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Geology and petroleum potential of the Arctic Alaska petroleum province

January 1, 2011

The Arctic Alaska petroleum province encompasses all lands and adjacent continental shelf areas north of the Brooks Range–Herald Arch orogenic belt and south of the northern (outboard) margin of the Beaufort Rift shoulder. Even though only a small part is thoroughly explored, it is one of the most prolific petroleum provinces in North America with total known resources (cumulative production plus proved reserves) of c. 28 BBOE. The province constitutes a significant part of a displaced continental fragment, the Arctic Alaska microplate, that was probably rifted from the Canadian Arctic margin during formation of the Canada Basin. Petroleum prospective rocks in the province, mostly Mississippian and younger, record a sequential geological evolution through passive margin, rift and foreland basin tectonic stages. Significant petroleum source and reservoir rocks were formed during each tectonic stage but it was the foreland basin stage that provided the necessary burial heating to generate petroleum from the source rocks. The lion's share of known petroleum resources in the province occur in combination structural–stratigraphic traps formed as a consequence of rifting and located along the rift shoulder. Since the discovery of the super-giant Prudhoe Bay accumulation in one of these traps in the late 1960s, exploration activity preferentially focused on these types of traps. More recent activity, however, has emphasized the potential for stratigraphic traps and the prospect of a natural gas pipeline in this region has spurred renewed interest in structural traps. For assessment purposes, the province is divided into a Platform assessment unit (AU), comprising the Beaufort Rift shoulder and its relatively undeformed flanks, and a Fold-and-Thrust Belt AU, comprising the deformed area north of the Brooks Range and Herald Arch tectonic belt. Mean estimates of undiscovered, technically recoverable resources include nearly 28 billion barrels of oil (BBO) and 122 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of nonassociated gas in the Platform AU and 2 BBO and 59 TCF of nonassociated gas in the Fold-and-Thrust Belt AU.

Publication Year 2011
Title Geology and petroleum potential of the Arctic Alaska petroleum province
DOI 10.1144/M35.32
Authors Kenneth J. Bird, David W. Houseknecht
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geological Society Memoir
Index ID 70036271
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Energy Resources Science Center; Energy Resources Program