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Evaluation of Re–Os geochronology and Os isotope fingerprinting of Late Cretaceous terrestrial oils in Taranaki Basin, New Zealand

Rotich, Enock K.; Handler, Monica R.; Sykes, Richard; Naeher, Sebastian; Selby, David; Kroeger, Karsten F.


Enock K. Rotich

Monica R. Handler

Richard Sykes

Sebastian Naeher

David Selby

Karsten F. Kroeger


The rhenium-osmium (Re–Os) isotope system has been applied to several marine and lacustrine petroleum systems worldwide, showing good potential for dating crude oils and correlating them to their source rocks. Here we explore the applicability of the Re–Os geochronometer and Os isotope fingerprinting to terrestrial oils by comparing the Re and Os systematics of Late Cretaceous terrestrial oils from Taranaki Basin, New Zealand, and their correlated coaly source rocks. Comparison is also made with selected Late Cretaceous–Paleocene marine oils and source rocks with varying levels of terrestrial organic matter input. The asphaltene fractions of nine genetically related terrestrial oils from the Maui, Maari-Manaia and Tui Area fields in offshore Taranaki Basin contain low concentrations of Re (0.18–0.45 ppb) and 192Os (1.3–12.7 ppt) comparable to their correlated Late Cretaceous coaly source rocks (Rakopi and North Cape formations; Re 0.19–0.37 ppb, 192Os 5.3–9.6 ppt). The Re and 192Os concentrations in these terrestrial oils are generally one to two orders of magnitude lower than those in marine-sourced oils from the Kora Field in offshore Taranaki Basin and surface seeps in East Coast Basin. The 187Re/188Os and 187Os/188Os ratios of the terrestrial oils failed to yield a precise Re–Os isochron age. We attribute this to: (1) insufficient homogenisation of oils with widely variable initial 187Os/188Os (Osi) values inherited from thick, coaly source rock intervals (up to about 2700 m) within the Maui sub-basin and northern Kahurangi Trough kitchens; (2) insufficient spread of 187Re/188Os values (only 275 units); (3) insufficient time since oil expulsion (modelled to be from approximately 10 Ma to the present day) for the evolution of an isochron; and (4) possible effects of water washing of the oil columns. Although all of the studied oils are water-washed to varying degrees, there is no definitive evidence that water washing has disturbed the Re–Os systematics. The Osi values for the studied terrestrial oils inherited at the modelled time of oil expulsion (approximately 10 Ma) display a wide range (0.47–1.14) and do not provide a unique fingerprint of their Late Cretaceous coaly source rock formations. Osmium isotope compositions therefore appear to have limited potential for broad oil-source rock correlation within the predominantly coal-sourced petroleum systems of Taranaki Basin. The Osi values may, however, provide useful distinction of the terrestrial oils emanating from the Kahurangi Trough (Tui Area oils) from those of the Maui sub-basin (Maui and Maari-Manaia oils) based on the significantly more radiogenic values of the Tui Area oils (0.84–1.14 compared with 0.47–0.65 from Maui and Maari-Manaia oils). Overall, this study has provided useful insights into the potential application of the Re–Os isotope system to terrestrial, coal-sourced petroleum systems.


Rotich, E. K., Handler, M. R., Sykes, R., Naeher, S., Selby, D., & Kroeger, K. F. (2023). Evaluation of Re–Os geochronology and Os isotope fingerprinting of Late Cretaceous terrestrial oils in Taranaki Basin, New Zealand. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 149, Article 106071.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 12, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 14, 2022
Publication Date 2023-03
Deposit Date Jan 6, 2023
Publicly Available Date Dec 15, 2023
Journal Marine and Petroleum Geology
Print ISSN 0264-8172
Electronic ISSN 1873-4073
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 149
Article Number 106071