Geothermal gradient and heat flow maps of offshore Malaysia: Some updates and observations

Author : Mazlan Madon, John Jong
Publication : Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia
Page : 159 - 183
Volume Number : 71
Year : 2021

Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, Volume 71, May 2021, pp. 159 – 183

Geothermal gradient and heat flow maps of offshore Malaysia: Some updates and observations

Mazlan Madon1,2,*, John Jong3
1 Malaysian Continental Shelf Project, National Security Council, Malaysia
2 Department of Geology, Universiti Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3 JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration (Malaysia) Limited, Malaysia
* Corresponding author email address:

Abstract: An update of the geothermal gradient and heat flow maps for offshore Malaysia based on oil and gas industry data is long overdue. In this article we present an update based on available data and information compiled from PETRONAS and operator archives. More than 600 new datapoints calculated from bottom-hole temperature (BHT) data from oil and gas wells were added to the compilation, along with 165 datapoints from heat flow probe measurements at the seabed in the deep-water areas off Sarawak and Sabah. The heat flow probe surveys also provided direct measurements of seabed sediment thermal conductivity. For the calculation of heat flows from the BHT-based temperature gradients, empirical relationships between sediment thermal conductivity and burial depth were derived from thermal conductivity measurements of core samples in oil/gas wells (in the Malay Basin) and from ODP and IODP drillholes (as analogues for Sarawak and Sabah basins). The results of this study further enhanced our insights into the similarities and differences between the various basins and their relationships to tectonic settings. The Malay Basin has relatively high geothermal gradients (average ~47 °C/km). Higher gradients in the basin centre are attributed to crustal thinning due to extension. The Sarawak Basin has similar above-average geothermal gradients (~45 °C/km), whereas the Baram Delta area and the Sabah Shelf have considerably lower gradients (~29 to ~34 °C/km). These differences are attributed to the underlying tectonic settings; the Sarawak Shelf, like the Malay Basin, is underlain by an extensional terrane, whereas the Sabah Basin and Baram Delta east of the West Baram Line are underlain by a former collisional margin (between Dangerous Grounds rifted terrane and Sabah). The deep-water areas off Sarawak and Sabah (North Luconia and Sabah Platform) show relatively high geothermal gradients overall, averaging 80 °C/km in North Luconia and 87 °C/km in the Sabah Platform. The higher heat flows in the deep-water areas are consistent with the region being underlain by extended continental terrane of the South China Sea margin. From the thermal conductivity models established in this study, the average heat flows are: Malay Basin (92 mW/m2), Sarawak Shelf (95 mW/m2) and Sabah Shelf (79 mW/m2). In addition, the average heat flows for the deep-water areas are as follows: Sabah deep-water fold-thrust belt (66 mW/m2), Sabah Trough (42 mW/m2), Sabah Platform (63 mW/m2) and North Luconia (60 mW/m2).

Keywords: geothermal gradient, thermal conductivity, heat flow, Malaysia, temperature data