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Petroleum Geology of the Black Sea

Simmons petroleum geology Black SeaIf you are looking for a one-stop-shop to get yourself up to speed with the geology and hydrocarbon prospectivity of the enigmatic and relatively unexplored Black Sea, then this not a bad place to start. Deep-water exploration drilling started less than 20 years ago and has averaged approximately one well per year. It has been hindered by the cost of access and of maintaining sufficient activity levels to justify an expensive mobile drilling rig. Recent potential commercial successes at the Domino gas field (2012) in Romania and Polskhov High (2016) in Bulgaria have thrown the deep-water Black Sea into the spotlight.

The knowledgeable editors are involved in no less than 5 of the 16 papers, which after an introduction are split into a smorgasbord of crustal structure and tectonics, igneous geochemistry, hydrocarbon plays, petroleum systems and source rocks, upper Miocene and Holocene stratigraphy and papers on the petroleum potential of the eastern Black Sea and deep-water exploration.

As a reader knowing almost nothing about the area, I would have benefited greatly from a plate tectonic summary paper including evidence from earthquake data, subsidence history, magnetics and crustal geophysics. Indeed, the first paper concerning the crustal structure of the Mid Black Sea High would have then made a nice compliment and later papers on the evolution of the Pontides, as well as Cretaceous volcanic and intrusive rocks might have sat in a larger overall context. Nevertheless, there is plenty of interesting material here if you already have the knowledge, or the patience, to fit it all together.

Papers on the Istria Depression and Cretaceous sedimentation and deep-water plays in the western Black Sea, followed by several papers on source rock deposition, are highly relevant at a time when there is significant industry and governmental/regulatory activity and interest. Later papers concern subsea canyons developed during the Messinian sea-level fall, a study of Holocene sediments for source rock potential, and an interesting description of the petroleum potential of the Rioni Basin at the Georgian margin of the Black Sea.

The volume concludes with a succinct history of deep-water exploration and play types in the Black Sea. Wells are expensive, and several have failed due to inability to predict reservoir presence and quality. Not unlike the Eastern Mediterranean, after discovery of large biogenic gas accumulations (i.e. Domino), the thermogenic systems remain to be proven and play concepts are yet to be tested systematically. 

Reviewed by David Latin

PETROLEUM GEOLOGY OF THE BLACK SEA by M.D. Simmons, G.C. Tari and A.I. Okay (eds) 2018. Published by The Geological Society, SP 464, 484 pp. (hbk.) ISBN: 9781786203588. List price: £ 120.00 Fellow's price: £ 60.00 W: