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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists


The Mountain Geologist
Vol. 58 (2021), No. 3. (July), Pages 331-353

Codell carrier-bed play, Denver Basin

Stephen A. Sonnenberg, John E. Zumberge, John B. Curtis


Carrier-bed plays are an emerging type of unconventional oil play in which reservoirs are generally of low quality because they are characterized by: 1) thinly bedded heterolithic strata; 2) significant compaction and/or diagenesis; and 3) burrowing that has mixed sandstones and mudstone lithologies (i.e., heterogeneous lithologies). In this type of play, the carrier beds are pervasively hydrocarbon saturated and can be areally extensive (>50 mi2 or 130 km2). These low-quality reservoirs generally do not meet traditional petrophysical cutoffs and because of their high clay contents can have low resistivity, low contrast pays. The reservoirs may be composed of siliciclastics or carbonates or both.

Due to reservoir quality and degree of oil migration, carrier-bed plays like the Codell are being developed with horizontal drilling and multistage hydraulic fracturing. Traditional vertical drilling yields marginal to uneconomic wells that can provide a clue to the existence of a carrier-bed play.

Te Codell Sandstone is a low-resistivity, low-contrast pay in parts of the northern Denver Basin. The area of oil and gas production is in the deeper part of the basin between and including Silo and Wattenberg fields of Wyoming and Colorado, respectively. The thickness of the Codell in this part of the Denver Basin ranges from 15 to 25 ft (4.5 to 7.6 m). Keys to Codell production are source rock maturity, and oil entrapment in the carrier bed. Oil in the Codell carrier-bed traps was generated in various intervals including the Niobrara Formation (mainly the “B” marl), Sharon Springs Member of the Pierre Shale, Greenhorn/Carlile Shale, and, rarely, the Mowry Shale.

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