Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 4:25 PM


HOOKS, Christopher H., Geological Survey of Alabama, Energy Investigations, P.O. Box 869999, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-6999, HILLS, Denise J., Energy Investigations, Geological Survey of Alabama, P.O. Box 869999, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-6999 and MCINTYRE-REDDEN, Marcella R., Energy Investigations Program, Geological Survey of Alabama, P.O. Box 869999, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-6999,

The hydrocarbon resource potential of the Mississippian-age Hartselle Sandstone in northwestern Alabama has long been known. The most recent publically available systematic study on the resource, Gary Wilson’s Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA) Bulletin 111 (B 111), was completed in 1987. Wilson estimated that Alabama’s surface and subsurface oil sands deposit contains up to 7.5 billion barrels of hydrocarbon, with approximately 350 million barrels within 50 feet of the surface. No commercial development of these resources for the purpose of extracting oil has occurred to date, owing to various economic and limiting technological factors. However, interest has recently increased, particularly in light of growing desire for North American energy independence. Alabama Governor Dr. Robert Bentley established the Alabama Oil Sands Program (AOSP) at the GSA and the State Oil and Gas Board (OGB) of Alabama in early 2014. The purpose of the AOSP is to:
  • Provide a plan that facilitates potential commercial development of Alabama’s oil sands resources;
  • Assist in the realization of likely economic and social benefits that accrue from orderly and environmentally sound development of Alabama’s oil sands;
  • Provide a focus for oil sands activities and initiatives in the state to conduct complete geological, geochemical, geophysical, and engineering analyses;
  • Evaluate and develop appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks.

Work within the AOSP has included a comprehensive review of existing data at the GSA and OGB, including data from wells, rock cores, and field notes. Fieldwork has commenced, building on previous work of B 111. In 2015, plans are for additional analysis of cores and subsequent chemical analyses of the rock and bitumen, with particular attention to data that would inform decisions about feasible economic development. Current reservoir models and reserve estimates will then be recalculated using up-to-date methodologies. Information is being sought concerning newer surface and in-situ extraction technologies that could be economically employed on small- to medium-sized deposits such as this. These facts will allow for a comprehensive assessment of the potential development of the Oil Sands of Alabama.