Organic Geochemistry Laboratory

GNS Science and Victoria University of Wellington have further developed their cooperative Organic Geochemistry Laboratory at the National Isotope Centre in Gracefield, Lower Hutt, one of only two organic geochemistry laboratories in New Zealand. The laboratory provides a wet chemistry facility for the extraction of organic compounds from samples, and separation, purification and analysis of a variety of organic compounds by gas and liquid chromatography. It now offers a dedicated space for biomarker research in environmental and petroleum research.

Biomarkers are organic compounds originating from living organisms. They can be used to trace environmental processes in all kinds of environmental samples, such as soils, sediments, sedimentary rocks and crude oils allowing scientists to reconstruct past environmental conditions, understand human impacts on the environment, and trace sources of crude oil within sedimentary basins.

Sebastian Naeher in the Organic Geochem Lab - You do not have permission to view this object.

What does this mean for environmental research?

Biomarkers and their isotopes can be used to reconstruct water column and air temperatures, pH values, salinity, stratification or redox conditions, pollution levels, and vegetation changes, giving us insight into human impacts and environmental change.

They can also provide insight into the biogeochemical cycling of carbon (e.g., to learn about feedback on climate change), nitrogen (e.g., nutrient dynamics), hydrogen (e.g., precipitation), oxygen (e.g., paleotemperature reconstruction) and sulfur (e.g., preservation of organic matter).

What does this mean for petroleum research?

We can also use biomarkers to link crude oils back to their source rocks and to distinguish genetically related oil families. We can determine the degree of thermal maturity and biodegradation of oils and interpret the age and depositional conditions of their source rocks. This information helps scientists and oil exploration companies to understand where and when discovered oils were formed, and where to look for new oil fields.

To find out more about our biomarker research or the laboratory, contact the head of the laboratory, Dr Sebastian Naeher.

GeoCamp 2017 a finalist in the 2017 Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards

Seven GNS staff, including two from the Department of Petroleum Geoscience (Kyle Bland and Malcolm Arnot) have recently spent two weeks in the Far North as part of the 2017 “Discover Hidden Worlds” GeoCamp.  This is the fourth such event that GNS has run, following others in Napier (2012), New Plymouth (2013), and Kaitaia (2016).  Sponsored by Statoil and hosted by Far North REAP and Te Ahu in Kaitaia, the 2017 event saw 32 students and teachers, from six schools, participate in a range of activities (Te Hapua, Ngataki, Abundant Life, Taipa Area, Ahipara, and Pangaru Area schools).  The hands-on field-based programme was centred around a carbon-cycle theme, and included fieldtrips to Henderson Bay, Coopers Beach, Herekino Forest, Karikari Peninsula, and Ahipara.  Participants learned fundamental scientific skills including how to make good observations, as well as discovering how carbon cycles through different Earth systems, learning about ecological niches, and the effects of increasing and decreasing carbon dioxide content in Earth’s atmosphere.  Whilst in Kaitaia, Kyle gave a well-attended public talk at Te Ahu, titled “The tale (tail) of Te Ika-a-Māui.  A beginners’ guide to the geology of Te Tai Tokerau”.

The GeoCamp programme has since been named one of three finalists in the 2017 Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards, in the “Community Initiative of the Year” category.

The GeoCamp team would like to thank Statoil for their generous sponsorship, and to also acknowledge the valuable support from Far North REAP, Te Ahu (Far North District Council), Ritchies Coachlines, and the Petroleum Basin Research programme at GNS.

Group Photo from the 2017 Geocamp

Photo credit: GNS Science

Students having fun at the 2017 Geocamp

Photo credit: GNS Science

The Geocamp 2017 scientist goof off

Photo credit: GNS Science

Petroleum Geoscience Workshop, 22-23 September 2016

GNS Science recently held a very successful two-day petroleum geoscience workshop in Lower Hutt. A range of presentations were made by GNS Science staff and university colleagues on wide-ranging topics in our research portfolio. Oral and poster presentations covered both long-running and recently commenced projects, and show cased the diverse range of research undertaken across a number of departments. Approximately 100 industry, university and GNS staff attended. With such a successful programme, we plan to make this an annual event.

The programme and a selection of the presentations are available below. 

Core Workshops for Graduate Students

For the past two years, the PBR programme has been supporting a 1-day training workshop for graduate students, teaching them how to work with and describe industry core. Our first workshop was held in November 2014 in New Plymouth, and we repeated the workshop in November 2015. Both events have been a part of the national Geoscience Society of NZ (GSNZ) conference. We were fortunate to use the CoreLab facility in New Plymouth and the NZ Petroleum & Minerals core store in Featherston on these two occasions, and to have sponsorship from OMV and PEPANZ. Both workshops have been run by Greg Browne and Mark Lawrence. These workshops form part of the activities of the Sedimentology Special Interest Group (SSIG) within GSNZ, a group set up to promote communication and support among sedimentologists and provide a forum for discussion of aspects of sedimentology, stratigraphy and sedimentary geology in New Zealand. If anyone wishes to become involved with this group, please email the Convenor Mark Lawrence

Greg Browne shows graduate students cores at the CoreLab facility in New Plymouth

The core workshop was primarily aimed at providing university students with experience in logging (core handling, description) and interpreting sedimentary cores from industry wells, techniques though that are common when using cores cut for environmental and other studies. Four different cores from the Taranaki Basin, each about 10-20 m in length, representing deep-water to fluvial depositional environments were used. After a 30 minute introductory PowerPoint presentation on core types, handling and marking techniques, students were divided into groups to view and describe each of the cores. At the end of the day there was a 30 minute wrap-up presentation by the participants on each core.

Participants enjoy a range of slumps and slides in deep-water systems

A three-day geological excursion was held as part of the 7th International Symposium on Submarine Mass Movements and Their Consequences meeting held in Wellington in November 2015. Malcolm Arnot and Greg Browne from GNS Science, together with colleagues Lorna Strachan of the University of Auckland and Sabastian Cardona from Colorado School of Mines were field trip leaders for the trip which started in New Plymouth and ended in Auckland. The seventeen participants came from eight countries and after a delayed start to the trip caused by weather problems for the departing flight from Wellington, all participants enjoyed three fantastic days of geology often to remote parts of the New Zealand coastline to view a range of depositional styles in Miocene-aged deep water mass transport deposits (MTDs). The weather too was great and people seemed to really enjoy the seismic scale of the outcrops we visited. We had two days in north Taranaki looking at outcrops within the Late Miocene Mount Messenger Formation, and the final day was spent north of Auckland looking at Early Miocene deposits at Whangaparaoa Peninsula.

Early Miocene MTD units at Army Bay near Auckland.

Early Miocene MTD units at Army Bay near Auckland.

Participants assembled in front of Tongaporutu Beach, North Taranaki.

Participants assembled in front of Tongaporutu Beach, North Taranaki.

Other Highlights

Peter King was a co-convenor of the “Stratigraphy and Applied Paleontology” theme, and session co-chair for “Seismic Stratigraphy”, at AAPG International Convention and Exhibition, Melbourne, September 2015.

Rob Funnell was invited by the Theme Chair for the AAPG ICE held in Melbourne in September 2015 to join the organising committee for the Geochemistry and Basin Modelling Theme.

In 2015, Suzanne Bull co-edited “Submarine Mass Movements and their Consequences”, published by Springer. The volume title is: Lamarche, G., Mountjoy, J., Bull, S., Hubble, T., Krastel, S., Lane, E., Micallef, A., Moscardelli, L., Mueller, C., Pecher, I., Woelz, S. (Eds) 2015. Submarine Mass Movements and Their Consequences - 7th International Symposium. Dordrecht: Springer. Advances in natural and technological hazards research

American Association of Petroleum Geologists International Conference and Exhibition 2015 posters and Presentations 

Congratulations to Angela Griffin and her team on winning the Ziad Beydoun Memorial Award, given to the best AAPG poster session paper presented at the AAPG International Conference. 

Reservoir Characterisation of the East Coast and Pegasus Basins, Eastern New Zealand - Ziad Beydoun Memorial Award winner. 

Angela Griffin, Kyle Bland, Brad Field, Gareth Crutchley, Richard Kellett, Dominic Strogen, and Mark Lawrence. AAPG 2015 ICE Poster. 

Tusar Sahoo, Karsten Kroeger, Glenn Thrasher, Stuart Munday, Hugh Mingard, Nick Cozens, and Matthew Hill. AAPG 2015 ICE oral presentation. 

Geoscience 2015 posters and Presentations

The Geoscience Society of New Zealand annual conference (GSNZ 2015) was held in Wellington, hosted by the staff of Victoria University of Wellington, in association with GNS Science. 2015 also marks GNS Science’s 150 years as an earth sciences research organisation

Angela Griffin. 2015 GSNZ oral presentation. 

Kyle Bland, Malcolm Arnot, Hannu Seebeck, Dominic Strogen, Mark Lawrence, & Angela Griffin. 2015 GSNZ oral presentation. 

Troy Collier , Greg Browne, & James Crampton. 2015 GSNZ poster. 

David McNamara, Angela Griffin, Mark Lawrence, & Cécile Massiot. 2015 GSNZ oral presentation. 

IMOG 2015 Presentations

The 27th International Meeting on Organic Geochemistry (IMOG 2015), the official biennial conference of the European Association of Organic Geochemists (EAOG), was held in Prague (Praha), Czech Republic in September.  

Richard Sykes and Klaus-G. Zink. IMOG 2015 oral presentation. 

Geosciences 2014 GNS presentations.

The Geoscience Society of New Zealand held their 2014 annual conference in New Plymouth. A number of GNS staff presented talks over a range of subjects, these have been made available below.

Andy Tulloch, Nick Mortimer, Terry Spell, Jahan Ramezani.

Greg Browne, Nick Mortimer, Hugh Morgans,Chris Clowes, Chris Hollis, Alan Beu.

Chris Hollis & Jerry Dickens.

Mike Isaac.

Nick Mortimer, Barry Kohn, Diane Seward, Terry Spell, Andy Tulloch.

Mark Rattenbury.

Mark Lawrence, Hugh Morgans, Alan Beu.

Dominic Strogen, Hannu Seebeck, Andy Nicol, Kyle Bland, Peter King.

Todd Ventura, B.D. Field, K.J. Bland, D.P. Strogen, C.J. Hollis, & R. Sykes

Petroleum Basin Explorer Version 2.0 is now live.

A new format with new features.

The Taranaki 3D map

This new map contains 3D datasets that can be viewed in cross section. Click on the icon on the left hand side of the map and select a dataset. Click once to start drawing a cross section, double click to finish. A cross section will then appear.

New Map User Interface

The map search bar and functions have moved to the left towards the legend, and now use less intrusive buttons. Hover over an icon to learn what it does. Try the new switching projection co-ordinante systems with the options menu ( icon).

Live Petroleum License Data

Our petroleum permits and block offers are now provided through a live data feed from NZPAM directly to ensure all licensing data is current and up to date.

Recent Publications 2014

Sykes, R; Volk, H.; George, S.C.; Ahmed, M.; Higgs, K.E.; Johansen, P.E.; Snowdon, L.R. 2014. Marine influence helps preserves the oil potential of coaly source rocks: Eocene Mangahewa Formation, Taranaki Basin, New Zealand. Organic Geochemistry 66, 140−163.

  • This paper examines one of the key factors that give New Zealand coals their capacity to generate and expel oil. Globally, coals have traditionally been regarded by the major exploration companies as gas-prone and this has been a major impediment to attracting sufficient exploration investment to New Zealand, because coaly rocks are the primary source rock type in most New Zealand basins. The motivation for this paper was to demonstrate that the total oil potential and oil expulsion efficiency of New Zealand coals have been considerably enhanced by marine influences within the coal-forming depositional environment.

Rotzien, J.R., Lowe, D.R., King, P.R., Browne, G.H. 2014. Stratigraphic architecture and evolution of a deep-water slope channel-levee and overbank apron: the Upper Miocene Upper Mount Messenger Formation, Taranaki Basin. Journal of Marine & Petroleum Geology

Our staff on the radio

Rob Funnell, head of the Petroleum Geoscience department, was interviewed on Newstalk ZB about the implications for the petroleum industry after the Anadarko Romney-1 well was plugged and abandoned. Listen here.

Newly Added to Petroleum Basin Explorer (PBE)

  • East Coast Basin Source Rock Properties Database - This new database provides Rock-Eval pyrolysis and vitrinite reflectance data for 1115 well and outcrop samples of Cretaceous to Neogene rocks from the East Coast Basin of New Zealand. It represents an update of the earlier database of Hollis & Manzano-Kareah (2005). Various sample stratigraphic assignments have been updated and additional data have been included from public domain reports, university theses, and unpublished GNS Science data sets.
  • Downloadable Science Reports - A range of GNS Science Reports relevant to petroleum exploration are now available for free.
  • Regulatory Map - This new map shows This map shows government, iwi, and environmental data relevant to petroleum exploration. The DoC layers are very large data-sets, so be patient as they load.

GNS Science at the Advantage 2013 New Zealand Petroleum Conference

Fifteen staff recently attended the Advantage New Zealand Petroleum Conference in Auckland. A series of oral and poster presentations were made covering a wide range of petroleum topics (listed below). Congratulations are due to Tusar Sahoo, Kyle Bland and Dominic Strogen for winning the best technical poster award. The GNS Science booth was a busy place to be with a lot of interest coming from range of companies interested in the sedimentary basins of New Zealand.

Oral Presentations

The GNS both at the Advantage Petroleum Conference 2013

Bache, F., Stagpoole, V. and Sutherland, R. The Reinga Basin, NW New Zealand: Seismic Stratigraphy, Tectonic Evolution and Implications for Hydrocarbon Exploration - 805kb pdf

Davy, B. Cretaceous deformation of South-Eastern New Zealand following the Hikurangi Plateau subduction and jamming - 862kb pdf

Pecher, I., Davy, B., Bialas, J., Klaucke, I., Coffin, R., Hillman,J., Waghorn, K., Kroeger, K., Sarkar, S., Papenberg, C. and Rose, P. Geophysical and geochemical studies of seafloor depressions on the Chatham Rise – First Results from the SO-226 Survey 4.3MB pdf

Plaza-Faverola, A., Pecher, I., Kroeger, K., Henrys, S. and Barnes, P. Potential sources of thermogenic gas sustaining concentrated hydrate zones offshore southern Hikurangi margin, New Zealand’s North Island 3MB pdf

Sykes, R. and Funnell, R. Some constraints on the charging of Tui, Maui, and Maari fields, offshore Taranaki Basin 7.2MB pdf

Poster Presentations

Browne, G., Sahoo T. and Campbell, H. The Tupuangi Formation, Pitt Island. Seismic and reservoir characteristics of a mid-Cretaceous deltaic succession exposed in the Chatham Islands

Bull, S., Fohrmann, M., Zhu, H., Hill, M., Kroeger, M. and Reilly, C. Refined geological constraints for the southern Taranaki Basin as part of the 4D Taranaki project

Higgs, K. and Raine I. Reservoir quality prediction for the Kaimiro Formation, Taranaki Basin

Hill, M., Fohrmann, M., Zhu, H. and Bull, S. Velocity modelling in the southern Taranaki Basin, 4D Taranaki project

Kroeger, K., Funnell. R., Fohrmann, M. and Hill, M. Recent advances in understanding Taranaki petroleum systems: the Kupe-Maniaia fairway

Sahoo, T, Bland, K. and Strogen, D. Seismic sequence stratigraphic framework and paleogeography of the mid Cretaceous-Neogene section in the Great South Basin

Wellington Gold Award for PEGI project.

The innovative information web portal that helps oil exploration companies in their search for oil and gas in New Zealand has won GNS Science the Discovering Gold category in the 2012 Wellington Gold Awards.

The award was for the Petroleum Exploration Geoscience Initiative (PEGI) project, which was jointly funded by New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals and GNS Science.

Visit the New Zealand Petroleum Basin Explorer (PBE).

See the full GNS Science press release here



Petroleum well summary sheets from Taranaki Basin, New Zealand: Selected wells from the Maui and Tui Field areas is released.

Well Sheets from 11 exploration and appraisal wells: Amokura-1, Kiwi-1, Maui-1, Maui-2, Maui-3, Maui-7, MB-P(8), Moki-1, Moki-2A, Pateke-2, and Tui-1 are now available through the New Zealand Petroleum Basin Explorer (PBE).


Petroleum Exploration and Geosciences Initiative (PEGI) is released

GNS Science releases 14 new products to the industry for free, see the GNS Science press release.

A full list of the new products available through the New Zealand Petroleum Basin Explorer (PBE) can be found here.

Other GNS Science Petroleum Geoscience data products are listed by geographical region on our products page.

Geological Transect Across the Wairoa Area

Insights into elements of the East Coast petroleum system

GNS Data Series 11a product compiles industry and research data on the Wairoa area of northern Hawke's Bay and summarises interpretations and conclusions relating mainly to the hydrocarbon reservoir potential of the Middle Miocene Tunanui Formation. Aspects addressed include clastic and fractured reservoir quality, seal quality, seismic interpretation and facies, faults and fault seal and the present stress regime.

Bibliographic reference

Field, B., Baur, J., Bland, K., Browne, G., Griffin, A., Ilg, B., Juniper, Z., Lawrence, M., Marrett, R., Mildren, S., Milner, M., Morgans, H., Roncaglia, L., Uruski, C., Zhu H. 2011. Geological Transect Across the Wairoa Area: Insights into elements of the East Coast petroleum system. GNS Data Series 11a.

FREE in the (PBE)

Updated Paleogeographic maps of the Taranaki Basin and surrounds. 

As part of the facies characterisation objective of the 4D Taranaki (4DT) Project, a regional reassessment of the paleogeographic evolution of the Taranaki Basin and surrounding areas has produced a set of 31 maps spanning the Late Cretaceous to present day, which expand on those from previous studies and incorporates significant new data. These maps capture the most important aspects of the tectonic and sedimentary evolution of the Taranaki Basin, and form the basis for ongoing detailed paleofacies mapping and basin modelling studies.

GNS Data Series 5a

The product is available in two GIS geo-databases:

Strogen, D.P. (compiler), 2011. GIS project: Updated paleogeographic maps for the Taranaki Basin and surrounds - Cretaceous-Paleogene: early rift to maximum flooding. GNS Science data series, 5a.

Strogen, D.P. (compiler), 2011. GIS project: Updated paleogeographic maps for the Taranaki Basin and surrounds - Neogene: active margin tectonics. GNS Science data series, 5b.

Both of the above are combined on one CD priced at $30 plus postage.

Full bibliographic reference of the publicly available report is:

Strogen, D.P. (compiler), 2011. Updated paleogeographic maps for the Taranaki Basin and surrounds. GNS Science Report, 2010/53. 83p.

Priced at $45 plus postage.

Chapter bibliographic references to reflect the relative authorships of the components of the publicly available report are:

Strogen, D.P., Baur, J.R., Bland, K.J. and King, P.R., 2011a. Cretaceous-Paleogene: early rift to maximum flooding. In: Strogen, D.P. (compiler), Updated paleogeographic maps for the Taranaki Basin and surrounds. GNS Science Report, 2010/53, pp.11-35.

Strogen, D.P., Bland, K.J., Baur, J.R., King, P.R., Vonk, A.J. and Kamp, P.J.J., 2011b. Neogene: active margin tectonics. In: Strogen, D.P. (compiler), Updated paleogeographic maps for the Taranaki Basin and surrounds. GNS Science Report, 2010/53, pp. 36-60.

Recent Publications

K.F. Kroeger, R.H. Funnell, A. Nicol, M. Fohrmann, K.J. Bland, P.R. King. 3D crustal-scale heat-flow regimes at a developing active margin (Taranaki Basin, New Zealand) Tectonophysics 591 (2013) 175–193

J. Sippel, M. Scheck-Wenderoth, B. Lewerenz, K.F. Kroeger. A crust-scale 3D structural model of the Beaufort-Mackenzie Basin (Arctic Canada) Tectonophysics 591 (2013) 30–51

Bland, K.J.; Hendy, A.J.W.; Kamp, P.J.J.; Nelson, C.S. in press. Macrofossil biofacies in the Late Neogene of Hawke's Bay: applications to paleogeography. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics.

Gorman, A.R., Hill, M.G., Orpin, A.R., Koons, P.O., Norris, R.J., Landis, C.A., Allan, T.M.H., Johnstone, T., Gray, F.L., Wilson, D., Osterberg, E.C. 2013. Quaternary shelf structures SE of the South Island imaged by high-resolution seismic profiling. New Zealand Journal of Geology & Geophysics 56, p. 68-82.

Results from high-resolution seismic surveys collected over several decades at the University of Otago has recently been published in the NZ Journal of Geology and Geophysics. One of the authors Matt Hill from GNS Science, was instrumental in writing the code that digitised the original analogue data collected by the single-channel boomer seismic surveys, and converting these into SEG-Y format. This enabled digital processing of the data such as deconvolution, spatial filtering and migration, as well as more effective archiving of the data.

Greg Browne wins Harold Wellman Prize.

Greg Browne won the Harold Wellman Prize at the annual New Zealand Geoscience Society Conference held in Auckland in December 2010. Greg was the first to discover dinosaur footprints from New Zealand, and published these findings in the New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics in 2009. LINK . The discovery is also the first record of dinosaur remains in the South Island. The find was made in tidal deposits of the Late Cretaceous North Cape Formation in northwest Nelson, and comprise a series of localities where a range of footprint sizes and morphologies are present. They were all formed by sauropods, large herbivorous dinosaurs with rather club-like feet. Full abstract.

Browne, G.H. 2009. First New Zealand record of probable dinosaur footprints from the Late Cretaceous North Cape Formation, northwest Nelson. New Zealand Journal of Geology & Geophysics 52, 367-377.

Paper on Late Cretaceous shallow marine sandstones published.

A recent paper published in the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology LINK reviews the geology of Late Cretaceous rocks of Taranaki Basin. Authors Karen Higgs, Malcolm Arnot, Greg Browne, and Liz Kennedy have integrated outcrop and subcrop data in this review paper, which emphasises the characteristics of these potentially significant reservoir facies. GNS workers in related papers, have described much already about these sediments with respect to their source rock potential. In this paper the sedimentology of Rakopi and North Cape formation rocks are described, integrating wireline logs and biostratigraphy, petrographic data, and reservoir quality, with revised paleogeographies for the entire offshore portion of the basin (including 17 wells from Ariki-1 in the north to Cook-1 in the south). Full abstract.

Higgs, K.E., Arnot, M.J., Browne, G.H., Kennedy E.M. 2010. Reservoir potential of Late Cretaceous terrestrial to shallow marine sandstones, Taranaki Basin, New Zealand. Marine and Petroleum Geology 27, p. 1849-1871.