Kemp: Iran's Tantalizing Oil Prize
Iran's oil and gas accumulations are the result of organic material deposited on the floor of an ancient ocean, Tethys, around 250 million years ago.
Tethys disappeared with the collision of the Indian, African and Arabian tectonic plates into the Eurasian continent - though remnants are left as the Black, Caspian and Aral seas.
Thick layers of ancient limestone and sandstone deposited on the floor of Tethys were trapped and warped in the collision and became the world's biggest oil and gas accumulations around the Middle East Gulf.
On the Arabian side of the Gulf, the ancient marine sediments became the giant oil and gas fields of Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province as well as adjacent areas of Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
On the Iranian side, where the Arabian plate collided with the central Iranian plateau it created an extensive folded zone and threw up the Zagros Mountains.
These folded structures have been excellent traps for the accumulation of oil and gas and account for Iran's major oil and gas fields.
The Zagros Basin stretches in a belt from Turkey and Syria through Iraqi Kurdistan and into Iran ("Sedimentary Basins and Petroleum Geology of the Middle East", 1997).
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