November and the Arctic Circle is dark, except for the mesmerizing
dance of the aurora borealis.
disappeared over the horizon about half-past September. Temperatures
are shrinking to as low as — 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
ice pack (sea ice) is expanding to the14-16 million square kilometers
it will be at winter's end — almost double the 7-9 million square
kilometers it covered before the September sunset. The depth of
the ice cap (land ice) can be measured in kilometers.
here by nature's extreme harshness could be the resources required
by human beings who aspire to a better-than-Stone-Age existence.
It is a
huge area, and the oil exploration has been minuscule.
Gautier, an AAPG member with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo
Park, Calif., said "there are basins in the Circum-Arctic the size
for new resources and the growing technologies to find and extract
them has prompted an ambitious multi-country and industry effort
to "take a serious cut at gauging the potential of the Arctic,"
is heading up a recently launched USGS collaborative effort to measure
the Arctic's resource potential as a part of the USGS World Energy
Project, designed to provide timely assessments of future fossil
energy supplies in a digital form.
at Ilulissat, Greenland, in August that a workshop was organized
cooperatively by the USGS and the Geological Survey of Denmark and
Greenland (GEUS) to address the opportunities, uncertainties and
methodological issues surrounding the mission. Participants included
geoscientists from the United States, Canada, France, Greenland,
Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom, with industry, academic
and government ties.
presenters on the first day included AAPG President-elect Peter
R. Rose and past AAPG President Dick Bishop, discussing risk analysis
and methodology to assess frontier basins.
of finding and producing hydrocarbons are daunting. But all of the
countries that share the geography of the Arctic Circle have met
the challenge and are producing oil and gas.
all, that is.
the world's largest non-continental island and about 81 percent
ice-capped, has no oil production — yet. Greenland was granted
home rule in 1979 by the Danish parliament. The law went into effect
the following year. Denmark continues to exercise control of Greenland's
day of the Ilulissat workshop focused on the assessment of West
Greenland, where in the early and mid-1990s GEUS geologists discovered
significant and fairly extensive oil seeps onshore near the country's
that many majors have looked at the region and purchased data —
but there are still a lot of myths and rumors to overcome, especially
on ice and oil source rocks," said Flemming Christiansen, head of
department, GEUS coordinator of Greenland Petroleum Studies and
co-convenor of the Ilulissat workshop. "However, more and more data
from seeps tell a different story.
news is that we have started to see evidence of older source rocks,"
Christiansen said. "Thanks to new equipment we can now analyze age-specific
biomarkers from oil seeps, and we have for the first time strong
evidence of Jurassic oils in West Greenland. At the same time we
have also found reworked marine dinoflagellates of Late Jurassic
age — the implications are very significant for the industry."
said there is evidence of the possibility of Ordovician source rocks,
which were found from dredging, and some oil seepage onshore. "We
do not however, know the thickness and distribution of this source,"
said there is an ongoing cruise with more sea-bed sampling, especially
on inversion highs and within eroded canyon systems, plus a number
of diapirs, sea-mounts and pock-marks.
step could be shallow drill holes," he said, depending on what they
find — and the results of a licensing round that closed Oct. 1.
Olsen, of TGS-NOPEC, showed the group a sampling of seismic acquired
from 1999-2003, which shows hydrocarbon indicators and a number
of inviting structures that were part of the West Greenland licensing
who also has presented the seismic at AAPG annual meetings, said
management interest in the area is beginning to grow. He said the
investment in 30,000 kilometers of new data is at break-even for
have been drilled in Greenland waters south of Baffin Bay — all
dry holes, but with some tantalizing oil shows.
is presently the only license holder, with blocks off West Greenland.
Marc Cooper, vice president of new ventures, said seismic has been
shot and mapping is under way.
EnCana is looking to bring in a partner in the next six-nine months,
or farm it out before.
risk management is required," he said.
because exploring in Greenland's waters is hardly cheap, even though
it does not face the rigors that sea ice presents. The Statoil well
drilled in 2002 is said to have tabbed out in the neighborhood of
$25 million (U.S.). Both Christiansen and Olsen said the high cost,
however, was due mainly to normal technical problems and cannot
be related to ice. The summer wells drilled offshore West Greenland
do not have to face the rigors of sea ice, which is a very different
issue from icebergs, according to Cooper.
ice sheet is thousands of meters thick — and constantly shedding
enormous icebergs into the surrounding seas. The icebergs initially
head north before turning south in Baffin Bay, then move down the
Labrador coast to end up off Newfoundland.
question is how do you deal with ice," he said.
while the Hibernia Field in the North Atlantic can be worked year-round,
areas of sea ice can only be worked in the summer months.
"If I find
a field that could only produce for six months a year," he said,
"the economics get pretty difficult."
said possible scenarios in relatively shallow waters might include
subsea completions with a tie back to the coast.
experiences at BP and ExxonMobil's Sakhalin Island project off eastern
Siberia — as well as prospects in the MacKenzie Delta being explored
by EnCana and PetroCanada, and others — are adding to the knowledge
bank of how to deal with difficulties posed by the high latitudes.
back to risk management, a large factor is defining, as closely
as possible, if the risk is commensurate with the reward.
what Gautier and the Circum-Arctic international consortium of governments
and industry are going to try to quantify. Gautier said the goals
are to provide a scientifically grounded view of the resources,
make available compiled original tectonic and stratigraphic maps
and an oil source rock compilation.
is to release results in 2007 — the International Polar Year.