Source Rock Subcropping in the Baffin Bay

Seabed samples from the Baffin Bay document an active hydrocarbon system offshore northwest Greenland.
This article appeared in Vol. 6, No. 1 - 2009


The northwest Greenland shelf is a frontier petroleum province in the arctic Baffin Bay. Limited seismic data reveal the presence of extensive sedimentary basins on the shelf But exploration is high- risk due to lack of stratigraphic control and documented source rocks.

  • Location of sampling station BBS08. Illustration: TGS.

Seismic Interpretation in Greenland

Initial interpretation of a regional grid of seismic data acquired by TGS in 2007 suggested that deep basin sequences are locally sub-cropping on the seafloor in the innermost part of the shelf. A seabed sampling survey was designed to attempt to recover the sub-cropping sedimentary rocks. A small vessel and shallow coring and dredging equipment were chosen for the survey.

  • Seismic profile on the northwest Greenland shelf showing deep sedimentary sequences subcropping on the seafloor. Data: TGS.

Seabed Sampling

A total of 78 stations were sampled during a 14-daycruise in the summer of 2008. The survey was highly successful. Near in-situ Mid-Cretaceous and Paleogene rocks were recovered at 30 stations. In addition, shallow hydrocarbon microseepage was detected at about 10 stations. Of particular importance was the recovery of marine source rocks of Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian- Turonian) age. Shales of this age represent an important source rock world-wide, and they have been studied extensively on the Ellesmere Island to the north. The sequence has previously been proposed to be an important source rock in the West Greenland basins, but it has not yet been drilled or sampled.

Reducing Exploration Risk

The first documentation of Cenomanian-Turonian source rocks and microseepage sites offshore West Greenland is important for reducing the exploration risk in the region. An extensive onshore study of the seabed samples has provided abundant new information about the local palaeoenvironment, basin development and petroleum system of the Baffin Bay.


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