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Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 2013-2

The Case of the Barren Basin: the Salina Basin of Kansas

by K. David Newell and Daniel F. Merriam

KGS Open File Report 2013-2
Presented at the 2008 American Assoc. of Petroleum Geologists Annual Convention
April 20-23, 2008, San Antonio, Texas


The 20,000 square mile, 4,800 feet deep Salina Basin in north-central Kansas and its extension as the Central Nebraska Basin in south-central Nebraska is an enigma: why is there no major oil or gas production in the basin? Although some oil production does occur on structure in the southern part and on the flanks of the basin: is the basin barren or just not explored adequately? The basin is bounded on the east by the Nemaha Anticline and on the west by the Central Kansas Uplift and Cambridge Arch. The southern limit is a vague saddle between the Salina Basin and Sedgwick Embayment of the Anadarko Basin, the northern limit is ill-defined in central Nebraska where the zero edge of Mississippian rocks usually is considered the limit of the basin. Overlying the Precambrian basement is a normal section of Paleozoic rocks, which include source beds, structure, and possible traps, capped by Cretaceous units. The structural history is similar to the adjacent Forest City Basin, which has production. The scenario for the Salina Basin then is: (1) the occurrence of petroleum on the flanks of the basin are the result of migration from adjacent areas up structural features that flank the basin; and (2) any undiscovered petroleum elsewhere in the basin has to be generated in situ and locally migrated. An exploration model for the latter scenario is that maturation will be maximized along the axis of the basin, and potential source rocks (primarily Middle Ordovician) will be present toward the southern end of the basin. NE-SW-oriented structures, resulting from of reactivation of Precambrian tectonic features, and crossing the axis of the basin, are suggested exploration targets.

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Kansas Geological Survey
Placed online June 21, 2013
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