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Geology and assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources of the Sverdrup Basin Province, Arctic Canada, 2008

February 11, 2020

The Sverdrup Basin Province, an area of 515,000 square kilometers on the northern margin of North America, extends 1,300 kilometers across the Canadian Arctic Islands from near the Mackenzie Delta to northern Ellesmere Island. It consists of an intracratonic late Paleozoic to early Cenozoic rift-sag basin and a Mesozoic rift shoulder that bounds it on the north.

Basin inception was Mississippian, manifested by deposition of nonmarine strata in rift basins, followed by Pennyslvanian marine transgression, which began with evaporites and progressed to Permian carbonate and clastic deposition at basin fringes and organic-rich marine strata in the basin center. Sediment transport was both northward from North America and southward from a now-subsided or rifted-away landmass to the north. Mesozoic strata indicate continued marine deposition, including both organic-rich, fine-grained rocks deposited during highstands and progradational deltaic sequences. A new episode of rifting began in Middle Jurassic time and culminated in the opening of the Canada Basin by Early Cretaceous seafloor spreading. The Sverdrup Rim formed as the rift shoulder between North America and the thinned, subsided crust to the north. Widespread Upper Cretaceous organic-rich shales were deposited during the major transgression induced by Canada Basin opening, followed by an influx of coarser east-derived detritus. In Paleogene time, incipient North Atlantic seafloor spreading caused deformation in northeasternmost North America, producing uplifts that shed detritus westward across the Sverdrup Basin. Tight folding and thrusting resulting from the Eurekan orogeny took place in the eastern part of the basin during the Eocene, with decreasing intensity of deformation westward. Since deformation ended in late Eocene time, little significant tectonism or deposition has taken place.

Two petroleum systems were defined in the Sverdrup Basin Province. Upper Paleozoic marine shale generated petroleum beginning in the Early Triassic, but this petroleum system was not quantitatively assessed because reservoir quality in adjacent strata is poor, the rocks are mostly overmature, and subsequent deformation likely affected trap integrity. The second petroleum system was sourced by Lower Triassic strata rich in oil-prone organic matter. Oil was generated during Paleogene burial synchronous with Eurekan deformation, and the oil migrated into Triassic and Jurassic deltaic, shallow marine and nonmarine strata. However, most of the oil may have escaped during deformation and subsequent uplift and erosion, which probably caused oil to be displaced from traps by gas expansion. The population of undiscovered accumulations was characterized as likely to include stratigraphically trapped and small, structurally trapped accumulations, with a median size of 80 million barrels of oil (MMBO); the number of undiscovered accumulations was estimated to be between 1 and 50, with the most likely number being 10. The resulting estimate of undiscovered, technically recoverable, conventional oil resources is 61 to 1,255 MMBO, with a mean of 427 MMBO. Undiscovered, technically recoverable, conventional gas resources are estimated at 4.95 trillion cubic feet (TCF), with slightly more than half of that in nonassociated gas accumulations.

A third petroleum system in the adjacent Amerasia Basin Province to the north was considered somewhat likely to contain accumulations on the Sverdrup Rim. Deeply buried Upper Jurassic, Upper Cretaceous, and Eocene organic-rich strata probably generated oil that may have migrated up the continental slope into Triassic to Paleogene sandstones on the Sverdrup Rim. Based on analogy with the Barrow Arch in Alaska, a median of 20 accumulations was estimated, with accumulation volumes as much as 2,500 MMBO and a median of 100 MMBO. The probability of at least one accumulation of the minimum size assessed (50 MMBO) was estimated at 0.22. The resulting estimate of undiscovered, technically recoverable, conventional oil resources is 0 to 2,679 MMBO, with a mean of 424 MMBO. Mean estimates for associated and nonassociated gas are 1.3 and 2.3 TCF, respectively.

Publication Year 2020
Title Geology and assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources of the Sverdrup Basin Province, Arctic Canada, 2008
DOI 10.3133/pp1824I
Authors Marilyn E. Tennyson, Janet K. Pitman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Professional Paper
Series Number 1824
Index ID pp1824I
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Energy Resources Science Center