Bureau of Economic Geology

Gulf Coast Carbon Center

Wolfcamp Formation, Permian Basin

General Setting

The Wolfcampian Series is the lowermost series in the Permian Basin of West Texas and is correlated throughout the Delaware and Midland Basins as well as the Central Basin Platform and Northwest Shelf. The first notes on the Wolfcamp were published by Udden (1917) which described a series of outcrops in the Wolf Camp Hills: The outcrops were mostly black, gray, to greenish-gray shale (92%) interbedded with limestone (6%) with some layers of calcareous sandstone (2%). The Wolfcampian Series is divided into two formations separated by a major unconformity (Ross, 1963): the lower Neal Ranch Formation and the upper Lenox Hills Formation which are both named “Wolfcamp Formation” in Udden (1917) and King (1931), respectively. The series was deposited near-shore on the northern flanks of the Marathon orogenic belt, with many resulting unconformities (Ross, 1963). Oil reservoirs are in platform carbonates, which account for significant production in the Permian Basin. The USGS estimates the Wolfcamp to be one of the largest hydrocarbon plays in the U.S. (Gaswirth et al., 2017). The Wolfcamp shale is dividied into four sections: A, B, C, and D, each with varying lithologies, porosities, organic content, etc. The A and B benches are the most drilled. The overall structure and thickness are controlled by basement tectonics (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2018). Mazzulo and Reid (1989) and Candelaria et al. (1992) detail depositional and diagenetic controls of reservoir development which gives clues to trapping mechanisms relevant to carbon dioxide storage. 



Candelaria, M. P., Sarg, J. F., and Wilde, G. L. 1992. Wolfcamp sequence stratigraphy of the eastern Central Basin Platform, in Mruk, D. H., and Curran, C., eds., Permian Basin exploration and production strategies: application of sequence stratigraphic and reservoir characterization concepts: West Texas Geological Society Publication 92-91, p. 27–44.

Gaswirth, S.B. 2017.  Assessment of continuous oil resources in the Wolfcampshale of the Midland Basin,  Permian Basin Province, Texas, 2016: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017–1013, 14 p. doi: 10.3133/ofr20171013.

Mazzullo, S. J., and Reid, A. M. 1989. Lower Permian platform and basin depositional systems, northern Midland Basin, Texas, in Crevello, P. D., Wilson, J. L., Sarg, J. F., and Read, J. F., eds., Controls, on carbonate platform and basin development: SEPM Special Publication 44, p. 305–320.

Ross, C.A. 1959. The Wolfcamp Series (Permian) and new species of fusulinids, Glass Mountains, Texas: Washington Academy of Sciences Journal, v. 49, no. 9, p. 299-316.

Ross, C.A. 1963. Standard Wolfcampian Series (Permian), Glass Mountains, Texas. Geological Society of America, Vol. 88. doi: 10.1130/MEM88.

Udden, J.A. 1917. Notes on the geology of the Glass Mountains: University of Texas Bulletin, no. 1753, p. 1-59. doi: 2152/24611.

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 2018. Permian Basin, Wolfcamp Shale Play, Geology Review. U.S. Energy Information Administration: Washington, DC, USA.


Prepared by Emily Moskal, 2020.

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