The North Slope of Alaska is a vast area of land north of the Brooks Range, extending from the Chukchi Sea eastward to the Canadian border. This Arctic region is known to contain extensive coal deposits; hypothetical coal resource estimates indicate that nearly 4 trillion short tons of coal are in Cretaceous and Tertiary rocks. Because of the large volume of coal, other studies have indicated that this region might also have potential for significant coalbed gas resources.
The present study represents the first detailed assessment of undiscovered coalbed gas resources beneath the North Slope by the USGS. The assessment is based on the total petroleum system (TPS) concept. Geologic elements within a TPS relate to hydrocarbon source rocks (maturity, hydrocarbon generation, migration), the characteristics of reservoir rocks, and trap and seal formation. In the case of coalbed gas, the coal beds serve as both source rock and reservoir. The Brookian Coalbed Gas Composite TPS includes coal-bearing rocks in Cretaceous and Tertiary strata underlying the North Slope and adjacent Alaska State waters. Assessment units (AUs) within the TPS (from oldest to youngest) include the Nanushuk Formation Coalbed Gas AU, the Prince Creek and Tuluvak Formations Coalbed Gas AU, and the Sagavanirktok Formation Coalbed Gas AU.