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Ron Broadhead

 Ron Broadhead
Emeritus - Principal Sr. Petroleum Geologist
New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources
New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology
801 Leroy Place
Socorro NM 87801-4796
(575) 835-6333 fax

My position at the Bureau has involved a mix of applied research, service work and educational activities. The percentage of time spent in each area varied 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. With retirement in March 2020 I have continued to be involved in geological, educational, and a very limited amount of service activities at New Mexico Tech. As an individual geologist I assisted the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists with a symposium on North American helium resources which will be held in Denver during March 2023 and am an Associate Editor of The Mountain Geologist, the quarterly peer-reviewed geological journal of the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists.. A very kind biographical sketch of my career was written by Kristin Pearthree and published in the Fall 2020 issue of New Mexico Geology (nmg_v42_n2.pdf).

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 research 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. Most recently (September 2017), a comprehensive volume covering the petroleum resources of New Mexico has been published as New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources Memoir 50A/New Mexico Geological Society Special Publication 13A. In one of my last projects at the Bureau I pursued an investigation of the oil and natural gas resources of Sandoval County, New Mexico in conjunction with Alex Rinehart, a staff hydrologist at the Bureau who is currently on the hydrology faculty at the New Mexico Tech Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. In April 2021 I was interviewed by geologist Maureen Stonehouse of Calgary, Alberta on my work on helium resources. The podcast of the interview, posted on Maureen's website, is available at Stone's Notes. I recently published a paper on the petroleum geology of the Offshore Mancos shale play in the San Juan Basin in the September 2021 issue of the Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the abstract is available here.

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 7 years from 2011 through 2018 I was the Editor of Search and Discovery, the online scientific journal of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and edited the Search and Discovery Digest from 2010 through 2018. In retirement I am currently serving as Associate Editor of the Mountain Geologist, the quarterly peer-reviewed geological journay of the Rocky Mountain Association of 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 and Shales. 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. During retirement I have again taught the NMT subsurface and petroleum geology course during the spring semesters of 2021, 2022 and 2023 and am scheduled to teach it during the spring semester of 2024.

(See Curriculum Vitae)


Employment History

  • 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-March 2020

  • Emeritus Principal Petroleum Geologist, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, March 2020 - present. I am retired from New Mexico Tech. Since retirement I have been teaching the Subsurface and Petroleum Geology course at New Mexico Tech in the spring semesters which is the maximum I am allowed to work under state retirement guidelines.


  • 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 NM, 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. In the spring of 2021 I was interviewed on the topic of helium exploration by Maureen Stonehouse, a petroleum geologist from Calgary, Alberta. The podcast of the interview may be accessed at Stone's Notes podcast on helium. As an individual geologist and as Emeritus I assisted the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists organize the first-ever North Amrican Helium Conference which was held in Denver during March 2023.
  • 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.

Honors & Awards


New Mexico Tech

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
  • I have evaluated and assessed donations of land and mineral rights that have been given to New Mexico Tech by individuals who wish to contribute to Tech's well being.
  • In the 2018-2019 academic year I have been co-organizing the Bureau of Geology/Earth and Environmental Sciences Seminar Series along with Dr. Erica Emry, a postdoctoral appointment in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Departrment.

Socorro Community

Educational Activities

  • Earth Science 460, Subsurface and Petroleum Geology, I will be teaching this course out of retirement at New Mexico Tech during the spring semester of 2021.
  • Career Days at University of Cincinnati. As a geology alumnus of the University of Cincinnati I was invited to spend 2 days in April 2018 interacting with geology students along with other alumni from different eras.
  • 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 received 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. Out of retirement I returned to teach ERTH 460 during the spring semester of 2021. This time around it was a hybrid in-person and zoom course developed in the shadow of covid.
  • During the Fall of 2018, I organized and co-taught Geology 572-03, Petroleum Source Rock Geology.
  • During the Fall of 2019, I organized and co-taught Geology 572-05, Shales.