Chung HM, Rooney MA, Toon MB, ClaypoolG. E (1992) Carbon isotope composition of marine crude oils, AAPG, 76: 1000-1007. ##
  48. Bray EE, Evans ED (1965) Hydrocarbons in non-reservoir-rock source beds, American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, 49: 248–257. ##
  49. Bray EE, Evans ED (1961) Distribution of n-paraffins as a clue to recognition of source beds, Geochimica et Cosmoschimica Acta, 22: 2–9. ##
  50. Radke M, Welte DH (1983) The methylphenanthrene index (MPI). A maturity parameter based on aromatic hydrocarbons. In: Advances in Organic Geochemistry, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 10: 504–512. ##
  51. Hughes WB, Holba AG, and Dzou LIP (1995) The ratios of dibenzothiophene to phenanthrene and pristane to phytane as indicators of depositional environment and lithology of petroleum source rocks, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 59: 17: 3581–3598. ##   
  52. Abay TB, Karlsen DA, Ohm S E (2014) Vertical variations in reservoir geochemistry in a palaeozoic trap, embla field, offshore Norway, Journal of Petroleum Geology, 37, 4: 349-372. ##
  53. Engel MH., Macko SA (1993) Organic geochemistry, New York: Plenum Press, 1-861. ##
  54. Philp RD (1985) Fossil fuel biomarkers-Application and spectra, 1st ed., New York: Elsevier, 1-294. ##
  55. Seifert WK, Moldowan JM (1986) Use of biological markers in petroleum exploration, Methods in Geochemistry and Geophysics, 24: 61-290. ##
  56. Peters KE,  Moldowan JM (1993) The Biomarker guide interpreting molecular fossils in petroleum and ancient sediments,1st ed., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentic Hall, 1-363. ##  
  57. Habibnia B, Askari S, Hosseini E, Alizadeh B (2015) Geochemical assessment of Kazhdumi Formation in Azadegan oil field wells using rock-eval pyrolysis, Journal of Geochemistry, 4, 3: 231-240 (In Farsi). ##
  58. Kobraei M, Rabbani AR, Taati F (2017) Investigating Hydrocarbon Generation Potential of Pabdeh (Tertiary) and Kazhdumi (Early Cretaceous) Source Rocks in Abadan Plain, Southwest Iran, Journal of Petroleum Research, 27: 4-17 (In Farsi). ##
  59. Zeinalzadeh A, Moussavi-Harami R, Mahboubi A, Kassaie-Najafi M, Rezaee R (2019) Thermal modelling of gas generation and retention in the Jurassic organic-rich intervals in the Darquain field, Abadan Plain, SW Iran, Journal of Petroleum Exploration and Production Technology, 9, 2: 971–987. ##  
  60. Kobraei M and Rabbani A (2018) Gas-condensate potential of the middle-Jurassic petroleum system in Abadan plain, Southwest Iran: Results of 2-D basin modeling, Energy Sources, Part A: Recovery, Utilization and Environmental Effects, 40, 10: 1161–1174. ##
  61. Moradi H, Alizadeh B (2015) Application of detailed molecular maturity parameters in determining thermal maturity of the Kazhdumi Formation in the Yadavaran oil field, Journal of New Findings in Applied Geology, 8: 47-57 (In Farsi). ##