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Potash well database and thickness maps for the Paradox Basin, Utah; guides to exploration and management of vast Pennsylvanian-aged potash resources

Terry Massoth, Bryce Tripp, and David Tabet

The Paradox Formation of the Pennsylvanian Hermosa Group contains vast amounts of halite with some interbedded potash zones in the Paradox Basin, Utah and Colorado. These cyclic evaporite deposits were first discovered in about the early 1920s, and have been the subject of periodic exploration since then, with production limited to Intrepid Potash's Cane Creek mine near Moab, Utah. Sharply higher potash prices in recent years have created a potash exploration boom worldwide. While the U.S Geological Survey has crudely estimated that the Paradox Basin contains about 2 billion tons of potash resource, the location and depth of such deposits is poorly defined, which has hampered exploration efforts. The Utah Geological Survey has funded research in the past few years to develop a basin-wide, well-data spreadsheet of the 29 salt cycle tops and bases from numerous petroleum and potash exploration holes within the Utah portion of the basin. Building upon that database, key potash beds of salt cycles 5, 6, 9, 13, 16 and 19, or those generally shallower than 10,000 feet deep, were mapped for thickness, structure, and overburden. This work now identifies areas with the thickest, and potentially richest, potash deposits to help guide future exploration and land management actions.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90156©2012 AAPG Rocky Mountain Section Meeting, Grand Junction, Colorado, 9-12 September 2012