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Stratigraphy, sedimentology and diagenetic evolution of the Lapur Sandstone in northern Kenya: Implications for oil exploration of the Meso-Cenozoic Turkana depression

Abstract : The northern Turkana region of northwestern Kenya forms the intersection between two major rift systems in Africa, the Cretaceous-Paleogene Central African Rift System (CARS), and the eastern arm of the Paleogene-Present East African Rift System (EARS). The southern Sudanese oil-rich rift basins form part of the CARS, and their extension into the Anza Rift in northeastern Kenya makes the area of northern Turkana an important target for oil exploration. Limited past exploration activity in the area leaves the study of surface outcrops as the main avenue for understanding the reservoir potential of the fluvial deposits of these rift systems. The outcrops of these potential reservoirs, collectively referred to as "Turkana Grits" in the past, are represented on the western side of Lake Turkana by the Lapur Sandstone in the north, and by other grit formations in the central and southern parts of the basin. Isotopic age determinations on the basal parts of the "Turkana Volcanics" that overlie the Lapur Sandstone have enabled the precise dating of the upper parts of the LS at between 35 and 37 Ma, while the lower part of the formation near the contact with the underlying Precambrian basement is estimated as Upper Cretaceous (Turonian-early Campanian), based on the discovery of dinosaur and other reptilian fauna. Detailed lithological logging, coupled with subsequent petrographic and sedimentological studies, have enabled the determination of the depositional environments and the diagenetic evolution of the Lapur Sandstone. The basal and uppermost parts of the formation are interpreted as distal alluvial fan environments possibly connected to the last stages of rifting characterizing the Central African Rift System. The middle part of the Lapur Sandstone corresponds to a wide braided fluvial system that can be compared to fluvial episodes of Late Cretaceous age in the Sudan region, associated to major palaeogeographical changes in northern Africa. The nearly abrupt disappearance of the Lapur upper fan system relates to the deposition of the "Turkana Volcanics" from Late Eocene, possibly as a consequence of the emplacement of the Afar Plume at 45-35 Ma. In terms of diagenesis, the main cement material at the base of the Lapur Sandstone is calcite, whereas at the middle of the formation, hematite becomes the dominant cement, and at the topmost section, kaolin cement dominates. The diagenetic evolution of the sandstones has been favourable to the retention of adequate primary intergranular porosity and the creation of secondary intragranular dissolution porosity, mainly through feldspar dissolution, and thus preserving the reservoir potential of the Lapur Sandstone. The reservoir characteristics, such as the porosity and cementation style, of the Lapur Sandstone are comparable to those of the fluvial sandstone reservoirs of the southern Sudan oil fields and this should positively contribute to the overall petroleum potential of the northern Turkana region. Though the northern Turkana area has remained largely unexplored, it is hoped that the demonstration of the presence of reasonably good reservoir quality sandstones in the Lapur Sandstone will serve to encourage further interest in hydrocarbon exploration in the Turkana area.
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Submitted on : Monday, September 3, 2012 - 4:50:15 PM
Last modification on : Friday, September 11, 2020 - 11:01:04 AM

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Jean-Jacques Tiercelin, Jean-Luc Potdevin, Peter Kinyua Thuo, Yassine Abdelfettah, Mathieu Schuster, et al.. Stratigraphy, sedimentology and diagenetic evolution of the Lapur Sandstone in northern Kenya: Implications for oil exploration of the Meso-Cenozoic Turkana depression. Journal of African Earth Sciences, Elsevier, 2012, 71-72, pp.43-79. ⟨10.1016/j.jafrearsci.2012.06.007⟩. ⟨insu-00727462⟩

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