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Abstract: Exploring for Hydrocarbons in Geothermally and Hydrothermally Complex Areas--A Southern Nevada Example

Anita G. Harris, John E. Repetski, John A. Grow

Time-based isograd maps using conodont color alteration indices (CAI) have been compiled and interpreted for a large area in southern Nevada that includes Yucca Mountain, the Nevada Test Site, and the Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range. These maps were produced to evaluate the controversy about possible important mineral and (or) energy resources near Yucca Mountain, the potential burial site for high-level nuclear waste. The hydrocarbon potential of the Yucca Mountain area has be en likened to that of the Railroad and Pine Valley areas, 200 km to the northeast where 35 million barrels of oil have been produced from Paleozoic and lower Tertiary strata. In 1991, two companies with no previous drilling experience in Nevada drilled three oil exploration wells within 20 km of Yucca Mountain and within or close to the Timber Mountain caldera system. No shows o oil or gas were found in these wells. The deepest well was drilled to 5,000 feet and penetrated 2,200 feet of upper Tertiary valley-fill deposits and volcanic rocks overlying an overturned sequence of Upper Cambrian and Lower Ordovician rocks having conodonts with CAI values of 5. Our new conodont sampling, however, has targeted so me thermally favorable areas for hydrocarbons east of Yucca Mountain, but their maturation history suggests that the potential for oil is substantially lower than in the Railroad and Pine Valley areas. Cambrian through Triassic rocks in the vicinity of Yucca Mountain have experienced temperatures too high for oil to be preserved, except for a narrow zone (20 × 100 km) northeast of Yucca Mountain, where Mississippian through Triassic rocks are just within the upper limit of the oil generating window. Most of this zone, however, lies on Federal lands that are, for now, inaccessible for a variety of security and environmental reasons.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90959©1995 AAPG Rocky Mountain Section Meeting, Reno, Nevada