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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5145

Assessment of the Coal-Bed Gas Total Petroleum System in the Cook Inlet-Susitna Region, South-Central Alaska

By William A. Rouse and David W. Houseknecht

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The Cook Inlet-Susitna region of south-central Alaska contains large quantities of gas-bearing coal of Tertiary age. The U.S. Geological Survey in 2011 completed an assessment of undiscovered, technically recoverable coal-bed gas resources underlying the Cook Inlet-Susitna region based on the total petroleum system (TPS) concept. The Cook Inlet Coal-Bed Gas TPS covers about 9,600,000 acres and comprises the Cook Inlet basin, Matanuska Valley, and Susitna lowland. The TPS contains one assessment unit (AU) that was evaluated for coal-bed gas resources between 1,000 and 6,000 feet in depth over an area of about 8,500,000 acres.

Coal beds, which serve as both the source and reservoir for natural gas in the AU, were deposited during Paleocene–Pliocene time in mires associated with a large trunk-tributary fluvial system. Thickness of individual coal beds ranges from a few inches to more than 50 feet, with cumulative coal thickness of more than 800 feet in the western part of the basin. Coal rank ranges from lignite to subbituminous, with vitrinite reflectance values less than 0.6 percent throughout much of the AU.

The AU is considered hypothetical because only a few wells in the Matanuska Valley have tested the coal-bed reservoirs, so the use of analog coal-bed gas production data was necessary for this assessment. In order to estimate reserves that might be added in the next 30 years, coal beds of the Upper Fort Union Formation in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana were selected as the production analog for Tertiary coal beds in the Cook Inlet-Susitna region. Upper Fort Union coal beds have similar rank (lignite to subbituminous), range of thickness, and coal-quality characteristics as coal beds of the Tertiary Kenai Group. By use of this analog, the mean total estimate of undiscovered coal-bed gas in the Tertiary Coal-Bed Gas AU is 4.674 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas.

First posted October 2, 2012

For additional information contact:
Energy Resources Program
U.S. Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
National Center, MS 913
Reston, VA 20192
Program Phone: 703–648–6470
Telefax: 703–648–5464

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Suggested citation:

Rouse, W.A., and Houseknecht, D.W., 2012, Assessment of the Coal-Bed Gas Total Petroleum System in the Cook Inlet-Susitna region, south-central Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5145, 19 p., available only at




Structural and Tectonic Setting

Stratigraphic Framework


Total Petroleum System

Assessment Data Input and Results


References Cited

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