Due to their potential as a petroleum or geothermal system, the Dinantian carbonates of the Netherlands have recently attracted renewed interest because of the identified presence of excellent reservoir properties. This notion contrasts with the general assumption that these carbonates are tight. Therefore, in order to give the current knowledge state, this paper re-examines the sparse publicly available well and seismic data and literature to assess the distribution and reservoir properties of the Dinantian carbonates.
Dinantian carbonate deposition occurred throughout the study area (southern onshore and offshore of the Netherlands and northern Belgium), which is situated on the northern margin of the London–Brabant Massif, progressively onlapping the latter structure. This study confirms the presence of three carbonate facies types in the study area: a Tournaisian low-gradient carbonate ramp system, succeeded by a succession in which the carbonate ramp system evolved to a rimmed shelf setting. Subsidence of the northern margin of the London–Brabant Massif resulted in a landward shift of the shallow-marine facies belts, while the formation of normal faults resulted in a ‘staircase’-shaped shallow-water platform–slope–basin profile, associated with large-scale resedimentation processes. After deposition, the limestone deposits were frequently exhumed and reburied. A first period of regional exhumation occurred at the end of the Dinantian, which seems to be associated with porosity-enhancing meteoric karstification, possibly limited to the palaeo-shelf edge. The most intense alterations seem to be present as a deep leached horizon below the Cretaceous unconformity at the top of the Dinantian sequences. In addition, clear evidence for hydrothermal fluid migration is found locally, enhancing reservoir properties at some places while occluding porosity at others. The timing of these phases of hydrothermal fluid circulation is poorly understood.
Whereas in the United Kingdom hydrocarbons have been produced from karstified Dinantian carbonates, this petroleum play has received little attention in the Netherlands. This paper shows that, also for the Netherlands, a karstic reservoir probably existed before the start of hydrocarbon generation from the onlapping basal Namurian shales. The hydrocarbon prospectivity of these sediments, however, is primarily controlled by the presence of both a karst-related reservoir and migration routes from a decent-quality source rock. Two geothermal projects producing from this reservoir in the southern onshore Netherlands have shown the potential of the Dinantian carbonates for ultra-deep geothermal projects. To conclude, the findings presented herein are relevant for studies of the hydrocarbon prospectivity and studies of the geothermal potential of Dinantian carbonates in the Dutch on- and offshore.