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Caribbean Paleogeographic Evolution and Hydrocarbon Exploration Framework

Occurred Monday, 13 September 2021, 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.  |  Virtual Short Course via Zoom (Houston, Texas time)

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Who Should Attend

This course benefits government agency managers and work teams, exploration managers and explorationists concerned with assessing hydrocarbon opportunities and risk, and university teachers and students working in regional tectonic and basin analysis and the paleogeographic evolution and hydrocarbon habitat of the Caribbean.


The course provides attendees with a documented and well-referenced comprehensive framework and appreciation for Caribbean evolution, hydrocarbon setting and exploration parameters and to show them how their own country or exploration program fits into the hydrocarbon potential of the greater region.

This course raises awareness of the tectonic controls on basin evolution and enhances attendees’ ability to converse openly about Caribbean exploration issues, opportunities and risks. In addition to providing a common framework to assess the key parameters of existing and new exploration acreage, the course serves as a refresher in plate tectonics, basin analysis and paleogeographic reconstruction.

Course Modules

The course includes a series of eight modules, each of which includes a lecture followed by Q&A with the instructor.

Course Schedule

Times appear in US Central Daylight (Houston) time (GMT -5)

08:00-09:45 Session I – Introduction, Atlantic Framework, Mesozoic Opening of the Gulf of Mexico and the Proto-Caribbean Seaway (“The Autochthon”)
09:45-10:00 Break
10:00-12:00 Session 2 – Tectonic Styles of Subduction Systems and Magmatic Arc Development. The Pacific Origin of the Caribbean Lithosphere: Pre-Caribbean Convergence Along Northern South America? The Pindell and Kennan 2009 Model of Caribbean Evolution.
12:00-12:30 Lunch Break
12:30-14:30 Session 3 – Tectonics and Hydrocarbons 1: Northern Caribbean Foreland Basins, Caribbean Interior Basins, Northern Panama Prism, Yucatán Basin, Grenada Basin, and Chiapas-Campeche Basin of Southern Mexico.
14:30-14:45 Break
14:15-16:00 Session 4 – Tectonics and Hydrocarbons 2: Northern South America
16:00-16:30 Closing remarks and Q & A.
Course Content

The Caribbean is one of world’s complicated “inter-plate deformation zones,” with a wide variety of exploration settings and plays. Caribbean evolution is directly responsible for the western hemisphere’s greatest hydrocarbon accumulations along northern South America.

This notoriously complex region has intrigued geoscientists for decades, and understanding the Caribbean plate’s origin and processes has inspired the life’s work of tectonic experts like course instructor James Pindell.

In his 1985 PhD thesis, Pindell developed a robust methodology for paleogeographic analysis of this region, providing a straightforward approach to explain the distinct stages of development by following standard textbook geological processes and principles.

In his method and his teaching, Pindell explains that the Caribbean’s apparent complexity is due only to the superposition of the geological manifestations of these distinct stages. Hydrocarbon source, reservoir, seal, trap and timing are considered each step of the way, and the evolutionary models allow a predictive element to exploration where data are poor or lacking.

Caribbean Paleogeographic Evolution and Hydrocarbon Exploration Framework provides an integrated, one-day summary of the primary findings and principles from more than 40 years of study and shows how those findings apply to individual nations and provinces around the Caribbean.

Throughout the course, Pindell shares knowledge gleaned through his study of subsurface data in numerous interactive work programs with the national oil companies (NOCs) and hydrocarbon commissions in Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Colombia, Barbados, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Working collaboratively with needs-designed research teams, these programs have entailed extensive field and lab work, geochronology and paleontological dating, heavy mineral work, seismic and potential fields data interpretation, well/core observation and analysis, and geological integration and synthesis with documented plate motion histories.

Programs have been funded by international exploration companies since 1985 in the hopes of establishing working tectonic models and hydrocarbon generation histories at the regional, national and basin scales.

The lessons learned are many, and now knowledge gained over 40 years is available to participants with a single day through a series of lectures and Q&A sessions.

The course provides a fast-track summary of what we know, what we don’t know, and what needs to be done to understand the remaining problems.

James Pindell
Emily Smith Llinás AAPG Latin America & Caribbean Region Manager
Diana Ruiz Vásquez AAPG Latin America & Caribbean Region Events Coordinator
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