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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

CSPG Special Publications


Arctic Geology and Geophysics: Proceedings of the Third International Symposium on Arctic Geology — Memoir 8, 1982
Pages 451-552

Hydrocarbon Resources in Arctic and Subarctic Regions

Arthur A. Meyerhoff


Broadly defined, the region considered here is north of 60°N latitude, with only a few exceptions, such as the Baltic syneclise, the southern part of the West Siberian Basin, the Labrador Sea, and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The northern North Sea Basin, the basins west of Scotland and the Shetlands, and the Scotian Shelf of eastern Canada are not considered.

The Baltic syneclise is a Cambrian through Middle Devonian basin, with mainly Cambrian oil. Reserves probably are somewhat less than 100 million bbls. Most of the resources — possibly 500 million bbls or more — are expected to be in the Cambrian with lesser amounts in the Ordovician through Devonian. The Timan-Pechora Basin of the northwestern U.S.S.R. has production from the Silurian through the Triassic. Source rocks are mainly in the Devonian through Permian section. This basin bifurcates offshore, with the southwestern part of the basin appearing to join basins north of Norway on the west, and the eastern part of the basin continuing northward along the western side of Novaya Zemlya. Reserves in the Timan-Pechora Basin are about 5.1 billion bbls of liquids and 19.4 Tcf of gas, all of it onshore. Although the onshore has important resource potential (4 billion bbls and 50 Tcf), the offshore has the greater potential (16 billion bbls and 100 Tcf). The Atlantic Shelf west of Norway is little explored, but the best-known potential to date is in the Jurassic and Triassic sections. One discovery has been made. In the Barents Sea north of Norway, the Triassic and Jurassic also have considerable potential, as does the Paleozoic section beneath.

East of the Urals and Novaya Zemlya, the West Siberian Basin (including the Kara Sea) occupies an area of 2376000 sq. km. The northern onshore part of the basin contains the world’s largest concentration of gas reserves, most of it Cenomanian biogenic gas. Smaller amounts of gas are in the Neocomian and Upper Jurassic. The principal source of the biogenic gas is Aptian-Albian coal. The oil and gas of the remainder of the basin have a mainly Upper Jurassic source, although some source beds are in the Lower Cretaceous. Oil reserves are about 18 billion bbls; gas reserves are 545 Tcf. The resource potential is 54 billion bbls and at least 948 Tcf.

Several basins are known in East Siberia and the Soviet Far East. The largest are offshore and have major potential. Of the onshore basins, the Vilyuy has 17 Tcf of gas reserves in Jurassic, Triassic, and Permian rocks; the resource potential is an additional 19 Tcf or more. The volume of liquids found to date is small. The gas sources appear to be Permian or older strata. East of the Vilyuy Basin, the Lena-Tunguska Province contains about 225 million bbls of oil and condensate and 18 Tcf of gas in rocks of Proterozoic and Early Cambrian ages. Sources are of the same age. Resource potential is at least 2 billion bbls and 83 Tcf. On Sakhalin Island, along the Pacific coast, oil and gas are present in Miocene and lower Pliocene sandstones. Reserves are 24 million bbls of liquids and 2 Tcf of gas, with resource potentials of about 1 billion bbls and 5 Tcf.

The Okhotsk, Bering, Chukchi, East Siberian, and Laptev seas have huge potential — 27 billion bbls and 172 Tcf. Yet, these areas are insufficiently explored, some hardly at all. Production from the first two areas should be mainly Tertiary; from the others, Mesozoic and Lower Tertiary. In Alaska, including the Chukchi Sea, the North Slope contains at least 26 Tcf and 10 billion bbls. The remainder of Alaska has about 2 Tcf and less than 300 million bbls. The resource potential is good, especially in the Beaufort Sea. The Beaufort Sea-Mackenzie Delta region has reserves of at least 7 Tcf and 500 million bbls, but the potential for much greater volumes of oil and gas is considered to be good — perhaps 4 billion bbls in two offshore structures alone. Farther east, in the Franklinian fold belt and Sverdrup Basin, the gas reserves are 20 - 25 Tcf; liquid reserves may be large but are unproved. Additional resource potential exists in the Lower Cambrian and Proterozoic of the Great Bear Basin and Minto Arch between Norman Wells and the northeastern side of Victoria Island, in Lancaster Sound, and Nares Strait. The Hudson Bay and Foxe basins are not very attractive. The western side of Baffin Bay has potential petroleum resources, as does the East Greenland Shelf, and possibly some areas of northern Greenland. The presence of hydrocarbons has been established in the Lower Tertiary, Aptian-Albian, and fractured Paleozoic carbonates of the Labrador Shelf, and in Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks of the Grand Banks.

In all, the hydrocarbon resource potential of arctic regions is extremely good. The principal problems — other than political — involve the very high costs of exploration and development, especially in areas covered by ice and permafrost.

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