Oil and Gas

Extensive hydrocarbon resources are found in central and eastern Montana, and these oil and gas resources have been actively explored and produced since the early 1900s. MBMG geologists conduct research to investigate and characterize various aspects of the State’s geological formations, depositional systems, and structural elements that host petroleum accumulations.

During the past two decades, unconventional reservoirs (oil- and gas-rich shales) have become the focus of petroleum exploration in the U.S., largely due to technological advancements in wellbore geosteering and hydraulic fracturing. In the Williston Basin of northeastern Montana, oil produced from the “unconventional” Bakken Fm now accounts for just over 50% of the State’s annual output. Recent MBMG research projects related to these unconventional oil resources, and supported by the Montana Board of Oil and Gas, include a statewide assessment of naturally occurring proppants (“frac sands”) and a feasibility study of enhanced oil recovery potential from the Bakken Fm at Elm Coulee field.

Oil and gas exploration relies on knowledge of subsurface geology. The MBMG is pursuing a long-term plan to generate digital maps and computer models that depict the structure (spatial positioning and shape) and properties (e.g., thickness, lithology) of subsurface geologic units. In addition to petroleum exploration, subsurface geologic models are useful for mineral exploration, identifying targets for wastewater and CO2 injection, understanding geologic hazards such as faults, and managing groundwater aquifers.

Useful Links

Map of oil and gas well drilling
L.C. Furer cross section collection
NWGS Thin Section Logs
Petroleum well data | Montana Board of Oil and Gas

Contact Information

Program Information

Jay A. Gunderson, Geologist–Professor
(406) 496-4598 | Email

Ryan Davison, Geologist–Associate Professor
(406) 496-4595 | Email

Elizabeth (Liddi) Meredith, Hydrogeologist–Professor
(406) 496-4599 | Email

Office locations in Butte and Billings

Related Publications and Data

Subsurface Geology (Mapping and Regional Sections)