Estimation of uplift and erosion in the Miri area of northwest Sarawak, Malaysia: A multidisciplinary approach

Final Front
Author : Franz-Luitpold Kessler, Wan Hasiah Abdullah
Publication : Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia
Page : 63 - 79
Volume Number : 76
Year : 2023

Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, Volume 76, November 2023, pp. 63 – 79

Estimation of uplift and erosion in the Miri area of northwest Sarawak, Malaysia: A multidisciplinary approach

Franz-Luitpold Kessler1,*, Wan Hasiah Abdullah2

1 Goldbach Geoconsultants O&G and Lithium Exploration, Bommichring 7A 63864 Glattbach, Bavaria, Germany

2 Geological Society of Malaysia, c/o Department of Geology, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

* Corresponding author email address:

Abstract: The question of uplift in the Sarawak Foreland is addressed in a multi-disciplinary approach, namely by assigning surface vitrinite reflectance measurements to depth, and by vitrinite reflectance-to-depth conversion using functions from two previous studies. Additional erosion and uplift data were obtained by comparing eroded anticlinal crests with adjacent synclines and their preserved sediments. The combined data pool suggests two types of uplift (I) a regional uplift in the Neogene affecting the entire coastal area, and (II) a tectonically focused uplift. The amount of the latter uplift and erosion is directly linked to rise of anticlinal structures during the Upper Pliocene, with a total uplift ranging from 700 to 4,000 m in areas along prominent regional faults. Within a very short time window major sedimentation, folding, trap formation and trap destruction took place both as a consequence of folding and erosion. Only anticlines in the offshore and the proximal onshore appear to have survived without major crestal erosion. Since the end of the Pleistocene, a rise of foreland sections by some 132 m is recognized. The rapid Pliocene burial and the erosion that consequently removed the overburden thereafter may have negatively affected the petroleum system and hydrocarbon accumulation within the Miri area, which was left largely intact only in the Siwa-Seria anticlinal trend. All anticlines were targeted by petroleum exploration. However, only the Siwa-Seria trend has proved to be economically successful. This has highlighted the significance of overburden in relation to depth of burial and the thermal effect needed to mature the source rocks capable to generate hydrocarbons.

Keywords: Sarawak, uplift, erosion, Neogene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, vitrinite reflectance, South China Sea


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Manuscript received 23 March 2023;
Received in revised form 13 October 2023;
Accepted 20 October 2023
Available online 29 November 2023


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