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Petroleum Potential of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle. Digital Download


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RI0123D. Petroleum Potential of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle, by S. P. Dutton, A. G. Goldstein, and S. C. Ruppel. 87 p., 53 figs., 5 tables, 6 plates, 1 appendix, 1982. Downloadable PDF.

To purchase this publication in book format, please order RI0123.

The Palo Duro Basin seemingly has all the elements necessary for hydrocarbon generation and accumulation: reservoirs, traps, source rocks, and sufficient thermal maturity. Porous facies in pre-Pennsylvanian, Pennsylvanian, and Permian strata are potential hydrocarbon reservoirs. Within the pre-Pennsylvanian section, shallow-marine carbonates of both Ordovician (Ellenburger Group) and Mississippian age have sufficient porosity and permeability for hydrocarbon accumulation. Three main exploration targets of Pennsylvanian and Wolfcampian age are (1) granite-wash sandstones, (2) shelf-margin carbonates, and (3) elongate-delta sandstones. Granite wash was deposited in fan deltas adjacent to fault-bounded, basement uplifts around the basin margins. Porous facies are braided-channel, fan-plain, and distal-fan deposits. Porous carbonates developed through time along the different positions of the shelf margins. Organic-rich basinal shales are juxtaposed against the porous shelf-margin facies. High-constructive, elongate-delta deposits in the southeastern part of the basin retain high porosity in bar-finger (channel-mouth bar) sandstones. In younger strata, dolomites in the Clear Fork (Leonardian) and the San Andres (Guadalupian) Formations are reservoirs along the Matador Arch. However, porosity in these units apparently pinches out to the north.

Both stratigraphic and structural traps occur in the basin. Porosity pinch-outs form the primary stratigraphic traps. Major faults are associated with the Amarillo Uplift; smaller faults have been identified in the deeper parts of the basin. Most faults are thought to have existed before the Pennsylvanian and to have been reactivated by a northwest maximum principal compression. Fracturing adjacent to some faults may have created fractured reservoirs.

The Palo Duro Basin contains source rocks of sufficient quality to generate hydrocarbons. Pennsylvanian and Wolfcampian shales contain up to 2.4 percent total organic carbon (TOC) and are fair to very good source rocks. Lipid-rich organic matter occurs primarily in basinal shales. Kerogen color and vitrinite reflectance, which measure thermal maturity, indicate that temperatures were sufficiently high to begin to generate hydrocarbons from lipid-rich organic matter. Pennsylvanian and Wolfcampian kerogen is yellow orange to orange. Average reflectance in Pennsylvanian vitrinite is 0.52 percent; in Wolfcampian samples the average reflectance is 0.48 percent. Recent oil discoveries in the Palo Duro Basin confirm that oil was generated.

Amarillo Uplift, Ellenburger Group, granite wash, Matador Arch, Mississippian, oil and gas, organic geochemistry, Palo Duro Basin, Pennsylvanian,  structural geology, Wolfcampian




Pre-Carboniferous history

Carboniferous and Permian history



Basal clastics

Ellenburger Group

Mississippian System

Depositional environments and history

Porosity and hydrocarbon potential


General stratigraphy

Pennsylvanian System

Pennsylvanian - Permian boundary

Lower Permian: Wolfcampian Series.

Depositional systems

Fan-delta system

Depositional history

Granite-wash production

Shelf and shelf-margin system

Distribution through time

Shelf-margin facies

Shelf and shelf-margin production

High-constructive delta system

Reservoir potential

Basin and slope system

Basin and slope reservoir potential


Transition to evaporite deposition

Wichita - Red Cave genetic unit

Lower Clear Fork - Tubb genetic unit

Upper Clear Fork - Glorieta genetic unit

San Andres genetic unit

Post-San Andres genetic unit

Post-Wolfcampian reservoirs.

Clear Fork carbonate reservoirs

San Andres carbonate reservoirs

Post-San Andres reservoirs




Gravity analysis


Source-rock quality

Midland Basin samples

Kerogen type

Thermal maturity

Kerogen color

Vitrinite reflectance

Midland Basin samples

Sources of Palo Duro oil

Oldham County

Briscoe County

Southeastern Palo Duro Basin

Matador Arch






1. Late Paleozoic basins and uplifts of the southern Midcontinent region (Ancestral Rockies) showing location and tectonic setting of the Palo Duro Basin

2. Data base showing areas where the selectivity of data points (wells) varied

3. Location map of cross sections used in this report

4. Plot of sediment accumulation rates versus time for the Palo Duro, western Anadarko, and Dalhart Basins

5. Rate of accumulation of granite wash, Palo Duro and western Anadarko Basins

6. Structure contour map of crystalline basement in western Oklahoma, Texas Panhandle, and northeastern New Mexico

7. Typical pre-Pennsylvanian sequence in eastern part of the Palo Duro Basin

8. Structure contour map of top of Ordovician Ellenburger Group, Palo Duro Basin

9. Isopach map of Ellenburger Group, Palo Duro Basin

10. Structure contour map of top of Mississippian System, Palo Duro Basin

11. Isopach map of Mississippian System, Palo Duro Basin

12. East-west cross section G-G´ showing stratigraphic framework and depositional systems composing Pennsylvanian - lower Permian strata

13. East-west cross section J-J´

14. Isopach map of Pennsylvanian System

15. Structure contour map of top of Pennsylvanian System

16. Isopach map of Wolfcampian Series

17. Typical electric log patterns of fan-delta, shelf and shelf-margin, delta, and basin facies

18. Hydrocarbon shows from drill-stem tests and cuttings of Pennsylvanian carbonate, granite wash, and sandstone

19. Distribution of oil stains and shows, as reported on sample logs, in relation to Wolfcamp structure, porous carbonate fairways, and lithology of host rock

20. Location of oil and gas fields in the Palo Duro Basin and surrounding areas

21. Isolith map of Pennsylvanian and Wolfcampian granite wash in the Texas Panhandle

22. North-south cross section E-E´ of Pennsylvanian strata, Donley to Floyd Counties

23. Block diagrams of paleogeographic evolution of Palo Duro Basin during Pennsylvanian and Wolfcampian time

24. Schematic diagram of fan-delta system

25. East-west cross section l-l´ of Pennsylvanian strata, Parmer to Childress Counties

26. Net-carbonate map of lower part of Pennsylvanian System

27. Net-carbonate map of upper part of Pennsylvanian System

28. Percent-carbonate map of lower Permian strata in the Palo Duro Basin

29. Isopach map, based on sample log information, of upper Pennsylvanian dolomite

30. Isopach map of porous carbonate strata in upper part of the Pennsylvanian System

31. Isopach map of porous carbonate strata in Wolfcampian Series

32. Net-sandstone map of upper part of the Pennsylvanian System, including both granite wash and nonarkosic sandstone

33. Isolith maps of Wolfcampian deltaic sandstones in southeastern Palo Duro Basin

34. North-south cross section F-F´ of lower Clear Fork Formation

35. North-south cross section C-C´ of San Andres Formation in areas of production, showing generalized lithic interpretations and inferred depositional systems

36. Diagrammatic cross section of San Andres rocks in hydrocarbon-producing areas, illustrating distribution of facies and depositional systems

37. Map of San Andres oil production, shelf margins, and surface lineaments

38. Cross section across Northern Shelf of the Midland Basin, lower San Andres Formation, showing porosity relationships

39. Summary of lineament length by 10° azimuth category within each named 1° × 2° National Map Series sheet

40. Joint orientations from localities in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico

41. Simple Bouguer gravity anomaly map, Texas Panhandle and vicinity

42. Basement lithologic provinces in the Texas Panhandle

43. Gravity model A-A´

44. Gravity model B-B´

45. Plot of TOC with depth for 20 wells in the Palo Duro and Dalhart Basins

46. Distribution of percent TOC in Pennsylvanian rocks of the Palo Duro Basin

47. Distribution of percent TOC in Wolfcampian rocks of the Palo Duro Basin

48. Paleotemperature, vitrinite reflectance, and kerogen color related to hydrocarbon facies

49. Thermal maturity of Midland and Palo Duro Basin samples based on kerogen color and kerogen type.

50. Distribution of kerogen type in Pennsylvanian strata, Palo Duro Basin

51. Distribution of kerogen type in Wolfcampian strata, Palo Duro Basin

52. Pennsylvanian potential reservoir fairways

53. Wolfcampian (lower Permian) potential reservoir fairways



1. Stratigraphic chart and general lithology of the Palo Duro Basin

2. Potential reservoir facies in the Palo Duro Basin

3. Stratigraphic chart of Permian System in Palo Duro and Dalhart Basins

4. Wells sampled for geochemical source-rock analyses

5. Organic Matter Index values of different kerogen types


Plates (in pocket of book, in folder on digital version)

I. Base map of well control

II. Structural cross sections B-B´ and D-D´ across the Palo Duro Basin, basement to surface

III. Stratigraphic cross section H-H´ of basement to mid-Permian

IV. Stratigraphic cross section A-A´ through upper Permian salt-bearing strata

V. Structure contour map on top of crystalline basement, Texas Panhandle

VI. Bouguer gravity map, Texas Panhandle

Dutton, S. P., Goldstein, A. G., and Ruppel, S. C., 1982, Petroleum Potential of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, Report of Investigation No. 123, 87 p.

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