Future petroleum resources in New England appear to be restricted to the Lake Champlain and perhaps the northern Maine areas on land and the Georges Bank area offshore. Shows of gas, oil, and solid hydrocarbons in wells of the Lake Champlain area are from Ordovician shale beds that crop out west of the Champlain thrust fault. Commercial gas produced from Cambrian sandstone beds in Three Rivers, Quebec, indicates that the Cambrian also may contain reservoir rocks; these rocks have not been tested in Vermont.
The Gregorie No. 1 well was drilled through the upper plate of the Champlain thrust fault; the plate is composed of low-grade metamorphic rocks. Gas found in unmetamorphosed Ordovician rocks of the lower plate indicates that this part of the section is favorable for petroleum accumulations. This favorable part of the section, beneath and west of the thrust, is estimated to contain 600-2,400 cu mi (2,500-10,000 cu km) of sedimentary rocks in Vermont.
The geology of northern Maine is poorly known, but unmetamorphosed Ordovician to Lower Devonian rocks of possible interest may be present. Other areas on land have no potential for petroleum production. Structures and geologic relations on land suggest favorable offshore areas, particularly in the Georges Bank area.
Figures & Tables
Future Petroleum Provinces of the United States—Their Geology and Potential, Volumes 1 & 2
The geology of the entire United States, including the continental shelf and slope, was studied by petroleum geologists to determine its petroleum potential. Prospective areas of the 11 regions were assessed qualitatively and, usually, quantitatively.
The prospective basinal area covers approximately 3.2 million sq mi (statute; 8.3 million sq km) and contains approximately 6 million cu mi (25 million cu km) of sedimentary rock above basement or 30,000 ft (9,144 m). Other less prospective areas are, in the aggregate, large.
The prospective area has not been explored adequately. Many high-potential areas are indicated by the geology and extent of exploration, particularly in parts of Alaska, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and in parts of the offshore of Alaska, California, Louisiana, and Texas. The prospective Atlantic, Florida, and Alaska continental shelves, and the entire continental slope, barely have been touched by drilling, and other prospective areas and depths on land and the continental shelf remain largely unexplored.
Estimates of potential crude oil reserves of the basinal area only, exclusive of known reserves, range from 227 to 436 billion bbl of original oil in place. The potential probably exceeds the mean of 332 billion bbl. Approximately 32 percent of the oil in place would be recoverable at known rates of recovery. Ultimately, the rate of recovery may reach 60 percent.
Estimates of potential natural gas reserves exclusive of known reserves range from 595 to 1,227 trillion cu ft of recoverable natural gas. The gas potential also probably exceeds the mean of 911 trillion cu ft.
The ultimate petroleum potential of the United States, including known reserves, may exceed 432 billion bbl of crude oil, 1,543 trillion cu ft of natural gas, and 49 billion bbl of natural gas liquids.
Finding and developing the large petroleum potential will require a great amount of drilling because a significant percentage of the visualized undiscovered crude oil and natural gas is in stratigraphic traps, combination stratigraphic and structural traps, reefs, and complex structural situations. Estimates of future domestic demand call for accelerated exploration. To the extent that policies of industry and government militate against accelerated exploration, particularly drilling, a high percentage of the petroleum resources of the United States will not be reduced to possession.