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Current Projects

StateMap Program

StateMap workThe 2016 StateMap award year consists of the following WSGS mapping projects (all at 1:24,000 scale):

  1. Preliminary surficial geology map of the Muddy Gap area, Fremont and Carbon Counties, Wyoming
  2. Preliminary bedrock geologic map of the Fort Steele 7.5' quadrangle, Carbon County, Wyoming
  3. Preliminary bedrock geologic map of the Bridger Pass 7.5' quadrangle, Carbon County, Wyoming

The 2017 StateMap award year consists of the following WSGS mapping projects (all at 1:24,000 scale):

  1. Preliminary bedrock geologic map of the Gas Hills 7.5' quadrangle, Natrona and Fremont Counties, Wyoming
  2. Preliminary bedrock geologic map of the Albany 7.5' quadrangle, Albany County, Wyoming
  3. Preliminary bedrock geologic map of the Foxpark 7.5' quadrangle, Albany County, Wyoming
  4. Preliminary bedrock geologic map of the Woods Landing 7.5' quadrangle, Albany County, Wyoming

Read more about the StateMap program on the WSGS geologic mapping page.

Energy Assessments

Coal geologist Chris Carroll and oil and gas geologist Ranie Lynds are conducting research on the Fort Union Formation in the eastern Greater Green River Basin. This basin holds potential coal and oil and gas reserves. Coal companies actively mine the Fort Union coals near Rock Springs, and the U.S. Department of Energy coal gasification pilot studies have been conducted in this area. In addition, there are thousands of existing gas wells within the basin. More than 16,000 wells are proposed for drilling over the next few years, some of which are targeting the Fort Union Formation.

Fort Union FormationCarroll and Lynds are gathering data and creating a stratigraphic model of the Fort Union Formation to gain a better understanding of the coal, sandstone, and shale clastic setting. This study will consider existing oil and gas exploration targets within the Paleocene-age strata and suggest new ideas for future exploration. This project is intended as original research to gain knowledge of the stratigraphic architecture for the potential for future coal, and oil, and gas resource development.

The first of two reports on the Fort Union Formation is completed and can be found at: Stratigraphy and Hydrocarbon Potential of the Fort Union and Lance Formations in the Great Divide and Washakie Basins, South-Central Wyoming.

Stratigraphic data from both projects will be compiled into the USGS real-time National Coal Resource Data System (NCRDS). The WSGS maintains the Wyoming part of the national database.

New Upper Cretaceous Stratigraphic Chart of Wyoming

Recent WSGS projects working to correlate Upper Cretaceous subsurface oil reservoirs in the Denver and Powder River Basins have highlighted the need for a comprehensive overview of the statewide stratigraphy, from 100 million to 66 million years ago. Oil and gas geologist Ranie Lynds is collaborating with Joshua Slattery at the University of South Florida to create an updated chart that links the biostratigraphy of the Western Interior – including ammonite, inoceramid, land vertebrate, and palynostratigraphic zonations – with the most recent Late Cretaceous chronostratigraphic data.

The final chart will cover all of the basins in Wyoming and is expected to be available by fall 2017.

Northeast River Basins Groundwater Technical Memorandum

The river basins of northeastern Wyoming are among the most important drainages in the state; they collectively contain one quarter of Wyoming’s surface area and much of its energy resources. The northeast river basins include the drainages of the Little Bighorn, Tongue, Powder, Little Powder, Belle Fourche, Little Missouri, Cheyenne, and Upper Niobrara Rivers. Under contract to the Wyoming Water Development Office (WWDO), WSGS is developing a groundwater technical memo that defines the geographic extents of the area’s important aquifers and describes their hydraulic and chemical properties, recharge areas, and estimated recharge rates. The project also identifies existing groundwater studies and future groundwater development opportunities to satisfy projected future agricultural, municipal, and industrial demands.

The technical memo represents an intensive collaborative effort among water resource professionals from the WSGS, the WWDO, and the USGS. Additional contributors include the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, the Water Resources Data System at the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, and the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Like previous river basin studies by WSGS, this technical memo will provide the people of Wyoming with the most current and complete compilation of groundwater information available in a format that is understandable to water professionals and lay persons alike.

This report will be published in December 2018 and will be available on the Wyoming Water Development Office website and through the Wyoming River Basin Plan portal on the WSGS website.

KarstIndustrial Sands Investigation

The WSGS has initiated a statewide project to investigate the locations, availability, and quality of sands that can be used for the Wyoming oil and gas industry as well as other potential markets.

Industrial sands are commonly used for hydraulic fracturing and in the manufacture of glass. This research will involve identifying economically viable sand deposits in the state as well as whether the sands from those deposits meet industry quality standards.

For this study, to be published in 2017, geologist Andrea Loveland will gather samples of sands at various sites throughout the state. Samples will then be analyzed with respect to industry specifications. A final published report will include a summary of the locations sampled, methodology, and analytical results.

Powder River Basin Groundwater Salinity

Groundwater quality, and subsequently the use(s) for which it is suited, varies widely throughout Wyoming. This is most evident in the large sedimentary structural basins, where the majority of the state’s population resides and the greater part of economic activity occurs. An aquifer may produce high quality groundwater suited for human consumption at a basin’s margin while water pumped from the same aquifer a few miles basinward may be unfit for livestock usage. One measure of water quality is its “salinity.” Salinity is the amount of dissolved material that remains as residue after the liquid portion of a water sample evaporates.

WSGS hydrogeologists are evaluating groundwater salinities occurring at depths of 5,000 feet or less “below ground surface” (bgs) in the southern Powder River structural basin (SPRB) of northeastern Wyoming. Special emphasis is placed on saline groundwaters (TDS ≥ 5,000 mg/L) that may be suited to industrial uses thereby conserving higher quality waters for domestic, agricultural, and livestock uses. Saline groundwaters are encountered most frequently during oil and gas exploration and production operations in deep basin aquifers located more than 1,000 feet bgs.

As with its earlier study of salinity in Denver-Julesburg Basin groundwater (Taboga and others, 2015), two methods are utilized to determine groundwater salinity. First, WSGS will obtain existing water quality data from the USGS Produced Water Database and the WOGCC Water Analysis Database. Second, using the Static Spontaneous Potential Method, WSGS will estimate TDS levels from spontaneous potential data obtained from WOGCC oil and gas well logs. The project report will be released in 2017.

National Coal Resource Data System (NCRDS)

The WSGS secured multiple five-year federal grants from the USGS cooperative NCRDS program. In 2016, the WSGS coal team completed the first of a five-year grant to study the coal resources of Wyoming’s producing coal basins. Led by coal geologist Chris Carroll, this cooperative program with the USGS will produce a stratigraphic database of the coal-bearing formations of Wyoming. The team collects and maintains a stratigraphic database of coal bed intercepts from coal exploration and petroleum wells, coal outcrop measured sections, and historic coal mine information.

The coal team is currently working on the Paleocene coals in the Wyoming part of the Greater Green River Basin, concentrating on the Fort Union Formation of the Great Divide and Washakie Basins. In 2017, the team will correlate coals in the Green River Basin west of the Rock Springs Uplift, concentrating on mineable coals less than 3,500 feet deep. There are more than 26,000 points of data in the Wyoming database.

The other five-year grant was awarded to oil and gas geologists Ranie Lynds and Rachel Toner to characterize Wyoming's unconventional Upper Cretaceous oil and gas reservoirs. They will be developing a statewide spatial database of Wyoming's unconventional reservoir tops, along with associated well and production attributes. Year 1 of the unconventional NCRDS project was completed in 2016 and focused specifically on reservoirs in the Denver Basin. Upcoming years 2 and 3 of the project will concentrate on Powder River Basin reservoirs.

Fort Union Wet Gas System, Washakie Basin

Fort UnionThe goal of this project is to identify natural gas and condensate resources in the Fort Union Formation of the Washakie Basin. Basin-scale conditions will be documented, and interpretations will be made to assist the state in quantifying the potential resource as well as industry with prospect/play development.

Oil and gas geologist Ranie Lynds will lead the study, building upon her previous work that documents self-sourced natural gas production from the organic-rich China Butte Member (WSGS Report of Investigations 73). She will correlate wells in the prospect area and tie the results to outcrops to help determine the orientation of both the stress field and shale and sand-bodies, in addition to over pressuring and horizontal versus vertical well production. The results are scheduled for publication in spring 2018.

YellowcakeUranium Resource Study of the Gas Hills Area

This uranium investigation will be a detailed study of the sedimentary petrology, related stratigraphy, structural history, and hydrologic flow history of the Gas Hills mining district in Fremont and Natrona Counties. Geologist Robert Gregory is leading the investigation, which will involve examining regional geology and stratigraphy as well as the processes responsible for the development and mineralization of the uranium deposits. Expected completion date is June 2018.

Mines and Minerals Map

The WSGS is creating an online, interactive mines and mineral map of Wyoming that will display locations of abandoned and active mines, sample locations for mineral resources and sample analyses, where available. The GIS-based map will be constructed to allow ongoing updates, similar to the interactive Oil and Gas Map of Wyoming that launched in 2016. Geologists Wayne Sutherland and Robert Gregory are leading the project.

Jade Investigation

Gems and minerals geologist Wayne Sutherland is researching occurrences of jade, which is the most famous gemstone in Wyoming. Nephrite jade, also known as Wyoming Jade, is Wyoming’s state gemstone and first received wide attention in the Granite Mountains area of central Wyoming in the 1930s. Wyoming Jade is considered to be some of the finest nephrite in the world, and varies from translucent to opaque and ranges in color. This investigation will discuss the geology, mineralogy, and history of jade in Wyoming, along with its significance as a gemstone.

Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources

WSGS oil and gas geologist Rachel Toner is studying Wyoming's unconventional oil and gas resources. The Powder River and Denver Basins are the only two basins under extensive development for unconventional oil and gas resources. The tight Cretaceous sands and shales in these basins have been developed using horizontal well drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques. Some of the most prolific unconventional oil and gas-producing formations include:

  • Mesaverde (Teapot/Parkman sands)
  • Cody/Pierre (Shannon/Sussex sands)
  • Niobrara
  • Codell
  • Frontier