Since the first discovery of petroleum in Yemen in 1984, several recent advances have been made in the understanding of that countrys geologic history and petroleum systems. The total petroleum resource endowment for the combined petroleum provinces within Yemen, as estimated in the recent U.S. Geological Survey world assessment, ranks 51st in the world, exclusive of the United States, at 9.8 BBOE, which includes cumulative production and remaining reserves, as well as a mean estimate of undiscovered resources. Such undiscovered
petroleum resources are about 2.7 billion barrels of oil, 17 trillion cubic feet (2.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent) of natural gas and 1 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. A single total petroleum system, the Jurassic Madbi Amran/Qishn, dominates petroleum generation and production; it was formed in response to a Late Jurassic rifting event related to the separation of the Arabian Peninsula from the Gondwana supercontinent. This rifting resulted in the development of two petroleum-bearing sedimentary basins: (1) the western MaRibAl Jawf / Shabwah basin, and (2) the eastern Masila-Jeza basin. In both basins, petroleum source rocks of the Jurassic (Kimmeridgian) Madbi Formation generated hydrocarbons during Late Cretaceous time that migrated, mostly vertically, into Jurassic and Cretaceous reservoirs. In the western MaRibAl Jawf / Shabwah basin, the petroleum system is largely confined to syn-rift deposits, with reservoirs ranging from deep-water turbidites to continental clastics buried beneath a thick Upper Jurassic (Tithonian) salt. The salt initially deformed in Early Cretaceous time, and continued
halokinesis resulted in salt diapirism and associated salt withdrawal during extension. The eastern Masila-Jeza basin contained similar early syn-rift deposits but received less clastic sediment during the Jurassic; however, no salt formed because the basin remained open to ocean circulation in the Late Jurassic.
Thus, Madbi Formation-sourced hydrocarbons migrated vertically into Lower Cretaceous estuarine, fluvial, and tidal sandstones of the Qishn Formation and were trapped by overlying
impermeable carbonates of the same formation. Both basins were formed by extensional forces during Jurassic rifting; how-ever, another rifting event that formed the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden during Oligocene and Miocene time had a strong effect on the eastern Masila-Jeza basin. Recurrent movement of basement blocks, particularly during the Tertiary, rather than halokinesis, was critical to the formation of traps.