Status of a reconnaissance field study of the Susitna basin, 2011

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The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys (DGGS) and Alaska Division of Oil and Gas (DOG), in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) performed reconnaissance field studies for ten days in late June 2011, in the Susitna basin, directly north of Cook Inlet, south-central Alaska (fig. 1). The purpose of our investigation was to reconnoiter outcrops in the basin and along its periphery to gather new information towards understanding the basin formation history and stratigraphy. This reconnaissance data represents the first step toward better understanding the basin’s hydrocarbon potential, a key component of DGGS’s multi-year In- State Gas Program. This program is focused on collecting baseline geologic information from potential frontier gas basins to encourage new exploration to help, in part, reduce the high cost of energy in rural Alaska. Our work represents the first season of this three-year project. Preliminary results from year two, a companion project within the Nenana and Tanana basins in interior Alaska, are described by Wartes and others (2013). DGGS plans to return to the Susitna basin for follow-up fieldwork during the third and final year of the program.

The motivation for developing a better understanding of the Susitna basin stems from the recognition that the Susitna basin shares similar age coal-bearing strata with the adjacent, petroliferous Cook Inlet forearc basin (Barnes, 1966; Reed and Nelson, 1980) and with exhumed strata in the Matanuska Valley forearc basin (Trop and others, 2003) (figs. 1 and 2). Cook Inlet basin has eight producing oil fields, more than 25 producing gas fields, and likely contains many additional undiscovered oil and gas accumulations (LePain and others, in press). Most of the Cook Inlet gas is of microbial origin and apparently was sourced from abundant coalbeds of primarily Miocene age in the Tyonek, Beluga, and Sterling Formations (Claypool and others, 1980; Magoon, 1994). If the biogenic gas model for Cook Inlet is applicable to the Susitna basin, then the latter may be a viable source for Alaska Railbelt and rural energy needs.

This brief overview report summarizes the reconnaissance field data collected in the Susitna basin during the first summer of the program. As the data are developed, this report will be followed by interpretive technical reports addressing the stratigraphy, reservoir quality, coal quality and gas potential, hydrocarbon seal integrity, subsurface structure, and uplift history of the basin and sub-basin margins.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
State/Local Government Series
Status of a reconnaissance field study of the Susitna basin, 2011
Year Published:
Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys
Publisher location:
Fairbanks, AK
Contributing office(s):
Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center
8 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Susitna Basin