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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

CSPG Special Publications


Facts and Principles of World Petroleum Occurrence — Memoir 6, 1980
Pages 343-362
Petroleum Supply and Demand: Geology, Politics and Economics

Frontiers of World Exploration

Keith F. Huff


There are about 600 sedimentary basins in the world excluding the deep oceans. Of these some 160 are currently productive. Another 240 have been explored to some degree and have greater or less continuing interest. This leaves some 200 basins which can be truly called frontier areas. Most of the interest is in the 170 or so frontier basins located in the non-Communist world.

Most frontiers have producing geologic analogs. To better illustrate these analogs all basins, productive, non-productive, and frontier are divided into 5 basic types: 1. Divergent margins (including transform); 2. Deltas and fans; 3. Rifts and grabens; 4. Convergent margins (strike-slip, fore arc, and back arc); and 5. Cratons and forelands. Frontier examples of each are compared with appropriate producing areas.

In terms of numbers divergent margin basins are the most significant and have a number of productive analogs. Convergent margin basins have more variety and productive analogs, while common, are less well defined. Both complex and simple rifts and grabens, while fewer in number, appear to be significant. Stratigraphic frontiers characterize cratonic and foreland basins. Frontier deltas and fans are least well defined at this time.

The frontier basins, at present state of knowledge, have a high degree of risk. Categorically, not all will produce, even some of the most attractive. By and large the frontiers are located in harsh, high-cost settings: deepwater, polar, or otherwise remote. In addition to capital, sophisticated technology will be required to find and develop the frontier resources.

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