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Early Historical Timeline for Rocky Mountain Energy Including Coal, Oil, and Gas Seeps, Shallow Shows, and Discovery Wells

Oldaker, Paul 1
1 Consulting Hydrogeologist, Steamboat Springs, CO.

Coal was mined in pre-Columbian times by Indian tribes in what is now Arizona. Coal was documented in 1821 in the Raton Basin (Colorado and New Mexico). In 1858 the Marshall coal mine opened on South Boulder Creek in the Denver Basin. Methane from the coals was noted in the early coal mines across the region. The first documented gas seeps or shallow shows associated with coal were in 1886 at Coal Basin (Pitkin county) and near Louisville, Boulder county. Gas seeps or shallow gas shows associated with coal have been noted for most of the hydrocarbon basins in the Rocky Mountain region.

Samples of oil sands were documented in western Canada in the early 1700’s. Oil seeps were documented in Wyoming as early as 1824 in the Popo Agie River. The Canon City, Colorado oil seeps were documented in 1860 and possibly as early as 1843. Shallow wells were installed in 1862 only three years after the Drake well in Pennsylvania. Oil or asphalt seeps and associated natural gas have been noted for most of the hydrocarbon basins in the region.

The first drilling boom was the discovery of the Florence oil field (Fremont county, Colorado) in 1881 to the southeast of the Canon City oil seeps. After the Spindletop, Texas oil discovery in 1901 was made on gas seepage, drilling booms on gas seepage occurred near Boulder, DeBeque, Pagosa Springs, Rangely, and Steamboat Springs. Large oil and gas discoveries were made in most of the region in the 1920’s such as Wellington and Moffat Dome in Colorado.

Oil shale in Colorado and Utah puzzled early geologists, but was used as early as 1858 in Utah. Oil shale development accelerated in the 1920's, but little production was realized.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009