Carbonates and Evaporites

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 1455–1467 | Cite as

Unique hydrocarbon-generating mechanism of Oligocene evaporites of Qaidam Basin, West China

  • Xinmin Ma
  • Chenggang HuangEmail author
  • Yajun Shi
  • Haiyan Chang
  • Fan Zhao
Original Article


The principle hydrocarbon source in West Qaidam Basin, China, is the Xiaganchaigou formation, which charges a series of Cenozoic large reservoirs. We identified a series of organic-rich intervals within a sequence of Oligocene-age Xiaganchaigou evaporites in southwest Qaidam. By analyzing 2D and 3D seismic tomography and gamma ray well logs, we defined the distribution and extent of these source rocks. We also characterized their composition with trace element analysis and carbon and oxygen isotope measurements. Our data demonstrated distinctive characteristics of these source rocks with high salinity, abundant organic material, high hydrocarbon generation efficiency, and low maturity, which are associated with relatively rapid and productive hydrocarbon generation. Using high-pressure and high temperature experiments to simulate pyrolysis in samples of the source rocks, we investigated what enabled these young salt-rich source rocks to generate such an abundance of hydrocarbons. Our results highlighted the key role of saline and radioactive minerals in catalyzing accelerated pyrolysis of hydrocarbons during diagenesis and catagenesis. Salt catalysis clearly played an important role in hydrocarbon generation within lower maturity formations and also significantly improved and redefined the source rocks distribution and the extent of probable reserves in the southwest Qaidam.


Hydrocarbon generation mechanism Low-maturity High-efficiency Oligocene evaporite Qaidam Basin 



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Continental Dynamics, Department of GeologyNorthwest UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Northwest Branch of Research Institute of Petroleum Exploration and DevelopmentPetrochinaLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Reservoir DescriptionCNPCLanzhouChina

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