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There are no known petroleum resources in Antarctica, but exploration and exploitation are possible within one or two decades. Only supergiant fields would be potentially economic. In 1984 the U. S. Geological Survey ship, R/V Lee, collected CDP seismic reflection data over the Ross Sea-Victoria Land margin; other countries have made similar seismic and aeromagnetic surveys of the continental margin in recent years. Results from these research studies in combination with earlier work are summarized as follows:
(1) West Antarctica is probably the most prospective for petroleum because of large areas of unmetamorphosed postrift-age sedimentary rock. In East Antarctica, subglacial sedimentary basins are likely adjacent to mountain ranges and within the probable failed rift near Prydz Bay.
(2) Because of the moving grounded ice sheet several kilometers thick covering most of Antarctica, the only practical areas for possible petroleum exploration are the continental margins, most likely those bordering the Ross, Amundsen, Bellingshausen, and Weddell seas in west Antarctica, and Prydz Bay in east Antarctica.
(3) Sparse geophysical data suggest more than 8 km (5 mi) of sedimentary rock beneath the Ross Sea and 14-15 km (8-9 mi) beneath the Weddell Sea continental shelves. According to Kimura, the Bellingshausen basin probably contains more than 3 km (2 mi) of sedimentary rock, and Stagg reported about 5 km (3 mi) of sedimentary rock in the Prydz Bay area.
(4) Shallow cores (DSDP) containing gas shows from the Ross Sea continental shelf indicate Oligocene and younger glacio-marine sedimentary rocks, thickening to about 6 km (4 mi), according to Hinz. Cretaceous or Jurassic sedimentary rocks might occur in the deepest parts of the section. Jurassic and younger sedimentary rocks are probably present beneath the continental shelf and adjacent glaciated areas of East Antarctica.
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