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Pre-Convention Field Trip

Pre-Conference Field Trip

Unconventional Reservoirs and Stratigraphy of the Southern Denver Basin: Graneros, Greenhorn, Carlile and Niobrara Formations

Sponsored by the PTTC


Date Saturday, 23 August – Sunday, 24 August
Times 8:00 AM–4:00 PM
Leaders Jeffrey A. May (Geologic Consultant, Littleton, Colorado) and Tofer Lewis (Enerplus, Denver, Colorado)
Fee $525/person
Includes Guidebook, transportation, lunch, refreshments and one overnight accommodation in Pueblo, Colorado
Location Departs and returns to the Colorado Convention Center
Limit 27 people


West of Pueblo, Colorado, the Arkansas River has cut across the broad Rock Canyon Anticline, revealing approximately 4,000 feet of Middle to Upper Cretaceous strata. Excellent exposures, as well as abundant macro- and micro-fossils plus bentonites, make this a classic area for defining the physical, bio- and chrono-stratigraphy of the Cenomanian to Campanian stages (99.6 to 77.6 Ma). Both small-scale depositional cycles as well as high-energy event beds are superimposed on large-scale, transgressive-regressive successions. Of special note are exceptional mudrock and tight sandstone outcrops of the Graneros, Greenhorn, Carlile and Niobrara formations, currently of great interest for oil and gas exploration and the focus of this field trip. G.K. Gilbert first described much of this section in the late 1800s. He observed rhythmic alternations of argillaceous shale, calcareous shale and limestone in the Greenhorn and Niobrara sections, postulating that intermittent transport of terrestrial clay into the ocean diluted biogenic carbonate sedimentation. Gilbert believed these patterns likely reflected periodic variations in the Earth’s orbit, now known as Milankovitch cycles.

We will examine outcrops illustrating the detailed structural, stratigraphic and sedimentological variability within the contact between the Greenhorn and Niobrara Cycles. This contact has long been recognized as a significant regional unconformity throughout the Cretaceous Western Interior. Exposures in the southern Denver Basin preserve distinct facies and surfaces within the Codell Sandstone and Juana Lopez members of the upper Carlile Shale and the basal Fort Hays Limestone Member of the Niobrara that otherwise are not observed through the central and northern portions of the basin.

During our trip we will view another significant feature: the Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) for the Cenomanian- Turonian boundary. This horizon occurs within the Bridge Creek Limestone Member of the Greenhorn Formation. The Cenomanian- Turonian GSSP is defined here by widespread bentonites with radiometric ages of 93 to 93.5 Ma and a positive excursion in C-13 isotopes corresponding to a global oceanic anoxic event (OAE II).

This field excursion ultimately provides an opportunity to examine geologically significant and well-exposed reservoir intervals, source-rocks and stratigraphy of the Graneros, Greenhorn, Carlile and Niobrara formations. We will compare and contrast depositional and erosional events in argillaceous, siliceous and calcareous successions. Finally we will relate parameters important when evaluating unconventional plays — such as lithology, organic-carbon content, chronostratigraphic framework and mechanical stratigraphy — to the underlying controls of sea-level change, orbital and climatic cycles and oceanic oxygenation and circulation.

Post-Convention Field Trips

Post-Conference Field Trip

Unconventional Petroleum Systems: A Geologic Transect Across Colorado, USA

Sponsored by the PTTC


Date Thursday, 28 August–Saturday, 30 August
Times 8:00 AM–5:00 PM
Leaders Stephen A. Sonnenberg, Jeremy Boak, Larry Meckel (Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado)
Fee $750/person
Includes Guidebook, transportation, lodging, breakfasts and lunch
Location Departs and returns at the Table Mountain Inn, Golden Colorado. This trip will start in the Denver Basin and end in the Piceance Basin of Colorado. The geology of northern Colorado will be discussed along the field trip route.
Limit 40 people


Unconventional petroleum systems are becoming much more important world wide in oil and gas exploration and development. These reservoirs are low porosity and permeability, but contain enormous amounts of resources. Unconventional reservoirs include the following: tight oil and gas, CBM (coal bed methane), gas shales and heavy oil or bituminous sands. This field trip is designed to examine several of these unconventional systems in the outcrop.

This three-day field trip will examine examples of tight-oil reservoirs (Cretaceous Niobrara Formation, Codell member of Carlile Formation from the Denver and North Park basins), tight-gas reservoirs (Cretaceous J Sandstone, Codell, and Williams Fork Sandstone, from both the Denver and Piceance basins), CBM reservoirs (Cretaceous Cameo Coals from the Piceance Basin), potential oil shale resources (Green River Formation of the Piceance Basin).

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Field Trip Notes

  • Field trips are limited in size and are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis and registration must be accompanied by full payment.
  • If you do not plan on attending the conference, a $30 enrollment fee will be added to the field trip fee. This fee may be applied toward registration if you decide to attend the conference at a later date.
  •  A wait list is created if a field trip sells out. We will notify you if space becomes available.
  • Before purchasing non-refundable airline tickets, confirm that the trip will take place, as trips may be cancelled if undersubscribed.
  • To help us better anticipate the number of attendees and avoid premature cancellation of field trips, please register well before 14 July 2014. Field trip cancellations due to low enrollment will be considered at this time. No refunds will be allowed on field trips after this date.
  • Prior to the field trip you will receive an itinerary with details of meeting points, transportation with the trip, phone numbers and email addresses of hotels and trip leaders, etc.
  • Neither URTeC, the sponsoring organizations nor field trip leaders and their employers maintain insurance covering illness or injury for individuals.
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