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Source Rocks and Oils in West Greenland

 
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Source Rocks and Oils in West Greenland

Frequently asked questions and annotated bibliography

The existence, distribution and generative potential of oil-prone source rocks has been – and to some degree still is – a major critical factor in a risk assessment of the exploration possibilities on- and offshore West Greenland.

Many new and exiting results from the 1990s have discredited most of the old negative myths that developed in the late '70s, results that have been very important for attracting industry to renewed exploration.

During recent years, at internal and external presentations and poster stands many relevant questions have been adressed to GEUS concerning source rocks and oils in West Greenland. Some of these are answered in the following. Enclosed is also an annotated bibliography that shows where the hard data and detailed discussions can be found. Several maps (in various degrees of detail) that summarize information on source rocks and oils are also included.

GEUS believes that this information will be useful for companies that are considering applying for licences in the coming licensing round (2002) or in the open-door areas.

Is West Greenland only gas-prone?

This is an old myth based on some disappointments back in the '70s and therefore not correct.

Why is West Greenland also oil-prone?

Because oil has been found in seeps in the Disko–Nuussuaq–Svartenhuk Halvø region! Results from studies of these oils and of source rocks in both West Greenland and Ellesmere Island are very encouraging.

Where can results be found?

Numerous papers have been published by GEUS and coworkers, see enclosed list of publications and reports providing geochemical details and analytical data.

What are the most likely source intervals?

  • Cenomanian–Turonian (especially the uppermost Cenomanian and the lowermost Turonian)
  • Paleocene (especially Danian)

Are there any other potential source intervals?

The Upper Cretaceous–Lower Palaeogene interval is generally organic-rich (TOC average ~3-%) with generally low, though varying, HI values throughout the succession. Several local source rocks have been demonstrated on Nuussuaq.

Is there a possibility for an Upper Jurassic source rock?

It is generally assumed that rifting started in West Greenland during the Early Cretaceous but little is known about distribution of Upper Jurassic sediments between the Jeanne d’Arc Basin, off Newfoundland and Jameson Land, East Greenland (a distance of more than 2500 km).

What about older source rocks?

Possible if older deposits are present. Generally, Greenland had favourable climatic conditions for source rock deposition during the Palaeozoic and many well-described source rocks occur in East and North Greenland. Contact GEUS for further information; many reprints are available.

Can oils from the different source rocks be distinguished and correlated?

GEUS has published numerous papers and has a very extensive database. The Upper Cretaceous–Palaeogene source rocks are very characteristic due to their angiosperm-derived biomarkers; the Cenomanian–Turonian looks like a "normal marine anoxic source".

How can Upper Jurassic and Cenomanian–Turonian source rocks that were deposited in almost identical environments be distinguished?

Difficult on gross parameters, but in detail it is possible.

Are the source rocks mature?

The limited data available suggest a low maturity and temperature gradient south of 68°N, and moderately high gradients in the region with volcanics farther north. The Paleocene source rock is probably only mature in areas with volcanics >1 km: The Cenomanian–Turonian is calculated to be mature at a depth of 3.5–4 km over much of offshore southern West Greenland.

Did any of the wells from seventies show hydrocarbons?

Although all five offshore wells were declared dry at the time when the industry gave up exploration, recent studies by GEUS have demonstrated that the Kangamiut-1 well probably made a discovery of condensate. See report by Bate (1997).

What can be learned about source rocks from offshore Labrador?

Most wells were drilled on highs and they give little information on source rocks. Several gas discoveries (incl. NGL's) were made, with North Bjarni being the largest so far (2.2 TCF). A few minor oil shows have also been found. More recent information can be found on the web site of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Mines and Energy.

Is the Scott Inlet seep a real seep?

The locality off Baffin Island has been revisited several times and some organic material seems to be seeping out of Cretaceous sediments. However, the question is still not resolved.

Are there reliable data on the composition of the Scott-Inlet seep?

Not to GEUS's knowledge. Rumours (probably based on confidential company reports) vary from good crude oil, locally generated "oil" from terrestrial material, to "nothing". Strong degradation or contamination has also been mentioned (at rumour level).

Is information from source rocks and oils in Alaska and Arctic Canada of relevance for West Greenland?

Possibly, but little is known about seaway connections from Baffin Bay to northern Canada, Alaska and the US Interior basins. Many of the prolific marine source rocks from these basins were deposited at a time (especially Triassic–Jurassic and Early Cretaceous) when deposition has yet to be demonstrated in West Greenland.

What is so interesting about the Cretaceous source rocks in the Sverdrup Basin?

Some of the immature Cretaceous source rocks on Ellesmere Island overstep the margins of the Sverdrup Basin and it is likely that evidence of the transgressions that controlled the deposition of these organic-rich units may be found over a much larger area.

Is there any detailed information on the these source rocks from Ellesmere Island?

There are two rock intervals:

  • an Albian interval in the upper part of the Hassel Formation (thickness not known, very rich; TOC >10%, HI up to 500)
  • an uppermost Cenomanian?–lowermost Turonian interval in the lower part of the Kanguk Formation ("bituminuos member") (20–30 m thick, TOC: 3–8 %, HI: 300–500)

Can Direct Hydrocarbon Indicators be seen on the seismic data?

There a numerous examples, published, reported or still confidential, of flat spots, bright spots, gas clouds or chimneys, shallow gas, gas hydrates etc. throughout West Greenland that suggest an active petroleum system. There may, however, be other explanations than hydrocarbons for some of the features.


Annotated Bibliography – Source Rocks and Oil in West Greenland

History

Offshore

These papers include a summary and discussion of the limited geochemical data on source rocks that were available at the time of writing.

Rolle, F. 1985: Late Cretaceous – Tertiary sediments offshore central West Greenland: lithostratigraphy, sedimentary evoluation, and petroleum potential. Can. J. Earth Sci. 22, 1001-1029. Read Abstract.

Chalmers, J. A. & Pulvertaft, T. C. R. 1993: The southern West Greenland continental shelf – was petroleum exploration abandoned prematurely? In Vorren, T. O. et al. (ed.) Arctic Geology and petroleum potential. Spec. Publ. Norweg. Petrol. Soc. 2, 55-66. Read Abstract.

Chalmers, J. A., Pulvertaft, T. C. R., Christiansen, F. G., Larsen, H. C., Laursen, K. H. & Ottesen, T. G. 1993: The southern West Greenland continental margin: rifting history, basin development, and petroleum potential. In Parker, J. R. (edit.) Petroleum Geology of Northwest Europe, Proceedings of the 4th Conference, The Geological Society of London, 915-931. Read Abstract.

Onshore

Most of these papers are from the Survey’s Report of Activities and they give a good overview of the activities and development of new ideas on oils and source rocks that have been so important for attracting the oil industry to West Greenland.

Pedersen, A. K. 1986: Indication of migrated hydrocarbons in Tertiary volcanic rocks from western Nûgssuaq, central West Greenland. Rapp. Grønlands geol. Unders. 130, 32-25.

Christiansen, F. G., Dam, G., McIntyre, D., Nøhr-Hansen, H., Pedersen, G. K. & Sønderholm, M. 1992: Renewed petroleum geological studies onshore West Greenland. Rapp. Grønlands geol. Unders. 155, 31-35.

Kalsbeek, F. & Christiansen, F. G. 1992: Disko Bugt Project 1991. Rapp. Grønlands geol. Unders. 155, 36-41.

Christiansen, F. G., Marcussen, C. & Pulvertaft, T. C. R. 1993: Petroleum-geological activities in 1992: preparation and support for licensing rounds offshore West Greenland. Rapp. Grønlands geol. Unders. 159, 38-42.

Christiansen, F. G. & Pulvertaft, T. C. R. 1994: Petroleum-geological activities in 1993: oil source rocks the dominant theme of the season's field programme. Rapp. Grønlands geol. Unders. 160, 52-56.

Christiansen, F. G., Dam, G. & Pedersen, A. K. 1994: Discovery of live oil at Marraat, Nuussuaq, West Greenland - field work, drilling and logging. Rapp. Grønlands geol. Unders. 160, 57-63.

Christiansen, F. G., Marcussen, C. & Chalmers, J. A. 1995: Geophysical and petroleum geological activities in the Nuussuaq - Svartenhuk Halvø area 1994 - promissing results for an onshore exploration potential. Rapp. Grønlands geol. Unders. 165, 32-41.

Christiansen, F. G., Bate, K. J., Dam, G., Marcussen, C. & Pulvertaft, T. C. R. 1996: Continued geophysical and petroleum geological activities in West Greenland in 1995 and start of onshore exploration programme. Bull. Grønlands geol. Unders. 172, 15-21.

Bate, K. J. & Christiansen, F. G. 1996: The drilling of the stratigraphic borehole Umiviik #1, Svartenhuk Halvø, West Greenland. Bull. Grønlands geol. Unders. 172, 22-27.

Christiansen, F. G., Boesen, A., Dalhoff, F., Pedersen, A.K., Pedersen, G. K., Riisager, P. & Zinck-Jørgensen, K. 1997 Continued petroleum geological activitities and a deep exploration well on Nuussuaq in 1996. Geology of Greenland Survey Bulletin 176, 17-23.

Christiansen, F. G., Boesen, A., Bojesen-Koefoed, J., Dalhoff, F., Dam, G., Neuhoff, P. S, Pedersen, A. K., Pedersen, G. K., Stannius, L. S. & Zinck-Jørgensen, K. 1998: Petroleum geological activities onshore West Greenland in 1996. Geology of Greenland Survey Bulletin 180, 10-17.

Christiansen, F. G., Boesen, A., Bojesen-Koefoed, J. A., Chalmers, J. A., Dalhoff, F., Dam, G., Hjortkjær, B. F., Kristensen, L., Larsen, L.M., Marcussen, C., Mathiesen, A., Nøhr-Hansen, H., Pedersen, A. K., Pedersen, G. K. Pulvertaft, T. C. R., Skaarup, N. & Sønderholm, M. 1999: Petroleum geological activities in West Greenland in 1998, Geology of Greenland Survey Bulletin 183, 46-56.

Christiansen, F. G., Dalhoff, F., Bojesen-Koefoed, J. A., Chalmers, J. A., Dam, G., Marcussen, C., Nøhr-Hansen, H., Nielsen, T., Riisager, P. & Sønderholm, M. 2000: Petroleum geological activities in West Greenland in 1999. Geology of Greenland Survey Bulletin 186, 88-96.

DHIs etc

Most of these papers describing DHIs etc are from the 'classical Fylla area', but two relatively new papers from the area west of Disko are also important.

Bate, K. J., Whittaker, J. C., Chalmers, J. A. & Dahl-Jensen, T.1994: Fylla complex – possible very large gas reserves offshore southern West Greenland. Oil & Gas J. 92, 79-82.

Bate, K. J., Whittaker, R. C., Chalmers, J. A. & Dahl-Jensen, T. 1995: The Fylla structural complex: possible very large gas reserves offshore southern West Greenland. Rapp. Grønlands geol. Unders. 165, 22-27.

Chalmers, J. A., Dahl-Jensen, T., Bate, K. J. & Whittaker, R. C. 1995: Geology and petroleum prospectivity of the region offshore southern West Greenland – a summary. Rapp. Grønlands geol. Unders. 165, 13-21.

Skaarup, N. & Chalmers, J. A. 1988: A possible new hydrocarbon play, offshore central West Greenland. Geology of Greenland Survey Bulletin 180, 28-30

Skaarup, N. Chalmers, J. A. & White, D. 2000: An AVO study of a possible new hydrocarbon play, offshore Central West Greenland. AAPG Bulletin 84, 174-182. Read Abstract.

Geochemistry

These papers give an overview of the geochemistry of the diffent oil types; the paper published in 1996 was written before the extent of the very large area of seepage was fully realised.

Christiansen, F. G., Bojesen-Kofoed, J., Dam, G., Nytoft, H. P., Pedersen, A. K., Larsen, L. M. & Pulvertaft, T. C. R. 1996: The Marraat oil discovery on Nuussuaq, West Greenland: evidence for a latest Cretaceous - earliest Tertiary oil source rock in the Labrador Sea - Melville Bay region. Bull. Can. Soc. Petrol. Geol. 44, 39-54.

Dam, G., Nøhr-Hansen, H., Christiansen, F. G., Bojesen-Koefoed, J. & Laier, T. 1998: The oldest marine Cretaceous sediments in West Greenland (Umiivik-1, Svartenhuk Halvø) - record of the Cenomanian–Turonian anoxic event? Geology of Greenland Survey Bulletin 180, 128-137.

Bojesen-Koefoed, J., Christiansen, F. G., Nytoft, H. P. & Pedersen, A. K. 1999: Oil seepage onshore West Greenland: evidence of multiple source rocks and oil mixing. In Fleet, A.J. & Boldy, S. A. R. (eds), Petroleum Geology of Northwest Europe: Proceeding of the 5. Conference on the Petroleum Geology og Northwest Europe, 305-314. Read Abstract.

Nytoft, H. P., Bojesen-Koefoed, J. A. & Christiansen, F. G. 2000: C26 and C28-C34 28-norhopanes in sediments and petroleum. Organic Geochemistry 31, 25-39.

Reports with data

These reports contain a lot of background data from the onshore area; general interpretation is given in the papers on geochemistry mentioned above. Some of the reports are slightly outdated due to the vast amount of new data. There is only one, but very important report concerning hydrocarbons offshore, that by Bate on the Kangâmiut-1 well plus one new report on the thermal maturity by Bojesen-Koefoed et al. (2000).

Christiansen, F. G. 1994: Seeps and other bitumen showings: a review of origin, nomenclature and occurrences in Greenland. Open File Ser. Grønlands geol. Unders. 94/7, 21 pp.

Christiansen, F. G., Bojesen-Koefoed, J. & Nytoft, H. P. 1994: Organic geochemistry of oil impregnated cores from the Marraat-1 well, Nuussuaq, West Greenland - comparison with surface samples. Open File Ser. Grønlands geol. Unders. 94/8, 26 pp.

Christiansen, F. G., Dam, G., Nøhr-Hansen, H. & Sønderholm, M. 1994: Shallow core summary sheets: Cretaceous sediments of Nuussuaq and Svartenhuk Halvø (GGU 400701-400712). Open File Ser. Grønlands geol. Unders. 94/10, 31 pp.

Dam, G. & Christiansen, F. G. 1994: Well summary Marraat-1, Nuussuaq, West Greenland. Open File Ser. Grønlands geol. Unders. 94/11, 26 pp.

Christiansen, F. G., Dam, G., Larsen, L. M., Nøhr-Hansen, H., Pedersen, A. K. & Boserup, J., Bojesen-Koefoed, J., Laier, T & Pulvertaft, T. C. R. 1995: Stratigraphy, sedimentology and geochemistry of cores and other samples from the GANW#1 well, Nuussuaq, West Greenland.Grønlands geol. Unders. Report, 52 pp.

Christiansen, F. G., Bojesen-Koefoed, J., Nytoft, H.-P. & Laier, T. 1996: Organic geochemistry of sediments, oils, and gases in the GANE#1, GANT#1, and GANK#1 wells, Nuussuaq, West Greenland. Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Report 1996/23, 35 pp.

Bate, K. J. 1997: Interpretation of the basal section of well Kangâmiut-1, offshore southern West Greenland. Danmarks og Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse Rapport 1997/76, 24 pp.

Christiansen, F. G., Bojesen-Koefoed, J. A. & Laier, T. 1997: Organic geochemistry of sediments and gases in the borehole Umiivik-1, Svartenhuk Halvø, West Greenland. Danmarks og Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse Rapport 1997/33, 16 pp.

Bojesen-Koefoed, J. A., Christiansen, F. G., Nytoft, H. P. & Pedersen, A. K. 1997: Seep data from onshore West Greenland. Danmarks og Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse Rapport 1997/34, 7 pp.

Bojesen-Koefoed, J. A., Christiansen, F. G., Nytoft, H. P. & Dalhoff, F. 1997: Organic geochemistry and thermal maturity of sediments in the GRO#3 well, Nuussuaq, West Greenland. Danmarks og Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse Rapport 1997/143, 18 pp.

Boserup, J. & Christiansen, F. G. 1998: LECO and Rock Eval data from the Nuussuaq Basin, onshore West Greenland. Danmarks og Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse Rapport 1998/89, 5 pp.

Bojesen-Koefoed, J. A., Christiansen, F. G., Guvad, C. & Nytoft, H. P. 2000: Evaluation of thermal maturity data from wells offshore West Greenland – recommendations for basin modelling. Danmarks og Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse Rapport 2000/32, 17 pp.

Fluid Inclusion Technologies Inc.: A stratigraphic reconstruction of bulk volatile chemistry from fluid inclusions in: GRO#3. Prepared for Phillips, July 2001.

Fluid Inclusion Technologies Inc.: A stratigraphic reconstruction of bulk volatile chemistry from fluid inclusions in: Ikermiut-1. Prepared for Phillips, July 2001.

Fluid Inclusion Technologies Inc.: A stratigraphic reconstruction of bulk volatile chemistry from fluid inclusions in: Kangâmiut-1. Prepared for Phillips, July, 2001.

Relevant information from offshore Canada

These papers, all of them relatively old, give some information on the exploration history and the occurence of source rocks and seeps on 'the Canadian side'. More recent information can be found on the web sites of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board. and of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Mines and Energy.

Levy, E. M. & MacLean, B. 1981: Natural hydrocarbon seepage at Scott Inlet and Buchan Gulf, Baffin Island shelf: 1980 updata. In Current Research, The Geol. Surv. Can. Paper 81-1A, 401-403.

MacLean, B., Falconer, R. K. H. & Levy, E. M. 1981: Geological, geophysical and chemical evidence for natural seepage of petroleum off the northeast coast of Baffin Island. Bull. Can. Petrol. Geol. 29, 75-95.

Klose, G. W., Maltere, E., McMillan, N. J. & Zinkan, C. G. 1982: Petroleum exploration offshore southern Baffin Island, northern Labrador Sea, Canada. In: Arctic Geology and Geophysics (Eds. A. F. Embry & H. R. Balkwill), Canadian Society of Peroleum Geologists Memoir 8, 233-244.

Balkwill, H. R., McMillan, N. J., Maclean, B., Williams, G. L. & Shrivastava, S. P. 1990: Geology of the Labrador Shelf, Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. In: Geology of the Continental Margins of Eastern Canada (Eds. M. J. Keen and G. L. Williams), Geology of Canada No. 2, 293-348. Read Abstract.

One particularly important report from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Mines and Energy is available from this site (please read Copyright Disclaimer):

Sedimentary Basins and Hydrocarbon Potential of Newfoundland and Labrador, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Mines and Energy, Energy Branch. Report 2000-01. Get Report (pdf-format - 11.6 MB).

Relevant information from Ellesmere Island, Arctic Canada

These papers include analytical data from the Cretaceous source rocks on Ellesmere Island.

Bojesen-Koefoed, J. A., Christiansen, F. G., Koldo Núñez-Betelu, L., Nytoft, H. P. & Petersen, H. I. ms: Source rocks in the Arctic: hydrous pyrolysis of Cretaceous black shales from Ellesmere Island, Northwest Territories, Canada – implications for exploration on- and offshore West Greenland and the Melville Bay area. Under revision for resubmission..

Núñez-Betelu, L. K. 1993: Rock-Eval/TOC pyrolysis data from the Kanguk Formation (Upper Cretaceous), Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere Islands, Canadian Arctic. Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 2727.

Núñez-Betelu, L. K., Hills, L. V. & MacRae, R. A. 1994: Palynostratigraphy and hydrocarbon potential of the Upper Cretaceous Kanguk Formation: an integrated multidisciplinary analysis of the Northeastern Canadian Arctic Archipelago. International Conference on Arctic Margins, Magadan Russia, Sept. 1994, 54–61.

Núñez-Betelu, L. K.,  Riediger, C.L. & Hills, L.V. 1995: Rock-Eval/TOC pyrolysis analysis of the Upper Cretaceous Kanguk Formation, Canadian Arctic Archipelago. In: Grimalt, J.O. & Dorronsoro, C. (eds) Organic geochemistry: developments and aaplications to energy, climate, environment and human history 17th International Meeting on Organic Geochemistry, Donastia-San Sebastian, Spain, Sept. 1995, 528–529.  Read Abstract.



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Last modified: 10 March 2002  
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West Greenland Source Rock Data