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Structural framework, stratigraphy, and petroleum geology of the area of oil and gas lease Sale No. 49 on the U.S. Atlantic continental shelf and slope

January 1, 1980

On September 23, 1977, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the tentative selection of 136 tracts for Sale No. 49 of oil and gas leases in the Baltimore Canyon Trough on the U.S. Atlantic Continental Shelf and Slope. This report summarizes the geology and petroleum potential of the area.

The Baltimore Canyon Trough is an elongate, seaward-opening sedimentary basin filled by as much as 14 km of Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary rocks. The basin first formed under the New Jersey shelf and gradually spread west and south as the area subsided after the rifting that formed the Atlantic basin.

Rocks of the Triassic and Jurassic Systems together are more than 8 km thick in a depocenter areally restricted to the northern part of the trough. Basal Jurassic rocks are apparently nonmarine sedimentary rocks bedded with evaporite deposits. Direct evidence that some salt is in the basal Jurassic section comes from the Houston Oil and Minerals 676-1 well, which penetrated salt at a depth of about 3.8 km.

During the Middle and Late Jurassic, more open marine conditions prevailed than in the Early Jurassic, and carbonate banks and reefs formed discontinuously along the seaward side of the shelf. Sand flats likely occupied the central part of the shelf, and these probably graded shoreward into nonmarine red beds that accumulated in a bordering coastal plain. Thick nonmarine sands and silty shales of Late Jurassic age were deposited in what is now the nearshore and midshelf area. These sedimentary rocks probably grade into thick marine carbonate rocks near the present shelf edge.

During the Cretaceous, less sediment accumulated (about 4 km) than during the Jurassic, and most was deposited during Early Cretaceous time. The Cretaceous units show two main trends through time-a diminishing rate of sediment accumulation and an increase in marine character of sediments. During the Middle and Late Cretaceous, calcareous sand and mud filled the basin, buried the shelf-edge reefs and later spilled across the reefs into the oceanic basin as worldwide sea level reached a maximum.

Cenozoic deposits are spread over the present shelf and adjacent Coastal Plain in overlapping sheets of marine and nonmarine sediment. The maximum thickness (1.5 km) is along the outer part of the present shelf. Major tectonic deformation in the Baltimore Canyon Trough area appears to have terminated near the end of the Early Cretaceous, when at least one large mafic intrusion (Great Stone dome) was emplaced. Upper Cretaceous sedimentary rocks are arched above older uplifted fault blocks near the shelf edge; this arching may be the result of draping due to differential compaction or, perhaps, minor movement of the fault blocks during Late Cretaceous time.

The dominance of terrestrial over marine-derived organic matter in sediment samples from the COST No. B-2 well indicates that economic amounts of liquid petroleum hydrocarbons were probably not generated in the area but suggests a high potential for generation of wet or dry gas. Supporting evidence for the presence of natural-gas deposits on the slope comes from AMCOR 6021, the upper 305 m of which penetrated sediments that contained methane, ethane, and propane. Texaco, Inc., has announced that its 598-1 well yielded nearly 479,000 m s of natural gas per day from two zones during early testing. Further indication of possible gas deposits comes from analyzing the amplitude (bright spots) of seismic data.

Geochemical studies of the COST No. B-2 well have shown that the shelf area of the Baltimore Canyon Trough has a relatively low geothermal gradient today and that it apparently has had a gradient as low or even lower throughout the Cretaceous to Holocene. A controversy exists concerning the maturity of the basal sediments penetrated by the COST No. B-2 well. Although significant amounts of gaseous hydrocarbons may have been generated, large amounts of liquid petroleum hydrocarbons probably hav

Publication Year 1980
Title Structural framework, stratigraphy, and petroleum geology of the area of oil and gas lease Sale No. 49 on the U.S. Atlantic continental shelf and slope
DOI 10.3133/cir812
Authors Robert E. Mattick, Jacqueline L. Hennessy
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Circular
Series Number 812
Index ID cir812
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse