Quality and composition of Lower Cretaceous carbonate source rocks and seepage oils in the Belize Basin, southern Belize, Central America

Brian Holland, P. Alsen, H.P. Nytoft, A. Rudra, H. Sanei, H.I. Petersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The Belize Basin in southern Belize, Central America, contains numerous seepage oils derived from marly and carbonate source rocks, but since no definitive source rocks have been identified the source remains uncertain. This study examines by pyrolysis and organic petrography the source rock quality and maturity of 66 samples collected from three newly exposed carbonate sections in the southeastern Belize Basin together with organic geochemical analysis of five new occurrences of seepage oils from the southern Belize Basin. Combined ammonite and aptychi biostratigraphy suggest a Berriasian to Hauterivian age of the source rock samples. Low Tmax values show the samples are thermally immature. Numerous samples are oil-prone and have Hydrogen Index values >300–400 mg HC/g TOC, reaching a maximum of 768 mg HC/g TOC. The samples with source rock potential contain from 32 to 64% pyrolysable organic carbon and contains liptinite-rich Type II kerogen consisting of alginite, bituminite, and liptodetrinite. The calculated Ultimate Expulsion Potential (UEP) of a 22.5 m thick section amounts to ∼2.5 mmboe/km2. This generation capacity is volumetrically relatively small, but it could be compensated for by a thicker source rock section. However, the identified source rocks could account for the seepage oils in the Belize Basin, and they are thus the first documentation of Lower Cretaceous source rocks in Belize. A plausible explanation for the widespread occurrence of seepage oils in the Belize Basin could be generation from organic-rich layers with bituminite and alginite. In line with this and previously examined seepage oils, the new variably degraded oils were sourced from carbonate source rock facies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104478
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2024


  • Ammonite
  • Aptychi
  • Belize
  • Biomarker
  • Bituminite
  • Carbonate source rock
  • Lower Cretaceous
  • Maceral
  • Petroleum potential
  • Seepage oil

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 3: Energy Resources


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