Abstract

Along the southeast border of the 1002 Assessment Area in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, an explicit link between gas generation and deformation in the Brooks Range fold and thrust belt is provided through petrographic, fluid inclusion, and stable isotope analyses of fracture cements integrated with zircon fission-track data. Predominantly quartz-cemented fractures, collected from thrusted Triassic and Jurassic rocks, contain crack-seal textures, healed microcracks, and curved crystals and fluid inclusion populations, which suggest that cement growth occurred before, during, and after deformation. Fluid inclusion homogenization temperatures (175–250°C) and temperature trends in fracture samples suggest that cements grew at 7–10 km depth during the transition from burial to uplift and during early uplift. CH4-rich (dry gas) inclusions in the Shublik Formation and Kingak Shale are consistent with inclusion entrapment at high thermal maturity for these source rocks. Pressure modeling of these CH4-rich inclusions suggests that pore fluids were overpressured during fracture cementation.

Zircon fission-track data in the area record postdeposition denudation associated with early Brooks Range deformation at 64 ± 3 Ma. With a closure temperature of 225–240°C, the zircon fission-track data overlap homogenization temperatures of coeval aqueous inclusions and inclusions containing dry gas in Kingak and Shublik fracture cements. This critical time-temperature relationship suggests that fracture cementation occurred during early Brooks Range deformation. Dry gas inclusions suggest that Shublik and Kingak source rocks had exceeded peak oil and gas generation temperatures at the time structural traps formed during early Brooks Range deformation. The timing of hydrocarbon generation with respect to deformation therefore represents an important exploration risk for gas exploration in this part of the Brooks Range fold and thrust belt. The persistence of gas high at thermal maturity levels suggests, however, that significant volumes of gas may have been generated.

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