Summary

Of the basins bordering the Pacific south of 45°S, those of the Campbell Plateau and surrounding southern New Zealand have already undergone limited exploration for hydrocarbons. This exploration has been partially successful with gas condensates and oil shows being recorded in the Canterbury and Great South Basins. The condensates and oil shows indicate that their source is the basal coal measure sequence in the basins.

Two other basins, the Campbell and Pukaki Basins, have yet to be drilled. However, their similar geological settings to the Great South Basin suggest that they too have potential but their locations far from land have meant their potentials have yet to be fully evaluated.

The basins of the Ross Sea have only very limited geophysical coverage but nonetheless their extent and sediment infill have been defined. The stratigraphie drilling by the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP holes 270-273) and the Cenozoic Investigations in the Western Ross Sea (CIROS-1) encountered indications of higher hydrocarbons within these basins. This suggests that there is potential for hydrocabon reservoirs to be found at least in the Eastern Basin and the Victoria Land Basin.

The sediment accumulations of the Western Antarctic Peninsula and Western Ellsworth Land have been little studied. Based on the available data and assumed maturation models for the sediments off Thurston Island and the outer shelf near the South Shetland Islands, the deepest sediments are too immature to have generated hydrocarbons. This suggests that the Pacific margin east of the Ross Sea does not have good hydrocarbon potential unless volcanic arc environments have provided much higher than normal temperature gradients in the sediments than modelled.

While superficially the Antarctic and Arctic may appear to pose similar problems for hydrocarbon exploration and production, the Antarctic is logistically a much more difficult region, even before the sensitive environmental conditions are considered. It is most unlikely that, under the present price regime and known world reserve levels for hydrocarbons, even reconnaissance exploration will be made for more than scientific purposes.

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