Petrology and petrography for USGS test wells 1, 2, and 3 in the Madison Limestone in Montana and Wyoming

Open-File Report 81-221



The need for large quantities of energy has created interest in the Fort Union coal region of the Northern Great Plains. Extensive development of this coal, which may include on-site steam-power generation, gasification, liquefaction, and slurry-pipeline transport of the coal out of the region, would place a heavy demand on the region's limited streamflow. Paleozoic rocks that underlie the Fort Union coal region might supply, at least on a temporary basis, a significant part of the water required for coal development.

Paleozoic rocks in the Northern Great Plains are related to the geologic history of the western border of the stable interior of the continent. The central part of the continental interior (Paleozoic craton) was made up of a stable core, the Canadian shield. To the west of the Canadian shield, the broad western flank of the Paleozoic craton made up the Cordilleran shelf, which is the site of the shallow-water marine rocks described in this report. The area of study covers approximately 200,000 square miles, and includes eastern Montana, western North Dakota and South Dakota, northeastern Wyoming, and northwestern Nebraska.

The Madison Limestone, or Group, where it is divided, consists of a lower argillaceous limestone (Lodgepole Limestone); a middle unit of fossiliferous carbonate rock (Mission Canyon Limestone); and an upper unit of anhydrite, halite, and interbedded carbonate rock and shale (Charles Formation). The total section is made up of numerous cyclic, marker-defined units. The Madison Limestone was subdivided into units bounded by "marker beds" that consist of thin and widespread shaly carbonate or dark shale recognizable in the subsurface on geophysical logs. The five marker beds used for regional correlation purposes are as follows: M-1 represents the base of the Madison Limestone; M-3 is near the Kinderhookian-Osagean boundary; M-7 and M-8.5 fall within the Osagean; and M-12 is near the Osagean-Meramecian boundary. The top of the Madison Limestone is the Mc marker.

Petrology and petrography of the Madison Limestone and associated rocks were studied from cores taken in three test wells of the U.S. Geological Survey. Six major rock types are recognized within cored intervals of the three test wells. Dolomite forms two-thirds of the total and limestone about 20 percent. The remainder consists of anhydrite, carbonate breccia, carbonate mudstone, and chert.

Crystalline dolomite is the only abundant rock type in wells 1, 2, and 3 that has high enough porosity and permeability to provide significant yields of water. Crystalline dolomites not associated with evaporites may have formed by some sort of meteoric water-sea water mixing process in the subsurface shoreline environment by recrystallization of mud-rich limestones.

Porosity and permeability values of all cored intervals of the Madison Limestone were determined. Mean porosity for the Madison Limestone is 8.4 percent, and mean permeability is 15.8 millidarcies. Because the Madison Limestone is relatively heterogeneous, permeability has a wide range in value.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Petrology and petrography for USGS test wells 1, 2, and 3 in the Madison Limestone in Montana and Wyoming
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 81-221
DOI 10.3133/ofr81221
Year Published 1981
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description Report: x, 84 p.; 4 Plates: 28.98 x 23.73 inches or smaller
Country United States
State Montana, Wyoming
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