Impact of rift dynamics on palaeoenvironmental conditions and hydrocarbon system development (northern Upper Rhine Graben, SW Germany)
The Upper Rhine Graben (URG), a classical hydrocarbon (HC) province, is part of the European Cenozoic Rift System. The rift graben development has led to a complex basin fill of terrestrial and marine Cenozoic deposits, providing several HC source and reservoir units. The aim of this study is the multidisciplinary analysis of the palaeoenvironmental conditions and source-rock development within the transgressive marine intervals, and the palaeothermal history of the graben system to improve the understanding of the HC system development. Palaeoenvironmental conditions are strongly influenced by rift-related tectonic activity. Transgressive marine intervals in times of major subsidence show high terrestrial input from the graben shoulders, leading to mainly terrigenous gas-prone kerogen, while transgressive marine intervals during weak tectonic activity are dominated by marine–brackish palaeoenvironments and oil-prone kerogen. This differs clearly from the previously suggested HC potential of these intervals. Thermal maturation analysis shows nearly constant maturation with depth, which is atypical for burial-controlled maturation. It indicates significant secondary thermal overprinting related to long-lasting very hot hydrothermal fluid systems, concentrated along fault zones. Therefore the development of the depositional setting, kerogen composition, thermal maturation and the HC potential is directly linked to the dynamics of the rift system development.