The Baltimore Canyon Trough, a major sedimentary basin on the Atlantic continental shelf, contains up to 18 km of Mesozoic and Cenozoic strata. The basin has been studied extensively by multichannel common depth point (CDP) seismic reflection profiles and has been tested by drilling for hydrocarbon resources in several places. The Mesozoic and Cenozoic strata contained in the basin were deposited in littoral to bathyal depositional settings and contain immature to marginally mature oil-prone and gas-prone kerogen. The more deeply buried strata of Early Mesozoic age are more likely to be thermally mature than are the younger strata with respect to hydrocarbon generation, but contain terrestrially derived coaly organic matter that would be prone to yield gas, rather than oil. An analysis of available CDP seismic reflection data has indicated that there are several potential hydrocarbon plays in the area offshore of Virginia. These include: (1) Lower Mesozoic synrift basins that appear similar to those exposed in the Appalachian Piedmont, (2) a stratigraphic updip pinchout of strata of Early Mesozoic age in the offshore region near the coast, (3) a deeply buried paleoshelf edge, where seismic reflectors dip sharply seaward; and (4) a Cretaceous/Jurassic shelf edge beneath the present continental rise. Of these, the synrift basins and Cretaceous/Jurassic shelf edge are considered to be the best targets for exploration. ?? 1989.