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ALGERIA, NORTHERN FOLDBELT AND OFFSHORE

AREA: A FUTURE HYDROCARBONS PROVINCE

Messaoudi Mohamed Sonatrach, Algeria.

Abstract The North Algeria is an under explored petroleum province. Significant oil and gas shows have been
encountered, and oil seeps are well known in the most part of the area. Oil has been extracted for the
century in the Cheliff basin (Tliouanet and Ain Zeft fields). The first oil commercial discovery in Algeria on
1948 is noted in Oued Gueterini field in the Hodna basin and it’s produce until present time.

The North Algeria is in a geologically complex area encompassing the Offshore, Tellian atlas, Saharian
atlas and constitute the zones of alpine age deformation.

Although petroleum exploration in the northern foldbelt has been unsuccessfull ; several wells were drilled
on surface structure without seismic control and understanding the shifting structure in the subsurface,
whereas others were not drilled deep enough to reach the deeper targets.

The northern foldbelt area is expected to have a similar geodynamic and tectonic as the Apennines
(Italia), the Zagros (Iran), which contains important oil and gas discoveries.

The Offshore is a continental shelf with a tertiary and quaternary formation. The petroleum target is the
mio-pliocene sands reservoirs, sourced from the messinian shales with a TOC values 0.56 to 2.60% at
HBB–1 well in the occidental part. A new seismic have been acquired on 2000 by Western Geco shows
a thick sedimentary deposit in the deep water zone with a variety of trapping styles related to the
conventional anticline, faults, salt dome…

In the Tellian atlas, two main basins are developed, the Cheliff in the west (mointain basin) and the
Hodna in the central part (for deep basin). The petroleum system is proved on this basins by small fields
and oil seeps from the miocene sands (shallow reservoirs). The cretaceous could be an important deep
target no reached by wells.The upper miocene reservoir is charged from the messinian shales ; the lower
miocene reservoir sands and upper cretaceous carbonates are charged from the cretaceous shales and
marls source rocks.

In the saharian atlas which is an elongate trough between the saharian platform in the south and the
Tellian atlas in the north, a potential basin is developed in the oriental part (south east constantine basin)
where four oil fields and one gas field have been discovered in the cretaceous play.

The north province could be a promising area for hydrocarbons exploration, detailled structural work
based on adequate and high resolution seismic is needed to define the model and geometry of traps
related to this complex area.

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Introduction Northern Algeria is an under explored petroleum province. Significant oil and gas shows have been
encountered and a number of small discoveries were made over 40 years ago (Oued Gueterini,
Djebel Foua and Djebel Onk). More recenthy, oil was discovered in the south east part
(constantine basin).

Crude oil has been extracted for centuries from dug tunnels and collected From surface seeps. The
first commercial discovery in Algeria has been made in the Hodna basin (Oued Gueterini Field).

The success rate for exploration is relatively poor due to some wells were drilled on surface
structure without understanding the shifting nature in the subsurface, and without seismic control,
whereas others, were not drilled deep to reach the deepest targets.

During the last decades, exploration activity in Algeria has been concentrated on the saharan
platform where major oil and gas discoveries have been made, and the exploration activity in the
northern part was greatly reduced. Recently , Sonatrach backed to the north with an important
exploration program (offshore and onshore) ; and international companies have renewed their
interest in this area.

Geological The northern Algeria is a zone of Alpine deformation, and it is situated in a geologically complex
summary area, encompassing offshore mediterranean basin, tellian atlas and Saharan atlas.

The saharan atlas represents a mesozoïc graben system which was inverted during alpine
convergence, whereas the tellian atlas constitute a passive margin and later foreland basin
sequence shacked by thrusting.

The structural morphology has its origins in the opening of the tethyian ocean.

The alpine deformation is a complex and transcient multiphase orogeny. The main effects of alpine
compression are thrust imbrication of the tellian passive margin and the inversion of the saharan
atlas graben.

The northern domain consists from the north to the south of :

Offshore mediterranean basin : It is a neogene basin with a tertriary and quaternary formation. The
petroleum play is related to the mio-pliocene.

Tellian atlas : It is constitued by a nappe complex where two basins are developed. Cheliff basin in
the west and Hodna basin in the central part. The petroleum plays are related to the mio-pliocene
and upper cretaceous.

High plateaux : are the foreland of the alpine range bearing. Local distension mechanisms allowed
the formation of intra mountain basins.

Saharan atlas : It is an elongated trough oriented west-east and limited in the south by the sahara
platform. In the east part of the saharan atlas is developed the constantine basin where some oil
and gas fields are proved in the upper cretaceous play.

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Algerian offshore Represents the main part of the south side of the western mediterranean basin. It is a neogene
basin, constituted by Algero-provençal basin on the east (included sub-baleares basin) and Alboran
basin on the west.

The Algerian Offshore is still a frontier zone related to a deep water play where the shelf is much
narrower and plunges steeply into the abyssal plain. The coast lies over, 200 km from east to west
and is characterised by several bays where the shelf is relatively larger (35 km).

The exploration history of the offshore domain is effective since 1968, 20 000 km seismic “2D” and
potential method data (gravimetry, aeromagnetic) has been acquired until 1977. After that, the
exploration activity has been stopped, and recently in 2000–2002 about 10 000 km new seismic
2”D” have been acquired by western as a multicient study.

The offshore area is great extend (110 000 sq,km) with only three wells drilled in the western part
between 1974 and 1977 (HBB–1 well and two core drills : ALG-1, ARZ-1). HBB–1 has
reached 4496 m under 923 m water depth.

The sedimentary section (5000–6000m) is constituted by clastic, carbonate and evaporite deposits
of mio-pliocene age. It can be subdivided into three sequences :

– Pliocene and quaternary unit (shals, marls sands and probably turbidite deposits).

– Late and middle miocene unit (evaporites, shales, sandstones and carbonates).

– Lower miocene (sandstones, shales and marls).

The western part of algerian offshore is situated adjacent to the petroliferous onshore cheliff basin
where two smalls oil fields have been discovered from shallow miocene reservoir sands.

The extrapolation with the stratigraphic and structural interpretation has facilitated the definition of
its petroleum potentiel and it should be noted that similar facies of miocene age are prolific
reservoirs in the offshore basin.

The same analogy existe in the adjacent offshore area as the south part of sicily in Italia and the golf
of valence in spain where oil production has been noted from the miocene reservoirs.

The Algerian Offshore potential is related to the miocene play which is defined by the occurrence
of sandstone and carbonate reservoirs sealed by the interbeded shales and marls and plio-
quatenary formation. The reservoirs are sourced from miocene shales and narls intervals of
serravalian, tortonian, messinian.

Source rocks and maturation


The HBB–1 well which is the only deep well drilled in the algerian offshore has encountered three
levels known to be good source rocks with a TOC more than 1%, for the others intervals, the total
organic content varies between 0.5% and 0.7%. The kerogen is estimated to be of type II based on
the hydrogen and oxygen index.

The geochemical modelling study indicated oil generation to have started at the end of messinian
(approximately 5.2 ma) and the transformation ratio of organic material at the present time is 92%
corresponding to the end of oil window.

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Reservoirs
The miocene series constitutes the main reservoirs in the offshore area. It has proved in the HBB–1
well porosity values of 10 to 15% and sometimes 20% at mesued depth from 2000m.

In this well two mains sand intervals with 34m thickness each have been encountered. The
palegeography study shows that HBB–1 well is situated on bad position for sans developing.

The upper cretaceons sediments were probably deposited in the eastern part and could be a
potential reservoir as in the Italian offshore.

Trapping styles
The main plays concept of exploration in the offshore area is associated to the anticlines, faculted
blocks, Horsts, stratigraphic, slope fans and reef. These type of traps are illustrated on the new
seismic acquired on 2000 and 2002.

Cheliff basin The Cheliff basin is situated in the Western part of North Algeria. It is an intra-mountaineous
neogene basin type, enclosed by the Dahra mountains to the north ; Ouarsemis, Beni Chougrane
and Tessala mountains to the south.

The sedimentary section is represented by paleozoïc to quaternary formation. The paleozoïc and
mesozoïc are not penetrated by the wells but they are on outcrop in some few area of the basin.

The Cheliff basin constitutes a potential area regarding the significant oil seeps as well as the two
small oil discoveries made on 1892 in shallow depth (Ain Zeft and Tliouanet Fields).

The main play is related to the miocene sands reservoirs which hydrocarbons have proved. The
new concepts considere that the cretaceous could be and important target for oil.

Source rock and maturation


The hydrocarbons and oil seeps proved in the Cheliff basin could be supported by shales and marls
within the miocene and upper cretaceous.

The geochemical analysis of the miocene sediments shows a good enrichment in organic matter
with TOC values ranging from 0.5 to 3.25%, while the upper cretaceous which is underexplored,
the TOC is up to 1% in only one well where the cretaceous is reached. The quality of source rock
could be better in the central part of the basin.

Somme oil / source rock correlation show that the oil are generated from messinian marls
(neogene) for the Aïn Zeff field and from de cretaceous marls (Cenomanian) for the Tliouanet field.

Geochemical modelling shows that the source rock has generated oil from the senonian at 1300m
mesured depth. In some area of the basin, the sources rock enter the oil window until miocene.

Reservoirs
The miocene sands is a primary reservoir target in the Cheliff basin. It is encountered in the area
with excellent petrophysical characteristics, 9 to 20% porosity and up to 50 md permeability.

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The upper cretaceous reservoirs are related to the carbonates and sandstones. These deeper
reservoirs are not explored ; to compare with the others basins (Hodna and Constantine), it could
be a high potential. The porosity of 15% has been mesured in the Hodna basin. For the carbonate
reservoirs, the permeability can be significantly enhanced by natural fractures related to the tectonic
and fracturing.

Trapping styles
The basin displays a variety of trapping styles : Conventional trap anticlines, combined (structural –
stratigraphic), stratigraphic and diapiric (flank or cap rock). A number of leads and prospects are
mapped by the old seismic, but a detailed structural work based on adequate new seismic is
needed to define and explore traps.

Hodna basin It is a foredeep basin situated in the central part of tellian atlas and it is enclosed by the tellian
nappe zone to the north and Saharan atlas to the south.

The foreland basin results from the Eocene–early Miocene orogenic phases which occurred to the
north. It was subject to progressive deformation during and after nappe emplacement.

It contains Miocene syn-orogenic deposits which prograde progressively from the north to the
south. The Miocene onlaps the cretaceous and the Oligocene in some area and in the Hodna
mountains.

The main plays are related to the Miocene, Eocene and cretaceous. At the present time, the oil
production is proved in Oued Gueterini field from the Miocene sands and Eocene carbonates and
sands.

Source rocks
three potential source rocks could be in the Hodna basin. The Eocene shales, the upper cretaceous
shales and marls (Cenomano–Turonian ) and vraconian shales.

The oil of Oued Geuterini field is lied to Eocene sources and possibly mixed source with
cretaceous.

The Cenomano–Turonien source is considering the main important source rock in the basin. Some
geochemical analysis show a TOC values of 0.4% to 6% and it is mature for hydrocarbons
throughout the area mostly for oil.

Reservoirs
Three potential reservoirs are recognised in the Hodna basin. The Miocene and Eocene are the
most prolific reservoirs facies, oil production from these reservoir is noted in the Oued Geuterini
field.

The Miocene reservoir is represented by marine sandstone facies with porosity range from 10 to
15% and 300 to 400 md permeability. The Eocene reservoirs are constituted by sandstones and
carbonates. The quality reservoir for the carbonates is related to the presence of fractures.

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The cretaceous sandstone and carbonate coulf be a new potential target, the sands occur in deltaic
and shallow marine facies and the carbonate play is likely to require fracturing. The sandstones are
the best quality in terms of porosity and permeability.

Trapping styles
The basin displays a variety of trapping styles : Anticlines, stratigraphic and updip pinchout.

The Oued Gueterini oil field is producing from an Eocene duplex. The Eocene duplex play is
related to structural complexity and require a seismic adequate and details structural work.

The effective communication with the cretaceous sources rocks is possible from vertical migration.

Constantine basin The basin is situated in the south east of north algeria, and it is the most prolifiric basin in the area.
It is limited in the north by the Tellian nappe, in the south by the saharan platform and in the east
the Tunisian border.

It is constituted by the eastern part of the saharan atlas in the north and melrhir trough in the south.
They are separated by a complex of fault system called south atlasic faults.

The first hydrocarbon discovery in the basin was made on 1954 at Djebel Foua gas field, and on
1956 at Djebel Onk field from the upper cretaceous reservoirs drilled on surface structures.

Recently, four oil fields have been discovered in the basin from the cretaceous reservoirs with a
flow ranging from 750 to 3000 b/d.

The stratigraphic column of the basin is represented by three main sequences with a total thickness
of 6000m:

– Trias to lias: evaporites, dolomites, carbonates and shales.

– Dogger to cretaceous: shales, marls, sandstones and carbonates.

– Eocene to quaternary: shales, marls and continental deposits.

The main potential play is related to the cretaceous reservoirs constituted by carbonates formation.

Source rocks
The main potential and mature source rocks is provided by:

– Turonian: Represented by laminated limestone and marls with about 30m thickness and
from 0.5 to 13% TOC. The present maturation level is in the oil window (Tmax 419 –
457°c).

– Cenomanian: Represented by marls and shales, the TOC ranges from 0.50 to 3%. The
present maturation level is still in the oil window (Tmax 419 – 441°c).

– Albian (vraconian): Represented by black shales with 30 to 50m thickness and 0.60 to 1.50%
TOC. The present maturation level is in the oil window.

– Jurassic: Represented by shales with a TOC ranges from 0.8 to 9%. Its potential is proved in
the south part of the basin, the present maturation level is in the condensat to gas window.

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Reservoirs
The primary reservoirs is constituted by the upper cretaceous carbonates.

– Coniacian: It consists of bioclastic carbonates, it test oil at GKS, GKN, RTB, OK and HEK
fields. The primary porosity is 8 to 10%, and the permeability 0.2 to up 1md. The reservoir
quality can be enhanced by fractures. The seal is provided by shales and marls.

– Turonian: It consists of bioclastics carbonates of the basal formation, it test oil at GKS, GKN
and RTB fields. The net pay ranges from 40 to 50m, with a porosity of 5 to 12% and the
permeability 0.1 to up 10md. The reservoir quality can be enhanced by fractures. In some
part of the basin, the reservoir is constitute by reef construction.

– Cenomanian: It consists of carbonates reservoir from the upper part of the cenomanian
formation. It test oil at the GKS and GKN fields, with a net pay of 30 to 50m. The porosity
ranges from 10 to 15% and the permeability 0.1 to up 10md.

Trapping styles
The main traps are related to the structural, stratigraphic, reef construction and combined.

Conclusion The algerian northern foldbelt and offshore is a promising area for hydrocarbon exploration.

The significant oil and gas shows, and oil seeps encountered over the most part of onshore, as well
as the presence of a number small discoveries confirm and enhance the prospectivity of the area.

An important hydrocarbon reserves over the world have been discovered in the analogous north
algerian basins as in Colombia (Crusiana field), Italia (Apennines petroleum province), Iran (Zagros
province), Canada (Alberta province)...

A detailled structural work based on adequate new seismic acquisition, and a petroleum modelling
study are needed to provide a new guideline for to lead the exploration in north algeria, both
onshore and offshore.

References 1. Addoum, l’atlas saharian sud oriental: cinematique des plis chevauchements et reconstitution
du bassin du sud est constantinois, 1995.

2. AGIP, study convention of saharan atlas : potential evaluation, 2000.

3. Bergheul, structure geologique et perspectives en hydrocarbures du bassin sud est atlasique,


Algerie, 1991.

4. BP, sour el ghozlane permit, tellean atlas algeria, evaluation report, 1995.

5. Sonatrach, internal reports.

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