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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Wyoming Geological Association


Geology of Yellowstone Park Area; 33rd Annual Field Conference Guidebook, 1982
Pages 265-288

Hydrocarbons in Thermal Areas, Northwestern Wyoming

J. D. Love, John M. Good


Five natural occurrences of hydrocarbons in thermal areas lie in an arcuate southeastward-to eastward-trending area 70 miles long in northwestern Wyoming. They are, from northwest to east: Tower Bridge, Calcite Springs, Rainbow Springs, Sweetwater Mineral Springs, and Cedar Mountain. The western most three are in Yellowstone National Park. All are associated with abundant sulfur and thermal springs and vents (active in four localities, recently extinct in one). Four are surrounded and underlain by volcanic rocks, which range in age from Eocene to Pleistocene. The fifth emerges from Paleozoic strata.

The source of the hydrocarbons could be Paleozoic or Mesozoic sedimentary rocks that underlie the surficial volcanics, but at Rainbow Springs the oil might have been distilled from Pleistocene nonmarine algae at shallow depth. Sulfur isotope analyses do not indicate conclusively whether the sulfur is of igneous or bacteriogenic origin.

In at least two of the localities, hot water and steam that derive their heat from an igneous source below the sedimentary sequence are believed to relate directly to the extraction of the hydrocarbons from the strata, to their subsequent transport upward along conduits, and their extrusion on the surface.

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