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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 87, No. 1 (January 2003),P. 15-37.

Copyright ©2003. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Petroleum system and production characteristics of the Muddy (J) Sandstone (Lower Cretaceous) Wattenberg continuous gas field, Denver basin, Colorado

Debra K. Higley,1 Dave O. Cox,2 Robert J. Weimer3

1U.S. Geological Survey, MS 939, P.O. Box 25046, Denver, Colorado, 80225-0046; email: [email protected]
2Questa Engineering Corporation, 1010 Tenth Street, Golden, Colorado, 80401
3Colorado School of Mines, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Golden, Colorado, 80401


Debra Higley has 5 years experience in uranium exploration and 20 years as a petroleum geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Her research interests include and integrate reservoir characterization, thermal maturation studies, and petroleum resource assessment in basins in North and South America. She received a B.S. degree in geology from Mesa State College (Colorado) and an M.S. degree in geochemistry and Ph.D. in geology from the Colorado School of Mines.

Dave Cox is vice president of Reservoir Engineering for Questa Engineering in Golden, Colorado. He has 25 years experience in the oil and gas industry, primarily in reservoir engineering and property evaluations, and has analyzed reservoirs in 31 states of the United States and 19 other countries. He is an expert in coalbed methane, tight gas reservoirs, and enhanced oil recovery. He has B.S. and M.S. degrees in petroleum engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.

Robert Weimer has taught courses in stratigraphy, regional and field geology, and energy resource exploration and development for 43 years. He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wyoming and his Ph.D. from Stanford University. He has been a visiting professor at universities in Calgary, Canada; Adelaide, Australia; and Bandung, Indonesia. He is currently professor emeritus, Colorado School of Mines. Weimer has been honored for teaching excellence, blending basic and applied research, national and international continuing education, and service to scientific societies and to state and national boards.


People who assisted in this project include Keith Kirk and others at the Office of Surface Mining, and John Quinn and Clark Woodward (U.S. Geological Survey contractors). Thomas Ahlbrandt, Richard Keefer, Ted Dyman, Chris Schenk, Mark Kirschbaum (U.S. Geological Survey), Steven Sonnenberg (consultant), and Thomas Hoak (previously of Kestrel Geoscience, Inc.) provided excellent technical reviews. Alan Klawitter (Barringer GeoSystems, Inc.) and Tien Grauch (U.S. Geological Survey) reviewed the Natural Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) residual magnetic data. Klawitter provided the raw NURE data.


Wattenberg field is a continuous-type gas accumulation. Estimated ultimate recovery from current wells is 1.27 tcf of gas from the Lower Cretaceous Muddy (J) Sandstone. Mean gas resources that have the potential to be added to these reserves in the next 30 yr are 1.09 tcf; this will be primarily through infill drilling to recover a greater percentage of gas in place and to drain areas that are isolated because of geologic compartmentalization.

Greatest gas production from the Muddy (J) Sandstone in Wattenberg field occurs (1) from within the most permeable and thickest intervals of Fort Collins Member delta-front and nearshore-marine sandstones, (2) to a lesser extent from the Horsetooth Member valley-fill channel sandstones, (3) in association with a large thermal anomaly that is delineated by measured temperatures in wells and by vitrinite reflectance contours of 0.9% and greater, (4) in proximity to the bounding Mowry, Graneros, and Skull Creek shales that are the hydrocarbon source rocks and reservoir seals, and (5) between the Lafayette and Longmont right-lateral wrench fault zones (WFZs) with secondary faults that act as conduits in areas of the field.

The axis of greatest gas production is north 25 to 35 degrees northeast, which parallels the basin axis. Recurrent movement along five right-lateral WFZs that crosscut Wattenberg field shifted the Denver basin axis to the northeast and influenced depositional and erosional patterns of the reservoir and seal intervals. Levels of thermal maturity within the Wattenberg field are anomalously high compared to other areas of the Denver basin. The Wattenberg field thermal anomaly may be due to upward movement of fluids along faults associated with probable igneous intrusions. Areas of anomalous high heat flow within the field correlate with an increased and variable gas-oil ratio.

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