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


Abdullah, W.H., Lee, S.Y., Mustaffa, K.M., & Hakimi, M.H., 2011. Organic-rich sequences of the Miri Formation, Sarawak: Implication for oil generating potential. In Proceedings (Abstract), National Geoscience Conference, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. 2011 p.

Allen, P.A., & Allen, J.R., 2005. Geothermal and paleogeothermal signatures of basin types. In: Allen P.A. & Allen J.R. (Eds.), Basin analysis: principles and applications (Second Edition). Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 395-401.

Anuar, A., Abolins, P., Crevello, P., & Abdullah, W.H., 2003. A geochemical evaluation of the West Crocker Formation-clues to deepwater source rock facies? In Proceedings (Abstract), Petroleum Geology Conference & Exhibition 2003, Geological Society of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 39-40.

Bakar, N.A. Abd Rahman, A.H., & Madon, M., 2008a. Facies characterisation and stratification of debrites within the West Crocker Formation (Early Oligocene to Middle Miocene), Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. In Program and abstracts, Petroleum Geology Conference and Exhibition 2008, Geological Society of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 224-227.

Bakar, N.A. Abd Rahman, A.H., & Madon, M., 2008b. The West Crocker Formation (Early Oligocene to Middle Miocene) in the Kota Kinabalu Area, Sabah: Facies, sedimentary processes and depositional setting. In Program and abstracts, Petroleum Geology Conference and Exhibition 2008, Geological Society of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 140-142.

Barker, C.E. & Pawlewicz, M.J., 1986. The correlation of vitrinite reflectance with maximum temperature in humic organic matter. In: Buntebarth, G. & Stegena, L. (Eds.), Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences 5. Palaeogeothermics. Springer, Vedag, Berlin, 79-93.

Chapman, R.E., 1983. Petroleum Geology. Elsevier, UK. 415 p.

Doust, H., 1981. Geology and Exploration History of Offshore Central Sarawak. In: Michel T. Halbouty (Ed.), Energy Resources of the Pacific Region, AAPG, 12. https://doi. org/10.1306/St12420C12.

Evenick, J.C., 2021. Examining the relationship between Tmax and vitrinite reflectance: An empirical comparison between thermal maturity indicators. Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering, 91, 103946.

Giraldo, C., 2017. New Insights on the Dulit Antiform, Onshore Sarawak, Malaysia. In APGCE Asia Petroleum Geoscience abstract, 20-21 November 2017, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Gou, P., 2014. Organic petrographic characteristics of the Crocker Formation, NW Sabah, Malaysia. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, Volume 60, December 2014, 65–75.

Gou, P. & Abdullah, W.H., 2011. An organic geochemical approach to address stratigraphic issues: A case study of the Layang- Layangan Beds, Labuan Island, NW Sabah Basin. In PGCE Petroleum Geology Conference & Exhibition abstract, 7-8 March, 2011, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Hutchison, C.S., 1996. Geological evolution of South-East Asia. Geological Society of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. 368 p.

Hutchison, C.S., 2005. Geology of North-West Borneo: Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah. Elsevier, Amsterdam. 421 p.

Jong, J., Bin Mohamad Idris, H.A., Barber, P., Kessler, F.L., Quoc Tan, T., & Uchimura, R., 2017. Exploration history and petroleum systems of the onshore Baram Delta, northern Sarawak, Malaysia. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, 63, 117-143.

Jong, J., & Kessler, F.L., 2019. The Setap Shale Formation on Either Side of the Baram Line Divide: Facies Aspects and Tectonic Implications. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, 67, 53-65.

Kessler, F.L., 2010. Observations on Sediments and Deformation Characteristics in the Sarawak Foreland, Borneo Island. Warta Geologi, 35, 1-10.

Kessler, F.L., 2023. The sea level rose fast, but Sarawak was rising faster. Warta Geologi, 49(1), 8–13.

Kessler, F.L. & Jong, J., 2014. Habitat and C-14 ages of of lignitic

terrace deposits along the northern Sarawak coastline. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, 60, 27-34.

Kessler, F.L. & Jong, J., 2015a. Tertiary Uplift and the Miocene Evolution of the NW Borneo Shelf Margin. Berita Sedimentologi, 33, 21-47.

Kessler, F.L. & Jong, J., 2015 b. Northwest Sarawak: a complete geologic profile from the Lower Miocene to the Pliocene covering the Upper Setap Shale, Lambir and Tukau Formations, Warta Geologi, 41 (3-4), 45-51.

Kessler, F.L. & Jong, J., 2023. A discussion on the relationship between prominent unconformities on the SCS shelf margins and the end of seafloor spreading in the South China Sea. Berita Sedimentologi, 49(1), 53-82.

Liechti, P., Roe, F.W., & Haile, N.S., 1960. The geology of Sarawak, Brunei and the western part of North Borneo. British Borneo Geol. Surv., Kuching, Bull., 3. 360 p.

Madon, b.Hj.M., 1999. North Luconica Province. The Petroleum Geology and Resources of Malaysia. Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS), Kuala Lumpur, 343–367.

Madon, M., & Jong, J., 2021. Geothermal gradient and heat flow maps of offshore Malaysia: Some updates and observations. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, 71, 159–183.

Morley, R., Back, S., Van Rensbergen, P., Crevello, P., & Lambiase, J., 2003. Characteristics of repeated, detached, Miocene– Pliocene tectonic inversion events, in a large delta province on an active margin, Brunei Darussalam, Borneo. Journal of Structural Geology, 25(7), 1147-1169. S0191-8141(02)00130-X.

Nagarajan, R., Armstrong-Altrin, J.S., Kessler, F.L., & Jong J., 2017a. Petrological and geochemical constraints on provenance, paleo-weathering and tectonic setting of clastic sediments from the Neogene Lambir and Sibuti Formations, NW Borneo (Chapter 7). In: Rajat Mazumder (Ed.), Sediment Provenance: influences on compositional change from source to sink. Elsevier, Amsterdam, Netherlands. 123-153.

Nagarajan, R., Jong, J. & Kessler, F.L., 2017b. Provenance of the Neogene sedimentary rocks from the Tukau and Belait Formations, Northwestern Borneo by mineralogy and geochemistry. Warta Geologi, 43(2), 50-56.

Osli, L.N., Shalaby, M.R., & Islam, Md. A., 2021. Source rock characteristics and hydrocarbon generation potential in Brunei- Muara district, Brunei Darussalam: a comparative case study from selected Miocene-Quaternary formations. Journal of Petroleum Exploration and Production, 11, 1679–1703.

Peters, K.E. & Cassa, M.C., 1994. Applied Source Rock Geochemistry. In: Magoon, B. & Wallace, G. Dow (Eds.), The Petroleum System-From Source To Trap, American Association Of Petroleum Geologists Memoir, 60, 93–117.

Sandal, S.T., 1996. The Geology and Hydrocarbon Resources of Negara Brunei Darussalam. Brunei Shell Petroleum and Brunei Museum, Seria. 243 p.

Scherer, M., P. Abolins, & N. Ahmed, 1999. Some insights into the source rocks of Central Luconia and the West Baram Delta area, Sarawak. Warta Geologi, 25(6).

Tan, D.N.K., Abdul Rahman, A.H.B., Anuar, A., Bait, B. & Chow, K.T., 1999. West Baram Delta. The Petroleum Geology and Resources of Malaysia, (PETRONAS), 291-341.

Tavakoli, A., 2021. Geochemistry and petrology of selected sediments from Bukit Song, Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia, with emphasis on organic matter characterization. Journal of Petroleum Exploration and Production Technology. https://

Tingay, M., Hillis, R.R., Swarbrick, R.E., Morley, C.K. & Damit, A.R., 2009. Origin of overpressure and pore-pressure prediction in the Baram province, Brunei. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, 93, 51–74.

Togunwa, O.S., & Abdullah, W.H., 2017. Geochemical characterization of Neogene sediments from onshore West Baram Delta Province, Sarawak: paleoenvironment, source input and thermal maturity. De Gruyter Open Geoscience, 9, 302–313.

Waliczek, M., Machowski, G., Poprawa, P., Świerczewska, A., & Więcław, D., 2021. A novel VRo, Tmax, and S indices conversion formulae on data from the fold-and-thrust belt of the Western Outer Carpathians (Poland). International Journal of Coal Geology, 234, 103672.

Wan Hasiah, A., Lee, C.P., Gou, P., Shuib, M.K., Ng, T.F., Albaghdady, A.A., Mislan, M.F., & Mustapha, K.A., 2013. Coal-bearing strata of Labuan: Mode of occurrences, organic petrographic characteristics and stratigraphic associations. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 76, 334-345.

Wannier, M., Lesslar, P., Lee, C., Raven, H., Sorkhabi, R., & Ibrahim, A., 2011. Geological excursions around Miri, Sarawak. 1910-2010: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the discovery of the Miri oil Field. EcoMedia Software, Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia. 279 p.

Watters, D.G., Maskali, R.C., Warrilow, I.M., & Liew, V., 1999. A sleeping giant awakened; further development of the Seria Field, Brunei Darussalam, after almost 70 years of production. Petroleum Geoscience, 5(2), 147–159. petgeo.5.2.147.

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


0126-6187; 2637-109X / Published by the Geological Society of Malaysia.
© 2023 by the Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License 4.0.

Notice: Undefined index: request in /home/gsmorgmy/public_html/wp-content/plugins/jet-engine/includes/components/listings/render/listing-grid.php on line 1246