Shale Oil Potential

Liquid-Rich Shale Potential of Utah’s Uinta and Paradox Basins: Reservoir Characterization and Development Optimization

Funded by National Energy Technology Laboratory

Overall Goal
The overall goal of our study is to provide reservoir-specific geological and engineering analyses of the (1) emerging Green River Formation (GRF) tight oil plays (such as the Uteland Butte member, Black Shale facies, etc.) in the Uinta Basin and (2) the established, yet understudied Cane Creek shale (and possibly other shale units) of the Paradox Formation in the Paradox Basin.


  • Characterize geologic, geochemical, and petrophysical rock properties of target zones in the two designated basin areas by compiling various sources of data and by analyzing available cores, cuttings, and well logs.
  • Describe outcrop reservoir analogs of GRF plays and compare them to subsurface data (not applicable in the Paradox Basin since the Cane Creek shale is not exposed).
  • Map major regional trends for targeted liquid-rich intervals and identify “sweet spots” that have the greatest oil production potential.
  • Suggest techniques to reduce exploration costs and drilling risks, especially in environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Improve drilling and fracturing effectiveness by determining optimal well completion design.
  • Suggest techniques to reduce field development costs, maximize oil recovery, and increase reserves.

Part 1: Shale Oil Potential of the Green River Formation, Uinta Basin, Utah

The GRF in the Uinta Basin has been studied for over 50 years since the first hydrocarbon discoveries. However, those studies focused on the many conventional sandstone reservoirs currently producing oil and gas.

In contrast, very little information exists on the more unconventional crude oil production potential of thinner shale/carbonate units such as the Uteland Butte member, Black Shale facies, deep Mahogany zone, and other deep Parachute Creek member high-organic units.

Through this research, we hope to gain a better understanding of the geologic environment of these organic-rich units, identify reservoir “sweet spots”, and develop well completion strategies that maximize hydrocarbon production.

Part 2: Shale Oil Potential of the Cane Creek shale, Paradox Formation, Paradox Basin, Utah

The Cane Creek shale of the Paradox Basin has been a target for exploration on and off since the 1960s and produces oil from several small fields. The play generated much interest in the early 1990s with successful use of horizontal drilling.

Recently, the USGS assessed the undiscovered oil resource in the Cane Creek shale of the Paradox Basin at 103 million barrels at a 95% confidence level and 198 million barrels at a 50% confidence level. Nonetheless, limited research has been conducted or published to further define the play and the reservoir characteristics.

This research project hopes to generate more detailed geologic and geomechanical information that would help reduce drilling risk and possibly increase hydrocarbon production and reserves. In addition to the Cane Creek, several other organic-rich shales are present in the Paradox Formation, creating the potential for significant reserve base additions.