Northwest Greenland

The geological understanding of the eastern Baffin Bay area is mainly based on 2D seismic data supported by regional gravity data and aeromagnetic data. No wells have been drilled in the Baffin Bay area but correlations can be made to the surrounding onshore geology and to wells further to the south.

The data coverage has improved significantly during recent years in preparation for licensing rounds in the region.



The stratigraphy of the Northwest Greenland margin is believed to consist predominantly of Cretaceous and Cenozoic sediments.

The surrounding land areas consist mainly of Archean and lower Proterozoic igneous and metamorphic rocks. It is therefore likely that the inferred seismic basement offshore could represent similar geology.

Likewise Palaeozoic and Proterozoic sedimentary rocks observed onshore Northwest Greenland could be present in near-basement sequences identified on seismics.

Rifting and sedimentation is believed to have initiated in the Early Cretaceous. A second phase of rifting took place in the latest Cretaceous and early Palaeocene. During Palaeocene and Eocene thick volcanic successions were deposited in the southern parts of the area. Compressional tectonics lead to local thrusting and inversion during Palaeogene. A west- and southwards prograding deposition has been taking place since Neogene.




As shown on the structure map the Greenlandic part of the Baffin Bay area has been subdivided into a number of structural provinces (Gregersen 2009; Whittaker & Hamann 1995; Whittaker et al. 1997).

Melville Bay Graben and Ridge
The Melville Bay Graben is a NNW-SSE striking feature up to 100 km wide. Along the eastern boundary fault sediments are visible down to more than 10 km. The Melville Bay Graben constitutes an extensive and very thick kitchen from where huge amounts of hydrocarbons potentially could have been generated. The Melville Ridge flanks the basin towards the west and is believed to consist of Cretaceous tilted fault blocks and anticlinal structures forming potential traps above or very close to the main kitchen area.
Kivioq Basin and Ridge
The Kivioq Basin is believed to consist of an inner (eastern) part dominated by Cretaceous rifting and an outer (western) part dominated by Palaeogene compression and doming. The Kivioq Ridge bounds the basin towards the west. 
Kap York Basin
This Cretaceous rift basin in the northernmost part of the area has been strongly affected by strike-slip and inversion during the Cenozoic and possibly earlier. Tilte¬¬d fault blocks, which are modified by inversion, and large anticlinal structures are forming huge structural traps.

The Southern Basalt Province
This area is characterized by an Eocene transpression and transtension along the northern part of the Ungava strike-slip fracture zone. Gentle folds and hanging wall anticlines as well as tilted fault blocks are identified as viable structural traps. Extensive seepage onshore Disko-Nuussuaq is a strong indicator for the presence of a working petroleum system in nearby offshore areas. This province is influenced by Palaeogene basalt successions. The basalts thicken towards southeast and are exposed at seabed and onshore.



Extensive onshore seepage in the Disko- Nuussuaq area is well documented by GEUS. The oil is here trapped within vesicular and fractured basalts and is geochemically tied to Paleocene deltaic-marine and Cenomanian - Turonian marine source rocks. The source rocks are believed to be regionally distributed and present in the various sedimentary basins in the Baffin Bay area.



Outcrops in the Disko-Nuussuaq area offer an excellent opportunity to study potential reservoir rocks present in the Baffin Bay
area. Lower and mid Cretaceous fluviodeltaic sandstones, Upper Cretaceous slope turbidites and Maastrichtian - Paleocene incised valleys and submarine canyon sandstones probably constitute excellent reservoirs offshore.



Offshore wells south of the area have revealed Campanian and Palaeogene mudstones with good sealing properties. Similar mudstones are believed to act as seals in the Baffin Bay area.


Summary Baffin Bay

  • A number of structural provinces are identified on the Northwest Greenland margin.
  • By making analogies with the better explored areas further to the south there is good reason to believe that an active petroleum generating system exists on the Northwest Greenland margin.
  • Large structures are revealed on geophysical data in which giant oil and gas fields may be trapped given the right geological conditions.


GEUS 2010: GIS compilation of geodata from Baffin bay, NW Greenland. Available at GEUS and TGS-Nopec (see page 6).

Gregersen, Ulrik 2009: The north-east Baffin Bay region, offshore Greenland - a new frontier petroleum exploration region. Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland Bulletin 15, 65–-68.

Gregersen, U., Bidstrup, T., Bojesen-Koefoed, J.A., Christiansen, F.G., Dalhoff, F. and Sønderholm, M. 2007. Petroleum systems and structures offshore central West Greenland: implications for hydrocarbon prospectivity. Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland Bulletin, 13, 25–28.

Whittaker, R.C. & Hamann, N.E. 1995: The Melville Bay area, North-West Greenland – the first phase of petroleum exploration. Rapport Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse 165, 28–31.

Whittaker, R.C., Hamann, N.E. & Pulvertaft, T.C.R. 1997:. A New Frontier Province Offshore Northwest Greenland: Structure, Basin Development, and Petroleum Potential of the Melville Bay Area. AAPG Bulletin V. 81, No. 6, 978–998.