The East Coast and Arctic basins of Canada have been under serious hydrocarbon exploration for over 20 years. Although the density of drilling is low, extensive seismic control has outlined a high proportion of the structures in these basins and the stratigraphic framework of the basins is known. From west to east, the basins include the Beaufort basin, the Sverdrup basin of the high Arctic and the adjacent Parry Island foldbelt, the rift basins of Baffin Bay, and the continental-margin basins offshore Labrador, the Grand Banks, and the Scotian Shelf. Each of these basins contains oil and gas fields that typify, to some degree, the pools that may be anticipated in undrilled structures. Surprises, both good and bad, await the explorer.

The physical environment of these Canadian basins ranges from severe to almost impossible. As exploration has proceeded, great strides have been made in coping with the physical environment; however, the costs are becoming increasingly onerous, and the appreciation is growing regarding the cost, risk and time that will be involved in developing production from those resources. Even from a national sense of supply security, the vast reserves of oil in the tar sands and in-situ recovery deposits of heavy oil in western Canada will provide a competitive ceiling that will limit future development of frontier basins to those where production costs are not significantly higher than those of the tar sands.

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