Sunday, March 31, 2013

Is there oil and gas potential in Arizona's Mancos Shale?

Growing recognition of shale oil and gas potential in northwest New Mexico might draw similar interest in Arizona's Mancos Shale.

The Mancos  Shale in New Mexico's San Juan basin is exciting the petroleum industry as the country's next hot shale play.   More than 500 attendees showed up at the San Juan Basin Energy Conference in Farmington recently to hear that the basin could produce 6 billion barrels of oil (10% of the 60 billion in place), using hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and horizontal drilling technology.

Reports are that the 22 wells drilled there so far have demonstrated commercial potential.

 No one was talking about the Mancos Shale in Arizona at the conference, but it underlies the Black Mesa in
northeastern Arizona.    A USGS professional paper on the coals of the Colorado Plateau includes a chapter on the Cretaceous-aged Mancos Shale.  The chapter lead author is Dale Nations, formerly geology professor at NAU, and currently chair of the Arizona Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.

Dale and co-authors map the extent, depth, and thickness (above) of the Mancos along with stratigraphic cross sections (left).  We are not aware of any geochemical data that would indicate the petroleum potential of the unit in Arizona.    But given the enthusiasm demonstrated for the Mancos just over the border in New Mexico, one has to expect that Arizona will soon be attracting exploration interest as well.

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