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Permian Basin (North America)

The Permian Basin is a large sedimentary basin in the southwestern part of the United States. The basin contains the Mid-Continent Oil Field province. This sedimentary basin is located in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. It reaches from just south of Lubbock, past Midland and Odessa, south nearly to the Rio Grande River in southern West Central Texas, and extending westward into the southeastern part of New Mexico. It is so named because it has one of the world's thickest deposits of rocks from the Permian geologic period. The greater Permian Basin comprises several component basins; of these, the Midland Basin is the largest, Delaware Basin is the second largest, and Marfa Basin is the smallest. The Permian Basin covers more than 86,000 square miles (220,000 km2),[1] and extends across an area approximately 250 miles (400 km) wide and 300 miles (480 km) long.[2]

Permian Basin
Map showing the location of Permian Basin
Map showing the location of Permian Basin
Permian Basin.jpg
The West Texas Permian Basin
Coordinates32°30′N 103°00′W / 32.500°N 103.000°W / 32.500; -103.000
LocationSoutheastern North America
Country United States
State(s)Texas & New Mexico
CitiesMidland, Odessa
BoundariesMatador Arch (N)
Ouachita–Marathon thrust belt (S)
Area>86,000 sq mi (220,000 km2)
River(s)Pecos River
Basin typeCratonic basin (Bally & Snelson)
Interior sag basin (Kingston et al.)
Intracontinental complex basin (Klemme)

The Permian Basin lends its name to a large oil and natural gas producing area, part of the Mid-Continent Oil Producing Area. Total production for that region up to the beginning of 1993 was over 14.9 billion barrels (2.37×109 m3). The cities of Midland, Texas, Odessa, Texas and San Angelo serve as the headquarters for oil production activities in the basin.

The Permian Basin is also a major source of potassium salts (potash), which are mined from bedded deposits of sylvite and langbeinite in the Salado Formation of Permian age. Sylvite was discovered in drill cores in 1925, and production began in 1931. The mines are located in Lea and Eddy counties, New Mexico, and are operated by the room and pillar method. Halite (rock salt) is produced as a byproduct of potash mining.[3][4][5][6]



Delaware BasinEdit

Figure 2
Figure 3: Capitan Reef Complex

The Delaware Basin is the larger of the two major lobes of the Permian Basin within the foreland of the Ouachita–Marathon thrust belt separated by the Central Basin Platform. The basin contains sediment dating to Pennsylvanian, Wolfcampian (Wolfcamp Formation), Leonardian (Avalon Shale), and early Guadalupian times. The eastward-dipping Delaware basin is subdivided into several formations (Figure 2) and contains approximately 25,000 feet (7,600 m) of laminated siltstone and sandstone. Aside from clastic sediment, the Delaware basin also contains carbonate deposits of the Delaware Group, originating from the Guadalupian times when the Hovey Channel allowed access from the sea into the basin.[5]

Midland BasinEdit

Figure 4
Figure 5: Midland Basin Stratigraphy

The westward-dipping Midland Basin is subdivided into several formations (Figure 4) and is composed of laminated siltstone and sandstone. The Midland Basin was filled via a large subaqeuous delta that deposited clastic sediment into the basin. Aside from clastic sediment, the Midland Basin also contains carbonate deposits originating from the Guadalupian times when the Hovey Channel allowed access from the sea into the basin.[5]

Central Basin PlatformEdit

Figure 6

The Central Basin Platform (CBP) is a tectonically uplifted basement block capped by a carbonate platform. The CBP separates the Delaware and Midland Basins and is subdivided into several formations, from oldest to youngest Wolfcamp, Abo, Drinkard, Tubb, Blinebry, Paddock, Glorietta, San Andres, Grayburg, Queen, Seven Rivers, Yates, and Tansill Formations (Figure 5). The sequence mainly comprises carbonate reef deposits and shallow marine clastic sediments.[5]

Eastern and Northwest ShelvesEdit

The Eastern and Northwestern Shelves are composed of shelf edge reefs and shelf carbonates flanking the Delaware and Midland Basins that grade up-dip into siltstones and evaporites. The Eastern and Northwestern Shelves are subdivided into the San Andres, Grayburg, Queen, Seven Rivers, Yates, and Tansill Formations.[5]

San Simon ChannelEdit

The San Simon Channel is a narrow syncline that separated the Central Basin Platform from the Northwestern Shelf during Leonardian and Guadalupian times.[5]

Sheffield ChannelEdit

The Sheffield Channel separates the southern margin of the Midland Basin from the southern shelf and the Ouachita–Marathon thrust-belt during Leonardian and Guadalupian times.[5]

Hovey ChannelEdit

The Hovey Channel is a topographical low located on the southern edge of the Delaware Basin, allowing access to the Panthalassa sea during Guadalupian times.[5] The Hovey Channel was originally an anticline which formed during Precambrian faulting,[7] and was the main source of sea water for the Delaware Basin. The closing of the Hovey Channel towards the end of the Permian Period eventually caused the death of the Permian Reef, as without water being brought in through the Channel, salinity levels rose drastically in the Delaware Basin and the reef could not survive.[8]

Horseshoe AtollEdit

Figure 7: Horseshoe Atoll[9]

The Horseshoe Atoll is a westward-tilting arcuate chain of reef mounds 175 miles (282 km) long located in the Midland Basin, consisting of 1,804 feet (550 m) of limestone accumulated in the Pennsylvanian and 1,099 feet (335 m) in the Permian, with 15 significant reservoirs from 6,099 feet (1,859 m) to 9,902 feet (3,018 m) in depth.[10] The reef complex consists of Upper Pennsylvanian Strawn, Canyon and Cisco limestones, overlain by Lower Permian Wolfcamp sandstones and shales of terrigenous origin prograding northeast to southwest.[11] The first production well, Seabird Oil Company of Delaware No. 1-B J. C. Caldwell, was completed in 1948.[12]

Depositional historyEdit

The Permian Basin is the thickest deposit of Permian aged rocks on Earth which were rapidly deposited during the collision of North America and Gondwana (South America and Africa) between the late Mississippian through the Permian.

Late Paleozoic (Late Cambrian to Mississippian)Edit

Prior to the breakup of the Precambrian supercontinent and the formation of the modern Permian Basin geometry, shallow marine sedimentation onto to the ancestral Tobosa Basin characterized the passive margin, shallow marine environment. The Tobosa Basin also contains basement rock that dates back to 1330 million years ago (mya), and that are still visible in the present-day Guadalupe Mountains. The basement rock contains biotite-quartz granite, discovered at a depth of 3847 m[7]. In the nearby Apache and Glass Mountains, the basement rock is made of metamorphosed sandstone and Precambrian-aged granite. The entire area is also underlain by layered mafic rocks, which are thought to be a part of Pecos Mafic Igneous Suite [1], and extends 360 km into southern USA and has been dated to 1163 mya. Each Paleozoic period has contributed a specific lithology to the Tobosa Basin, accumulating into almost 2000 m of sediment at the start of the Pennsylvanian Period (323.2 – 298.9 mya).[7]

Late Mississippian–Early PermianEdit

Climatic zones of the Carboniferous-Permian boundary

The collision of North America and Gondwana Land (South America and Africa) during the Hercynian orogeny created the Ouachita–Marathon thrust belt and the associated foreland basins, the Delaware and Midland Basins, separated by the Central Basin Platform. The tectonic activity resulted in the distribution of voluminous siliciclastic sediments into the basins during the Early Pennsylvanian. Siliciclastic sedimentation was followed by the formation of carbonate shelves and margins at the basin flanks in the Early Permian.

Late PermianEdit

After the Hercynian orogeny, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) of sediment filled the rapidly subsiding Delaware and Midland basins. The Midland basin was filled by about 270 mya, as it received the majority of clastic sediment from the Hercynian Orogeny via a subaqueous delta, while the Delaware Basin continued to fill until the late Permian. Sandstones and some deep water, organic rich shales were deposited within the basins while reef carbonates were deposited on the Central Basin Platform and on the shelves of the basins. The extensive reef deposits fringing the Delaware Basin became known as the Capitan Limestone. In the later Guadalupian, the Permian sea retreated, and the basins were capped with evaporite deposits, including salts and gypsum. The deep water shales and carbonate reefs of the Delaware and Midland Basins and the Central Basin Platform would become lucrative hydrocarbon reservoirs.[5][15]

Generalized facies tracts of the Permian BasinEdit

The Permian basin is divided into generalized facies belts differentiated by the depositional environment in which they formed, influenced by sea level, climate, salinity, and access to the sea.

Lowstand systems tractEdit

Lowering sea level exposes the peritidal and potentially, the shelf margin regions, allowing linear channel sandstones to cut into the shelf, extending beyond the shelf margin atop the slope carbonates, fanning outward toward the basin. The tidal flats during a lowstand contain aeolian sandstones and siltstones atop supratidal lithofacies of the transgressive systems tract. The basin fill during a lowstand is composed of thin carbonate beds intermingled with sandstone and siltstone at the shelf and sandstone beds within the basin.

Transgressive systems tractEdit

These facies results from the abrupt deepening of the basin and the reestablishment of carbonate production. Carbonates such as bioturbated wackstone and oxygen poor lime mud accumulate atop the underlying lowstand systems tract sandstones in the basin and on the slope. The tidal flats are characterized by supratidal faces of hot and arid climate such as dolomudstones and dolopackstones. The basin is characterized by thick carbonate beds on or close to the shelf with the shelf margin becoming progressively steeper and the basin sandstones becoming thinner.

Highstand systems tractEdit

Highstand systems tract facies results from the slowing down in the rise of sea level. It is characterized by carbonate production on the shelf margin and dominant carbonate deposition throughout the basin. The lithofacies is of thick beds of carbonates on the shelf and shelf margin and thin sandstone beds on the slope. The basin becomes restricted by the formation of red beds on the shelf, creating evaporites in the basin.[15][16][17]

Tectonic historyEdit

During the Cambrian–Mississippian, the ancestral Permian Basin was the broad marine passive margin Tobosa Basin containing deposits of carbonates and clastics. In the early Pennsylvanian–early Permian the collision of North American and Gondwana Land (South America and Africa) caused the Hercynian orogeny. The Hercynian Orogeny resulted in the Tobosa basin being differentiated into two deep basins (the Delaware and the Midland Basins) surrounded by shallow shelves. During the Permian, the basin became structurally stable and filled with clastics in the basin and carbonates on the shelves.[18]

Lower Paleozoic passive margin phase (late Precambrian–Mississippian, 850–310 Mya)Edit

This passive margin succession is present throughout the southwestern US and is up to 0.93 miles (1.50 km) thick. The ancestral Permian basin is characterized by weak crustal extension and low subsidence in which the Tobosa basin developed. The Tobosa basin contained shelf carbonates and shales.[19]

Collision phase (late Mississippian–Pennsylvanian, 310–265 Mya)Edit

The two lobed geometry of the Permian basin separated by a platform was the result of the Hercynian collisional orogeny during the collision of North America and Gondwana Land (South America and Africa). This collision uplifted the Ouachita-Marathon fold belt and deformed the Tobosa Basin. The Delaware Basin resulted from tilting along areas of Proterozoic weakness in Tobosa basin. Southwestern compression reactivated steeply dipping thrust faults and uplifted the Central Basin ridge. Folding of the basement terrane split the basin into the Delaware basin to the west and the Midland Basin to the east.[18][20]

Permian Basin phase (Permian, 265–230 Mya)Edit

Rapid sedimentation of clastics, carbonate platforms and shelves, and evaporites proceeded synorogenically. Bursts of orogenic activity are divided by three angular unconformities in basin strata. Evaporite deposits in the small remnant basin mark the final stage of sedimentation as the basin became restricted from the sea during sea level fall.[19][21]

Hydrocarbon production and reservesEdit

Figure 8: Active oil (green) and gas (red) wells on the Permian Basin, Texas
Figure 9: Significant hydrocarbon plays within the Permian Basin

The Permian Basin is the largest petroleum-producing basin in the United States and has produced a cumulative 28.9 billion barrels of oil and 75 trillion cubic feet of gas. Currently, nearly 2 million barrels of oil a day are being pumped from the basin. It has been estimated by the EIA that the remaining content was 43 billion barrels of oil and 18 trillion cu. ft. of gas. Eighty percent of estimated reserves are located at less than 10000|ft depth. Ten percent of the oil recovered from the Permian Basin has come from Pennsylvanian carbonates. The largest reservoirs are within the Central Basin Platform, the Northwestern and Eastern shelves, and within Delaware Basin sandstones. The Primary lithologies of the major hydrocarbon reservoirs are limestone, dolomite, and sandstone due to their high porosities. However, advances in hydrocarbon recovery such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have expanded production into unconventional, tight oil shales such as those found in the Wolfcamp Shale.[6][22]

Counties of the Permian BasinEdit

Map of the part of the region in Texas. Red is the core; pink represents the counties sometimes included in the region.
Active Permian Basin pumpjack east of Andrews, TX

Due to its economic significance, the Permian Basin has also given its name to the geographic region in which it lies. The counties of this region include:[citation needed]

According to the 2008/2009 census, the Permian Basin had a total population of 522,568.

Other counties sometimes considered part of the Permian Basin are:[citation needed]

When including those counties, the population of the Permian Basin reaches 577,667.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ball - The Permian Basin - USGS
  2. ^ Permian Basin map at Department of Energy, National Energy Lab
  3. ^ B. R. Alto and R. S. Fulton (1965) "Salines" and "The potash industry" in Mineral and Water Resources of New Mexico, New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Bulletin 87, p.299–309.
  4. ^ Galley, John (1995). "Oil and Geology in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico".
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ward, et. al., R.F. (1986). "Upper Permian (Guadalupian) facies and their association with hydrocarbons-Permian basin, west Texas and New Mexico". AAPG Bulletin. 70: 239–262. doi:10.1306/9488566f-1704-11d7-8645000102c1865d.
  6. ^ a b Wright, Wayne (2011). "Pennsylvanian paleodepositional evolution of the greater Permian Basin, Texas and New Mexico: Depositional systems and hydrocarbon reservoir analysis". AAPG Bulletin. 95: 1525–1555. doi:10.1306/01031110127.
  7. ^ a b c A., Hill, Carol (1996). Geology of the Delaware Basin, Guadalupe, Apache, and Glass Mountains, New Mexico and West Texas. Permian Basin Section-SEPM. OCLC 994835616.
  8. ^ Weidlich, Oliver (December 2002). "Permian reefs re-examined: extrinsic control mechanisms of gradual and abrupt changes during 40 my of reef evolution". Geobios. 35: 287–294. doi:10.1016/s0016-6995(02)00066-9. ISSN 0016-6995.
  9. ^ Stafford, P. T., 1959, Geology of Part of the Horseshoe Atoll in Scurry and Kent Counties, Texas, USGS Professional Paper 315-A, Washington: US Dept. of Interior, p. 2.
  10. ^ Vest, E. L. Jr., 1970, Oil Fields of Pennsylvanian-Permian Horseshoe Atoll, West Texas, AAPG Memoir 14: Geology of Giant Petroleum Fields, Tulsa: AAPG, pp. 185–186.
  11. ^ Vest, E. L. Jr., 1970, Oil Fields of Pennsylvanian–Permian Horseshoe Atoll, West Texas, AAPG Memoir 14: Geology of Giant Petroleum Fields, Tulsa: AAPG, p. 185.
  12. ^ Vest, E. L. Jr., 1970, Oil Fields of Pennsylvanian-Permian Horseshoe Atoll, West Texas, AAPG Memoir 14: Geology of Giant Petroleum Fields, Tulsa: AAPG, p. 186.
  13. ^ Stafford, P. T., 1959, Geology of Part of the Horseshoe Atoll in Scurry and Kent Counties, Texas, USGS Professional Paper 315-A, Washington: US Dept. of Interior, p. 6.
  14. ^ Stafford, P. T., 1959, Geology of Part of the Horseshoe Atoll in Scurry and Kent Counties, Texas, USGS Professional Paper 315-A, Washington: US Dept. of Interior, p. 8.
  15. ^ a b Hunt et. al, David (2002). "Syndepositional deformation of the Permian Capitan reef carbonate platform, Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico, USA". Sedimentary Geology. 154: 89–126. doi:10.1016/s0037-0738(02)00104-5.
  16. ^ Ross et. al, C.A. (1995). The Permian of Northern Pangea 1: Paleogeography, Paleoclimates, Stratigraphy. Springer-Verlag. pp. 98–123.
  17. ^ Siver, Burr (1969). "Permian Cyclic Strata, Northern Midland and Delaware Basins, West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico". AAPG Bulletin. 53 (11). doi:10.1306/5d25c94d-16c1-11d7-8645000102c1865d.
  18. ^ a b Hills, J.M. (1984). "Sedimentation, tectonism, and hydrocarbon generation in the Delaware basin, West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico". AAPG Bulletin. 68: 250–267. doi:10.1306/ad460a08-16f7-11d7-8645000102c1865d.
  19. ^ a b Horak, R.L. (May 27, 1985). "Tectonic and hydrocarbon maturation history in the Permian basin". Oil and Gas Journal: 124–129.
  20. ^ Sarg et. al, J. (1999). "The second-order cycle, carbonate-platform growth, and reservoir, source, and trap prediction, Advances in carbonate sequence stratigraphy: Application to reservoirs, outcrops and models: Special Publication". SEPM. 63: 11–34.
  21. ^ Hoak et. al, T (1991). "Overview of the Structural Geology and Tectonics of the Central Basin Platform, Delaware Basin, and Midland Basin, West Texas and New Mexico". Department of Energy Publication.
  22. ^ Dutton et. al, S.P. (2005). "Play analysis and leading edge oil-reservoir development methods in the Permian Basin; increased recovery through advanced technologies". AAPG Bulletin. 89 (5): 553–576. doi:10.1306/12070404093.

External linksEdit