Characterization of asphaltic oil occurrences from the southeastern margin of the Basque-Cantabrian Basin, Spain


  • P. MARÍN Department of Geochemistry, Petrology and Geological Prospecting, University of Barcelona. C/ Martí i Franquès s/n, 08028-Barcelona, Spain.
  • G. MÁRQUEZ Departmento de Ingeniería Minera, Mecánica y Energética, Universidad de Huelva. C/ La Rábida s/n, 21819-Huelva, Spain.
  • J.R. GALLEGO Departmento de Explotación y Prospección de Minas, Universidad de Oviedo. C/ Gonzalo Gutiérrez Quirós, 33600-Mieres, Spain.
  • A. PERMANYER Department de Geologia, Petrologia i Prosprecció Geològica, Universitat de Barcelona. C/ Martí i Franquès s/n, 08028-Barcelona, Spain.


Asphaltic oil occurrences, Basque-Cantabrian Basin, Álava sector, Ayoluengo oil field, Biodegradation


A geochemical investigation has been undertaken on biodegraded hydrocarbons in outcropping reservoirs of the south-eastern margin of the Basque-Cantabrian Basin (Álava sector). The aims of the study were the characterization of the geochemical features and biodegradation level of these hydrocarbons, and the evaluation of their resemblance to oils from the Ayoluengo onshore oil field by means of isotopic analyses and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques. Most of the samples lack of n-alkanes, isoprenoids, low molecular weight aromatic compounds, steranes, homohopanes, diasteranes and triaromatic steroids whereas hexacyclic and heptacyclic alkanes appear as key compounds although some structures were not totally elucidated. Thermal maturity has been assessed with several parameters and thus a calculated-equivalent vitrinite reflectance value of around 0.8% was estimated. In addition, gammacerane content, diasterane-to-sterane ratio and C35 to C34 hopanes ratio suggested that the Álava oil shows were derived from a carbonate rock deposited in a reducing, water-stratified and possibly hypersaline environment. Isotopic signature and other data confirmed that these hydrocarbons are not genetically related to the oils from Ayoluengo and, consequently, their origin has to be associated with a yet unknown source rock in the basin.