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USGS Western Basins Geology and Resource Studies
Project Number

To assess the reservoir geology and the gas-in-place resource potential of the basins of northern Wyoming and southern Montana.


U.S. Geological Survey

Reston, Virginia 20192


The geology associated with tight gas formations is especially difficult and poorly understood. This is particularly true for the lenticular formations. Prior geological studies of these basins have tended to de-emphasize the lenticular formations because of their low economic performance. This joint DOE/USGS project focuses on geologic evaluation of the western tight gas sands, including studies and assessments of stratigraphy, sedimentology, mineralogy, seismology, petrography, and thermal maturation.


Assessment of the natural gas resource potential of the low permeability formations in the Rocky Mountain states has already had an impact in upgrading our knowledge of this important region of the U.S. An accurate assessment is a fundamental first step in reducing the risk for exploration in these tight formations. These particular studies in northern Wyoming and southern Montana (focused most recently on the Big Horn and Crazy Mountain Basins) complete the multi-year effort undertaken by the U.S. Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory to cooperatively fund with the U.S. Department of Interior/Geological Survey, a reassessment of the natural gas resource potential as a guide for further exploration and development and increasing the nation’s gas supply.

Location of the DOE Bighorn Basin Natural Gas Resource Study (Research by the U.S. Geological Survey)


Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

The geologic characterization and gas resource assessment for the following basins was completed: Piceance, Uinta, Greater Green River, and Wind River, Big Horn and Crazy Mountain. This information is being used by USGS as input to the National Oil and Gas Assessment (NOGA) Project. Based on published results to date, the NOGA findings indicate 183 Tcf of undiscovered gas in these western basins, of which 92 percent of the gas is from unconventional resources. Preliminary estimates of gas-in-place in the Big Horn Basin, not yet published as part of the NOGA effort, are 334 Tcf.

Current Status

The project has been completed, final reports received and there are no remaining tasks.  A CD containing the reports for the Crazy Mountain Basin is available through the NETL CD ordering system.

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

USGS - Ron Johnson (303-236-5546 or
NETL - William Gwilliam (304-285-4401 or

Additional Information

CD containing information from the Crazy Mountain Basin - NETL CD Ordering System 
Technical Report 1994