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Tectono-Stratigraphic Habitat and Estimated Volume of Undiscovered Petroleum Resources North of the Arctic Circle

Grantz, Arthur 1; Gautier, Donald L.2; Scott, Robert A.3; Drachev, Sergey S.4; Moore, Thomas E.5
1 Arthur Grantz-Consulting Geologist, Palo Alto, CA.
2 U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA.
3 CASP, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
4 Exxonmobil Corporation, London, United Kingdom.
5 U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA.

A study of published and unpublished geologic mapping and potential field, seismic reflection, seismic refraction and bathymetric data has identified 139 tectono-stratigraphic sedimentary accumulations underlying the Arctic Region between 64° and the North Pole. Petroleum exploration and geologic evaluation of these accumulations suggest that 31 percent of them contain petroleum deposits and that 44 percent are likely to contain and 25 percent possibly contain technically recoverable accumulations of oil, natural gas and (or) natural gas liquids. Approximately 76 percent of the accumulations occur on continents, 14 percent in the rifted or strike-slip margins of continents, 3 percent in major prodeltas deposited on oceanic crust and 7 percent in ocean basins seaward of their marginal progradational sedimentary prisms.

Mean estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal suggest that 401 BBOE of undiscovered resources occur in continents north of the Arctic Circle. Of these estimated resources, enumerated as the sum of billions of barrels of oil, natural gas liquids and oil-equivalent natural gas (BBOE), about 365.3 BBOE (91 percent) occurs in basins created by rift and thermo-isostatic (sag) events, about 18 BBOE (4.5 percent) in foreland basins and another 18 BBOE in transtensional basins, platforms and extensional basins lying adjacent to ocean basins formed by seafloor spreading.

Continental margins, which consist of progradational sedimentary prisms that are commonly underlain by rift deposits or strike-slip faults, contain an estimated 73 BBOE (14 percent) of the undiscovered petroleum resource estimated to lie north of the Arctic Circle. About 67 BBOE (92 percent) of this estimated resource occurs in rifted and 6 BBOE (8 percent) in strike-slip Arctic margins such as Northern Greenland and the Amerasia Basin margin of Lomonosov Ridge. Another 13.8 BBOE (3 percent) of the estimated resource is assigned to the prodeltas of the major Lena and Mackenzie River systems of Eurasia and North America, which were deposited largely on oceanic crust. Basinward of their marginal progradational sedimentary prisms the ocean basins lying north of the Arctic Circle are estimated to contain only about 37 BBOE (7 percent) of the undiscovered petroleum resource of the Arctic.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009