Papuan Basin

Location Map

Papuan Basin in relation to Australia

Map showing the location of the Papuan Basin in relation to Australia
© Geoscience Australia

Basin Details and Geological Overview

The Papuan Basin stretches across both Papuan New Guinea (PNG) and Australian territory. The Australian section lies off the northeast coast of Queensland and is poorly explored with only one well in the 7 000km2 area.

The basin has a complex history - initially during the Middle to Late Triassic, the basin was in an extensional passive margin setting before it entered a compressional foreland basin regime in the Neogene following the collision of PNG with the Melanesian island arc. The basin is bounded to the north and northeast by basement highs, consisting of igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Central Highlands and Owen Stanley Ranges. To the south, the basin boundary is not well defined and it is contiguous with the Carpentaria Basin toward the southwest. The Queensland components of the Papuan Basin include the Pandora Trough, Flinders Sub-basin and the southern Fly Platform. Papuan Basin sediments also onlap basement rocks of the Cape York Oriemo High. Up to 6km of Triassic to Cainozoic marine and non-marine sedimentary rocks overlie Palaeozoic basement in water depths ranging up to 1 700 metres.

Anchor Cay-1, the only well drilled in the Australian part of the Papuan Basin, had dead oil stains within the Jurassic sequence. The most commonly sought after play within the Papuan New Guinea part of the basin involves a combination of Middle and Late Jurassic source rocks and the Early Cretaceous Toro Sandstone reservoir. Part of the Papuan Basin lies within the Torres Strait Protected Zone.

Summary table

PAPUAN BASIN

State(s)

Queensland (most of basin is in Papua New Guinea)

Area (km2)

Offshore

7 000

 

Onshore

Several small islands.

Maximum thickness (m)

6 000

Age Range

Triassic to Cainozoic.

Basin

Overlies

Palaeozoic basement.

 

Underlies

-

 

Subdivisions

Pandora Trough, ‘Flinders Basin’.

 

Other

Includes the ‘Flinders Basin’ of Symonds and others (1990) between the Pandora Trough and Torres Shelf.

Indicators

Knowledge

Regional geophysical and some well data.

 

Basin type

Complex history: initial passive margin extensional basin became a foreland basin in the Neogene after PNG collision with the Melanesian island arc.

 

System(s)

Westralian.

 

Water Depth (m)

0 – 1 700

Exploration

Status

Frontier

 

Wells

1 exploration (plus several nearby in PNG waters).

 

Seismic line-km

Sparse grid with 20-km line spacing.

 

Discoveries

Nil

 

Shows

Dead oil stains in Anchor Cay-1 at Jurassic level.

 

HC evidence

Producing petroleum province in PNG.

Geology

Source(s)

Early to Middle Jurassic shales.

 

Reservoirs

Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous sandstones.

 

Seals

Jurassic shales, Early Cretaceous shale.

 

Trap types

Structural and stratigraphic probable.

 

Palaeogeographic summary

Triassic: fluvial (?) upper plain to deltaic, with volcanics; Jurassic: deltaic, some volcaniclastics.
Cretaceous (speculative – no well data): (?) deltaic to shallow marine; Paleogene: shallow shelf carbonates. Neogene: shallow shelf to continental slope carbonates, local reef development.

Timing

Oil generation

(?) Late Cretaceous to Neogene.

 

Gas generation

(?) Late Cretaceous to Neogene.

 

Trap formation

Jurassic to Cretaceous, Neogene – but also risk of Neogene trap breach due to collision tectonics.

 

Other key times

Oligocene hiatus caused by collision and uplift, foreland basin deposition began in Early Miocene.

Other important information

The Queensland extension of the Papuan Basin lies in Torres Strait just to the north of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, so is in a very sensitive area.

Geoscience Australia products available

Symonds and others, 1990.

Regional Cross-sections

Papuan Basin regional Cross Section

Papuan Basin cross-sections
© Geoscience Australia

Key References

Author(s) Year Title
Barndollar, P. 1993 Hydrocarbon prospectivity of the Papuan Foreland. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Second PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1993, 517-526
Bernard, P. and Halstead, P.H. 1993 Investments and reserves in the Papuan Basin, Papua New Guinea. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Second PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1993, 27-44
Buchanan, P.G. and Warburton, J. 1996 The influence of Pre-existing basin architecture in the Development of the Papuan Fold Thrust Belt: Implications for petroleum prospectivity. In Buchanan, P.G., (Editor), Petroleum Exploration, Development and Production in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Third PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1996, 89-109
Burns, B.J. and Bein, J. 1980 Regional geology and hydrocarbon potential of the Mesozoic of the western Papuan Basin, Papua New Guinea. Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APEA) Journal, 20 (1), 1-15
Carman, G.J. 1993 Palaeogeography of the Coral Sea, Darai and Foreland Megasequences in the eastern Papuan Basin. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Second PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1993, 291-309
Davies, H.L., Winn, R.D. and KenGemar, P. 1996 Evolution of the Papuan Basin – a View from the Orogen. In Buchanan, P.G., (Editor), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Third PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1996, 53-62
Forman, D.J., Wyborn, L., Kurylowicz., L.E., Passmore, V.L. and Mayne, S.J. 1973 Summary of sedimentary basins in Australia and Papua New Guinea, 1973. Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, Record 1973/98. (geocat 12922 – )
Haddad, D. and Watts, A.B. 1999 Subsidence history, gravity anomalies and flexure of the northeast Australian margin in Papua New Guinea Tectonics, Vol 18, No. 5, 827-842.
Hill, K.C. and Gleadow, A.J.W. 1990 Apatite fission track analysis of the Papuan Basin. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the First PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1990, 119-136
Home, P.C., Dalton, D.G. and Brannan, J. 1990 Geological evolution of the western Papuan Basin. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the First PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1990, 107-117
Krieger, F.W., Eadington, P.J. and Eisenberg. 1996 Rw, reserves and timing of oil charge in the Papuan Fold Belt. In Buchanan, P.G., (Editor), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Third PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1996, 407-416
Madu, S. 1996 Correlation sections of the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous succession in the Papuan Fold Belt, Papuan Basin. In Buchanan, P.G., (Editor), Petroleum Exploration, Development and Production in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Third PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1996, 259-277
Oppel, T.W. 1970 Exploration of the southwest flank of the Papuan Basin. APEA Journal, 10 (2), 62-69
Osborne, D.G. 1990 The hydrocarbon potential of the western Papuan Basin foreland – with reference to worldwide analogues. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the First PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1990, 197-213
Pawih, B. and Halstead, P.H. 1993 Investments and reserves in the Papuan Basin, Papua New Guinea. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Second PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1993, 27-44
Pigram, C.J., Davies, P.J., Feary, D.A., Symonds, P.A. and Chaproniere, G.C.H. 1990 Controls on Tertiary carbonate platform evolution in the Papuan Basin: new play concepts. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the First PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1990, 185-195
Pigram, C.J. and Symonds, P.A. 1993 Eastern Papuan Basin – a new model for the tectonic development and implication for petroleum prospectivity. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Second PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1993, 213-231
Robertson Research (Australia) Pty Ltd and Flower Doery Buchan Pty Ltd, (RRA-FDB) 1984 Petroleum potential of the Papuan Basin, Papua New Guinea. PNG Department of Minerals and Energy, (unpublished)
Struckmeyer, H.I.M., Yeung, M. and Pigram, C.J. 1993 Mesozoic to Cainozoic plate tectonic and palaeogeographic evolution of the New Guinea Region. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Second PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1993, 261-290
Symonds, P.A., Davies, P.J., Feary, D.A. and Pigram, C.J. 1988 Geology of the northeastern Australian margin basins. Queensland 1988 Exploration and Development. PEAS (Qld)- ODCAA-SPE Petroleum Symposium, 23rd Nov, 198, 61-77
Symonds, P.A., Davies, P.J., Pigram, C.J., Feary, D.A. and Chaproniere, G.C.H. 1990 Northeast Australia Torres Shelf - Pandora Trough. Canberra, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, Australia, Continental Margins Program Folio 4
Walker, K.R., Shanmugan, G. and Ruppel, R. 1983 A model for carbonate to terrigenous clastic sequences Geological Society of America Bulletin, 94, 700-712.
Waples, D.W. and Wulff, K.J. 1996 Genetic classification and exploration significance of oils and seeps of the Papuan Basin. In Buchanan, P.G., (Editor), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the Third PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1996, 417-430
Welsh, A. 1990 Applied Mesozoic biostratigraphy in the western Papuan Basin. In Carman, G.J. & Z., (Editors), Petroleum Exploration and Development in Papuan New Guinea: Proceedings of the First PNG Petroleum Convention, Port Moresby, 1990, 369-379

Topic contact: petroleum@ga.gov.au Last updated: May 31, 2012