Recent drilling for coalbed gas in the Upper Cretaceous Ferron Sandstone Member of central Utah has resulted in one of the most successful plays of this kind. Exploration to date has resulted in three fields and a potential fairway 6-10 mi (10-16 km) wide and 20-60 mi (32-96 km) long, corresponding to shallow coal occurrence at depths of about 1800-3500 ft (545-1060 m) in the Ferron, a sequence of interbedded fluvial-deltaic sandstone, shale, and coal in the lower part of the Cretaceous Mancos Shale. Coalbed methane (CBM) reservoirs in this interval consist of thin to moderately thick (3-10 ft [1-3 m]) coal beds of relatively low rank (high-volatile B bituminous) and variable gas content, ranging from 100 scf/ton or less in the south to as high as 500-600 scf/ton in the north. Productive wells have averaged more than 500 mcf/day and, after several years, continue to typically show negative production declines. In the major productive area, Drunkards Wash unit, the first 33 producers averaged 974 mcf and 85 bbl of water per day after five years of continuous production. Estimated ultimate recoverable reserves for individual wells in this unit range from 1.5 to 4 bcf.
Based on several criteria, including gas content, thermal maturity, and chronostratigraphy, the play is divided into northern and southern parts. The northern part is characterized by coals that have the following characteristics: (1) high gas contents; (2) moderate thermal maturity (e.g., vitrinite reflectance [Ro] values of 0.6-0.8%); (3) good permeabilities (5-20 md); (4) lack of exposure; and (5) overpressuring, due to artesian conditions. Southern coals have much lower average gas contents (<100 scf/ton) and lower thermal maturity (Ro = 0.4-0.6%), and they are exposed along an extensive, 35 mi (56 km) outcrop belt that may have allowed a degree of flushing. These coals, however, are also thicker and more extensive than those to the north and thus may retain significant potential. Northern coals appear to contain a mixture of gas from three sources: in-situ thermogenic methane, migrated thermogenic methane from more mature sources, and late-stage biogenic gas. Current development is focused on the northern part of the stated fairway, where well control and an existing infrastructure are present. Indications are that CBM exploration in the Ferron will expand considerably in the near future.