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Western Sahara has no identified petroleum potential, onshore or offshore. The country lies on the edge of the West African Craton. Most of the area, including offshore, is overlain by the Aaiun passive margin basin which was created on opening of the North Atlantic Ocean. A small port of the Palaeozoic Tindouf basin occurs in the northwest.
The Aaiun Basin is one of a series of passive margin basins that lie along the North Atlantic margin of Northwest Africa and the northeast margin of North America. It contains Mesozoic and Cenozoic continental and shallow marine sediments overlying basement of Precambrian or Paleozoic age.
The basin extends for almost 1,100 kms from the Cap Blanc Fracture Zone in northern Mauritania, north through Western Sahara into southern Morocco to the intersection of the North Canary Island Fracture Zone and the South Atlas Fault.
There are two sub-basins present separated by the Dakhla Fracture Zone. The northern part is the Boujdour sub-basin and the southern part is the Dakhla sub-basin. The onshore eastern margin of the basin is the Palaeozoic Tindouf basin in the north and the Precambrian Reguibat Massif and Paleozoic fold belt of the Mauritinides in the south.
Stratigraphy comprises Triassic continental sediments overlain by a thick Jurassic carbonate platform. Offshore, below the present day slope and rise, the pre-Cretaceous may reach 8 kms in thickness. The Jurassic carbonate platform was terminated in the Early Cretaceous with deposition of a thick sequence of deltaic clastics overlain by black shales and Late Cretaceous transgressive shallow marine to lagoonal sediments. These grade eastwards into continental facies. The Late Cretaceous rocks were unconformably overlain by marine and then deltaic Paleogene sediments and a thin Neogene sequence of sandy limestones.
Globalshift recognises source, seal and reservoir rocks to be present in the Aaiun basin but no wells have been able to locate traps containing commercial accumulations of oil or gas. However it has never been fully evaluated due to disputes over territorial ownership.
North and Northwest Africa