Extensive exploration in Arctic North America since 1965 has indicated the presence of at least three sedimentary basins that contain major reserves. These are: the "North Slope" Basin in Alaska; the Beaufort Basin surrounding the delta of the McKenzie River in Canada and the Sverdrup Basin of the Canadian Arctic Islands.

The giant Prudhoe Bay field, containing both oil and gas, dominates the Alaskan scene. The Canadian basins, on the other hand, have numerous but smaller discoveries and to date are predominantly gas. The geological factors which determine these distributions are becoming better understood and indicate a large remaining potential.


Les recherches poussées effectuées dans les régions polaires de l'Amérique du Nord depuis 1965 ont indiqué la présence d'au moins trois bassins sédimentaires qui contiennent des réserves importantes, à savoir le bassin du "North Slope" en Alaska, le bassin de Beaufort qui entoure le delta du McKenzie au Canada et le bassin de Sverdrup dans les îles Canadiennes de l'Arctique.

Le gisements gigantesque de la baie de Prudhoe, qui contient du pétrole et du gaz, est de loin le plus important de l'Alaska. Dans les bassins canadiens, par contre, on a découvert jusqu'ici de nombreux gisements plus petits, qui contiennent surtout du gaz naturel. On commence à mieux comprendre les facteurs qui influent sur la répartition de ces gisements et qui indiquent l'existence de réserves importantes encore inexplorées.


For the purpose of this paper, Arctic North America is that area north of the Arctic circle, extending from Alaska in the west to Greenland in the east (Fig. 1).

The Arctic is truly one of the world's frontier areas.

The geography and climate will require great technological advances to allow successful development of oil and gas reserves. It is probably the most difficult and costly environment yet explored for oil and gas anywhere in the world.

Despite these constraints, exploration in the form of geological investigations and drilling has identified three major hydrocarbon-bearing areas-the North Slope area of Alaska, the Beaufort Basin at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, and the Sverdrup Basin in the Canadian Arctic Islands. We will concern ourselves mainly with the geology, exploration history, logistics, by DONALD K. McIVOR Imperial Oil Ltd., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and GEORGE GRYC U.S. Geol. Survey, Menlo Park, California, U.S.A. oil occurrence factors and future potential of these three areas.

Geography and climate place severe limitations on Arctic exploration and development. Onshore operations take place mostly during the long winter, with little or no daylight in the coldest mid-winter period.

Summer operations are severely restricted, particularly in the North Slope and Beaufort areas, because of the ecologically sensitive nature of the surface layer

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