Tectonic evolution of sedimentary basins of northern Somalia

M. Y. Ali, A. B. Watts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Regional seismic reflection profiles tied to lithological and biostratigraphic data from deep exploration wells have been used to determine the structure and evolution of the poorly known basins of northern Somalia. We recognize six major tectonostratigraphic sequences in the seismic profiles: Middle-Late Jurassic syn-rift sequences (Adigrat and Bihen Group), ?Cenomanian-Campanian syn-rift sequences (Gumburo Group), Campanian-Maastrichtian syn-rift sequences (Jesomma Sandstones), Palaeocene post-rift sequences (Auradu Limestones), Early-Middle Eocene post-rift sequences (Taleh Formation) and Oligocene-Miocene (Daban Group) syn-rift sequences. Backstripping of well data provides new constraints on the age of rifting, the amount of crustal and mantle extension, and the development of the northern Somalia rifted basins. The tectonic subsidence and uplift history at the wells can be explained by a uniform extension model with three episodes of rifting punctuated by periods of relative tectonic quiescence and thermal subsidence. The first event initiated in the Late Jurassic (~156 Ma) and lasted for ~10 Myr and had a NW-SE trend. We interpret the rift as a late stage event associated with the break-up of Gondwana and the separation of Africa and Madagascar. The second event initiated in the Late Cretaceous (~80 Ma) and lasted for ~20-40 Myr. This event probably correlates with a rapid increase in spreading rate on the ridges separating the African and Indian and African and Antarctica plates and a contemporaneous slowing down of Africa's plate motion. The backstripped tectonic subsidence data can be explained by a multi-rift extensional model with stretching factor, β, of 1.09-1.14 and 1.05-1.28 for the first and second rifting events, respectively. The model, fails, however, to completely explain the slow subsidence and uplift history of the margin during Early Cretaceous to Late Cretaceous. We attribute this slow subsidence to the combined effect of a sea-level fall and regional uplift, which caused a major unconformity in northern Somalia. The third and most recent event occurred in the Oligocene (~32 Ma) and lasted for ~10 Myr. This rift developed along the Gulf of Aden and reactivated the Guban, Nogal and Daroor basins, and is related to the opening of the Gulf of Aden. As a result of these events the crust and upper mantle were thinned by up to a factor of two in some basins. In addition, several distinct petroleum systems developed. The principal exploration play is for Mesozoic petroleum systems with the syn-rift Oligocene-Miocene as a subordinate objective owing to low maturity and seal problems. The main seals for the different plays are various shales, some of which are also source rocks, but the Early Eocene evaporites of the Taleh formations can also perform a sealing role for Palaeogene or older generated hydrocarbons migrating vertically.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)340-364
Number of pages25
JournalBasin Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016


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