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The Geological Setting

Illustration by Duleepa Wijayawardhana

Newfoundland is the product of nearly 600 million years of plate tectonics.

The Western Zone has been part of ancient North America for nearly a billion years. Here we find the old gneisses, granites and anorthosites of the ancient Canadian Shield over which the prospective basins in western Newfoundland have been
deposited. These basins are comprised of sandstones, shales and carbonate rocks and the structures found within are remnants of multiple rifting and orogenic events that
correspond mainly to the Iapetus Oceans evolution. This depositional tectonic history provides the framework of the structural and stratigraphic plays within BSE’s land interests.

About 600 million years ago (mya), North American (NA) was part of the ancient supercontinent of Pannotia. By the Middle Cambrian (540 mya) Pannotia had rifted apart into the distinct land masses of Laurentia (NA), Baltica and Siberia. They had drifted into the southern hemisphere. A mid-ocean ridge developed and the Iapetus Ocean began to open. The Western Zone lay on the eastern edge of ancient North America.

By Early Ordovician time (~ 490 mya), volcanic island arcs had formed near the converging plate margins above the subduction zones as the floor of the Iapetus Ocean sank back into the mantle. Today, the remains of these island arcs are preserved in the volcanic and intrusive rocks of the Central Zone of Newfoundland.

About 470 mya, the subduction of the Iapetus Ocean floor slowly pulled Laurentia toward another continent, Gondwana, which lay to the east. As these continents converged huge slabs of ocean floor (up to 40 x 10 km) pieces of ocean crust and the underlying mantle were thrust up and onto the continental margin of Laurentia. These great ophiolite blocks are preserved in the mountains of western Newfoundland. Table Mountain in Gros Morne National Park and Blow-Me-Down Mountain near Corner Brook are examples of these structures.

By the Early Devonian (410 mya), Laurentia and Gondwana had collided, forming a huge, new continent. Across the middle of the continent, where the Iapetus Ocean had once been, there was a mountain range, and halfway along this lay what is now Newfoundland. Over time, these mountains were gradually eroded by wind and rain.

The continents remained relatively stable until Early Jurassic time, (200 mya). They then began a new rifting cycle to form the present Atlantic Ocean, which continues to open today. But the break did not occur exactly along the line of the old Iapetus Ocean. In North America, it lay just to the east, leaving fragments of Gondwana still attached to Laurentia. The Eastern Zone of Newfoundland is one of these fragments from off the coast of today’s Tunisia in Africa. Other fragments include Nova Scotia, and parts of New Brunswick and the northeastern United States.

The southern half of the mountain range that marked the line of the Iapetus Ocean now forms the Appalachian Mountains of eastern North America, running from Alabama to Newfoundland. The northern half is to be found across the Atlantic Ocean in Greenland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Scandinavia.

Prospective Fairway

The prospective fairway on the west coast of Newfoundland, trends through BSE’s onshore and offshore Exploration Licences. It was deposited as a result of the opening and closing of the Iapetus Ocean and the corresponding orogenic events. The age of these sediments ranges from Cambrian to Carboniferous in age (~500 - 300 mya).

The structural framework on the western side of the island is a result of several orogenic events which culminated with the Appalachian Orogen (~325 – 260 mya). It represents the northern extension of the Appalachian Structural Front (ASF). The western edge of the ASF which is located just off the west coast where the nature of the geologic setting switches from net compressional (East of the ASF) to extensional (Foredeep Basin, west of the ASF) and, as such, many of the reservoir rocks are of the same formation, however the structural setting is a result of different processes.

The ASF, as well as the vast carbonate platform deposited within the Iapetus Ocean that constitutes much of the prospectivity in Western Newfoundland, extends all the way down through the Eastern US into Texas. It hosts many of the most prolific basins in the US today many of which have produced in excess of 1 BBO. Some of the more well-known fields that are analogous to BSE’s plays are the Ellenberger Fields of West Texas and the Trenton-Black River fields of New York.

One of the main focuses of BSE are enhanced carbonate reservoirs related to hydrothermal dolomite alteration. These reservoirs reside near faults that act as conduits for the dolomitizing fluids. This concept has already been proven within the Garden Hill Production License (PL2002-01(A)). Many additional faults have the potential to hold similar reservoir to the analogues we see along the ASF trend. These facts coupled with the fact that we know there already exists a proven hydrocarbon system are reasons for BSE’s interest in the region.

Additionally, prospectivity along the trend of the ASF is not limited to HTD plays. The Taconic orogeny has juxtaposed prospective distal equivalents of the Ordovician carbonates shallower in the section along much of western Newfoundland. These high TOC shales are not only identified as the potential source rock on PL2002-01(A) but also have unconventional potential that has not yet been developed. These shales are the equivalents of the Utica shales in the northeastern US. This unconventional potential and the presence of Carboniferous sedimentary basins in the region with historical documentation of live oil seeps and oil and gas shows from preliminary drilling has added additional development and reserve potential within the region and diversify Black Spruces prospective portfolio.

Why Western Newfoundland?

The geologic setting and prospectivity of Western Newfoundland were principal drivers that led BSE to pursue oil and gas development in the region. Comparing the Gulf of St. Lawrence basin which holds most of the Anticosti and Maritime basins is almost 236,000 square km’s in size but, has only 10’s wells drilled. The North Sea is about 3 times the size, but has over 10,000 drilled locations. When looking at comparisons with the Gulf of Mexico or the Western Canadian sedimentary basin BSE believes that the undiscovered potential for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is huge.

The immaturity of the basin has provided BSE the opportunity to acquire and farm in on large tracts of land that would not be possible in other jurisdictions and basins along the ASF. The opportunity to get in at a reduced cost with the intent of furthering the development of an existing production lease in the region has large implications on the value and prospectivity of the additional BSE interests.

Introduction References

Cooper, M; J Weissenberger, I. Knight, D Hostad, D Gillespie, H. Williams, E. Burden, J. Porter-Chaudhry, D. Rae and E. Clark. (March 2001). Basin Evolution in Western Newfoundland: New Insights from Hydrocarbon Exploration. AAPG Bulletin, V 85, No. 3. P393-418.

Canadian Imperial Venture Corp., 130 Years of Oil and Gas on Newfoundland’s West Coast.
Department of Mines and Energy, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. (2000). Sedimentary Basins and Hydrocarbon Potential of Newfoundland and Labrador. Public Access Report.

Stockmal, S.S.; A. Slingsby, J.W.F. Waldron. (September 2004). Basement-involved inversion at the Appalachian Structural Front, Western Newfoundland: An Interpretation of Seismic Reflection Data with Implications for Petroleum Prospectivity. Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology, V 52, No.3 p 215-233.

Area: 236,000 km2 Wells:10’sArea: 750,000 km2Wells: >10,000Area: 1,400,000 km2 Wells: >500,000Area:1,600,000 km2 Wells: >50,000

Introduction to Newfoundland  
Prospective Fairway  
Why Western Newfoundland?  
Introduction References  



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