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Stratigraphy and Petroleum Potential of Pre-Pennsylvanian Rocks, Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle


Stratigraphy and Petroleum Potential of Pre-Pennsylvanian Rocks, Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle, by S. C. Ruppel. 81 p., 64 figs., 5 tables, 4 appendices, 1985. ISSN: 0082335X: Print Version.

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RI0147. Stratigraphy and Petroleum Potential of Pre-Pennsylvanian Rocks, Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle, by S. C. Ruppel. 81 p., 64 figs., 5 tables, 4 appendices, 1985. ISSN: 0082335X: Print.

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Pre-Pennsylvanian rocks in the Palo Duro Basin include (1) basal transgressive marine Cambrian(?) sandstones deposited over Precambrian basement, (2) overlying Lower Ordovician dolomites of the Ellenburger Group that formed when shallow seas covered much of the North American continent, and(3) Mississippian limestones and dolomites deposited when the area was inundated again after middle Paleozoic uplift and erosion. A generally similar stratigraphic sequence exists in the adjacent Dalhart and Hardeman Basins. Mississippian deposits, the most widespread and best known pre-Pennsylvanian rocks, exhibit considerable facies and paleoenvironmental diversity throughout the Texas Panhandle. The lowermost Mississippian "Osage" contains cherty and shaly dolomites and limestones. In the eastern Palo Duro Basin and in the Hardeman Basin further to the east, these rocks are interbedded carbonate mudstones and limestone turbidites that were deposited below wave base in relatively deep, quiet water. Westward, the "Osage" includes progressively shallower water facies.

"Meramec" limestones are remarkably similar throughout the Texas Panhandle. These coarse-grained, light-colored, skeletal (bryozoan/echinoderm) grainstones record the establishment during the middle to late Meramecian of a widespread, shallow-water, carbonate sand shoal. However, before this shoal developed in the Hardeman Basin, numerous local carbonate buildups formed (Chappel Formation).

The uppermost Mississippian "Chester" contains interbedded ooid grainstones and shales that attest to (1) the maintenance of shallow-water marine conditions and (2) the development of terrigenous clastic source areas associated with early phases of Late Carboniferous tectonic activity. Uppermost "Chester" shales (Barnett Formation) and limestones (Comyn Formation) in the Hardeman Basin to the east are not present in the Palo Duro Basin owing to facies change or erosion or both.

All pre-Pennsylvanian units contain sufficient porosity and permeability, at least locally, to be hydrocarbon reservoirs. Potential structural and stratigraphic traps are plentiful throughout the area. Carbonate buildups are productive in the nearby Hardeman Basin; similar buildups may exist in at least the eastern part of the Palo Duro Basin. However, suitable top seals may be lacking in the Palo Duro Basin.

Although the quality of organic matter contained in the pre-Pennsylvanian deposits in the Palo Duro Basin is good, there is probably too little organic carbon for these rocks to be hydrocarbon sources. The "Osage" of the eastern Palo Duro Basin contains the highest amounts of organic matter. The Barnett Formation, which contains organic-matter-rich shales in the Hardeman Basin to the east, does not extend into the Palo Duro Basin.

Calculations of thermal maturity based on vitrinite reflectance indicate that although pre-Pennsylvanian rocks in the Palo Duro Basin are substantially less mature than those in the Hardeman Basin, most have attained at least the minimum degree of heating necessary to produce hydrocarbons. Thermal maturity in the area generally correlates with the present-day geothermal gradient, which increases toward the east.

Petroleum potential of the pre-Pennsylvanian rocks of the Palo Duro Basin is relatively low. Future exploration in these rocks should concentrate on areas where source rock quality, maturity, and reservoir conditions are optimum. The extreme southern and eastern parts of the basin appear to offer the greatest promise.

source rocks, Mississippian, Ordovician, Palo Duro Basin, Hardeman Basin, thermal maturity, stratigraphy, petroleum potential, Ellenburger Group, Chappel Formation








Basal (Cambrian?) siliciclastics

Lower Ordovician Ellenburger Group

The Mississippian System

Hardeman Basin

Palo Duro Basin





The Mississippian/Pennsylvanian boundary

Age relationships


Estimates of porosity

Porosity types



Organic matter content

Organic matter type

Thermal maturity

Pre-Pennsylvanian carbonates as source rocks

Other potential hydrocarbon sources






A. Wells referenced in this report

B. Total organic carbon data from the Texas Panhandle

C. Organic matter index

D. Thermal alteration index



1. Map of the Texas Panhandle indicating major subsurface features and cored wells

2. Schemes of stratigraphic nomenclature applied by previous workers to pre-Pennsylvanian rocks in the Texas Panhandle

3. Structure-contour map on the top of the Ellenburger Group (Lower Ordovician)

4. Structure-contour map on the top of the Mississippian System

5. Typical pre-Pennsylvanian sections in the Dalhart, Palo Duro, and Hardeman Basins

6. Thickness map, basal Cambrian(?) siliciclastic deposits

7. Thickness map, Ellenburger Group (lower Ordovician)

8. Aphanitic dolomite containing parallel planar laminations, Ellenburger Group, Hardeman Basin

9. Burrowed aphanitic dolomite, Ellenburger Group, Hardeman Basin

10. Cryptalgally laminated aphanocrystalline dolomite, Ellenburger Group, Hardeman Basin

11. Breccia horizon developed at the top of the Ellenburger Group

12. Mississippian subcrop

13. Thickness map, Mississippian System

14. West-east cross section of pre-Pennsylvanian strata through the Palo Duro and Hardeman Basins

15. Map showing thickness and distribution of the Barnett Formation in the Texas Panhandle

16. Map showing thickness of basal Mississippian sandstones ("Kinderhook") in the Texas Panhandle

17. Map showing thickness and distribution of basal Mississippian shales in the Palo Duro Basin

18. Map showing thickness of the "Osage"

19. Dolomite-percent map, "Osage"

20. Mississippian section and core intervals in the Childress 10 well

21. Core description of the lower "Osage" (lower Chappel), Childress 10 well

22. Core description of the "Meramec" and upper "Osage," Childress 10 well

23. Alternating layers of skeletal lime-silt grainstone and dark-colored wackestone typical of lower "Osage," Childress 10 well

24. Alternating layers of grainstone and wackestone

25. Photomicrograph of skeletal wackestone

26. Photomicrograph of dark-brown, laminated skeletal wackestone

27. Skeletal lime-sand grainstone having contorted laminations and mud-lined truncation surfaces

28. Burrow-mottled, skeletal lime-sand grainstone with disrupted wackestone laminations

29. Breccia bed composed of clasts of lime-silt grainstone and silicified, laminated grainstone in matrix of partly laminated skeletal wackestone

30. Breccia bed containing clasts of silicified grainstone and interbedded grainstone and wackestone

31. Photomicrograph of dark-gray spiculitic wackestone containing sponge spicules and rare skeletal debris

32. Pre-Pennsylvanian section and cored interval in the Donley 3 well

33. Description of "Osage" core in the Donley 3 well

34. lnterbedded spiculitic dolomite and skeletal grainstone

35. Photomicrograph of skeletal grainstone

36. Laminated and heavily burrowed, argillaceous, spiculitic dolomite

37. Photomicrograph of spiculitic dolomite

38. Thickness map, "Meramec"

39. Dolomite-percent map, "Meramec"

40. lnterlayered skeletal grainstone, wackestone, and mudstone common near the base of the "Meramec,'' Childress 10 well

41. Crossbedded skeletal grainstone

42. Photomicrograph of skeletal grainstone containing abundant echinoderms and fenestrate bryozoans

43. Thickly bedded to massive, poorly sorted skeletal grainstone common in upper part of "Meramec"

44. Layer of dark, thinly laminated skeletal wackestone

45. Thickness map, "Chester"

46. Map showing percent siliciclastics in the "Chester"

47. Revised stratigraphy of the Mississippian System in the Palo Duro and Hardeman Basins

48. Average porosity of the "Osage"

49. Thickness of "Osage" rocks having greater than 10 percent porosity

50. Average porosity of the "Meramec

51. Porosity in the Ellenburger Group as shown by photomicrographs of intercrystalline porosity and of small vugs and moldic porosity

52. Photomicrograph showing intraparticle porosity developed in zooecia of fenestrate bryozoans in skeletal lime-sand grainstone

53. Photomicrograph showing secondary interparticle porosity associated with dolomitization of skeletal lime-sand grainstone

54. Photomicrograph showing primary intraparticle porosity in bryozoan zooecia

55. Distribution of oil and gas shows and producing wells and fields in the Ellenburger Group, Texas Panhandle

56. Distribution of oil and gas shows and producing wells and fields in Mississippian rocks of the Texas Panhandle

57. Wells in the Ellenburger Group sampled for geochemical analysis

58. Wells in the Mississippian System sampled for geochemical analysis

59. Distribution of total organic carbon (TOC) in the "Osage"

60. Distribution of organic matter index (OMI) values in the "Osage"

61. Geothermal gradients in the Palo Duro, Dalhart, Hardeman, and Hollis Basins

62. Plot of vitrinite reflectance (Ro) data versus depth, Palo Duro Basin

63. Plot of vitrinite reflectance (Ro) versus temperature in the Palo Duro Basin

64. Plot of conodont alteration index (CAI) with depth



1. Average well porosities in the pre-Pennsylvanian sequence, Palo Duro Basin

2. Permeability data, Palo Duro Basin

3. Summary of total organic carbon data

4. Kerogen data, Palo Duro and Dalhart Basins

5. Kerogen data, Hardeman Basin

Ruppel, S. C., 1985, Stratigraphy and Petroleum Potential of Pre-Pennsylvanian Rocks, Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, Report of Investigations No. 147, 81 p.

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