Alaska Science Center

U.S. Geological Survey
Professional Paper 1732-A

Oil and Gas Resources of the Arctic Alaska Petroleum Province

By David W. Houseknecht and Kenneth J. Bird


Arctic Alaska Petroleum Province, showing locations of principal geologic features. AF, Alpine oil field; ANWR, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; NPRA, National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska; PB, Prudhoe Bay oil field (from figure 1).


The Arctic Alaska Petroleum Province, encompassing all the lands and adjacent Continental Shelf areas north of the Brooks Range-Herald arch, is one of the most petroleum-productive areas in the United States, having produced about 15 billion bbl of oil. Seven unitized oil fields currently contribute to production, and three additional oil fields have been unitized but are not yet producing. Most known petroleum accumulations involve structural or combination structural-stratigraphic traps related to closure along the Barrow arch, a regional basement high, which has focused regional hydrocarbon migration since Early Cretaceous time. Several oil accumulations in stratigraphic traps have been developed in recent years. In addition to three small gas fields producing for local consumption, more than 20 additional oil and gas discoveries remain undeveloped.

This geologically complex region includes prospective strata within passive-margin, rift, and foreland-basin sequences. Oil and gas were generated from multiple source rocks throughout the region. Although some reservoired oils appear to be derived from a single source rock, evidence for significant mixing of hydrocarbons from multiple source rocks indicates a composite petroleum system. Both extensional and contractional tectonic structures provide ample exploration targets, and recent emphasis on stratigraphic traps has demonstrated a significant resource potential in shelf and turbidite sequences of Jurassic through Tertiary age.

Recent estimates of the total mean volume of undiscovered resources in the Arctic Alaska Petroleum Province by the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Minerals Management Service are more than 50 billion bbl of oil and natural-gas liquids and 227 trillion ft3 of gas, distributed approximately equally between Federal offshore and combined onshore and State offshore areas.

Download this paper as an 11-page PDF file (pp1732a.pdf; 2.3 MB)

For questions about the content of this report, contact David Houseknecht

Back to Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska, 2005

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