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ABSTRACT: Heat Flow and Geothermal Gradients of Irian Jaya-Papua New Guinea: Implications for Regional Hydrocarbon Exploration

Patricia K. Bettis, John D. Pigott

Compilation of published and unpublished bottom hole temperatures (corrected for circulation times) obtained from open files and reports of the Indonesian Petroleum Association, Papua Geologic Survey, and the Southeast Asia Petroleum Society, together with published oceanographic heat flow analyses from the surrounding seas, allow an analysis of the regional heat flow and geothermal gradients of New Guinea.

In two dimensions the thermal trends may be described as a pervasive west-northwest striking Cordilleran core of cool (<1 HFU-<2°C/100 m) strata surrounded by warm to hotter regions (>2 HFU->4°C/100 m) on the northwest, northeast, east, and southwest.

As a first approximation, the heat flow may be viewed as directly proportional to the crustal thickness (as demonstrated from north-south transects across the Central Cordillera), inversely proportional to the age of the ocean crust (offshore), and perturbed by crustal heterogeneities proximal to plate boundaries (e.g., the Northern New Guinea Fault System). As a result, the heat flow distribution affords a record of post-Cretaceous tectonic activities of New Guinea.

Using the spatial distribution of geothermal gradients and specific source rock ages, kinetic calculations of hydrocarbon maturities confirmed by recent drilling results suggest thermal variations through space and time that cannot be modeled simply as a function of present-day static temperatures. Therefore, in terms of utilizing the present thermal information, hydrocarbon basin exploration strategies must also take into account the tectonically perturbed heat flow history of the region.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90097©1990 Fifth Circum-Pacific Energy and Mineral Resources Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 29-August 3, 1990