GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 141-7
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


OLDAKER, Paul, Consulting, Hydrogeologist, P.O. Box 27090, Federal Way, WA 98093,

The Hopi Indians mined coal near Awatovi, Arizona around 1000 to 1200 AD. In 1859 the Macomb expedition with geologist Mr. John Strong Newberry reported on the bituminous nature of rocks in the area. Conventional oil exploration in the basin started in the 1880’s with the arrival of railroads to the region.

In 1924 the Tendick Coal Mine blew as an out of control gas well for a week near Bayfield, Colorado. In 1932 and 1933 an outcrop coal fire intersected a gas seep causing explosions and landslides for nine months initially and mass wasting continues to the present time on Moving Mountain near Durango, Colorado.

In the 1950’s the Phillips 6-17 well was completed to test sandstone units in the coal rich Fruitland Formation. The gas production increased over time instead of declining, sparking interest and research.

In 1976 the Amoco Cahn #1 was completed in the coals of the Fruitland Formation and also showed an increasing gas production trend. Interest in coal bed methane sparked drilling of coal seams worldwide. Over 7,700 CBM wells have been drilled, completed and stimulated in the Fruitland Formation with very few failures. At the same time multiple coal mines in the basin were planned in response to the OPEC embargo so almost the entire outcrop was drilled and monitor wells installed for mine permit studies.

In 1992 Amoco began nitrogen injection into coal seams on Florida Mesa near Durango in an effort to accelerate gas production. The pilot was followed by a small scale test near Tiffany and a carbon dioxide injection pilot in New Mexico. Production was substantially increased in all cases, but not enough to justify widespread usage of the method. The first monitor wells of a CBM activity were installed since the projects had to meet UIC regulations.

The CBM production was accompanied by relatively large production of formation water. Water disposal and possible impacts on domestic wells resulted in well monitoring regulations. Studies and monitoring of gas seepage from the Fruitland Formation outcrop began in 1993 with the discovery of the Pine River Gas Seeps. All these monitoring regulations and outcrop studies continue to the present day and have been models for similar regulations elsewhere.

Beginning in 2014 Bp has begun drilling and completing horizontal CBM wells near Tiffany. Results are still being evaluated.