Biofacies and palaeoenvironments of the Jurassic Shaqra Group of Saudi Arabia

Geraint HUGHES


The Jurassic succession in Saudi Arabia consists of seven formations, forming the Shaqra Group,of which most are carbonate and some are partly evaporitic, and is of economic importance because it hosts twelve hydrocarbon reservoirs, including the Arab-D Reservoir within the world’s largest oilfield at Ghawar. The Minjur-Marrat formational boundary marks the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, of which the Marrat is dated as Toarcian. A significant unconformity separates this unit from the overlying Dhruma Formation, of Bajocian to Bathonian ages. The Tuwaiq Mountain Formation, of Callovian age, overlies the Dhruma Formation, with reduced hiatus. The Hanifa Formation, of Oxfordian age, is separated from the Tuwaiq Mountain Formation by a minor hiatus, as are the successive Jubaila, Arab and Hith formations, of Kimmeridgian to Tithonian ages. The Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary is currently placed within the lower part of the overlying Sulaiy Formation. A combination of semi-quantitative micropalaeontological and macropalaeontological analysis of closely-spaced thin sections from these carbonates displays a tiered relay of clearly defined microbiofacies cycles. These cycles reveal palaeoenvironmental trends that subdivide the succession into parasequences, transgressive and highstand systems tracts that are not always evident from the sedimentology alone. The biofacies approach to elucidating palaeoenvironmental variations of the Shaqra Group provides significant insights to the Jurassic history of the Arabian Plate, as well as serving to explain the origin and stratigraphic location of hydrocarbon reservoirs, seals and potential source rocks.The Shaqra Group spans at least 36 Ma, and qualifies as a second order depositional sequence, within which the formations can be considered as third order sequences. Better chronostratigraphic constraint of the depositional sequences reveals elevated subsidence rates for the Dhruma, Tuwaiq Mountain and Hanifa formations that can be related to established episodes of global plate readjustment. Tectonoeustatic and possibly glacioeustatic controls on depositional cyclicity probably exerted an influence on the major unconformities within the Shaqra Group.


Saudi Arabia; biofacies; palaeoenvironments; Shaqra Group; subsidence rates

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