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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists


The Mountain Geologist
Vol. 51 (2014), No. 2. (April), Pages 119-138

Geology and Total Petroleum Systems of the Paradox Basin, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona

Katherine J. Whidden, Paul G. Lillis, Lawrence O. Anna, Krystal M. Pearson, Russell F. Dubiel


The geological model for the development of the Total Petroleum Systems (TPSs) within the Paradox Basin formed the foundation of the recent U.S. Geological Survey assessment of undiscovered, technically recoverable resources in the basin. Five TPSs were defined, of which three have known production and two are hypothetical. These TPSs are based on geologic elements of the basin and the potential development of Precambrian, Devonian, Pennsylvanian, Permian-Mississippian, and Cretaceous source rock intervals.

The most studied source intervals are the Pennsylvanian black shales that were deposited during relative high stands in an otherwise evaporitic basin. These black shales are the source for most of the discovered hydrocarbons in the Paradox Basin. A second oil type can be traced to either a Mississippian or Permian source rock to the west, and therefore requires long-distance migration to explain its presence in the basin. Upper Cretaceous continental to nearshore-marine sandstones are interbedded with coal beds that have recognized coalbed methane potential. Precambrian and Devonian TPSs are considered hypothetical, as both are known to have organic-rich intervals, but no discovered hydrocarbons have been definitively typed back to either of these units.

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