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Greenland’s onshore geology is dominated by crystalline rocks of the Precambrian Laurentian Shield however large sedimentary basins exist offshore of the east, west and north of the territory as well as onshore near the coast and below the ice-cap. In the intervening offshore areas there are extensive Lower Tertiary basalts below which there may be older basins.
Extensive areas of northeast Greenland may have petroleum potential based on extrapolation from the adjacent onshore outcrops where oil source rocks and reservoir lithologies are present. These are analogous to the North Sea and Barents Sea with Devonian to Recent sediments and unconformities in the middle Permian and Cretaceous. Late Carboniferous to Early Permian salt is also interpreted. However no wells have been drilled in this remote area.
A number of sedimentary basins are present in an East Greenland rift system and these may also have hydrocarbon potential. The area includes the onshore Jameson Land Basin which is late Devonian to Mesozoic in age which was part of a rift complex that lay between Greenland and Norway before the opening of the North Atlantic.
The Danmarkshavn basin to the north comprises a northern section of similar age, with thick salt beds and diapirism, and a southern section with a very thick series of sediments. To the east of this basin the Danmarkshavn Ridge separates it from the Thetis basin, holding a relatively young (Late Mesozoic to Cenozoic) succession. Between Jameson Land and Thetis is the Liverpool Land Basin, another independent rift system associated with the opening of the North Atlantic. No wells have been drilled in any of these basins. The region is environmentally sensitive with sea-ice .
Sedimentary basins, containing up to 10 kms of sediments, offshore central and southern West Greenland cover a large area. From north to south they are the Melville Bay Graben, the Nuussuaq basin, the Kangeq High, the Sisimiut basin, the Kangamiut ridge, the Nukik platform, the Nuuk basin and the Atammik and Fylla structural complexes. The discovery of extensive oil seeps in the onshore Nuussuaq Basin confirmed the potential of this area in the early 1990s.
The margin of West Greenland was formed by extensional opening of the Labrador Sea in late Mesozoic to early Cenozoic time. A complex of linked rift basins stretch from the Labrador Sea to northern Baffin Bay. Initial opening of the Labrador Sea was accompanied by volcanism. Thermal subsidence of the basin continued after cessation of sea-floor spreading in the Labrador Sea, probably in Eocene time, but there appears to have been an episode of uplift of the basin margin in the Neogene.
The stratigraphically deepest well offshore West Greenland (Qulleq-1) has only penetrated mid-Cretaceous sediments but on seismic data, several deeper sequences can be seen that may contain possible reservoirs and seals. Several wells have been drilled on and offshore West Greenland targeted at different play types but with no commercial success