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Abstract

A synthesis of low-temperature thermochronologic results throughout the Laramide foreland illustrates that samples from wellbores in Laramide basins record either (1) detrital Laramide or older cooling ages in the upper ~1 km (0.62 mi) of the wellbore, with younger ages at greater depths as temperatures increase; or (2) Neogene cooling ages. Surface samples from Laramide ranges typically record either Laramide or older cooling ages. It is apparent that for any particular area the complexity of the cooling history, and hence the tectonic history interpreted from the cooling history, increases as the number of studies or the area covered by a study increases. Most Laramide ranges probably experienced a complex tectono-thermal evolution. Deriving a regional timing sequence for the evolution of the Laramide basins and ranges is still elusive, although a compilation of low-temperature thermochronology data from ranges in the Laramide foreland suggests a younging of the ranges to the south and southwest. Studies of subsurface samples from Laramide basins have, in some cases, been integrated with and used to constrain results from basin burial-history modeling. Current exploration for unconventional shale-oil or shale-gas plays in the Rocky Mountains has renewed interest in thermal and burial history modeling as an aid in evaluating thermal maturity and understanding petroleum systems.This paper suggests that low-temperature thermochronometers are underutilized tools that can provide additional constraints to burial-history modeling and source rock evaluation in the Rocky Mountain region.

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