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System: Mississippian

Upper Mississippian--Province Summary

This Upper Mississippian Play information is from the U. S. Geological Survey 1995 National Assessment of United States Oil and Gas Resources (available on CD-ROM from the U.S.G.S. as Digital Data Series DDS-30, Release 2).

Upper Mississippian Stratigraphic Gas and Oil Play

by Mitchell E. Henry and Timothy C. Hester

Like the Lower Mississippian Stratigraphic Gas and Oil Play, this play extends throughout the province except in the extreme southern, southwestern, and northeastern parts where Mississippian age strata are missing. The strata in this play consists of the St. Louis Formation and all Mississippian Chester Group rocks, except those strata included in Deep Stratigraphic Gas Play. Depths range from about 4,000 ft on the northeastern shelf to 13,000 ft at the southern play boundary (the upper depth limit of the Deep Stratigraphic Gas Play). Some individual units in the included strata appear to be absent along the eastern and northeastern part of the play, probably due to subareal erosion and ultimate truncation along the Nemaha and Central Kansas Uplifts, and the Pratt Anticline. The stratigraphic units included in this were selected largely on the basis of the distribution of major accumulations and on lithology. The major accumulations in this play generally occur in the central and north-central parts of the basin, away from significant influence of major province-bounding uplifts. The play is viewed as principally stratigraphic but with some local structural influence. The distribution of major accumulations and a carbonate lithology are the principal defining features of this play.


Reservoirs rocks consist of the St. Louis Formation and the Chester Group. Lithologies are almost exclusively limestone on the shelf areas, although Chester Group rocks become increasingly shaly to the southeast, and sandstones become more common in the deep basin. Chester Group rocks range in thickness from erosional truncation in the northeastern and southwestern parts of the province to 1,000 ft in the southern part of the province at the boundary of Deep Stratigraphic Gas Play. The upper surface of rocks in the Chesterian Series has undergone extensive weathering and erosion in much of the play (Northcutt and Parham, 1993), and in those areas reservoir quality is expected to be good. In deeper parts of the play and in lower parts of the section, reservoir quality is expected to be more variable and poorer overall. Oil and gas production is generally concentrated in areas of the unconformity surfaces--a band trending east-west across the central part of the province. This pattern of reservoir development, although resulting predominately from uplift and subareal erosion, shows little dependence on proximity to the major structural features that bound the province. Stratigraphic trapping mechanisms dominate in this play, with only local structural influence.

Source rocks

Rice and others (1989) identified interbedded shales as the most likely source for central basin gas accumulations found in Upper Mississippian sandstone reservoirs. Organic carbon content (TOC) of shales of the Upper Mississippian Springer Formation ranges from 0.5 to 3.4 percent. Variability in chemical and isotopic composition, however, suggests some mixing of hydrocarbons from other sources. Although it seems reasonable to assume that the gas produced from carbonate rock and sandstone reservoirs in the same (or adjacent) play could have the same source, the organic matter (type III) described by Rice and others (1989) is not a likely source for the oil found in this play. Type III kerogen is highly gas prone. A probable source for the oil, and perhaps some of the gas as well, is the Woodford Shale. Woodford Shale source-rock properties are described in detail in Hester and others (1990).

Timing and migration

On the basis of the late-stage generation of gas suggested by Rice and others (1989) and burial history modeling by Schmoker (1989) we estimate that much of the gas in this play was probably generated between 225 and 100 Ma. Since much of the production from this play is from stratigraphically controlled reservoirs developed largely from subareal exposure, reservoirs and traps were in place before hydrocarbon generation began. Timing of hydrocarbon generation and migration is therefore favorable for charging of reservoirs in this play.


Traps for this play are mostly stratigraphic, with some combination and minor structural types. Traps are generally sealed by shales deposited over eroded carbonate strata or over ooid sand bars ( Ball, 1967; Asquith, 1984 ) at or near the top of the Mississippian carbonates. The shales range in age from Chesterian through Pennsylvanian, Morrowan, Atokan, and Desmoinesian (Northcutt and Parham, 1993). Major accumulations occur at depths from 4,000 to 10,000 ft.

Exploration status and resource potential

The earliest major discovery assigned to this play was made in 1921 at the Webb field. The largest gas accumulation is at Mocane-Laverne with an estimated ultimate recovery of about 1.2 TCFG. The largest oil accumulation is estimated to produce about 44 MMBO from the Big Bow field. Of the 99 accumulations assigned to this play, 40 are oil and 59 are gas. Drilling depths for this play range from about 4,200 ft in the northern part of the play to 13,000 ft at the southern play boundary (the upper depth limit of Deep Stratigraphic Gas Play).

More than 23,000 wells are reported to have penetrated rocks of this play. Of these, nearly 5,000 were completed as producing wells. This play is the most thoroughly and most uniformly explored play yet discussed. There are still some areas that are not so well explored, for example along the northern and northeastern parts of the play, but they are historically poor producers. Because stratigraphic traps are so prevalent in this play, and because stratigraphic traps are relatively difficult to target, we expect that there are still new accumulations to be discovered. The potential for new major hydrocarbon discoveries in this play is moderate. Historical production and well completion data were used to evaluate the potential of this play.

Play Map


Asquith, G.B., 1984, Depositional and diagenetic history of the Upper Chester (Mississippian) oolitic reservoirs, north-central Beaver County, Oklahoma, in Hyne, N.J., ed., Limestones of the Mid-Continent: Tulsa Geological Society Special Publication no. 2, p. 87-92.

Ball, M.M., 1967, Carbonate sand bodies of Florida and the Bahamas: Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, v. 37, p. 556-591.

Hester, T.C., Schmoker, J.W., and Sahl, H.L., 1990, Log-derived regional source-rock characteristics of the Woodford Shale, Anadarko basin, Oklahoma: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1866-D, 64 p.

Northcutt, R.A., and Parham, K.D., 1993, Upper Chester shallow-marine carbonate--Anadarko basin and Hugoton Embayment, Kansas, in Debout, D.G., White, W.A., Hentz, T.F., and Grasmick, M.K., Atlas of major Midcontinent gas reservoirs: p. 64-66.

Rice, D.D., Threlkeld, C.N., and Vuletich, A.K., 1989, Characterization and origin of natural gasses of the Anadarko basin, in Johnson, K.S., ed., Anadarko Basin Symposium, 1988: Oklahoma Geological Survey Circular 90, p. 47-52.

Schmoker, J.W., 1989, Thermal maturity of the Anadarko basin, in Johnson, K.S., ed., Anadarko Basin Symposium, 1988: Oklahoma Geological Survey Circular 90, p. 25-31.

Kansas Geological Survey, Digital Petroleum Atlas
Updated July 16, 1996
Comments to webadmin@kgs.ku.edu