Lower Cretaceous organic-rich source rocks that are thermally mature to postmature crop out on the Absaroka, Darby, and Prospect plates in linear belts that run parallel to the trace of the thrusts in the Idaho-Wyoming portion of the Idaho-Wyoming-Utah thrust belt. Although the common assumption is that burial by thrust plates and the synorogenic sediments derived from them have been responsible for thermal maturation of the organicrich strata, commercial amounts of hydrocarbons have not been found in structural traps in this portion of the thrust belt.
In a companion paper, Burtner and Nigrini demonstrated that gravity-driven fluid flow in the Idaho-Wyoming portion of the thrust belt was responsible for moving large amounts of heat from the depths of the Early Cretaceous foreland basin eastward toward the stable platform. In this paper we demonstrate, through the application of organic maturation indicators and a new refinement of the apatite fission track technique, that this process heated Lower Cretaceous organicrich source rocks to temperatures sufficient to generate hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbon generation and migration occurred prior to the development of the thrusts that are often assumed to have played a major role in the generation and entrapment of hydrocarbons in this portion of the thrust belt.