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Bitumen Deposits in Middle Magdalena Valley, Colombia, South America

Abstract

The Middle Magdalena Valley is an intermountain basin in Colombia, South America. The Valley, was a region of highest oil production country until 1990, and remained at the top of the production thanks to the discoveries that occurred early in the last century, within which one is the most important areas of the country called La Cira-Infantas field. In the foothills surrounding the basin, gilsonite bitumen dikes are known to occur for long time but only during the last decade there has been some commercial production of gilsonite. The bitumen occurs as veins in Mesozoic and Cenozoic rocks. The veins are related to extensional fractures originated by the left lateral movement of the Santa Marta Fault, a large structural feature of NE Colombian Andes. It is important to note that bitumen has highly variable characteristics, with softening temperatures between 30 Celsius degrees to 450 Celsius degrees. The geometry of the gilsonite dikes are predominantly lenticular, dikes up to 30 meters wide by 500 meters long and at least 150 meters deep have been determined by shallow core drilling. The distribution and shape of these dikes as well as its origins are been investigate by integrating several geophysical methods (gravimetry, magnetometry, seismic, and ground penetrating radar (GPR)), field geology with geochronology and geochemical analysis (Apatite fission track analysis, vitrinite reflectance of the encasing rocks and chromatography of the bitumen) to determine the chemical process and timing of the gilsonite formation.