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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 

Curriculum vitae

Curriculum vitae


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


What I do

My position at the Bureau involves a mix of applied research, service work and educational activities. The percentage of time spent in each area varies according to demand but research and service constitute the majority of my efforts. The boundaries between research, service and educational activities are indistinct and there is a continuum among all three areas.

My research role has involved investigating various aspects of the petroleum geology of New Mexico with emphasis on basin analysis, petroleum source rocks, reservoir trends (also known as "play analysis") and statewide resource studies. In recent years I have become involved with work on induced seismicity and hydraulic fracturing. I am also involved with related reserach on helium resources and natural accumulations of carbon dioxide, both of which have been produced as economic commodities within New Mexico. Collaborative work has been done in conjunction with Martha Cather, Bob Balch and the late Bill Weiss of the Petroleum Recovery Research Center at NMT, Tom Engler of the NMT Petroleum Engineering Department, and Mark Person, Sue Bilek, and Anton Budding (retired) of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. External collaborators have included geologists (including Shirley Dutton) from the University of Texas and geologists from the state geological surveys of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. I also collaborated with John Lorenz when he was at Sandia National Laboratories. Yet another collaborator was Bill King (retired) of New Mexico State University.

Service work most often entails answering queries and interacting with the general public as well as geologists and other professionals from private industry and state and federal agencies. I also supervise the Subsurface, Core and Cuttings Libraries at the Bureau. Inquiries from the general public frequently involve helping individuals develop an understanding of resources that might be present beneath their lands or in the areas in which they live as well as an understanding of what types of activities may be involved with exploration of development of those resources. Research on induced seismicity and hydraulic fracturing began with a service need in mind. Inquiries from geologists and other scientists/engineers usually involve a discussion of the resource geology of the geographic area of interest as well as directing people to publications, reports, databases and other information that may be prove helpful. As such, service activities are often a nontraditional form of education that has involved giving presentations to civic organizations, county commissions, etc. A portion of my service activities has been directed to volunteer efforts with professional scientific societies. Examples of this include being past-president of the New Mexico Geological Society and being past-president of the New Mexico Tech Chapter of Sigma Xi. For the past 5 1/2 years I have been the Editor of Search and Discovery, the online scientific journal of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Educational activities have included mostly teaching formal courses at New Mexico Tech, supervising graduate student research. From 1982 through 2013 I taught the Petroleum Geology course at NMT on an annual basis and have also taught directed study courses on Petroleum Source Rocks. For the past two years I have been involved with advising and coaching the NMT Imperial Barrel Award team - this competetive challenge activity is described below. I also serve on the research committees of graduate students in the Petroleum Engineering and Earth and Environmental Sciences Departments at Tech. My role on the committees is to provide geological mentorship, especially regarding petroleum geology, stratigraphy, and subsurface geological techniques. In several cases I have acted as the student's research advisor. I also act more informally to mentor NMT geology and engineering students, especially those in the Petroleum Engineering Senior Design course.


Selected References

Zhang, Y., Edel, S., Pepin, J., Person, M., Broadhead, R., Stone, W., Bilek, S., Mozley, P., and Evans, J., in press, Exploring the potential linkages between oil-field brine reinjection, crystalline basement permeability, and triggered seismicity for the Dagger Draw oil field, southeastern New Mexico, USA using hydrologic modeling: Geofluids.

Broadhead, R.F., 2015, The Upper Mancos Shale in the San Juan Basin: Three plays, conventional and unconventional: American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Search and Discovery, No. 10791, 39 p.

Broadhead, R.F., 2015, Petroleum geology of the Las Vegas Basin: an overview, in Lindline, J., Petronis, M., and Zebrowski, J., eds., Geology of the Las Vegas region: New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook 66, p. 253-260.

Broadhead, R.F., 2012, Hydrocarbon-water and CO2-water systems in the pre-Cretaceous section in the New Mexico part of the Raton Basin: The Mountain Geologist, v. 49, no. 2, p. 55-74.

Broadhead, R.F., 2010, The Woodford Shale in southeastern New Mexico: distribution and source rock characteristics: New Mexico Geology, v. 32, no. 3, p. 79-90.

Broadhead, R.F., 2009, Mississippian strata of southeastern New Mexico: distribution, structure, and hydrocarbon plays: New Mexico Geology, v. 31, no. 3, p. 65-76.

Broadhead, R.F., 2005, Helium in New Mexico - geologic distribution, resource demand, and exploration possibilities: New Mexico Geology, v. 27, no. 4, p. 93-101.


Recent Presentations

Helium: Geology of accumulations and relationship to other natural gases in the reservoir. Presented to Roswell Geological Society, Roswell NM, March 2017 (invited).

Helium: Geology of accumulations and relationship to other natural gases in the reservoir. Presented to AAPG Geoscience Technology Workshop, Houston TX, October 2016 (invited).

Carbon dioxide and helium gases in New Mexico: Distribution and and realtion to other gases in the reservoir. Presented at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Denver CO, September 2016 (invited).

Petroleum geology of Mora County. Presented to Mora County Commission, February 23, 2016.

The Upper Mancos Shale in the San Juan Basin: Three plays, conventional and unconventional. Presented at monthly meeting of Roswell Geologicasl Society, November 2015 (invited).

Overview of selected shale plays in New Mexico. Presented to City Different Petroleum Club, Santa Fe NM, July 2015.

What are hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling? Presentation made in conjunction with F. David Martin, New Mexico Secretary of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources at Annual Meeting of New Mexico Rural Water Association, April 2015.


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 oil and 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 Projects

  • Evaluation of New Mexico State Trust Lands for oil, natural gas, helium and carbon dioxide resources. This project is undertaken in conjunction with Martha Cather of the Petroleum Recovery Research Center (Principal Investigator) and Virginia McLemore of the NM Bureau of Geology. My part of the project is to investigate the oil and natural gas potential in parts of the state other than the Permian and San Juan Basins and to investigate the potential for helium and carbon dioxide resources throughout the state. Work is largely drawn on previous studies at the Bureau.
  • Geologic framework and petroleum geology of the Mancos Shale in the San Juan Basin. This study originated with work done for the NMT-sponsored San Juan Basin Energy Conference a few years back. The Mancos Shale of the San Juan Basin has seen substantial exploratory activity in recent years and significant oil production has been established. One publication is available so far.
  • Helium resources of New Mexico. Helium occurs as a minor component and is an essential commodity that is increasingly short supply. Work concentrates on relating helium concentrations in natural gases to variations in geologic parameters and on developing viable helium exploration models.
  • Induced seismicity in New Mexico. Recent increased earthquake activity in parts of Oklahoma has been attributed to injection of large volumes of water that are produced from some oil reservoirs. The water is generally very saline and must be reinjected into deep reservoirs that contain waters of equal or similar salinity. Although these seismic incidents are very rare and of very low intensity in New Mexico (as contrasted with the situation in Oklahoma) a team from New Mexico tech, along with collborating scientists from elsewhere, is investigating suspected induced seismic events in New Mexico in order to learn more about them. Other collaborators at Tech include Drs. Mark Person, Sue Bilek and Peter Mozley of the Earth and Environmental Sviences Departent and Dr. Bill Stone of the Mathematics Department.
  • A new analysis of the Secretary of Interior's Potash Area, Eddy County, New Mexico. This project has been undertaken in conjunction with Dr. Bob Balch (Principal Investigator) and Martha Cather of the Petroleum Recovery Reserach Center (PRRC), Dr. Tom Engler of the Petroleum Engineering Department, and Dr. Yan Yuan of the Management Department. It builds on previous studies undertaken by the Bureau and PRRC.
  • Petroleum geology of New Mexico. I have been working on a substantial volume that describes the petroleum, helium and carbon dioxide-resource geology of the state, basin by basin. It is nearing completion.


Older Research Projects of Interest

Summarized below are some of my older research projects. Although these projects are not currently active, their results continue to be of interest to many and are therefore summarized below.

  • 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.
  • Former Bureau petroleum geologist Bill Raatz, computer science graduate student Zhou Jianhua and I 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.


NMT University Service

I have been involved in university-wide service at New Mexico Tech. Most recently, I have sat on the following committees.

  • NMT Presidential Search Committee, 2015-2016
  • NMT Search Committee for Vice President of Academic Affairs, 2016


Educational Activities

  • AAPG Imperial Barrel Award team. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists Imperial Barrel Award is the premier worldwide collegiate geoscience competition in the world. Held every spring, teams of 5 master's degree geoscientists from universities around the world compete in a competition to use a realw world dataset to analyze a basin for petroelum prospectivity. This year 127 universities from 38 countries have teams entered in the competition. Winners from 12 regional competitions will face off at the Annual AAPG Meeting (held this year in Houston) to determine the top 3 places. Winning teams are selected on the basis of technical quality, clrity and originality of presentations made at the competetions. In 2016 I acted as co-advisor of the New Mexico Tech team.


  • Graduate degree committees. I sit on thesis committees of graduate students in the Earth and Environmental Sciences and Petroleum Engineering Departments at New Mexico Tech. Recent student advisees are Jenna Donatelli who recieved her M.S. in Earth and Environmental Science in 2016 and Kelsey Seals who will receive her M.S. in Petroleum Engineering in 2017.


  • Earth Science 460, Subsurface and Petroleum Geology, I taught this New Mexico Tech class as a volunteer annually from 1982 through 2013 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.