New Mexico Oil & Gas Production
By Ron Broadhead
New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources
a Division of New Mexico Tech
Socorro, NM 87801
This slide set accompanied a presentation given to the
House Energy and Natural Resources Committee
(Rep. Brian Egolf, Chairman) of the New Mexico
State Legislature on February 3, 2012 by Ron Broadhead,
Principal Senior Petroleum Geologist at the New Mexico
Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources
(a Division of New Mexico Tech).
The slide set is identical to that given to the Legislative
Committee except that slides have been given brief figure
captions to place them in the context of the presentation
and slide source material has been cited and referenced.
New Mexico Oil & Gas Production
Approximately 2/3 of natural gas production has been obtained from conventional and tight
sandstone reservoirs in the San Juan Basin (green) and the Permian Basin (red). The
reservoirs in the gas wells that provide this production have almost all been fracked in order
to yield economic levels of production. Natural gas obtained from coal beds in the
San Juan Basin accounts for about 1/3 of state gas production and is in current decline.
Natural gas has been produced from coal beds in the Raton Basin for the last 10 years
and accounts for about 2% of state production. Graph from Broadhead and Price (2012).
New Mexico has obtained oil and natural gas
production from 3 basins: the Permian Basin,
the San Juan Basin, and the Raton Basin.
the Tucumcari Basin is an emerging frontier
basin in which discoveries of natural gas have
been made in the last few years.
New Mexico oil production reached its peak in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and
has since been in decline. The noticeable increase in production over the last 2 years
Is due to drilling and completion of horizontal wells with the new multistage fracking
techniques in low permeability formations of the Permian Basin.
San Juan Basin
As this cross section shows, strata in the San Juan Basin dip gently down into the basin from the south
and more steeply from the north. Natural gas and oil production has been traditionally obtained from
the strata shown in blue, which are mostly tight gas sands (except for the coals of the Fruitland Formation).
Minor shale gas has been produced from the Lewis Shale from vertical wells that have been productive from
deeper, conventional reservoir – these do not represent a full test of Lewis shale gas potential as horizontal
wells with multistage fracks are needed for that. The deeper Mancos Shale, having been buried deeper and
thus more thermally mature may be a more attractive shale gas target, as well as a target for unconventional
Oil in some areas. Cross section modified from Stone and others (1983) to indicate strata productive of
natural gas and oil.
San Juan Basin
Basin flank
oil potential
On the basin flanks the Mancos Shale
is within the oil window and is
currently a target for unconventional
oil exploration. The Lewis Shale is
thermally immature and within the
biogenic gas window in these areas.
Deep basin
gas potential
Within the deepest parts of the San Juan
Basin as reflected by the thermal maturation
profile of this well, the Mancos Shale has
been thoroughly “cooked” within the
basin’s “hydrocarbon kitchen” and is
within the thermogenic gas window –
shale gas potential is optimal. It is
only within the deepest parts of the basin
where the Lewis Shale is within the gas
Permian Basin
Brown = strata with
most shale gas potential
Green = strata with most
ongoing unconventional
oil drilling
The Permian Basin contains several attractive
targets for shale gas, including the Devonian
Woodford Shale, the Mississippian Barnett Shale,
and the Permian Wolfcamp shale. Low permeability
siltstone reservoirs in the Bone Spring Formation
are currently active targets for unconventional oil by drilling
horizontal wells stimulated with multistage frack jobs and
significant oil production has resulted. Other
low-permeability reservoirs that have added significant
oil production through application of horizontal drilling and
multi-stage frack jobs in the past 2 to 3 years include the
Yeso and Abo Formations on the Northwest Shelf and the
Brushy Canyon sandstones in the deep Delaware Basin.
Depth to Barnett Shale
Barnett Shale
Permian Basin
The Barnett Shale is an example of
a target for shale gas in the deep basin
where in places it is present at depths
exceeding 15,000 ft. Geological characterization
helps define a northwest-trending shale gas
exploration fairway. Outside of this fairway
potential may include unconventional oil.
Maps from Broadhead and Gillard (2007)
and Broadhead (2009).
Barnett gas
exploration fairway
Bone Spring Formation
Permian Basin
The Avalon shale of the Bone Spring Formation contains substantial resources of
unconventional oil. In the last two years, it has seen extensive exploration and
drilling activity – oil can be produced from this reservoir through the application of
horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracking. Before development of these new technologies
10 years ago, the unconventional oil resource in the Bone Spring could not have been
produced and Bone Spring production was limited to a relatively few smaller conventional
reservoirs (shown in gray).
Raton Basin
Since 2000 the New Mexico part of the Raton Basin has been productive of natural gas reservoired
in shallow ( < 2700 ft deep) coal beds of the Raton and Vermejo Formations. In the 1970’s, a single well
produced shale gas from the Pierre and Niobrara Shales and supplied the gas needs of Vermejo Ranch.
Recently 4 vertical wells have been drilled to evaluate shale gas potential of the Pierre and Niobrara Shales
and have produced small volumes of gas. Because these wells wee drilled vertically and not horizontally
through the shales, they may not represent a full evaluation of shale gas potential at the places they have
been drilled. Map modified from Broadhead (2008).
This west-to-east cross section through the Raton Basin shows the structure of the strata within the
Basin. It has been stretched vertically to allow for easier inspection. Natural gas has been produced
from coals in the Vermejo and Raton Formations. Primary shale gas potential is within the deeper
parts of the basin in the Pierre and Niobrara Shales where they have been “cooked” into the gas
window. On the shallow flanks of the basin, these shales are within the oil and biogenic gas windows
and shale-gas potential is lower. Cross section modified from Broadhead (2010).
Raton Basin
Tucumcari Basin – an emerging gas basin
The Tucumcari Basin of east-central New Mexico
is an emerging gas basin following recent discoveries of
natural gas. Gas liquids as well as oil might also be
present in parts of the basin.
Reservoirs are Pennsylvanian (Strawn and
Canyon) sandstones interbedded with
organic-rich shales in in deeply buried
elevator basins. In these basins, the shales have
been cooked and have generated gas.
Reservoirs are sandstones of limited permeability
that will need to be fracked. Horizontal drilling
combined with fracking may be required for
optimal recovery in some places. Cross section
and map from Broadhead (2001).
References cited for figures in slide set
Broadhead, R.F., 2001, New Mexico elevator basins -1: Petroleum systems studied in southern
Ancestral Rocky Mountains: Oil and Gas Journal, v. 99, no. 2, p. 32-38.
Broadhead, R.F., and Gillard, L., 2007, The Barnett Shale in southeastern New Mexico:
Distribution, thickness, and source rock characterization: New Mexico Bureau of Geology
and Mineral Resources, Open-file report 502, 56 p. plus plates.
Broadhead, R.F., 2008, The natural gas potential of north-central New Mexico: Colfax, Mora
and Taos Counties: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Open-file
report 510, 145 p. plus plates.
Broadhead, R.F., 2009, Mississippian strata of southeastern New Mexico: Distribution,
structure, and hydrocarbon plays: New Mexico Geology, v. 31, no. 3, p. 65-76.
Broadhead, R.F., 2010, Oil and natural gas potential of the pre-Cretaceous section, Raton
Basin, New Mexico: American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Search and Discovery,
Article No. 10260, 24 p.
Broadhead, R.F., and Price, L.G., 2012, New Mexico’s natural gas resources: New Mexico Bureau
of Geology and Mineral Resources, Earth Matters, Winter 2012.
Stone, W.J., Lyford, F.P., Frenzel, P.F., Mizell, N.H., and Padgett, E.T., 1983, Hydrogeology and
water resources of San Juan Basin, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral
Resources, Hydrologic Report 6, 70 p. plus plates.

Permian Basin - New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources