skip all navigation
skip banner links
skip primary navigation

Ron Broadhead

Principal Senior Petroleum Geologist
Adjunct faculty, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department

New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources 
New Mexico Tech 
801 Leroy Place 
Socorro NM 87801-4796 
(575) 835-5202 ph 
(575) 835-6333 fax 

Education and Employment History

  • B.S. Geology, New Mexico Tech, 1977
  • Duke University Marine Laboratory, Pivers Island, North Carolina, summer 1977
  • M.S. Geology, University of Cincinnati, 1979 (studied petroleum geology and petrology of eastern gas shales)
  • Petroleum geologist, Cities Service Company, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, 1979-1981 (worked Arkoma Basin, central Oklahoma area, Texas panhandle and southwest Kansas/Oklahoma panhandle area, Ouachita thrustbelt. Developed prospects, sat wells, etc.)
  • New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, 1981-present

Journals Edited

  • Editor of Search and Discovery, the online journal of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 2011 - present.

Awards and Honors

Specialties and Interests

  • Petroleum exploration and development  geology. I am familiar with the petroleum exploration geology of New Mexico, especially as applied to the frontier basins and the Permian Basin of southeastern New Mexico.
  • Petroleum source rocks (for introduction to project report that describes analyzed wells and types of data available--click here). The majority of analyses are available in a digital database on CD-ROM (New Mexico Bureau of geology Database DDS DB2). Please contact our publications office if you wish to get a copy of this publication, visit our publications office or buy online. We continually strive to add more source rock data to our records. Newer data have been made available though Bureau open-file reports on specific stratigraphic units or basins. An updated list of Open-file reports and other publications that contain source rock analyses may be found here.
  • Subsurface geology of New Mexico. As part of my duties, I have acquired familiarity with the subsurface geology of large parts of New Mexico, but am especially familiar with Paleozoic basins and strata in the northeast, central, southeast,  southwest, and west-central parts of the state. 
  • Unconventional gas, including shale gas. I did my graduate work on shale gas in the Appalachian Basin long before this was fashionable. At the Bureau, we have several reports and papers directly relevant to shale gas and unconventional shale oil in New Mexico. This (Mancos Shale slide set) is a slideset on the Mancos Shale developed for the San Juan Basin Energy Conference, which was held in farmington in march 2013. A report on the Mancos Shale is in preparation.This is a slideset I developed for a presentation to the Legislature in January 2012 on oil and gas production in New Mexico including some shale gas and unconventional oil possibiliies (Shale gas and unconventional oil). The include my in-depth work on the Upper Mississippian Barnett Shale in southeastern New Mexico (Open file report 502) with aspects summarized in a paper in New Mexico Geology.Also in southeastern New Mexico, my work on the Upper Devonian Woodford Shale and Wristen petroleum system, available as a paper in New Mexico Geology and as Open file report 485 on the Wristen petroleum system is directly pertinent to shale gas. Bill Raatz published very relevant material on source rock attributes and stratigraphy of the Upper Devonian Percha Shale in southwestern and south-central New Mexico in Open file report 484. I examined shale-gas potential in the Raton and Las Vegas Basins in Open file report 510; there is significant and identifiable shale gas potential the Pierre and Niobrara Shale (Upper Cretaceous) of the Raton Basin and in Pennsylvanian shales of the Las Vegas Basin. In addition, we have substantive reports with much data and discussion directly relevant to shale gas in the Tucumcari Basin of east-central New Mexico (and also here), the Pedregosa Basin of southwestern New Mexico, and the Chupadera Mesa region of central New Mexico, as well as the Estancia Basin of central New Mexico. There are numeropus other shale units throughout New Mexico, especially in the San Juan and Permian Basins that we have not yet studied in perpspective of shale-gas resources. In addition, the lower Mississippian limestone of southeastern New Mexico is an unconventional low-permeability carbonate reservoir which has produced natural gas but which is poorly developed and poorly understood, summarized in a paper in New Mexico Geology and also with aspects in earlier Open file report 497.
  • Helium-rich gases in New Mexico, their origin, distribution, and exploration potential.. Please see our Open-file report 483 for detailed information on the distribution of helium-rich gases in New Mexico as well as a summary of exploration models and exploration possibilities. The November 2005 issue of New Mexico Geology has a summary of this subject. Helium has many indispensable uses including as a coolant in MRI imaging machines and as an inert atmosphere used in the production of computer chips. Its use as a lifting gas in balloons and blimps is minor. Presently, production of helium has fallen below demand and the shortfall has been made up by withdrawing helium from storage. New sources need to be identified and brought into production if all future needs are to be met.
  • Natural occurrences of carbon dioxide in the subsurface. Carbon dioxide is produced from these accumulations primarily for enhanced oil recovery in the Permian Basin but also is used as the gas in soda pop, is made into dry ice for specialized refrigeration purposes, is used in fire extinguishers, and in a myriad of other applications. One of the largest known CO2 accumulations in the world is at Bravo Dome in northeast New Mexico and a new accumulation has recently been discovered in extreme western Catron County, New Mexico and adjacent areas of Arizona. Another new accumulation has been recently discovered at La Veda pass in southeast Colorado. See Open-file report 514 for more information.

Current and Recent Research, Service, and Public Outreach Projects

  • Outreach and public service form a significant portion of my duties. I field questions from industry, academia, government, and the general public regarding oil, natural gas, carbon dioxide, and helium resources in New Mexico and the geology of New Mexico in general. Our role is to act as an impartial and unbiased source of information and to inform and educate.
  • Editor of Search and Discovery, the online journal of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
  • Geology and source rock character of the Woodford Shale (Upper Devonian) in southeastern New Mexico, published in August 2010 issue of New Mexico Geology.
  • Distribution, structure, thickness and oil and gas plays in Mississippian rocks of southeastern New Mexico. Click here for summary paper in New Mexico Geology, the Bureau's scientific journal. Mississippian strata have a maximum thickness of 2000 ft in the Permian Basin of southeastern New Mexico, but have been described only superficially. In our Open-file report 497, the structure, stratigraphy and productive oil and gas reservoirs in Mississippian strata have been mapped and described through a series of cross sections and maps. Four oil and gas plays have been identified, described and mapped based on the stratigraphy of oil and gas reservoirs and location of reservoirs with respect to shelf and basin boundaries. Open file report 502 specifically discusses the Barnett Shale and presents significantly revised correlations of the top of the Barnett.


Chester play

  • Distribution and exploration potential of helium-rich gases in New Mexico. Please see our Open-file report 483 for detailed information on the distribution of helium-rich gases in New Mexico as well as a summary of exploration models and exploration possibilities and a short paper in the November 2005 issue of New Mexico Geology. The unique physical and chemical properties of helium lend this element to many indispensable uses including as a coolant in MRI imaging machines and as an inert atmosphere used in the production of computer chips. Its use as a lifting gas in balloons and blimps is minor. Presently, production of helium has fallen below demand and the shortfall has been made up by withdrawing helium from storage. New sources need to be identified and brought into production if all future needs are to be met.

Summary of helium exploration models

  • How much oil and gas remains to be produced in New Mexico? This is a question that has eluded an exact answer. Oil and natural gas production forms one of the strongist lynchpins of the state's economy, providing the economic basis for several cities in New Mexico and supplying approximately 25% of the state's tax base. I have addressed this issue through the attached article Remaining Oil and Natural Gas Resources of New Mexico.
  • I recently collaborated with Shirley Dutton and her colleagues at the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas Austin to construct a Play analysis and digital portfolio of major oil reservoirs in the Permian Basin. Bill Raatz, now employed at OxyPermian in Houston, worked with me on this project while he was at the New Mexcio Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources during 2002 and 2003. This two year project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through their Preferred Upstream Management Practices (PUMP) program. Open-file report 479 summarizes the New Mexico part of the project. Texas Bureau of Economic Geology Report of Investigations 271 summarizes project results in both the New Mexico and Texas parts of the Permian Basin. Click here for a link to the project website.

Increased production from Delaware Mountain Group oilflled due to waterflooding of the reservoir

Positive effect of waterflooding on oil production from a Delaware submarine-fan reservoir. From DOE-funded PUMP project.
  • Petroleum and helium resource potential of Chupadera Mesa, eastern Socorro and western Catron Counties. This project, funded by the New Mexico State Land Office, to assess the oil, natural gas, and helium potential of this poorly understood and little explored area is currently underway. Recent exploratory wells drilled in this area resulted in discovery of helium-rich gas. See Open-file report 478.

Precambrian structure map in Chupadera Mesa area

  • Petroleum geology of Tucumcari Basin, east-central New Mexico. I have 20 years of research on the structure, stratigraphy and petroleum source rocks of the Tucumcari Basin which underlies large parts of Guadalupe, Quay, Curry, DeBaca and San Miguel Counties. Project research data and results have been used by several independent oil and gas companies presently conducting exploration and drilling in this unproductive and sparsely explored frontier basin (see Oil and gas Journal, May 12, 2003, p. 15). Results of this research are available from Bulletin 119, Circular 193, Open-file report 460, and Open-file report 467 of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources and may be ordered by contacting our publications office at (575) 835-5410.
Distribution of Total Organic Carbon in Pennsylvanian source facies, Tucumcari Basin.
  • Development of a Fuzzy Expert System to Reduce Risk in Petroleum Exploration (DOE funded project, in collaboration with Petroleum Recovery Research Center). We have finished with our work on the Brushy Canyon Formation (Permian: Guadalupian) in the Delaware Basin and are currently working on the Silurian carbonates of the Permian Basin. Ash Hall, an undergraduate geology major at New Mexico Tech, is currently compiling data that will allow us to construct paleostructure maps in the Permian Basin. These paleostructure maps will allow us to define trends of Pennsylvanian age structures that form traps in the Silurian carbonates. For some of our geologic results, click here. For the pilot version of the online prospecting tool, click here. Open-file report 485 summarizes work on Silurian-age reservoirs of the Wristen Formation and associated Devonian-age source rocks of the Woodford Shale.

Depositional trends of Delaware submarine-fan sandstones in Delaware Basin. From DOE-funded Fuzzy Expert System Risk Reduction project.

Woodford PI on Woodford structure

Woodford Productivity Index superimposed on a 3-D diagram of Woodford structure. The Productivity Index is a measure of thermal maturity of a source rock. From DOE-funded Fuzzy Expert System Risk Reduction project. Please see our Open-file report 485 for more information and data on the Woodford as a source rock.


  • Oil, natural gas and coal resource potential of McKinley County, New Mexico. This project, in cooperation with Gretchen Hoffman of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments, looked at the oil, gas, and coal potential of  this county on the south flank of the San Juan Basin. The report is available as our Open-file report 470 on CD-ROM from our publications office ((575) 835-5410). 
  • Petroleum systems and petroleum source rocks in late Paleozoic elevator basins of New Mexico. 
  • Underdeveloped oil fields in carbonate reservoirs, Upper Pennsylvanian and Lower Permian of southeast New Mexico.


decline methodology

Reserves added by development phase for the Baum reservoir and best fit exponential decline curves calculated for each development phase. Only 1% of reserves in this reservoir were brought into production by initial development. The remaining 99% of reserves were brought into production by two discrete phases of redevelopment.

  • Petroleum resources of McGregor Range and surrounding areas, Otero County, New Mexico. The relatively recent discovery of natural gas on Otero Mesa just east of the McGregor Range has resulted in controversy as to whether gas resources in this area of desert grasslands should be developed. Our study provides an unbiased look at the subsurface geology and petroleum geology of this region.
  • Potential Gas Committee. I am a volunteer member of the Potential Gas Committee of the Potential Gas Agency. The Potential Gas Committee publishes biannually an independent estimate of unproduced natural gas resources in the U.S. I work region P-560, the Southern Basin and Range Province.

Educational Activities

  • Earth Science 460, Subsurface and Petroleum Geology, I teach this New Mexico Tech class annually during the Spring semester to a class of petroleum engineering, geology, geophysics, and hydrology majors and have just completed my 30th year of instruction. The class contains a mix of graduate and undergraduate students.  We emphasize analysis of strata and structures in the subsurface and also study how geology and petrophysics controls the origin and natural accumulation of hydrocarbons in the subsurface, with many examples given. The laboratory emphasizes hands-on activities and methodology such as contouring (both by hand and by computer), correlation of well logs, subsurface field  and stratigraphic studies, and reservoir analysis with both drill cuttings and logs. Students analyze and describe well cuttings from productive reservoirs and integrate these analyses with log data. Any of the techniques learned in this class can be readily utilized in groundwater geology or CO2 sequestration. This is an applied academic course that stresses how geology can be applied practically. Emphasizes the importance of integrating geology and engineering for reservoir study and development.

Chronology of Directors of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources