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Current Projects


StateMap workStateMap Program

Geologists at the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) are collecting data for the next set of maps to be released under its StateMap program. The bedrock geologic maps are all at 1:24,000 scale:

  • Gas Hills 7.5' quadrangle in Fremont and Natrona counties
  • Albany 7.5' quadrangle in Albany County
  • Foxpark 7.5' quadrangle in Albany County
  • Woods Landing 7.5' quadrangle in Albany County

The mapping projects will be published in April 2018. More information about the StateMap program can be found on the Geologic Mapping Page.

Powder River Basin, Greater Green 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 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.

The WSGS is evaluating groundwater salinities occurring at depths of 5,000 ft or less “below ground surface” (bgs) in the southern Powder River basin of northeastern Wyoming and the Greater Green River Basin in southwestern Wyoming. Special emphasis is placed on saline groundwaters (total dissovled solids [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 aquifers more than 1,000 ft bgs.

As with its earlier study of salinity in Denver-Julesburg Basin groundwater (Taboga and others, 2015), the WSGS is utilizing two methods to determine groundwater salinity. First, the WSGS will obtain existing water quality data from the U.S. Geological Survey Produced Water Database and the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's (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. Both projects are scheduled for release in 2018.

Cross-bedded sandstone in Chugwater quadrangle Mapping Chugwater Quadrangle

A bedrock geology map now underway of the Chugwater 1:100,000 quadrangle in southeast Wyoming will complete bedrock mapping for the eastern edge of Wyoming and complete bedrock mapping of the Denver Basin and High Plains Aquifer areas.

A bedrock compilation effort for the quadrangle began nearly a decade ago by the WSGS, portions have been mapped by the U.S. Geological Survey for Water Supply papers, and two 1:24,000-scale maps have been published. WSGS geoscientists Andrea Loveland and James Stafford will use these resources to construct a digital bedrock geologic map in an ArcGIS geodatabase. Stafford previously interpreted air photos to refine contact placement, edge-matched with adjacent 1:100,000-scale quadrangles. Loveland will field check the map area to ground-truth formations and unit contact placement.

The map is slated for publication in 2018.

Landslide Susceptibility

The WSGS is creating a statewide map that will display landslide susceptibility. The project compares slope to rock strength, creating a general understanding of the sensitivity of an area to mass wasting. The project was developed to provide direction to future landslide mapping initiatives by the WSGS.

Seth Wittke, manger of the Hazards, Mapping and Water Resources Division, and natural resource analysist, James Stafford, are heading up the project, which is expected to be completed in April 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, slated for completion in 2018, 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.

Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources

WSGS oil and gas geologist Rachel Toner is undertaking a series of unconventional reservoir investigations examining how geology and/or completion practices impact operators' oil and gas production trends. The investigations focus on the Powder River and Denver basins, which are the only two Wyoming basins currently 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 Formation
  • Turner/Wall Creek sands
  • Codell Sandstone
  • Mowry Shale

Toner's current study, slated for completion in 2018, focuses on the chronologically equivalent Turner Sandstone Member of the Carlile Shale and Wall Creek Sandstone of the Frontier Formation in the Powder River Basin. Like Toner's May 2017 publication on Codell Sandstone oil production in the Wyoming portion of the Denver Basin, the Turner/Wall Creek study will also examine production trends and completion practices. However, it will also include formation top interpretations collected by the WSGS for its National Coal Resource Data System (NCRDS) and subsurface database projects. The Turner/Wall Creek tops, along with compiled reservoir characteristics, will be used to further analyze how the geology of the Wall Creek and Turner sandstones influences hydrocarbon production.

Uranium Resource Study of the Gas Hills Area

The Gas Hills uranium mining district in Fremont and Natrona counties has produced more uranium oxide concentrate (100,000 million pounds) than any other district in Wyoming and is the focus of a new WSGS investigation. The area has been extensively explored and mined. The overall locations of the remaining deposits and their grade are fairly well known and understood. Oxidized, uranium-rich groundwater is thought to have traveled along the more permeable subsurface conduits and precipitated uranium minerals in pore spaces and as grain coatings in reduced environments. Although much is known about the nature of uranium occurrences there, considerable uncertainty remains as to the full nature of reductant(s) leading to uranium precipitation.

The goal of this study is to examine mineral assemblages in and near remaining ore zones to learn more about geochemical and mineralogical reactions, which may have contributed to the reducing environments in which uranium was ultimately deposited. Geologist Robert Gregory is conducting the study, which is slated for completion in summer 2018.

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), the WSGS is developing a groundwater technical memorandum 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 memoorandom represents an intensive collaborative effort among water resource professionals from the WSGS, the WWDO, and the U.S. Geological Survey. 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 the WSGS, this technical memorandum 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, led by WSGS hydrogeologist, Karl Taboga, will be published in 2018 and will be available on the Wyoming Water Development Office website and through the Wyoming River Basin Plan portal on the WSGS website.

State Park Geology

Boysen State Park

Wyoming state parks may be a traveler’s final destination or a stop along the way. Nonetheless, a major draw to the sites is the geology. WSGS geologists are gathering information about the geology of each of Wyoming’s 11 state parks for new public information circulars to be available for park visitors.

All state parks will be reviewed, and circulars will be published as completed. The first slated for release is of Curt Gowdy in southeastern Wyoming. Other parks are Boysen, Seminoe, Bear River, Buffalo Bill, Edness K. Wilkins, Glendo, Guernsey, Hot Springs, Keyhole, and Sinks Canyon.

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 from off-white (rare) to apple green, emerald green, leaf green, olive green, and black. This investigation will discuss the geology, mineralogy, and history of jade in Wyoming, along with its significance as a gemstone.