Palo Duro Basin

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Introduction

The Palo Duro Basin is a broad structural low located in the southern Texas Panhandle, southern Oklahoma, and eastern New Mexico. This basin covers approximately 22,700 square miles[1] and is bounded on all sides by uplifts and stable shelf areas. On the north, it is bounded by the Amarillo Mountains and the Bravo dome. Furthermore, it is bounded by the Matador Arch on the south and by minor structural highlands on the east and west[2]. Within the basin, there exists about 10,000 feet of sedimentary rocks, stretching from the Precambrian to Tertiary periods. Moreover, the Palo Duro Basin contains one small oil field, one small gas field, and eight additional oil pools surrounding the area[3].

Map depicting the location of the Palo Duro Basin
Map showing structural features and surrounding areas of the Palo Duro Basin

History

The Palo Duro Basin was identified and recognized as a basin by Charles N. Gould in 1926 and formed due to nearly constant Pennsylvanian and Permian subsidence. The basin most likely had its inception near the beginning of the Pennsylvanian time when the accompanying structural elements had their initial movement. Movement was seen as recently as three years ago when the most recent tremor was felt in the area. Since this time, drilling and exploration have been slow, infrequent, and scattered. Structural movement that has occurred along the basin has been carried on through recent deposits in the area. Historically, an embayment existed of the major Permian-Pennsylvanian sea on the east and south sides.

Stratigraphic column and depositional facies of the Palo Duro Basin

Geologic Risks and Uncertainties

Due to the lack of drilling and the low source rock richness in this area, reservoir potential may withhold future hydrocarbon discoveries. Furthermore, there is still data that must be collected before the nature of the folds and faults in the Palo Duro Basin can be precisely predicted. Possibly the biggest uncertainty regarding this basin is the fact that it has produced very small amounts of oil and gas thus far. An absence of production within the Palo Duro Basin could be due to a lack of hydrocarbon generation within the basin.

Petroleum Elements

Seal

Each facies of the Palo Duro Basin is close to potential source beds and contains porous strata that are adjacent to nonporous sealing beds. Shales and anhydritic dolomite that lie above porous zones provide vertical seals. Along with this, nonporous shelf and basin to slope facies laterally seal porous reservoir rocks.

Source Rock

Within the Palo Duro Basin, there source rocks are developed in basinal shales that are near the Pennsylvanian-Permian boundary. Although the average total organic carbon (TOC) content of these basinal shales is around 0.5%, this number may reach up to 2.4%. Sufficient heat exposed to the source rocks began hydrocarbon generation.

Migration

There exists a southward migration of shelf-margin facies that occur through time and restriction of source areas. In a few areas, uplifted fault blocks make contact with sandstone along the Amarillo Uplift, which may have obstructed updip hydrocarbon migration. Maturation and migration commenced at a later time following the end of Permian time and may continue to the present.

Reservoir

Reservoirs of the Palo Duro Basin are primarily granite wash with limited limestone that date back to the Pennsylvanian and Permian periods . The porosities range anywhere from 10 % to 18%, and permeabilities range from 30 mD to above 600 mD. The drilling depths of the reservoirs are between 3,500 feet and 7,100 feet.

Trap

The traps of this basin are mainly structural traps. Four out of six fields have anticlines as the controlling structure. In the Lower Permian shelf-margin fairways, the potential for entrapment of hydrocarbons may be increased by regional structure.

Anticlinal Fault Trap

Future Petroleum Potential

Potential hydrocarbon reserves are porous facies of shelf-margin, high-constrictive delta, and fan-delta systems. Slope and basinal shales hold very high concentrations of organic carbon, making them very likely potential source beds for petroleum generation[4]. The locations that have been explored in the Palo Duro Basin have been random. This suggests that the basin has not been explored systematically. Structural trends have been proven to dictate the drilling activity. Therefore, exploration techniques for control of hydrocarbon entrapment have not been examined and thoroughly explored.

Petroleum and Facility Engineering

Considering the size of the Palo Duro Basin and the fact that only around 200 wells have been drilled in this area, it is still in an early stage of exploration. A majority of these wells that have been drilled were drilled on surface structures and were dry. Currently, the deep-well saturation is being tested at less than one test per 150 square miles[5]. However, promising show trends have been made available from computer generated drilling density maps. These help visualize production trends and reveal locations of dry holes and shows from tested wells.

References

Ball, Mahlon M., and Mitchell E. Henry. PALO DURO BASIN PROVINCE (043). certmapper.cr.usgs.gov/data/noga95/prov43/text/prov43.pdf.

Budnik, Roy T. “Tectonic Structures of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle.” Bureau of Economic Geology, 1 Jan. 1989, www.beg.utexas.edu/publications/tectonic-structures-palo-duro-basin-texas-panhandle.

Handford, C. R. “Lower Permian Facies of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas: Depositional Systems, Shelf-Margin Evolution, Paleogeography, and Petroleum Potential.” Lower Permian Facies of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas: Depositional Systems, Shelf-Margin Evolution, Paleogeography, and Petroleum Potential (Technical Report) | OSTI.GOV, 1 Jan. 1980, www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/6791418.

Henry, Mitchell E. Petroleum Geology of the Pala Dura Basin and Pedernal Uplift Provinces as a Basis for Estimates of Undiscovered Hydrocarbon Resources. 1988, pubs.usgs.gov/of/1987/0450u/report.pdf.

Nicholson, John H. “Stratigraphic Study of Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle: ABSTRACT.” AAPG Bulletin, GeoScienceWorld, 1 Feb. 1956, pubs.geoscienceworld.org/aapgbull/article-abstract/40/2/426/549400/Stratigraphic-Study-of-Palo-Duro-Basin-Texas?redirectedFrom=fulltext.

External Links

Image retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Map-of-the-Permian-and-Palo-Duro-Basins-and-Bend-arch-Fort-Worth-Basin-in-Texas-New_fig1_275959456

Image retrieved from https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/6791418

Image retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_trap

  1. Ball, Mahlon M., and Mitchell E. Henry. PALO DURO BASIN PROVINCE (043).
  2. Budnik, Roy T. “Tectonic Structures of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle.” Bureau of Economic Geology, 1 Jan. 1989,
  3. Nicholson, John H. “Stratigraphic Study of Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle: ABSTRACT.” AAPG Bulletin, GeoScienceWorld, 1 Feb. 1956,
  4. Henry, Mitchell E. Petroleum Geology of the Pala Dura Basin and Pedernal Uplift Provinces as a Basis for Estimates of Undiscovered Hydrocarbon Resources. 1988,
  5. Handford, C. R. “Lower Permian Facies of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas: Depositional Systems, Shelf-Margin Evolution, Paleogeography, and Petroleum Potential.” Lower Permian Facies of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas: Depositional Systems, Shelf-Margin Evolution, Paleogeography, and Petroleum Potential (Technical Report) | OSTI.GOV, 1 Jan. 1980,