Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 12, pp 1910–1931 | Cite as

Genetic causes of oil-rich and oil-poor reservoirs: Implications from two Cenozoic basins in the eastern North China Craton

  • Chiyang LiuEmail author
  • Lei Huang
  • Dongdong Zhang
  • Junfeng Zhao
  • Yu Deng
  • Pei Guo
  • Yijian Huang
  • Jianqiang Wang
Research Paper


The Bohai Bay and Hehuai (southern North China) rift basins in the eastern part of the North China Craton are south-north-adjacent. They have shown synchronous evolutionary processes, and possess generally identical superficial and shallow structural characteristics as well as similar basin areas. However, there is a large difference in the richness of oil resources between the two basins. The Bohai Bay Basin has extremely abundant oil reserves, while commercial oil reserves have not been found in the Hehuai Basin. The deep tectonic structures, magmatic activities, and modern and paleogeothermal fields of the two basins are significantly different. Compared with the Hehuai Basin, the Bohai Bay Basin has a thinner crust and more complex structure with multiple low-velocity layers. It is also characterized by intense magmatic activity, high modern and paleogeothermal fields, frequent seismic activity, and active deep interactions, small effective elastic thickness of the isotropic lithosphere, and shorter balanced transformation wavelength of the lithosphere with a high likelihood of local compensation. The Hehuai Basin has a simple deep structure and homogeneous crustal composition, with a high likelihood of regional compensation. The characteristics of the deep structures mentioned above are generally similar to those of the southern part of the stable Ordos Basin, except for the smaller crust thickness. This indicates the presence of differences in Mesozoic destruction between the southern and northern zones in the eastern part of the North China Craton. The northern zone was subjected to significant destruction, while the southern zone was subjected to modifications, primarily in the form of local changes in the structures and/ or properties of the crust or lithospheric mantle, with the overall structure and stability of the craton kept intact. The formation of high-quality source rock is primarily influenced by the abnormal flourishment of organisms in water bodies during the syndepositional period, and is also strongly associated with the high geothermal setting of basins and nutrients from hydrothermal solutions and volcanoes. In other words, it is mainly controlled by deep processes and deep-major fault activity. The differences in the deep structures and modern and paleo geothermal fields of the two basins correspond to the difference in richness of oil resources, suggesting that there is an important internal or causal relationship between the two aspects. This viewpoint coincides with the conditions and environments required for the development of high-quality source rock in hydrocarbon-rich basins (sags) in China and other countries, and is evidenced by the modern lake basin of the East African Rift. A new hydrocarbon generation model is proposed in this work: petroleum is a comprehensive product of the integration of bioenergy, thermal energy, and other related energies (such as chemical and kinetic energy) and their interactions; the degree of richness of petroleum is generally controlled by the regional tectonic structure, thermal environment, and deep processes; nonmarine basins or depressions with abundant resources are closely related to active deep processes, intense exchange of material between the deep and shallow layers, participation of external hydrocarbons, and energy integration and conversion.


Genetic causes of oil-rich and oil-poor reservoirs Bohai Bay Basin Hehuai Basin Destruction of North China Craton Deep processes High-quality source rock formation 


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We appreciated the reviewers for their valuable reviews of earlier versions of this manuscript. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41330315, 91214301, 90814005), the Special Fund of the State Key Laboratory of Continental Dynamics (Northwest University).


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© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chiyang Liu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lei Huang
    • 1
  • Dongdong Zhang
    • 1
  • Junfeng Zhao
    • 1
  • Yu Deng
    • 1
  • Pei Guo
    • 1
  • Yijian Huang
    • 1
  • Jianqiang Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Continental Dynamics & Institute of Oil and Gas BasinNorthwest UniversityXi’anChina

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