Recently new concerns have surfaced about opening the continental shelves of the United States, including Maine, to renewed exploration and possible production of oil and gas. For example, there are those in Maine who fear that oil platforms could be put off Mount Desert Island in Frenchman Bay, destroying both the scenic views and providing the possibility for a disastrous coastal oil spill.
These fears exist for all of Maine’s coastline and result from the widely held misconception that oil and gas are present throughout the Gulf of Maine. In reality, there is no possibility that the ancient rocks that now floor the Gulf contain petroleum reserves. However, petroleum has been proven to be contained in the younger strata of George’s Bank, just beyond the Gulf, 250 miles eastward of Maine, on the outer edge of the Continental Shelf.
The last continental glacier flowed across Maine and the entire 250 mile-wide Gulf, terminating along the inner margin of George’s Bank 35,000 years ago. The erosion by the glacier apparently removed all of the potential petroleum-bearing younger strata from the Gulf, leaving only a remnant on George’s Bank.
Only the strata preserved on George’s Bank are known to contain proven oil and gas reserves. The Gulf of Maine, stripped of these younger strata, is underlain by the same ancient rocks, as those exposed on the Maine landscape. None of these ancient rocks are such that they can possibly contain petroleum. Consequently, there should be no reason to believe that we should ever see oil drilling or production platforms along our immediate coast.
Additional detailed information on this geology, and the public information on petroleum reserves on George’s Bank, is available from the Maine Geological Survey in Augusta.
Harold W. Borns Jr., Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, University of Maine
Maine Certified Geologist No. 1