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Improving Production in the Emerging Paradox Oil Play
Project Number
Last Reviewed Dated

The primary objective of this project is to assess and evaluate optimum strategies to drill economic wells in the structurally complex — but highly prospective — emerging unconventional Paradox oil play, in particular the Pennsylvanian Paradox Formation’s Cane Creek shale and adjacent clastic zones. A key component of this project is to fully characterize, quantify and interpret the geological, structural and geomechanical settings of the Paradox oil play to elucidate the relative factors that promote effective production. This strategy will include detailed facies analysis of core material, core-to-log petrophysical integration, advanced fracture analysis, innovative 3D seismic interpretation, and detailed basin modeling. The results of these analyses will inform a Development Strategy Plan that will include tailored drilling designs and/or stimulation strategies that will lead to maximized production from this play and other similar resources. In addition, the new strategic drilling and/or tactical stimulation approach(es) will be tested in at least one horizontal well in the Paradox Basin as part of this project. 


University of Utah — Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Utah Geologic Survey — Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Brigham Young University — Provo, UT 84602
Rose Petroleum — Green River, UT 84525
Handwerger Petrophysics — Salt Lake City, UT 84112


Whidden et al. (2012) determined mean total undiscovered oil resources within the Cane Creek interval in the Paradox Basin at 215 million barrels and there is significant up-side potential in other unassessed adjacent clastic zones in this emerging play. To date, only 4% (8.9 million barrels) of the total Cane Creek resource has been produced from 37 wells, 26 of which are still active producers (including 21 horizontal wells). More than 96% of this historic production is from the central Cane Creek Unit (CCU). This project will use the knowledge gained from successful (and unsuccessful) drilling in the CCU to determine strategies to unlock production in areas to the north, Gunnison Valley Unit (GVU), and south, Par 5 Unit (P5U), making the Cane Creek a truly regional resource play. Moreover, this proposed project will leverage and extend the knowledge gained from recently completed DOE project Liquid-Rich Shale Potential of Utah’s Uinta and Paradox Basins: Reservoir Characterization and Development Optimization (DE-FE0010667; Vanden Berg et al., 2017).


This project will result in the full characterization, quantification, and interpretation of the geological, structural, and geomechanical settings of the northern Paradox oil play to elucidate the relative factors that promote effective production. To date, the GVU, CCU, and P5U have mostly been developed and managed by different companies in relative isolation from one another. This project aims to draw correlations between these related units through an industry cooperative arrangement. Within the larger regional context, additional insight can be gained resulting in improved production and management practices basin wide. This approach will allow for otherwise anecdotal experiences within the fields to be considered within the larger regional framework.


Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  • The project was initiated in October 2019.
Current Status

This project was awarded on October 1, 2019. Budget Period 1 will focus on the comprehensive characterization of the Paradox oil play using legacy data as well as data and samples collected in a characterization well drilled in the first year of the project. 

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Stephen Henry (Stephen.Henry@NETL.DOE.GOV or 304-285-2083)
University of Utah – Brian McPherson ( or 801-581-5634)