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Paleogene Umm Er Radhuma and Ghaydah and Neogene Sarar source rocks from Sayhut subbasin in the Gulf of Aden Basin were studied to provide information such as organic-matter types, paleoenvironmental conditions, and petroleum-generation potential. This study is based on whole-rock organic-geochemical analyses and organic petrology. The total organic carbon (TOC) contents of the Paleogene to Neogene source rocks range from 0.43% to 6.11%, with an average TOC value of 1.00%, indicating fair to very good source-rock potential. The Paleogene Ghaydah and Umm Er Radhuma source rocks are relatively higher in genetic petroleum potential than Neogene Sarar source rocks. Mainly oil and gas are anticipated from the Ghaydah and Umm Er Radhuma source rocks with hydrogen index (HI) values ranging from 95 to 715 mg hydrocarbon (HC)/g TOC. This is supported by the presence of significant amounts of liptinite macerals in the Ghaydah and Umm Er Radhuma source rocks. The Sarar source rocks are dominated by vitrinitic type III kerogen (HI < 200 mg HC/g TOC) and are thus considered to be gas source rocks. The Paleogene to Neogene source rocks have vitrinite reflectance (Ro) values in the range between 0.30% and 0.77% Ro, and pyrolysis maximum temperature values range from 412°C to 444°C (774°F to 831°F), consistent with the immature to early mature oil window. Therefore, the present-day kerogen type in the Paleogene to Neogene source rocks is original and should not have been altered by thermal maturity.
The biomarker of organic matter suggests that the Paleogene to Neogene source rocks were deposited in a marine environment under suboxic to anoxic conditions. The biomarkers also indicate that the Paleogene to Neogene source rocks contain a mixture of aquatic organic matter (planktonic and bacterial) and terrigenous organic matter, with increasing terrigenous influence to Sarar source-rock samples. Highly hypersaline reducing conditions are also evidenced in Ghaydah and Umm Er Radhuma source rocks, as indicated by the presence of the gammacerane biomarker, low pristane to phytane ratios, and homohopane distribution patterns.