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Ron Broadhead — Projects

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.
  • Chester play
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    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.
  • 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
  • Distribution of Total Organic Carbon in Pennsylvanian source facies, Tucumcari Basin.
    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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
    Underdeveloped oil fields in carbonate reservoirs, Upper Pennsylvanian and Lower Permian of southeast New Mexico.
  • 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.

For more information about my work, view my CV.