Geology and Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Northwest Canada Interior Basins Province, Arctic Canada, 2008

Professional Paper 1824-G
By:  and 
Edited by: Thomas E. Moore and Donald L. Gautier



The Northwest Canada Interior Basins Province is bounded by the Mackenzie and Richardson Mountains on the southwest and west, by the Eskimo Lakes Arch on the northwest, and by the erosional limit of Paleozoic strata on the east. It lies within the far northwest part of the Paleozoic continent of Laurentia. During early Paleozoic time, it was part of a passive margin formed when the Neoproterozoic supercontinent Rodinia broke apart. A Cambrian marine transgressive sequence gave way to an evaporitic intrashelf basin, succeeded by a westward-building carbonate bank from Late Cambrian through Middle Devonian time. In Late Devonian and early Carboniferous time, the region was buried by a thick succession of south-prograding clastic strata derived from orogenic belts to the northeast and north. A subsequent period of inactivity and erosion persisted until sedimentation resumed as the opening of the Canada Basin initiated an Early Cretaceous marine transgression over much of the region. Later in Cretaceous time, clastic strata derived from Cordilleran uplifts to the southwest began to prograde north, ending with eventual Laramide uplift and deformation in latest Cretaceous and Paleogene time.

Two petroleum systems are known within the province. A petroleum system in Cambrian to Middle Devonian strata, sourced by alginitic Cambrian shales and sealed by Cambrian evaporites, is proven by modest gas discoveries in the Colville Hills; generation is attributed to burial under the Upper Devonian clastic wedge. An Upper Devonian petroleum system, proven by the presence of the 250-million-barrel Norman Wells field at the southern edge of the province, was sourced by organic-rich shale of the Canol Formation. Generation is similarly inferred to have been driven by burial beneath the Devonian clastic wedge, perhaps augmented locally by additional Cretaceous burial. Potential reservoirs include Devonian reefs and sandstones stratigraphically below and laterally equivalent to the source rocks, as well as overlying sandstones in the clastic wedge. Subordinate source rocks could include organic-rich shales within the clastic wedge.

Principal risks to the lower Paleozoic petroleum system include (1) inadequate reservoir volume for a field of the minimum size and (2) petroleum loss by remigration caused by Laramide deformation. One lower Paleozoic assessment unit (AU) was quantitatively assessed, with estimated resources of 0 to 117 million barrels of oil (MMBO), mean 23 MMBO; and 0 to 1,364 billion cubic feet of gas (BCFG), mean 310 BCFG. The principle risks to the Devonian petroleum system were considered to be (1) lack of preservation due to extensive erosion before the Cretaceous, and (2) inadequate reservoir volume, because the best potential reservoir strata, Devonian reefs, may be absent throughout most of the province owing to either lack of deposition or erosion. These risks were sufficiently high that the single AU defined in the Devonian petroleum system was not quantitatively assessed, because the chance of a field of the minimum size, 50 million barrels of oil equivalent, was estimated to be only 0.1.

Suggested Citation

Tennyson, M.E., and Pitman, J.K., 2019, Geology and assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources of the Northwest Canada Interior Basins Province, Arctic Canada, 2008, chap. G of Moore, T.E., and Gautier, D.L., eds., The 2008 Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1824, 18 p.,

ISSN: 2330-7102 (online)

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geology and assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources of the Northwest Canada Interior Basins Province, Arctic Canada
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1824
Chapter G
DOI 10.3133/pp1824G
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Central Energy Resources Science Center
Description Report: vi, 18 p.; 2 Appendixes
Country Canada
Other Geospatial Northwest Canada Interior Basins Province
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details