Alaska: A twenty-first-century petroleum province

AAPG Memoir



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Alaska, the least explored of all United States regions, is estimated to contain approximately 40% of total U.S. undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and natural-gas resources, based on the most recent U.S. Department of the Interior (U.S. Geological Survey and Minerals Management Service) estimates. Northern Alaska, including the North Slope and adjacent Beaufort and Chukchi continental shelves, holds the lion's share of the total Alaskan endowment of more than 30 billion barrels (4.8 billion m3) of oil and natural-gas liquids plus nearly 200 trillion cubic feet (5.7 trillion m3) of natural gas. This geologically complex region includes prospective strata within passive-margin, rift, and foreland-basin sequences. Multiple source-rock zones have charged several regionally extensive petroleum systems. Extensional and compressional structures provide ample structural objectives. In addition, recent emphasis on stratigraphic traps has demonstrated significant resource potential in shelf and turbidite systems in Jurassic to Tertiary strata. Despite robust potential, northern Alaska remains a risky exploration frontier - a nexus of geologic complexity, harsh economic conditions, and volatile policy issues. Its role as a major petroleum province in this century will depend on continued technological innovations, not only in exploration and drilling operations, but also in development of huge, currently unmarketable natural-gas resources. Ultimately, policy decisions will determine whether exploration of arctic Alaska will proceed.

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Alaska: A twenty-first-century petroleum province
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AAPG Memoir
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