Neuquén Basin

Neuquén Basin (Spanish: Cuenca Neuquina) is a sedimentary basin covering most of Neuquén Province in Argentina. The basin originated in the Jurassic and developed through alternating continental and marine conditions well into the Tertiary. The basin bounds to the west with the Andean Volcanic Belt, to the southeast with the North Patagonian Massif and to the northeast with the San Rafael Block and to the east with the Sierra Pintada System.[1] The basin covers an area of approximately 120,000 square kilometres (46,000 sq mi).[2] One age of the SALMA classification, the Colloncuran, is defined in the basin, based on the Collón Curá Formation, named after the Collón Curá River, a tributary of the Limay River.

Neuquén Basin
Cuenca Neuquina
Map showing the location of Neuquén Basin
Map showing the location of Neuquén Basin
EIA Neuquen Basin.png
Map of Vaca Muerta showing the extent of the Neuquén Basin. Colors indicate hydrocarbon maturity as measured by vitrinite reflectance. Huincul Fault is shown in grey.
Coordinates38°14′S 69°16′W / 38.233°S 69.267°W / -38.233; -69.267
EtymologyNeuquén River
LocationSouthern South America
Country Argentina
State(s)Mendoza, Río Negro, La Pampa, & Neuquén Provinces
Araucanía & Bío Bío Regions
CitiesNeuquén, Bariloche
BoundariesAndean Volcanic Belt (W)
San Rafael Block (NE)
Sierra Pintada (E)
North Patagonian Massif (SE)
Part ofAndean foreland basins
Area120,000 km2 (46,000 sq mi)
River(s)Río Negro, Colorado, Limay, Collón Curá & Neuquén Rivers
Lake(s)Ezquiel Ramos Mexía, Los Barreales & Mari Menuco Reservoirs
Basin typeForeland basin
PlateSouth American
Field(s)a.o. Vaca Muerta (unconventional oil)


Jurassic and Cretaceous marine transgressions from the Pacific are recorded in the sediments of Neuquén Basin. These marine sediments belong to Cuyo Group, Tordillo Formation, Auquilco Formation and Vaca Muerta.[3] In the Late Cretaceous, conditions in the neighboring Andean orogeny changed. A marine regression occurred and the fold and thrust belts of Malargüe (36°00 S), Chos Malal (37° S) and Agrio (38° S) started to develop in the Andes and did so until Eocene times. This meant an advance of the Andean orogenic deformation since the Late Cretaceous that made the western part of Neuquén Basin to stack in the Malargüe and Agrio fold and thrust belts.[3][4] This caused a shift in deposition from Pacific to Early Atlantic.[5]

In the south of Mendoza Province, the Guañacos fold and thrust belt (36.5° S) appeared and grew in the Pliocene and Pleistocene consuming the western fringes of the Neuquén Basin.[3][4]


The Huincul basement high or Huincul ridge (Spanish: dorsal de Huincul) is a geological structure that divides Neuquén Basin in two parts.[6][7] The basement high is one of the most studied features of Neuquén Basin given its importance for hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation.[7] All over the basement high runs an approximate length of 250 kilometres (160 mi).[7] There have been proposals on the nature of this structure. In the 1970s and 1980s it was proposed by that it was a transpressive fault zone.[6][7] In 2009, Pángaro described it as being made up of inverted half-grabens.[7]

Unconformities have been registered in the basin and were dated at 98, 117, 123, 129, 134 and 154 Ma.[8]


Map of the Río Negro watershed. The Neuquén Basin comprises the upper course of the Río Negro, stretching towards the Colorado River in the north and to the Limay River in the south.
Various stratigraphic units are named after these rivers and their tributaries.

The basin contains many stratigraphic units from the Triassic onwards, with large regional variations from east to west and north to south, often described as different formations that are laterally equivalent, this list is a comprehensive overview of described formations:


Petroleum geologyEdit

The Neuquén Basin is an important oil and gas producing basin in Argentina. Production started in 1918 and accumulated to 928 thousand cubic metres (5.84 million barrels) of oil equivalent in 2004, representing 45% of the oil production in Argentina and 61% of its gas production.[40] The basin is also important for unconventionals, with the Vaca Muerta and Los Molles formations being major shale gas producers.

Source rock formations are predominantly the Vaca Muerta, and to a lesser extent the Agrio and Los Molles Formations. Reservoir rocks comprise the Mulichinco and Chachao Formations. Deeper reservoirs are the Lotena and Barda Negra Formations.[41] Regional seal rocks are the evaporites of the Auquilco and Huitrín Formations, with local seals the Vaca Muerta, Agrio and Catriel Formations.[42]

Notes and referencesEdit


  1. ^ Some authors include the Agua de la Piedra Formation within the Malargüe Group, others do not
  2. ^ Some authors include the Tordillo Formation within the Mendoza Group, others do not
  3. ^ Some authors include the Los Molles Formation within the Cuyo Group, others do not


  1. ^ "Cuenca Neuquina". Secretaría de Energía (in Spanish). Government of Argentina. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  2. ^ Howell et al., 2005
  3. ^ a b c Rojas et al., 2016
  4. ^ a b Ramos & Mahlburg Kay, 2006
  5. ^ Ponce et al., 2015, p.10
  6. ^ a b Mosquera & Ramos, 2006
  7. ^ a b c d e Pángaro et al., 2009
  8. ^ Leanza, 2017, p.150
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Onnis et al., 2018, p.38
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Hoja Geológica 3969-II, 2007, p.6
  11. ^ Kramarz et al., 2005, p.276
  12. ^ Escosteguy & Franchi, 2010, p.425
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Lebinson et al., 2018, p.252
  14. ^ a b Escosteguy & Franchi, 2010, p.426
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Balgord, 2017, p.455
  16. ^ Escosteguy & Franchi, 2010, p.423
  17. ^ a b c d e Náñez & Malumián, 2019, p.186
  18. ^ Escosteguy & Franchi, 2010, p.422
  19. ^ Kramarz et al., 2015, p.586
  20. ^ Agnolin & Chafrat, 2015
  21. ^ a b Escosteguy & Franchi, 2010, p.421
  22. ^ Wilf et al., 2005
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak Balgord & Carapa, 2014, p.6
  24. ^ Garrido, 2011, p.237
  25. ^ Garrido, 2011, p.236
  26. ^ Escosteguy & Franchi, 2010, p.420
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h Gómez Dacal et al., 2018, p.113
  28. ^ Ponce et al., 2015, p.16
  29. ^ a b c d e f g Olivo et al., 2016, p.218
  30. ^ Voglino, 2017
  31. ^ Ponce et al., 2015, p.18
  32. ^ Iñigo et al., 2018
  33. ^ Ponce et al., 2015, p.27
  34. ^ Geologic Map, 2007, p.147
  35. ^ Mescua et al., 2013, p.105
  36. ^ a b Ponce et al., 2015, p.17
  37. ^ a b c Zavala, 1993, p.74
  38. ^ a b Zavattieri & Mego, 2008, p.484
  39. ^ Geologic Map, 2007, p.144
  40. ^ Mendiberri et al., 2004, p.1
  41. ^ Ponce et al., 2015, p.28
  42. ^ Ponce et al., 2015, p.29


Geologic map
Vaca Mahuida Formation
Ventana Formation
Chichinales Formation
Cerro Bandera Formation

Further readingEdit