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Role of Basin Modelling in Unravelling the Interaction Between Climate Change and Phases of Hydrocarbon Generation

Hanneke Verweij and Monica Souto Carneiro Echternach
TNO Built Environment and Geosciences, P.O. Box 80015, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands

The Cenozoic climate history has been studied in detail the past few years, including the reconstruction of paleo sea surface and continental temperatures using geochemical and geobiological techniques. These studies revealed long time trends of global warming (e.g. Paleocene to Early Eocene warming) and cooling (e.g. Eocene), as well as geologically brief episodes of globally elevated temperatures superimposed on these long-term trends ( Zachos et al. 2008, Sluijs et al. 2006). The most well known hyperthermal is the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), c. 55.5 Myr ago, that was marked by a 5-8 0C warming during 170 kyr (Sluijs et al. 2006, Sluijs and Brinkhuis 2008). Ongoing paleoclimate studies also focus on unravelling the leads and lags between rapid climate warming and the release of large amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere (e.g. Sluijs and Brinkhuis 2008 and references therein).

This paper presents basin modelling results showing the effect of incorporating the detailed knowledge of recently discovered Cenozoic climate changes on source rock maturity and hydrocarbon generation in selected recently mapped regions of the Dutch part of the North Sea (Verweij and Souto Carneiro Echternach 2008). The primary objective of the basin modelling approach was to investigate the effect of the climate warming during the Tertiary on the prospectivity in the studied region and in addition to investigate a possible feedback relation between periods of increased hydrocarbon generation and surface temperature.

For this purpose, different scenarios for the evolution of SWI temperatures in the North Sea area during Tertiary times were constructed from curves and information published by Donders et al.(2008), Mosbrugger et al. (2005), Sluijs et al. (2006), Zachos et al (2008), and Pearson et al. (2007) (Figure 1).

We applied the new SWIT boundary conditions in 1D-3D simulations of source rock maturation and hydrocarbon generation for different source rocks at different structural positions (using Petromod of IES). The paper will show the simulation results. The results include a marked difference in generated hydrocarbon volumes from source rocks and shift in timing of generation in Tertiary times in comparison with simulation runs using a default surface temperature boundary condition, derived for paleolatitudes of the research area.

This finding is of interest for evaluating prospectivity in areas, where late source rock maturation and hydrocarbon generation can be expected.


Donders, T.H., Weijers, J.W.H., Munsterman, D.K., Kloosterboer-van Hoeve, M.L., Buckles, L.K., Pancost, R.D., Schouten, S., Sinnighe Damste, J.S., and Brinkhuis, H. 2008. Miocene climatic cooling in terrestrial and marine environments of northwestern Europe (submitted to Earth and Planetary Science Letters).

Mosbrugger, V., Utescher, T. and Dilcher, D.L. 2005. Cenozoic continental climate evolution of Central Europe. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 102 (42), 14964-14969.

Pearson, P.N., van Dongen, B.E., Nicholas, C.J., Pancost, R.D., Schouten, S., Singano, J. and Wade, B.S. 2007. Stable warm tropical climatre through the Eocene Epoch. Geology, Vol. 35, 211-214.

Sluijs, A. et al. 2006. Subtropical Arctic Ocean temperatures during the Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum. Nature 441 (7093), 610-613.

Sluijs, A. and H.Brinkhuis (2008). Rapid carbon injection and transient global warming during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum. Netherlands Journal of Geosciences – Geologie en Mijnbouw, 87-3, 201-206.

Verweij, Hanneke and Souto Carneiro Echternach, Monica. 2008. Temperature, source rock maturity and timing of hydrocarbon generation in the Terschelling Basin and southern Dutch Central Graben. TNO Information on Geo-Energy, June 2008, 18-23.

Zachos, J.C., Dickens, G.R., and Zeebe, R.E. 2008. An Early Cenozoic perspective on greenhouse warming and carbon-cycle dynamics. Nature, 451 (7176), 279-283.

Figure 1. Example scenario of Sediment Water Interface Temperatures in Dutch North Sea based on recently discovered warming and cooling trends in the Tertiary (= user-defined SWIT) compared with paleo temperatures calculated by Petromod (IES) from paleo–latitude of study area (= Default Petromod).


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90091©2009 AAPG Hedberg Research Conference, May 3-7, 2009 - Napa, California, U.S.A.