The sedimentary basins of the South Atlantic have developed into one of the most active regions for petroleum exploration in the whole world. The increase of interest in the oil industry has resulted from the numerous recent giant to supergiant oil and gas discoveries along both the eastern and western continental margins of the South Atlantic in deep and ultradeep waters. The use of the petroleum system concept in the South Atlantic marginal basins provides an effective means of classifying and characterizing the diversity of the oil and gas systems, as well as, a means to aid in the selection of appropriate exploration analogs. The South Atlantic marginal basins also provide some of the best examples of how petroleum systems evolved through time with respect to both their levels of certainty and their areal and stratigraphic limits. An examination of the Orange and Santos basins, in Namibia and Brazil, respectively, provides examples of almost perfect analogs in terms of petroleum system. For example, lacustrine and marine source rocks, similar oil type, almost identical reservoir deposition environments, traps associated with basement highs and vertical migration pathways dominate in each of the basins, with normal faults networks providing the effective carrier. However, there are clear differences when Aptian salt layers are present in the Santos basin and absent in the Namibian basins. Also, differences are observed when thermal evolution is considered. Although no Aptian salt section is present in Namibian basins, and thermal maturity appears to be much higher in the Namibian coast, both basins share almost identical elements and processes of the petroleum system concept. In summary, the aim of this paper is to show how the petroleum system modeling, supported by geochemistry, allows a correlation between counterpart basins across the South Atlantic realm.
The evolution of the South Atlantic sedimentary basins provided the general conditions for the establishment of various petroleum systems. The formation of source rocks, reservoirs and traps are directly related and connected to the phases of the evolution of the passive continental margins (Figure 1): pre-rift, syn-rift, transitional and thermal sag (drift) sequences (Mello, 1988, Mello et al, 1991 and Katz and Mello, 2000).