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Immediately prior to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean in the Mesozoic Era, numerous extensional and transtensional basins developed along the eastern margin of North America from Florida to Canada and from the Appalachian Piedmont eastward to the edge of the present-day continental shelf. Using a petroleum system-based methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey examined 13 onshore Mesozoic synrift basins and estimated a mean undiscovered natural gas resource of 3.86 trillion cubic feet (TCF; 109 billion cubic meters, BCM) of gas and a mean undiscovered natural gas liquids resource of 135 million barrels (MMBNGL; 21.5 million cubic meters, MMCM) in continuous accumulations within five of these basins: the Deep River, Dan River-Danville, Richmond, Taylorsville basins, and the southern part of the Newark Basin. The other eight basins were examined, but not assessed due to insufficient data. An additional 26 basins in the East Coast Mesozoic synrift basins trend were examined here for further insights into the development and evolution of a large, but short-lived set of petroleum systems in Mesozoic synrift basins.

An individual composite total petroleum system is contained within each of the assessed basins. Small amounts of oil and natural gas have been recovered from many of the basins, yet no commercial production has been established. Potential and identified source rocks are present as shale and (or) coal. Potential reservoir rocks are low porosity and permeability sandstones as well as shale, siltstone, coal, and fractured igneous rocks. Examination of data indicates that many of these rift basins have undergone substantial uplift (greater than 4,000 ft, 1200 m), and one or more episodes of water washing have affected oil accumulations. Drilling for conventionally trapped structural and (or) stratigraphic prospects has not been successful. Remaining potential appears to be in continuous (unconventional) gas and natural gas liquid accumulations in a variety of reservoir types.

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