The purpose of the writer is to discuss briefly the salient geologic features relating to the occurrence of gas in the Big Horn Basin structural province. This area includes not only the topographic basin of Big Horn River in Wyoming but also a part of the Clark's Fork drainage basin on the north in Wyoming and Montana, all being structurally one geologic province sometimes referred to in this paper for convenience and brevity simply as the Big Horn Basin. The statements contained herein are based on the writer's knowledge of the various producing gas fields gained from field examinations and office studies during the past 17 years.
The accompanying index map (Fig. 1) outlines the area here described and shows also the location of the numerous gas fields together with their pipe-line outlets. Of these fields, n are in Wyoming; 1, the Dry Creek field, is in Montana.
Natural gas was first utilized in this area in 1909 when the towns of Basin and Greybull were connected to small local supplies long since depleted and not discussed here. Subsequently these towns were connected by pipe lines to larger fields which still produce. The first use of gas from fields here described was in 1911 when the town of Byron was connected with the Garland field. Subsequently, Lovell was added as a market, and Cowley was supplied from the adjacent Byron field.
In the decade 1921–1931 there was a rapid expansion in the development of gas markets so that at the
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Alberta is the only western Canadian province in which a production of natural gas and oil has been developed. Natural gas was discovered in 1885, and at present there are seven producing fields and 330 miles of main pipe lines.
Alberta is divided into eight structural provinces; four of these are gas-producing regions, one is prospective, and the others are of no interest as gas areas. The stratigraphic column has three persistent features, namely, the Palaeozoic limestone section, the profound unconformity superimposed on it, and the succeeding Mesozoic section of transgressive-regressive deposits.
The Turner Valley field is the only developed field producing from formations of Palaeozoic age, though there have been significant discoveries suggesting that other fields are present. A theory is advanced in this paper to explain a Palaeozoic origin for the heavy oil and bitumen in the basal sandstones of the Mesozoic. The gas accumulations in the basal sands were later derived from the bitumen and heavy oil. The reserves of gas in Palaeozoic rocks and the basal sands of Mesozoic age are large.
During Mesozoic time there were at least five marine transgressions of the seas, and there is a marked relation between the marine shales and the gas-bearing horizons in rocks of Mesozoic age. Gas is generally found in the sandstones immediately overlying, within, or immediately underlying the marine shales.
Gas is found in rocks of Jurassic age in the Southern Plains and the Southern Foothills. The reserves are estimated to be about 80 billion cubic feet. Only small amounts of gas are now produced from Jurassic horizons. Gas is found in marine formations of Comanche age in northern Alberta, but there are no developed fields, and the reserves are unknown. There are three gas-bearing horizons in the Colorado (Gulf series), with several fields, including the Foremost, Viking, and Medicine Hat fields. The possible reserves are large and are probably in excess of 600 billion cubic feet. The Lower Montana and Upper Montana rocks (Gulf series) produce gas over large areas, but the yields are small and the horizons are of minor importance. There are no marine rocks of post-Mesozoic age, and the only gas occurrences are small flows from lacustrine deposits.
The analyses of natural gases in Alberta when arranged according to geologic horizons and localities appear to show an increase in the proportion of higher hydrocarbons to methane in a westerly direction for a given gas-bearing horizon. This may be due to the effect on the source material of increasing metamorphism westward.