Central Utah-Nevada Deep PlaysCompleted


$57k (USD) per Sponsor



Principal Investigator(s):

Greg Nash
(801) 585-9986

Value to Sponsors

  • By providing insight into the hydrocarbon potential of both conventional and unconventional shale plays of the highly faulted Paleozoic section across Central Utah-Nevada, explorationists can more quickly focus on those areas of highest potential.
  • By characterizing known source rocks and correlating them to oils produced from the few existing fields and natural seeps, explorationists will have a better understanding of the Petroleum System(s) yet to be discovered within this complex tectonic regime.
  • Exploration risk and cost can be reduced by having a better understanding of the depositional facies of key shale intervals and their present day structural orientation.
  1. ArcGIS formatted databases, maps and full documentation
  2. A folio with integrated write-ups, figures, tables, maps, and cross sections in print and electronic formats
  3. Digitized and integrated available geologic data on the region
  4. Evaluation of the oil and gas plays through geochemical and geological investigations of samples from deep wells and outcrops, source rock maturity modeling, and oil-gas families
  5. Characterization of the structural setup, paleofacies distribution, play fairways, and fault-fracture styles of the region

The Central Utah-Nevada region covers a large part of the Great Basin bounded by the Rockies/Colorado Plateau on the east and the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the west. The region includes the Lower Paleozoic shelf of the North American continent which has been affected by a series of tectonic collisions (fold-and-thrust belts) from Late Paleozoic through Eocene times, and upon which the Neogene Basin-and-Range extensional basins were superimposed. The Paleozoic-Mesozoic plays of the region offer important frontier exploration targets both for conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources.

This proposed research project aims to pursue the following objectives:

  • Reviewing the current knowledge-base of the basin geology of the region. Hence the need to create a user-friendly digital platform for integrating geological, geochemical and geophysical data from scattered sources;
  • Characterizing the source rocks quantitatively through a combined use of samples from deep wells (including deep geothermal wells) and outcrops for geochemical and mineralogical analysis and constructing maturity models for various sites in the region;
  • Geochemical (biomarker) analysis of oil samples from various fields for oil-source correlation and identification of oil families;
  • Mapping the distribution of Paleozoic-Mesozoic sediments beneath the Great Basin from central Utah to central Nevada toward an improved paleofacies analysis;
  • Using data-rich areas for better constraining of data-poor areas, and constructing east- west regional transects and play fairway maps for better evaluation of frontier targets (both conventional unconventional;
  • Given the importance of several fractured reservoir horizons and natural fractures in shale plays, this study aims to construct new fault-fracture maps for the region and analyze these structures from the standpoint of basin evolution (kinematics) and lineament geometry.
  1. ArcGIS knowledge-base: Integrating geological, geochemical and geophysical data in a user- friendly digital platform
  2. Geochemical analysis and petrographic/mineralogical description of shale horizons from deep wells (including geothermal wells) drilled in the region as well as samples from outcrops to characterize the source rocks
  3. Geochemical analysis of oil samples from various fields or seep samples for oil-source correlations and identification of oil families
  4. Basin modeling (1D maturity modeling) for selected sites
  5. Mapping the Paleofacies distribution of Paleozoic-Mesozoic sediments beneath the Great Basin from central Utah to Nevada
  6. Constructing 3 E-W regional transects and depicting plausible plays
  7. Constructing regional play fairway maps
  8. Constructing a detailed faults-fractures map across the study region using satellite images and geological ground truth a view to understanding (a) the tectonic genesis, orientation and relative population of lineaments and fractures and (b) the basement-cover relationships
  9. A detailed bibliographic geoscience database for the region


There will be three meetings (kick-off meeting, a mid-term meeting and a final meeting) to preset and discuss the project results. These meetings will be held in locations in Utah or Nevada where we will also have field trips to outcrops of interest for the study.

Results are available to project sponsors upon completion of the report.