2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 11-6
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM


SOEDER, Daniel J., U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory, 3610 Collins Ferry Road, Morgantown, WV 25607, daniel.soeder@netl.doe.gov

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) of the U.S. Department of Energy has been participating in a cooperative education program with the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Sinte Gleska University to assess the hydrocarbon potential of the Niobrara Formation on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. The intent was to engage tribal college students in the oil and gas resource evaluation process, which could perhaps lead to interest and future careers in energy exploration and production. The project was funded by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES), with in-kind contributions from NETL that included gas shale expertise, geological characterization, and geochemical analyses. The tribal government desired an objective, practical assessment of the resource from the college. Potential development could lead to more jobs, economic opportunities, and affordable energy on the reservation.

The Niobrara is a significant play in Colorado and Wyoming, but is not produced commercially in South Dakota. Project objectives were to characterize the stratigraphy, composition, depositional environments, reservoir properties, regional trends, structural features, and potentially-productive areas of the formation on the reservation. Several professors and research scientists provided guidance to undergraduate STEM students, graduate geology students, and post-graduate interns. Niobrara drill cores were sampled at the USGS core library, and the state geological survey provided access to new core from the Niobrara Formation south of Presho, SD. Although relatively shallow under the reservation, the Niobrara may contain as much as 6% organic matter with a thermal maturity in the biogenic gas window. Any energy development on tribal land would require environmental monitoring, which has also engaged students. The Niobrara at Rosebud is not anticipated to produce large amounts of gas that would justify a pipeline connection. The gas will have to be used locally, prompting additional research on utilization technology. The relatively inexpensive drilling costs may provide the tribe with a secure and economical energy supply, suggesting an approach for stranded gas development that could be applied elsewhere.

  • 201511 Soeder Niobrara tribal.pdf (3.6 MB)