Bonaparte Basin

Location Map

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

Basin Details and Geological Overview

The Bonaparte Basin consists of the following structural elements: Ashmore Platform, Vulcan Sub-basin, Londonderry High, Petrel Sub-basin, Darwin Shelf, Malita Graben, Sahul Syncline Nancar Trough, Laminaria High, Flamingo High, Flamingo Syncline, Sahul Platform,Sahul Syncline, Troubadour Terrace, Calder Graben.

The Cambrian to Recent Bonaparte Basin is a fan-shaped hydrocarbon-bearing basin extending over 270 000km2 in the northwestern offshore and onshore Australia. The basin contains up to 15km of sediments and has a multi-phase history, comprising the southern Palaeozoic and northern Mesozoic depocentres. The latter forms part of the Westralian Super-basin.

The Bonaparte Basin had produced 11 GL of oil to end-2000 but only 0.11 BCM of gas due mainly to market limitations. Remaining known reserves are 33.42 GL of oil and 668.55 BCM of gas.

The basin developed during two phases of Palaeozoic extension and Late Triassic compression prior to the onset of Mesozoic extension. Initial rifting occurred in the Late Devonian (NW-trending Petrel Sub-basin) and was orthogonally overprinted in the Late Carboniferous to Early Permian by NE-trending rift basins (proto-Malita and proto-Vulcan depocentres). Regional N-S compression in the Late Triassic resulted in widespread uplift and erosion, and, together with salt tectonics, produced inversion structures and anticlines in the Petrel Sub-basin. Erosion and collapse of these uplifted areas led to the widespread deposition of Lower-Middle Jurassic 'redbeds' and fluvio-deltaic clastics. Late Jurassic extension resulted in a series of linked, NE-trending (Vulcan Sub-basin, Malita and Calder Grabens) and SE-trending (Sahul Syncline) intracontinental grabens.

The Jurassic depocentres contain thick marine mudstones flanked by fan delta sandstones. A thick post-rift Cretaceous-Tertiary succession is dominated by fine-grained clastic and carbonate facies. Late Miocene-Pliocene convergence of the Australian and Eurasian plates resulted in flexural downwarp of the Timor Trough and widespread reactivation of the previous extensional fault systems.

The most prospective part of the Bonaparte Basin includes the Vulcan Sub-basin, Laminaria-Flamingo High and northern Sahul Platform. Oils in the basin are normally very light. The Late Jurassic marine section is the major source interval in the outboard grabens, together with Middle-Lower Jurassic marine shales and coastal plain coals. In the Petrel Sub-basin the main sources are postulated Lower Carboniferous marine shales and Permian coastal plain coals and pro-delta shales. Reservoirs range in age from Carboniferous-Permian in the Petrel Sub-basin and Londonderry High, Triassic to Cretaceous in the Vulcan Sub-basin and Jurassic in the northern parts of the basin. Fault seal breach is one of the main risks in the western part of the basin.

Stratigraphy

Stratigraphic correlation chart of
the Bonaparte Basin
© Geoscience Australia

Regional Cross-sections

Petrel Sub-basin

Schematic image of the
Petrel Sub-basin
© Geoscience Australia

The Petrel Sub-basin is an asymmetric, northwest-southeast trending Palaeozoic rift in the southeast portion of the Bonaparte Basin and contains mostly Palaeozoic and Mesozoic sediments.

The stratigraphy and structure of the sub-basin is illustrated by the two following regional seismic lines. Stratigraphic units dip regionally to the northwest about a northwest-plunging synclinal axis, resulting in exposure of lower Palaeozoic strata in the southern onshore area and in progressive subcropping of upper Palaeozoic to Tertiary strata offshore beneath Quaternary sediments.

These Phanerozoic formations exceed 15 km in thickness in the northern central Petrel Sub-basin.

Vulcan Sub-basin

Schematic image of the Vulcan
Sub-basin
© Geoscience Australia

The Vulcan Sub-basin is a northeast-southwest trending Mesozoic extensional depocentre in the western Bonaparte Basin and comprises a complex series of horsts, grabens and terraces. The Vulcan Sub-basin developed as an intra-continental graben in the late Callovian and structuring continued through to the Tithonian.

The stratigraphy and structure of the Vulcan Sub-basin are illustrated by the two following regional cross-sections.

Petroleum Systems and Hydrocarbon Potential

Diagram of the Bonaparte Basin
showing well locations, sub-basins
and other structures
© Geoscience Australia

Geochemical data from oils, condensates and gases have been used to characterise the hydrocarbon families in the Bonaparte Basin and to correlate them with likely source rocks. These studies have identified two Palaeozoic and seven Mesozoic oil families in the Bonaparte and Browse basins.

Jurassic Systems

Oil families chart of the
Browse-Bonaparte Basins
© Geoscience Australia

Based on these oil families and the distribution of hydrocarbon shows, source rock data and geohistory modelling, seven Petroleum Systems have been formally defined and mapped within the Bonaparte Basin.

  • Vulcan-Plover (!) Petroleum System, Vulcan Sub-basin
  • Elang-Elang (!) Petroleum System, Sahul Syncline and Flamingo High
  • Plover-Plover (.) Petroleum System, Malita Graben and Sahul Platform

Permian System

  • Hyland Bay-Hyland Bay (?) Petroleum System, Kelp High
  • Permian-Hyland Bay (?) Petroleum System, Londonderry High
  • Hyland Bay/Keyling-Hyland Bay (.) Petroleum System, Central Petrel Sub-basin

Permo-Carboniferous

  • Milligans-Kuriyippi/Milligans (!) Petroleum System

Key References

Author(s) Year Title
Barrett, A.G., Hinde, A.L. and Kennard, J.M. 2004 Undiscovered resource assessment methodologies and application to the Bonaparte Basin. IN: Ellis, G.K., Baillie, P.W. & Munson, T.J. (Editors), Timor Sea Petroleum Geoscience: Proceedings of the Timor Sea Symposium, Darwin, Northern Territory, 2003. Northern Territory Geological Survey, Special Publication 1.
Baxter, K., Cooper, G.T., O’Brien, G.W., Hill, K.C. and Sturrock, S. 1997 Flexural isostatic modelling as a constraint on basin evolution, the development of sediment systems and palaeo-heat flow: Application to the Vulcan Sub-basin, Timor Sea. The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) Journal, 37(1), 136-153.
Bishop, D.J. and O’Brien, G.W. 1998 A multi-disciplinary approach to definition and characterisation of carbonate shoals, shallow gas accumulations and related complex near-surface sedimentary structures in the Timor Sea. The APPEA Journal, 38(1), 93-114.
Botten, P.R. and Wulff, K. 1990 Exploration potential of the Timor Gap Zone of Cooperation. The APEA Journal, 30(1), 53-68.
Cadman, S.J. and Temple, P.R. 2004 Bonaparte Basin, NT, WA, AC & JPDA, Australian Petroleum Accumulations Report 5, 2nd Edition, Geoscience Australia, Canberra. (Geocat not web visible yet)
Castillo, D.A., Bishop, D.J., Donaldson, I., Kuek, D., De Ruig, M., Trupp, M. and Shuster, M.W. 2000 Trap integrity in the Laminaria High-Nancar Trough Region, Timor Sea: Prediction of fault seal failure using well-constrained stress tensors and fault surfaces interpreted from 3D seismic. The APPEA Journal, 40(1), 151-173.
Castillo, D.A., Hillis, R.R., Asquith, K. and Fischer, M. 1998 State of Stress in the Timor Sea area, based on Deep Wellbore Observations and Frictional Failure Criteria: Application to Fault-trap integrity. IN: Purcell, P.G. & Purcell, R.R. (Editors), The Sedimentary Basins of Western Australia 2: Proceedings of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth, WA, 1998, 325-341.
Colwell, J.B. and Kennard, J.M. (Compilers) 1996 Petrel Sub-basin study 1995-1996: Summary Report. Australian Geological Survey Organisation Record 1996/40, 122p.
Cooper, G.T., Barnes, C.R., Bourne, J.D. and Channon, G.J. 1998 Hydrocarbon Leakage on the North West Shelf, Australia: New Information from the Integration of Airborne Laser Flourosensor (ALF) and Structural Data. IN: Purcell, P.G. & Purcell, R.R. (Editors), The Sedimentary Basins of Western Australia 2: Proceedings of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth, WA, 1998, 255-272.
de Ruig, M.J., Trupp, M., Bishop, D.J., Kuek, D. and Castillo, D.A. 2000 Fault architecture and the mechanics of fault reactivation in the Nancar Trough/Laminaria area of the Timor Sea, northern Australia. The APPEA Journal, 40(1), 174-193.
Durrant, J.M., France, R.E., Dauzacker, M.V. and Nilsen, T. 1990 The southern Bonaparte Gulf Basin: new plays. The APEA Journal, 30(1), 52-67.
Earl, K.L. 2004 Bonaparte Basin petroleum systems Charts. Geoscience Australia
Edwards, D.S., Preston, J.C., Kennard, J.M., Boreham, C.J., van Aarssen, B.G.K., Summons, R.E. and Zumberge, J.E. 2004 Geochemical characteristics of hydrocarbons from the Vulcan Sub-basin, western Bonaparte Basin, Australia. IN: Ellis, G.K., Baillie, P.W. & Munson, T.J. (Editors), Timor Sea Petroleum Geoscience: Proceedings of the Timor Sea Symposium, Darwin, Northern Territory, 2003. Northern Territory Geological Survey, Special Publication 1.
Edwards, D.S., Kennard, J.M., Preston, J.C., Boreham, C.J., Summons, R.E. and Zumberge, J.E. 2001 Geochemical evidence for numerous Mesozoic petroleum systems in the Bonaparte and Browse Basins, northwestern Australia. Annual Meeting Expanded Abstracts, AAPG, 2001, 55-56.
Edwards, H., Crosby, J., David, N., Loader, C. and Westlake, S. 2005 Australian Mega Surveys – the key to new discoveries in maturing areas? The APPEA Journal, in prep.
Ellis, G.K., Baillie, P.W. and Munson, T.L. (Editors) 2004 Timor Sea Petroleum Geoscience. Proceedings of the Timor Sea Symposium, Darwin, Northern Territory, 19-20 June, 2003. Northern Territory Geological Survey, Special Publication 1. [CD Copies can be ordered from the Northern Territory Geological Survey, Geoscience Information, email: geoscience.info@nt.gov.au].
Gunn, P.J. 1988 Bonaparte Basin: Evolution and structural framework. IN: Purcell, P.G. and Purcell, R.R. (Editors), The North West Shelf Australia: Proceedings of Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth, 1988, 275-285.
Keep, M., Clough, M. and Langhi, L. 2002 Neogene tectonic and structural evolution of the Timor Sea region, NW Australia. IN: Keep, M. and Moss, S. (Editors), The Sedimentary Basins of Western Australia 3: Proceedings of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth, 2002, 341-353.
Keep, M., Powell, C. McA. and Baillie, P.W. 1998 Neogene deformation of the North West Shelf, Australia. IN: Purcell, P.G. and Purcell, R.R. (Editors), The sedimentary basins of Western Australia 2: Proceedings of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth, 1998, 81-91.
Kennard, J.M., Deighton, I., Edwards, D.S., Colwell, J.B., O’Brien, G.W. and Boreham, C.J. 1999 Thermal history modelling and transient heat pulses: new insights into hydrocarbon expulsion and ‘hot flushes’ in the Vulcan Sun-basin, Timor Sea. The APPEA Journal, 39(1), 177-207.
Kennard, J.M., Deighton, I., Edwards, D.S., Boreham, C.J. and Barrett, A.G. 2002 Subsidence and thermal history modeling: new insights into hydrocarbon expulsion from multiple petroleum systems in the Petrel Sub-basin, Bonaparte Basin. IN: Keep, M. and Moss, S. (Editors), The Sedimentary Basins of Western Australia 3: Proceedings of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth, 2002, 409-437.
Keyu Liu, Eadington, P.J., Kennard, J.M., Middleton, H.A., George, S.C., Ahmed, M. and Cope, P. 2004 Oil migration in the Vulcan Sub-basin, Timor Sea, investigated using GOI and FIS data, IN: Ellis, G.K., Baillie, P.W. & Munson, T.J. (Editors), Timor Sea Petroleum Geoscience: Proceedings of the Timor Sea Symposium, Darwin, Northern Territory, 2003. Northern Territory Geological Survey, Special Publication 1.
Kivior, T., Kaldi, J.G. and Lang, S.C. 2002 Seal Potential in Cretaceous and Late Jurassic Rocks of the Vulcan Sub-basin, Northwest Shelf Australia. The APPEA Journal, 42(1), 203-224.
Lemon, N.M. and Barnes, C.R. 1997 Salt migration and subtle structures: modelling of the Petrel Sub-basin, northwest Australia. The APPEA Journal, 37(1), 245-258.
Leonard, A.A., Vear, A., Panting, A.L., de Ruig., M.J., Dunne, J.C. and Lewis, K.A. 2004 Blacktip-1 gas discovery: an AVO success in the southern Bonaparte Basin, Western Australia. IN: Ellis, G.K., Baillie, P.W. and Munson, T.J. (Editors), Timor Sea Petroleum Geoscience. Proceedings of the Timor Sea Symposium, Darwin, Northern Territory, 19-20 June 2003. Northern Territory Geological Survey, Special Publication 1, 25-35.
Lisk, M., Brincat, M.P., Eadington, P.J. and O’Brien, G.W. 1998 Hydrocarbon Charge in the Vulcan Sub-basin. IN: Purcell, P.G. & Purcell, R.R. (Editors), The Sedimentary Basins of Western Australia 2: Proceedings of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth, WA, 1998, 287-303.
Longley, I.M., Buessenschuett, C., Clydsdale, L., Cubitt, C.J., Davis R.C., Johnson, M.K., Marshall, N.M., Murray, A.P., Somerville, R., Spry, T.B. and Thompson, N.B. 2002 The North West Shelf of Australia – a Woodside perspective. IN: Keep, M. & Moss, S.J. (Editors), The Sedimentary Basins of Western Australia 3: Proceedings of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth, WA, 2002, 27-88.
McConachie, B.A., Bradshaw, M.T. and Bradshaw, J. 1996 Petroleum systems of the Petrel Sub-basin – an integrated approach to basin analysis and identification of hydrocarbon exploration opportunities. The APPEA Journal, 36(1), 248-268.
Messent, B.E.J., Goody, A.K., Collins, E. and Tobias, S. 1994 Sequence stratigraphy of the Flamingo Group, southern Bonaparte Basin. IN: Purcell, P.G. and Purcell, R.R. (Editors), The sedimentary basins of Western Australia: Proceedings of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth, 1994, 243-257.
Mory, A.J. 1991 Geology of the offshore Bonaparte Basin, northwestern Australia. Geological Survey of Western Australia, Report 29, 47 pp.
Mory, A.J. 1988 Regional Geology of the Offshore Bonaparte Basin. IN: Purcell, P.G. & Purcell, R.R. (Editors), The North West Shelf, Australia: Proceedings of the Petroleum Exploration Society Australia Symposium, Perth, WA, 1988, 287-309.
O’Brien, G.W. 1993 Some ideas on the rifting history of the Timor Sea from the integration of deep crustal seismic and other data. Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Journal, 21, 95-113.
O’Brien, G.W. and Woods, E.P. 1995 Hydrocarbon-related diagenetic zones (HRDZs) in the Vulcan Sub-basin, Timor Sea: recognition and exploration implications. The APEA Journal, 35(1), 220-252.
O’Brien, G.W., Etheridge, M.A., Willcox, J.B., Morse, M., Symonds, P., Norman, C. and Needham, D.J. 1993 The structural architecture of the Timor Sea, north-western Australia: implications for basin development and hydrocarbon exploration. The APEA Journal, 33(1), 258-278.
O’Brien, G.W., Glenn, K., Lawrence, G., Williams, A.K., Webster, M., Burns, S. and Cowley, R. 2002 Influence of hydrocarbon migration and seepage on benthic communities in the Timor Sea, Australia. The APPEA Journal, 42(1), 225-239.
O’Brien, G.W., Higgins, R., Symonds, P., Quaife, P., Colwell, J. and Blevin, J. 1996a Basement control on the development of extensional systems in Australia’s Timor Sea: an example of hybrid hard linked/soft linked faulting? The APPEA Journal, 36(1), 161-201.
O’Brien, G.W., Lawrence, G.M., Williams, A.K., Webster, M., Lee, J., Cowley, R. and Burns, S. 2001 Hydrocarbon migration and seepage in the Timor Sea and Northern Browse Basin North West Shelf, Australia: An Integrated SAR, Geological and Geochemical Study. AGSO Record 2001/11. 
O’Brien, G.W., Lisk, M., Duddy, I.R., Hamilton, J., Woods, P. and Crowley, R. 1999 Plate convergence, foreland development and fault reactivation: primary controls on brine migration, thermal histories and trap breach in the Timor Sea, Australia. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 16, 533-560. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0264-8172(98)00070-1)
O’Brien, G.W., Sturrock, S. and Barber, P. 1996b Vulcan Tertiary Tie (VTT) Basin Study, Vulcan Sub-Basin, Timor Sea, Northwestern Australia. AGSO Record, 1996/61.
Pattillo, J. and Nicholls, P.J. 1990 A tectonostratigraphic framework for the Vulcan Graben, Timor Sea Region. The APEA Journal, 30(1), 27-51.
Peresson, H., Woods, E.P. and Fink, P. 2004 Fault architecture along the southeastern margin of the Cartier Trough, Vulcan Sub-basin, North West Shelf, Australia: Implications for hydrocarbon exploration. IN: Ellis, G.K., Baillie, P.W. & Munson, T.J. (Editors), Timor Sea Petroleum Geoscience: Proceedings of the Timor Sea Symposium, Darwin, Northern Territory, 2003. Northern Territory Geological Survey, Special Publication 1.
Preston, J.C. and Edwards, D.S. 2000 The petroleum geochemistry of oils and source rocks from the Northern Bonaparte Basin, offshore northern Australia. The APPEA Journal, 40(1), 257-282.
Robinson, P and McInerney, K. 2004 Permo-Triassic reservoir fairways of the Petrel Sub-basin, Timor Sea. IN: Ellis, G.K., Baillie, P.W. and Munson, T.J. (Editors), Timor Sea Petroleum Geoscience. Proceedings of the Timor Sea Symposium, Darwin, Northern Territory, 19-20 June 2003. Northern Territory Geological Survey, Special Publication 1, 295-312.
Shuster, M.W., Eaton, S., Wakefield, L.L. and Kloosterman, H.J. 1998 Neogene tectonics, greater Timor Sea, offshore Australia: implications for trap risk. The APPEA Journal, 38(1), 351-379.
Whittam, D.B., Norvick, M.S. and McIntyre, C.L. 1996 Mesozoic and Cainozoic tectonostratigraphy of western ZOCA and adjacent areas. The APPEA Journal, 36(1), 209-232.
Woods, E.P. 1992 Vulcan Sub-basin fault styles – implications for hydrocarbon migration and entrapment. The APEA Journal, 32(1), 138-158.
Woods, E.P. 2004 Twenty years of Vulcan Sub-basin exploration since Jabiru – what lessons have been learnt? IN: Ellis, G.K., Baillie, P.W. & Munson, T.J. (Editors), Timor Sea Petroleum Geoscience: Proceedings of the Timor Sea Symposium, Darwin, Northern Territory, 2003. Northern Territory Geological Survey, Special Publication 1.

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