Abstract The Oligocene Ruslar Formation is a hydrocarbon source rock in the Kamchia Depression, located in the Western Black Sea area. Depositional environment and source potential of the predominantly pelitic rocks were investigated using core and cuttings samples from four offshore wells. In these wells the Ruslar Formation is up to 500 m thick. Based on lithology and well logs, the Ruslar Formation is subdivided from base to top into units I–VI. Dysoxic to anoxic conditions and mesohaline to euhaline salinities prevailed during deposition of the Ruslar Formation. Relatively high oxygen contents occurred during early Solenovian times (lower part of unit II), when brackish surface water favoured nannoplankton blooms and the deposition of bright marls (“Solenovian event”). Anoxic conditions with photic zone anoxia were established during late Oligocene times (units III and IV) and, probably, reflect a basin-wide anoxic event in the Eastern Paratethys during Kalmykian times. Organic carbon content in the Ruslar Formation is up to 3%. Autochthonous aquatic and allochthonous terrigenous biomass contribute to the organic matter. Relatively high amounts of aquatic organic matter occur in the lower part of the Ruslar Formation (units I and II) and in its upper part (unit VI). Diatoms are especially abundant in the lower part of unit VI. The kerogen is of type III and II with HI values ranging from 50 to 400 mgHC/gTOC. Units I and II (Pshekian, lower Solenovian) are characterized by a fair (to good) potential to produce gas and oil, but potential sources for gas and oil also occur in the Upper Oligocene units IV–VI.