Buried Mesozoic Rift Basins of the U.S. Middle Atlantic Continental Margin
BENSON, RICHARD N., University of Delaware, Delaware Geological Survey, Newark, DE
The Atlantic continental margin is one of the frontier areas for oil and gas exploration in the United States. Most of the activity has been offshore where Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous siliciclastic and carbonate rocks have been the drilling objectives, with only one significant but noncommercial gas discovery.
Onshore, recent exploration activities have focused on early Mesozoic rift basins buried beneath the postrift sediments of the middle Atlantic coastal plain. Many of the basins are of interest because they contain fine-grained lacustrine rocks that have sufficient organic richness, if not lost through hydrocarbon generation, to be classified as source beds for oil or gas.
Locations of inferred rift basins beneath the middle Atlantic coastal plain were determined by analysis of drill-hole data in combination with gravity anomaly and aeromagnetic maps. Two basins in Delaware and the Queen Anne basin of Maryland are imaged on a regional Vibroseis profile. Areas enclosing inferred rift basins in the offshore region were mapped from interpretations of seismic reflection profiles.
Assuming that petroleum source beds are present in the basin (synrift) rocks, hydrocarbon-generation models (Lopatin method) indicate that for a basin just offshore Delaware that is buried by 7 km of postrift sediments, only dry gas would be present in reservoir rocks; for the Norfolk basin off the Virginia coast buried by only 3 km of postrift rocks, the upper few hundred meters of synrift rocks are still within the oil-generation window. The less deeply buried basins beneath the coastal plain likely are still within the oil window.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91005 © 1991 Eastern Section Meeting, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 8-10, 1991 (2009)