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Basin evolution of the U.S. Chukchi shelf involved multiple phases, including Late Devonian–Permian rifting, Permian–Early Jurassic sagging, Late Jurassic–Neocomian inversion, and Cretaceous–Cenozoic foreland-basin development. The focus of ongoing exploration is a petroleum system that includes sag-phase source rocks; inversion-phase reservoir rocks; structure spanning the rift, sag, and inversion phases; and hydrocarbon generation during the foreland-basin phase.

Interpretation of 2-D seismic and sparse well data documents the presence, in the south-central part of the shelf, of a series of en-echelon, north-south trending monoclonal fold limbs that display up to 1+ km (3,300 ft) of structural relief. These folds, which are located above the tips of rift-phase normal faults, are interpreted as inversion structures formed by maximum compressive stress oriented obliquely to the strike of rift-phase normal faults. Erosional relief on a Jurassic unconformity, growth strata in the overlying Upper Jurassic to Neocomian strata, and east-dipping clino-forms in a high accommodation depocenter east of the inversion structures indicate profound structural influence on sedimentation.

Oil-prone source rocks, reservoir-quality sandstone, migration pathways, and structural closure are linked intimately across the Jurassic unconformity, which reflects inversion. Thus, all these key petroleum systems elements were in place when Triassic source rocks entered the oil generation window during Cretaceous–Cenozoic stratigraphic burial.

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