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Seven geological provinces considered to be highly prospective for hydrocarbon accumulation are known to exist in the North American Arctic, extending from the Wandel Sea in the east to the Chukchi Sea in the west. Each of the provinces contains thick sedimentary sections, identified source rocks, and favorable trapping configurations that have known or probable hydrocarbon accumulations. Sediments range in age from the early Paleozoic rocks of the Arctic stable platform to the late Tertiary and Holocene sediments of the Beaufort Sea.
Active exploration to date has been limited to the Alaskan Arctic Slope, Mackenzie Delta-Beaufort Sea, and Sverdrup basin where exploration activity has been largely focused around several significant discoveries. Relatively sparse drilling has tested hydrocarbons in the Arctic stable platform and Franklinian geosyncline regions, although no major accumulations have been identified. Wandel Sea and most of the Baffin Bay basin have yet to be tested by drilling.
The range of estimates of undiscovered potential must reflect a high level of uncertainty for most of these provinces until such time as exploration drilling has tested not only the current targets but also some of the completely untested plays. Because of the constraints imposed by hostile environments, remoteness of location, and costs of operations, none of the provinces has received the exploration effort commensurate with their geological prospectivity.
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