Wolfcampian

“Where have I heard that before?”

I was reading about the discovery of the Wolfcamp oil shale in the Permian Basin, and I freely admit, dancing a little in my chair. I’m a conservationist, not an environmentalist of the current style, and I have no problem with hydraulic fracturing properly done. And anything that cuts into the oil revenue for certain Bad People gets at least a little of my support. But where had I heard the term before? It was one of those little things that nag at you from time to time. Because I kept thinking “Wolfcampian” not Wolfcamp.

The entire eastern lobe is labeled Wolfcamp in most general media depictions.

The entire eastern lobe is labeled Wolfcamp in most general media depictions.

A modified stratigraphic map of the Permian Basin. I love these things!

A modified stratigraphic map of the Permian Basin. I love these things!

It took a little hunting through my papers, but what I was thinking about with Wolfcampian was Permian, just not in Texas, but in Kansas, and from when I was doing research on the Anadarko Basin and the Ogallala Aquifer. There is a subdivision of the Permian in Kansas that is called the Wolfcampian.

If it's red, it's probably Permian, at least in my world.

If it’s red, it’s probably Permian, at least in my world.

Also gas bearing in Kansas.

Also gas bearing in Kansas.

The Permian lasted from around 299 million years ago to roughly 252 million years ago. The Wolfcampian is in the earliest part of the Permian, when tectonic collisions created mountains to the north and east, the Ouachita Mountains, and their erosional sediments ran into the deep basins created during the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian. Some also flowed further north into what is now Kansas. Later uplift, erosion, folding and faulting turned the formation called Wolfcamp or referred to as being Wolfcampian (of the same time and similar consistency) into an oil and/or gas trap. I suspect there will be some re-exploration of the Kansas Wolfcampian, or perhaps not, depending on economics and depths. You generally don’t find a lot of natural gas or petroleum remaining in formations that are exposed to the surface for anyone to walk up to and chip chunks off of.

So I had not lost my mind, Wolfcampian was indeed what I had first learned, and it wasn’t talking about Texas.

Funny story about Alma and the Permian Basin. A number of years ago I was on a family trip to the TransPecos and we went to the Permian Basin oil museum in Odessa. I have family connections to the opening of the basin, and to the oil business, and it was fascinating to see the geology and technology behind the famous (or infamous if you recall the 1980s bust) formation. One excellent display allows you to walk along the margin of the reef as it might have been waaaaaay back in geologic time and peer into the depths of the basin. I lasted all of five or six seconds. Guess who seems to have a form of fear of heights and distances that is triggered by not having any sort of horizon? Guess who discovered it in the walk-through diorama? I ended up facing the reef, nose-to-nose with the glass, and edging my way through the display until I got out into a room with walls.

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10 thoughts on “Wolfcampian

  1. I’ll bet your family had a good laugh over your reaction to the lack of horizons.

    “Oohhh! Look at the pilot who is terrified of heights!”

    • This was long before I got into aviation. There had been hints, but it was the first time it really got to me. Oddly enough, I can go out on catwalks and balconies no problem, so long as I have a horizon. But endless distances into nothing? Oh heck no!

  2. “I’m a conservationist, not an environmentalist of the current style”

    Aha, someone else who understands the difference.

    The joys of being conservative/libertarian while also working with wildlife rehabbing and conservation. They really aren’t mutually exclusive.

    “I have no problem with hydraulic fracturing properly done. And anything that cuts into the oil revenue for certain Bad People gets at least a little of my support.”

    Amen. I’m not 100% sold on fracking, but not necessarily opposed to it either. Like everything humans do, it has the potential to do a lot of damage, but if done right, that damage can be minimized.

  3. It will be interesting to see what the EPA et al try to do to prevent bringing the new fields in… Daddy worked down there for a time too… I think it was Yates and Sugarland that he worked, as he was staying in Pecos with his brother.

    • They tried using the little “endangered” lizard to shut down the entire Texas-New Mexico Permian Basin region, and then crashed and burned when they couldn’t demonstrate to the court 1) which lizard it was 2) the lifestyle of the lizard 3) how drilling would affect said lizard, and 4) that they had done the full cost analyses of the effects of shutting down all drilling.

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