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The Rio Grande Rift - A New Oil and Gas Province in New Mexico

Black, Bruce A.1 and Bill Dirks2
1Black Oil, Farmington, NM
2Tecton Energy, LLC, Houston, TX

      In 1985, the first oil production from the Rio Grande Rift was marketed from the Santa Fe Embayment of the Rio Grande Rift in north central New Mexico. It would be 22 years before this non - economic discovery (at $8.00 a barrel) would eventually prove to be an economic success. The story leading to this first producing well, and its eventual re-completion and payoff is a story more than three and a half decades in the making.
     USGS Bulletin 2184, published in 2001, supports the theory that the Albuquerque Basin also contains a large basin-centered gas deposit in the rift. In 2005-06 Tecton Energy, LLC, working with Black Oil invested $7MM to prove this concept and extend the potential limits of the deposit northward into the Santa Fe Embayment. The commercially successful Tecton Black - Ferrill #1, and subsequent activities, has opened a new oil and gas province in the Rio Grande Rift. The recent activities suggest a multi-TCF and multi-hundred million-barrel oil accumulation potential within the downthrown areas of the rift.
     Several sub-basins in the rift have abundant source rock, a favorable history of maturity and extensive reservoir systems. Structural complexities, including Laramide thrusting, and complex stratigraphy will account for a portion of the trapped oil and gas. Post-Oligocene subsidence has been the most important factor allowing coeval maturation of the Cretaceous source and a dramatic reduction in permeability of Tertiary and Cretaceous sandstones. This has effectively created a barrier for rapidly expelling hydrocarbons.
     This discovery is a prime example of frontier exploration. It is a lesson in cooperation between different disciplines, and the foresight and courage of investors who can look beyond the obstacles we increasingly face today in frontier exploration. Perhaps, most importantly, it is a lesson in both mental and monetary persistence.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90071 © 2007 AAPG Rocky Mountain Meeting, Snowbird, Utah