Abstract

The Flemish Pass Basin, offshore Newfoundland, is located in 400 to 1100 m of water east of the Grand Banks. It is separated from the Jeanne d'Arc Basin to the west by the Ridge Complex (Central Ridge). The Jeanne d'Arc Basin contains fourteen hydrocarbon discoveries, notable among them are the Hibernia, Terra Nova Whiterose and the Hebron oil fields. Three hydrocarbon discoveries have been made on the Ridge Complex. The Flemish Pass Basin has been explored by three wells and several seismic surveys. These data, which are available to the public through the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board, show lower Cretaceous sandstone development and Kimmeridgian age, mature source rocks. A number of large structural closures have also been mapped. In the past the Flemish Pass Basin attracted less exploration interest relative to the basins on the Grand Banks with which it shares a similar geologic and tectonic history. This may be due to the deeper water. However, recent land sale results, drilling and development projects in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico suggest that water depths similar to those in the Flemish Pass Basin are no longer a barrier for oil and gas exploitation.

Introduction

The eastern Newfoundland offshore area is characterized by three prominent physiographic features; the Grand Banks, the Flemish Pass and the Flemish Cap (Figure 1). The Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap are positive features with water depths less than generally 100 m. The Flemish Pass is a north northeast elongated bathymetric trough with water depths in excess of 1100 m. It separates the Grand Banks to the west from the Flemish Cap to the east and provides a passage for numerous icebergs brought down by the Labrador current The Flemish Pass Basin underlies the Flemish Pass bathymetric low.

The Newfoundland Grand Banks are underlain by a number of northeast trending Mesozoic sedimentary basins. To date seventeen significant hydrocarbon discoveries have been declared on the Grand Banks, fourteen in the Jeanne d'Arc Basin and three on the Ridge Complex between the Jeanne d'Arc and the Flemish Pass basins. Hibernia, TerraNova, Whiterose and Hebron constitute the four largest discoveries. Estimated at a 50 percent probability, the total discovered resources on the Grand Banks consist of 252 million m3 (1.6 billion barrels) of oil, 114 billion m3 (4 trillion cubic feet) of gas and 38 million m3 (237 million barrels) of natural gas liquids (Table 1)1.

Most of the recent hydrocarbon exploration offshore eastern Newfoundland has been concentrated in the Jeanne d'Arc Basin and on the Ridge Complex. Relative to these areas the Flemish Pass Basin has been little explored due to its greater water depths and the presence of icebergs. The Flemish Pass Basin is covered by seismic data acquired between 1971 and 1983. The most useful data sets are the Esso data, primarily in the eastern and northern parts of the basin, and the Parex survey, that covers the western and southern parts (Figure 2). The data quality is fair but is sufficient only for gross structural and stratigraphic interpretations.

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