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News Releases in 2013

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9.24.2013

News Release: Natural Hazard Viewer of Arizona Released – Online and Interactive

Tucson. Each year, natural hazards such as floods and wildfires threaten communities and cause millions of dollars in damage in Arizona. The new Natural Hazard Viewer of Arizona website, developed by the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) in partnership with the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM), makes identifying and mitigating natural hazards in Arizona a whole lot easier.

The interactive Natural Hazard Viewer focuses on four hazards common to Arizona—geologic faults and earthquakes, earth fissures, floods and wildfire. Each hazard is described in detail and displayed as a layer on a map. Moreover, the natural hazard information is dynamic; site updates will occur as new or revised hazard data becomes available.

The Natural Hazard Viewer serves county planners, county and municipal emergency management offices, and water district managers, among others. But the viewer is open and free to all and the public can use the “Find Local Hazards” search tool to identify hazards existing within a three mile radius of a specific address.

Data from the hazard viewer can be downloaded. There is also a print function for people who want a physical copy of their personalized hazard map. 

As impressive as the Natural Hazard Viewer is, it’s important to remember that it is a tool. It remains the responsibility of individuals to mitigate the threats posed by hazards to life, property and infrastructure. The website highlights proven mitigation strategies that emergency managers, businesses and home owners can use to avoid loss of life, personal injury, and property damage.

The AZGS geoinformatics team constructed the viewer with input and guidance from ADEM. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided funding for the design, construction and deployment of the site.

The launch of the Natural Hazard Viewer coincides with National Preparedness Month. Throughout September, the emergency management community works to remind people to make a plan, pack a kit, be informed and inspire others. The Natural Hazard Viewer is one way to stay informed of hazards to your home or business, and to learn how to mitigate those threats.

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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07.16.2013

News Release: Potential targets for shale-oil and shale-gas exploration in Arizona

Tucson, Arizona. Tucson.  Innovations in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have dramatically increased oil and gas production from previously marginal shale-oil and shale-gas deposits leading to renewed interest in the potential for shale-oil and shale-gas exploration in Arizona.

In a new 9-page report, Arizona Geological Survey geoscientists Steve Rauzi (AZGS’s Oil and Gas Administrator) and Jon Spencer (Senior Geologist) identify ten shale or slatey rock formations as potential targets for shale-oil and shale-gas exploration in Arizona. 

The authors characterize what is known about each formation - the location, distribution, organic carbon content, thickness, and the availability of geochemical analyses, detailed stratigraphy, and drilling history.  Citations of relevant scientific literature bearing additional information are also included.

The ten shale or shaley formations are distributed widely throughout Arizona, from the southeast through central and west-central Arizona, to the northwest, north-central, and northeastern-most Arizona; the illustration below provides the names and footprints of the ten formations.

Rock formation ages range greatly from the 1,300 million year old (Myr) Pioneer Shale of central Arizona to Black Mesa’s 90 Myr Mancos Shale.
Over the past decade, oil and gas production in Arizona was largely confined to the Dineh-bi-Keyah and Black Rock fields on the Navajo Reservation.  New exploration and production technologies could change that by bringing organic-rich shale deposits into play.  

Citation: Rauzi, S.L. and Spencer, J.E., 2013, Potential targets for shale-oil and shale-gas exploration in Arizona. Arizona Geological Survey Open File Report, OFR-13-09 v. 1, 9 p.

Background: Arizona Oil & Gas Production 2012.

In 2012, Arizona oil production totaled 51,949 barrels from 21 producing wells in 2012, up from 36,925 barrels from 9 wells in 2011. The Dineh-bi-Keyah produced 49,972 barrels of oil. Gas production totaled 116.6 million cubic feet from 4 producing gas wells, down from 168 million cubic feet from 5 wells in 2011.

 

For more information please contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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7.10.2013

News Release: Potential for Carbon Dioxide Sequestration in the Luke and Higley Basins, south-central Arizona

Tucson. New Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at coal fired power plants are now driving studies of sedimentary basins in Arizona for their carbon sequestration potential. Two new reports from the Arizona Geological Survey describe the suitability of the Luke and Higley Basins of Maricopa County in south-central Arizona for sequestering carbon dioxide. 

A viable geologic repository for sequestering carbon dioxide must meet three conditions. First, it must host a substantial volume of porous and permeable rock or sediment at a depth of more than 800 meters (2,625 feet); a depth sufficient to maintain carbon dioxide in a supercritical state where it behaves more like a liquid than a gas. Second, the repository must host saline groundwater - to prevent contamination of fresh water aquifers. Third, it must be capped by a continuous impermeable layer of clay, salt or some other coherent and impermeable material, to prevent carbon dioxide from migrating to Earth’s surface and escaping. 

The Higley and Luke Basins of Maricopa County in Arizona’s Basin and Range Province possess the requisite sedimentary basin-fill volume, depth to bedrock, well control, and overall size to warrant study as a potential geologic repositories for carbon dioxide. Data from deep wells– 48 wells in the Luke Basin and 21 wells in the Higley Basin, complemented by gravity and geophysical data, were used to characterize each basin’s suitability for carbon-dioxide sequestration.   

The Luke Basin meets most of the conditions required for sequestration. Permeable strata below 800 m (2,625 feet) depth are sufficiently thick and potentially favorable for CO2 sequestration. The lack of salinity data for deep aquifers, however, precludes an adequate assessment of storage volume in saline formations below 800 m. Additionally, the presence of an extensive, basin-wide seal or capping unit below 800 m (2,625 feet) depth remains uncertain. Luke Basin, however, hosts more than 6,000 feet of impermeable salt deposits that could potentially make a suitable repository for carbon dioxide, much as they currently host man-made caverns used to store liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).   

For the Higley Basin it remains uncertain whether a suitable impermeable cap is present at depth and whether the saline content of deep aquifers groundwater meets sequestration conditions.

Both reports include a geologic map and geologic cross-sections that illustrate basin structure and the extent of basin-fill deposits.

This investigation was supported by the Department of Energy (DOE), including its National Energy Technology Laboratory and West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (WESTCARB), which established national programs to evaluate the technical feasibility of long-term subsurface geologic storage of carbon dioxide produced by industrial activity.

WESTCARB is a consortium of seven western U.S. States and one Canadian Province that includes Arizona and is one of seven regional North American partnerships charged with evaluating technical aspects of high-volume CO2 capture and sequestration. The Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) began work in 2010 on WESTCARB Phase III – Arizona Geological Characterization (California Energy Commission Agreement Number 500-10-024).

Citations

Gootee, B.F., 2013, An Evaluation of Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Potential in the Luke Basin, South-Central Arizona. Arizona Geological Survey Open File Report, OFR-13-05, 10 p., 2 map plates and 2 appendices.

Gootee, B.F., 2013, An Evaluation of Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Potential in the Higley Basin, South-Central Arizona. Arizona Geological Survey Open File Report, OFR-13-10, 14 p., 6 map plates and 2 appendices

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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07.03.2013

News Release: Tucson geologist receives the Geological Society of America's Kirk Bryan Award for Research Excellence

Tucson, Arizona. The Geological Society of America is awarding the Arizona Geological Survey’s Phil Pearthree and co-authors Kyle House (now at the U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, AZ) and Michael Perkins (University of Utah) the prestigious Kirk Bryan Award for Research Excellence for their seminal paper describing the role of lake spillover in the birth of the lower Colorado River. 

Dr. Pearthree and his co-authors will be honored at the GSA Annual Meeting and Exposition award ceremony in Denver, Colorado, on 28 October 2013. Phil Pearthree has been employed by the Arizona Geological Survey since 1988, and now serves as chief of the Environmental Geology section overseeing research on Quaternary geology, geologic hazards, and hydrology. Phil obtained M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Geosciences from the University of Arizona and has served on the Geosciences Advisory Board since 2011.

The origin of the lower Colorado River has intrigued and perplexed geologists for nearly a century. In unraveling this mystery, Dr. Pearthree and his co-authors examined river channel and lake deposits in the Cottonwood and Mohave Valleys near Bullhead City in the lower Colorado River Valley. The sequence and distribution of sediments led them to conclude that the Colorado River first entered these closed basins about 5 million years ago. As river water flooded the basins from the north, lakes formed as evinced by the presence of fine-grained mudstone and limestone deposits. Continued influx of Colorado River water first filled and then overtopped the basins, eroding the drainage divide leading to the next basin to the south, where the cycle of flooding, lake formation, lake sediment deposition, and basin filling and overtopping the southerly divide continued. 

“The deposits announce the birth of the modern Colorado River,” according to AZGS Senior Geologist, Jon Spencer.

Since 1958, the Kirk Bryan Award has been bestowed annually upon the author or authors of a published paper of distinction that advances the science of geomorphology or some related field, such as [Pleistocene] Quaternary geology.

Founded in 1888, the GSA is the oldest professional Earth sciences scientific society in North America. GSA has more than 25,000 members in over 103 countries. The Society’s chief functions include hosting scientific conferences and workshops, publishing scientific literature, acknowledging and trumpeting excellence in the geosciences, and science outreach to the broader public. 

For more information on the award ceremony see page 15 of the July issue of GSA Today.

Citation: P.K. House (Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology), P.A. Pearthree (Arizona Geological Survey), and M.E. Perkins (University of Utah), 2008, Stratigraphic evidence for the role of lake spillover in the inception of the lower Colorado River in southern Nevada and western Arizona, in Reheis, M.C., Hershler, R., and Miller, D.M., eds., Late Cenozoic Drainage History of the Southwestern Great Basin and Lower Colorado River Region: Geologic and Biotic Perspectives: GSA Special Paper 439, p. 335–354.

For more information please contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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6.11.2013

News Release: A potential shale oil and shale gas target in northern Arizona

Tucson. New developments in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracture technology are transforming some marginal shale oil and shale gas deposits into economic oil and gas targets.  In the Southwestern U.S., the Cretaceous Mancos Shale is part of the stratigraphic sequence in both the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico and Black Mesa in northeastern Arizona. It has been the source of much oil and gas in the San Juan Basin, with renewed drilling and hydrofracturing now underway, but has received little attention in Arizona where it underlies the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations. In light of this discrepancy, the Arizona Geological Survey reexamined existing well data and rock unit descriptions for the Mancos Shale in northern Arizona.

This new report includes information on the location and availability of existing well logs, cuttings and rock core for seven oil and gas wells drilled at Black Mesa.  The absence of geochemical analyses or Total Organic Carbon values of the black, lower shale precludes even crude estimates of the oil or gas content or thermal maturity of the Mancos Shale.

The marine Mancos Shale comprises a lower calcareous, organic-rich shale that grades upward into fine siltstones and sandstones. It is this lower organic-rich unit that holds the greatest potential for economic shale oil and shale gas deposits.  The Mancos Shale at Black Mesa ranges in thickness from 720 feet in the north, to only 475 feet in the south.  From north to south, the base of the Mancos Shale ranges from ~ 1,500 feet deep to several hundred feet deep.

Black Mesa has been an important source of coal in Arizona since the 1970s. Currently, Peabody Energy strip mines coal from the Wepo Formation near Kayenta on Black Mesa to fuel the 2,250 megawatt Navajo Generating Station.

The report, “A Brief Overview of the Cretaceous Mancos Shale in Northeastern Arizona and its Hydrocarbon Potential” by Steve Rauzi (AZGS Oil and Gas Administrator) and Jon Spencer (AZGS Senior Geologist), is available online as a free PDF download at the Arizona Geological Survey’s Document Repository.  In a short video interview, author Steve Rauzi summarizes the article’s key points.

Citation:  Rauzi, S.L. and Spencer, J.E., 2013, A Brief Overview of the Cretaceous Mancos Shale in Northeastern Arizona and its Hydrocarbon Potential. Arizona Geological Survey Open-File Report, OFR-13-08, 8 p.  

Supporting Video: Steve Rauzi on the Mancos Shale of Black Mesa, Navajo Reservation, Arizona  (100 seconds)

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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05.20.2013

News Release: Mineral resource evaluation of the proposed Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage area, western Maricopa County, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona. The newly introduced “Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage Act of 2013,” H.R. 1799 by U.S. Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ), would withdraw more than 900,000 acres (~1,400 square miles) of federal lands in the low desert and mountain ranges of western Maricopa County from mineral entry and other uses associated with its current multiple-use status. A new study by the Arizona Geological Survey, “The Sonoran Desert Heritage Proposal: An evaluation of the mineral resource potential of lands proposed for withdrawal from mineral entry,” shows a high potential for substantial economic deposits of sand and gravel, copper, gold, and manganese in parts of the proposed Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage area (SDH).

In 2011, the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Sonoran Institute, and The Wilderness Society proposed designating western Arizona public lands as a complex of Wilderness Areas, National Conservation Areas, and Special Management Areas. The result would be to remove these lands from mining and quarrying and ban or limit exploration drilling and geophysical surveying. Lands proposed as part of the SDH are managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Nearly all the lands in the SDH have been mapped by Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) geologists which provides the basis for an informed evaluation by AZGS Senior Geologist Jon Spencer of the mineral resource potential of the area. Known mineral deposits in the SDH are evinced by the presence of old mines, prospect pits, small mine shafts and adits.

Large desert washes in the SDH are potentially rich sites of high quality aggregate - an essential ingredient in construction of new homes, buildings, roads and other infrastructure. Spencer identified four regions in the SDH with a potential of significant aggregate resources: Gila River below Painted Rock Dam, Gila River near Gillespie Dam, Harquahala Wash south of Saddle Mountain, and Jackrabbit Wash north of the Belmont Mountains.

The potential for encountering precious-metal vein deposits, gold and silver, in the SDH are high in the Harquahala Mountains and Big Horn Mountains. The geology of the two ranges is similar to that of the nearby Vulture and Little Harquahala Mountains, respectively. The Vulture Mountains includes the site of the Vulture gold mine that produced 350,000 ounces of gold and 264,000 ounces of silver with a total estimated value in modern prices of more than $600 million. Saddle Mountain and the Gila Bend Mountains in the southern SDH have a lower potential for substantial gold and silver mineralization.

Arizona hosts one of worlds the great porphyry copper mineral belts. The Big Horn Mountains in the northern SDH straddles the northwestern edge of the this porphyry copper belt and hosts granitic rocks of the same age and composition as those found associated with copper deposits in other parts of the state. Historic mining in the Big Horns produced millions of pounds of copper and lead. Mountain ranges to the south of the Big Horn Mountains, including the Gila Bend and Maricopa Mountains, are less likely candidates for copper mineralization. Young volcanic deposits, however, mask portions of these and other nearby mountain ranges, hampering reliable estimates of the potential for economic mineralization.

At present the U.S. imports manganese, the fourth-most-mined metal and an essential ingredient in steel. Because of its important role in steel production, the National Research Council has labeled it a strategically important metal to U.S. national security. The Aguila manganese mineral district, located in the northern Big Horn Mountains, is included in the proposed SDH, and is one of about two dozen deposits scattered over western Arizona and adjacent areas to the west that make up the largest domestic manganese resource. All the manganese used in the U.S. is currently imported.

Finally, the report notes the inherently speculative nature of mineral-resource estimation, and states the following:

“…changes in technology have made uneconomic deposits economic, and increased the value of previously unattractive commodities. For example, the need for the rare-earth element neodymium for exceptional magnet strength in hard-disk drives, hybrid-car electric motors, and wind-turbine generators has caused a recent surge in exploration activity… Thus, while the estimates of mineral potential may be needed for land-use decisions, they can’t account for unknown future economic conditions or technological advances that affect mineral production processes or commodity value.”

This report is available as a free PDF download at the Arizona Geological Survey Document Repository or as printed copies from the Arizona Experience Store, 416 W. Congress, Tucson, Arizona. Please call 520.770.3500 for pricing.

Citation: Spencer, J.E., 2013, The Sonoran Desert Heritage Proposal: An evaluation of the mineral resource potential of lands proposed for withdrawal from mineral entry: Arizona Geological Survey Open File Report, OFR-13-03, 30 p.

For more information please contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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1.16.2013

News Release: Arizona Geological Survey releases new geologic map of the Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Tucson. Each year 600,000 people visit the variegated badlands and fallen forests of petrified wood at Petrified Forest National Park. A new geologic map and accompanying 18-page report, Geologic Map of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, display the distribution and nature of fossil-bearing rocks and sediments within the pre-expansion Petrified Forest National Park boundaries. (In 2004, the U.S. Congress expanded the park, but less than 1/3rd of the expanded lands are controlled by the park.)

The 1:50,000-scale map, where 1 inch ~ 4160 feet or 0.8 miles, is a joint effort of research teams from the U.S. National Park Service (Jeff Martz and William Parker) and Northern Arizona University (Lisa Skinner, Jason Raucci, Paul Umhoefer and Ron Blakey). The report includes 22 photographs of major rock units, a stratigraphic column, and cross-sections showing how the landscape has evolved over the past 65 million years.

Petrified Forest National Park (PEFO) is located in the Little Colorado River Valley, 25 miles east of Holbrook, Arizona. Widespread exposures of sedimentary rocks – shales, siltstones, and sandstones – of the 225 to 207 million years ago (Ma) Chinle Formation dominate the park landscape.

Rocks of the Chinle Formation represent deposits of river systems originating in what is now western Texas and fed by tributary streams from highlands to the south and north of PEFO. The Chinle Formation preserves a suite of lowland terrestrial environments that includes river channels, floodplains, swamps, and small lakes operating in a strongly seasonal subtropical climate.

Locally, rocks of the Miocene-age Bidahochi Formation (8 to 4 Ma) cap the Petrified Forest and Owl Rock Members of the Chinle Formation. Sediments of the Bidahochi Formation were deposited in ancient Lake Hopi, which persisted from about 16 Ma to 4 Ma. To the north, basaltic rocks of the Hopi Buttes volcanic field, emplaced between 8.4 – 4.5 Ma, create maar volcanoes, diatremes and lava flows.

Erosion over the past several million years has scraped off most of the Bidahochi rocks, limiting outcrops to the northern reaches of the Park.

Fossil Organisms of Petrified National Park. Two-hundred and fifteen million years ago, dinosaurs tracked the swampy lowlands and forests of what is now PEFO. As noted in the Martz et al. report, “sandstones of the Sonsela Member are the primary source of petrified wood within PEFO. Wood traditionally assigned to the conifer genus Araucaryoxylon is most commonly found in the Jasper Forest bed, Rainbow Forest Bed, and Black Forest Bed , and the conifer genera Schilderia and Woodworthia are also known from the Black Forest Bed …”.   The spectacular “forests” found throughout the park, as well as the spectacular multi-colored trees at Jasper Forest, Crystal Forest, and Rainbow Forest lie within the Jasper Forest and Rainbow Forest Beds.   

Among the many vertebrate fossils found in PEFO are bony fish and sharks, therapsids, archosauromorphs and pseudosuchians (crocodylian-line archosaurs) and dinosauromorphs. Invertebrate macrofossils include locally abundant bivalves, gastropods, freshwater crustaceans and trace fossils of a wide variety of insects and other small arthropods.

This illustration, Figure 6 in the report, shows the Newspaper Rock Bed of the Chinle Formation within Petrified Forest National Park.

The map and report are available as free, downloadable PDFs from the Arizona Geological Survey’s Document Repository. Printed copies can be purchased from the Arizona Experience Store, 416 W. Congress, Tucson, AZ 85701; email: store@azgs.az.gov, phone: 520.770.3500.

Background
Petrified Forest National Park covers ~146 square miles in Navajo and Apache Counties. Park headquarters is about 25 miles east of Holbrook, Arizona. Petrified wood logs and dinosaur fossils weathering out of brightly colored shale and variegated, fine-grained sandstones, evinces a subtropical environment of slow-moving, meandering rivers and streams making the Park one of the premiere sites in the world for understanding life during the Triassic Period.

Activities for park visitors include sightseeing, hiking, photography and backpacking. Average elevation is just over 5,000 feet and temperatures vary seasonally from summer highs of 100 °F to below freezing in winter. Park landscape ranges from flat-topped mesas rising from a broad plain to badlands topography.

Citation: Martz, J.W., Parker, W.G., Skinner, L. and Raucci, J.J., Umhoefer,P. and Blakey, R.C., 2012, Geologic Map of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. Arizona Geological Survey Contributed Map CR-12-A, 1 map sheet, 1:50,000 map scale, 18 p.

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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