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TitleHigh Arctic basins petroleum potential, northern Canada
LicencePlease note the adoption of the Open Government Licence - Canada supersedes any previous licences.
AuthorLister, C J; Atkinson, E AORCID logo; Dewing, K EORCID logo; King, H M; Kung, L EORCID logo; Hadlari, TORCID logo
SourceGeological Survey of Canada, Open File 8897, 2022, 88 pages, Open Access logo Open Access
PublisherNatural Resources Canada
Documentopen file
Mediadigital; on-line
File formatreadme
File formatpdf; rtf; gdb (ESRI® ArcExplorer(TM)/ArcReader(TM)); shp (ESRI® ArcExplorer(TM)/ArcReader(TM)); xml (ESRI® ArcExplorer(TM)/ArcReader(TM)); mxd (ESRI® ArcExplorer(TM)/ArcReader(TM)); lyr (ESRI® ArcExplorer(TM)/ArcReader(TM)); docx (Microsoft® Word®)
ProvinceNunavut; Northwest Territories; Yukon; Northern offshore region
NTS39; 48; 49; 58; 59; 67; 68; 69; 77; 78; 79; 86; 87; 88; 89; 96; 97; 98; 99; 106; 107; 116; 117; 120; 340; 560
AreaArctic Ocean; Beaufort Sea; Mackenzie River; Lincoln Sea; Amundsen Gulf
Lat/Long WENS-176.0000 -40.0000 90.0000 66.0000
Subjectsfossil fuels; structural geology; stratigraphy; geophysics; Science and Technology; Nature and Environment; sedimentary basins; continental margins; continental shelf; petroleum resources; petroleum exploration; hydrocarbon potential; oil; gas; hydrate; methane; geophysical surveys; seismic reflection surveys; seismic refraction surveys; resource estimation; source rocks; reservoir rocks; bedrock geology; structural features; salt diapirs; traps; thermal maturation; tectonic setting; reservoir parameters; wells; lithostratigraphy; Canadian Arctic Archipelago; Mackenzie Delta; Sverdrup Basin; High Arctic Large Igneous Province (HALIP); Lincoln Sea Basin; Lomonosov Ridge; Alpha Ridge; Arctic Margin; Makarov Basin; Canada Basin; Methodology; gas hydrates; Seals; Phanerozoic; Cenozoic; Mesozoic; Paleozoic
Illustrationstables; geoscientific sketch maps; location maps; cross-sections; seismic profiles; fence diagrams; schematic cross-sections; stratigraphic charts; time series; profiles; bar graphs; flow diagrams; plots
ProgramMarine Conservation Targets
Released2022 06 29
Qualitative and quantitative assessments of the hydrocarbon resource potential are presented for the High Arctic sedimentary basins (HAB) study area that underlies a portion of the Arctic Ocean north and west of Ellesmere Island. The review was requested by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Parks Canada Agency to help inform discussions about creating marine protected areas.
The HAB study area includes parts of six distinct geological provinces, each with its own geological history and resource potential: NE Sverdrup Basin, Deformed Lower Paleozoic basins, Lincoln Sea Basin, Lomonosov Ridge, Alpha Ridge, and NW Canada Arctic Margin (Fig. 1).
The geologic setting of the study area was evaluated using published reports and geophysical surveys, as well as regional geological expertise at the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). Quantitative petroleum resource estimates in this report were developed using the adjacent Sverdrup Basin, and rift basins around the world as analogs. Estimates were developed for each geologic province/assessment area, and reflect the varying chance of success in each area and the limited data. Results were compared to previously published estimates of petroleum resource potential in and around the study area. The petroleum potential map (Fig. 2) is a qualitative estimate of the likely distribution of petroleum potential in the study area.
The highest potential is in the thick, relatively undeformed sedimentary sequences of the Lincoln Sea Basin and the NW Canada Arctic Margin. The Deformed Lower Paleozoic, Alpha Ridge, and Lomonosov Ridge assessment areas have very low potential due to thin sedimentary cover or complex deformation.
The individual quantitative estimates for each geological province were aggregated into a total resource potential estimate for the entire Proposed Protected Area (PPA). There is a 95% chance that some petroleum exists somewhere in the PPA, and the risked recoverable1 petroleum resource potential in the PPA is estimated to range from 279 million barrels oil equivalent2 (MMBOE) (44.4x1000000 m3) at the low end (P90), to 5362 MMBOE (852.5x1000000 m3) at the high end (P10), with a mean of 2462 MMBOE (391.4x1000000 m3). The large range in the petroleum resource estimate reflects the limited data and information about geological elements necessary to generate and trap petroleum.
A qualitative map showing the potential distribution of methane hydrate saturations shows that the highest relative methane hydrate saturations are most likely present on the continental shelf and slope of the study area (Fig. 3). Quantitative estimates for methane hydrate accumulations are not given in this report due to a lack of data.
There are no existing offshore oil and gas licenses, upcoming calls for bids, or proposed project activities in the study area. No offshore wells have been drilled in the study area and there is very limited seismic data. The operating conditions for oil and gas exploration in the study area are among the most extreme on the planet due to severe ice conditions, limited operating season, and geographic remoteness.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
This report estimates the recoverable hydrocarbon resource potential in sedimentary basins in the Canadian High Arctic of the northern Arctic Islands. The highest potential is in the thick, relatively undeformed sedimentary sequences of the Lincoln Sea Basin and the NW Canada Arctic Margin.

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