Wyoming’s Oil and Natural Gas Resources
Wyoming is rich in oil and natural gas resources. These fossil fuels are used to fuel cars and airplanes, power electrical plants, and heat our homes. They are also used for creating thousands of household products.
The WSGS works to provide knowledge on Wyoming’s vast oil and gas resources to a variety of audiences. This effort includes identifying oil and gas fields in the state’s basins, documenting producing formations, categorizing the geology, and mapping the locations of Wyoming’s pipelines, refineries, and gas plants.
Petroleum and natural gas are the by-products of geological processes that occur deep in the Earth. Oil and gas is the result of ancient seas that once covered the state. Earth’s natural processes essentially cook deeply buried organic material over millions of years to form oil and natural gas. Oil tends to form at lower temperatures and natural gas at higher temperatures.
Wyoming hosts some of the largest oil and gas fields in the nation, including the Pinedale and Jonah natural gas fields, which rank among the top 10 in the nation. The state ranks third in the nation in the production of natural gas and eighth in crude “unprocessed” oil production. Nearly 25 percent of the nation’s energy comes from oil and 22 percent from natural gas. In Wyoming, coal accounts for more than 90 percent of the state’s electrical generation capacity.
Exploration and Production
In 2011, exploration included a total of 1,522 oil and gas wells were drilled and completed in the state. Of those wells
produced, 260 wells or 17 percent found oil, and 1,175 or 77 percent found gas. Wyoming produced over 2.3 trillion cubic feet of marketed natural gas in 2011, sliding to the number three spot in the nation from its second place ranking in 2010. Texas is first and Louisiana second. The state continues to rank eighth in the nation in oil production with 54.5 million barrels, in 2011.
Refining and Transportation
Wyoming is the transportation crossroads for Canadian crude oil imports and serves as the byway for Rocky Mountain production flowing to U.S. markets.
- 6 active refineries have the capability of refining 192,500 barrels of crude oil each day (located in the southern and eastern parts of the state)
- 100 companies operate over 27,300 miles of major pipelines in Wyoming carrying crude oil, natural gas, and other petroleum products
- Pipelines cross through all of the state’s 23 counties
Wyoming ranks tenth in the nation in proved reserves of crude oil and second in natural gas reserves. Reserve estimates in 2010 for oil were 567 million barrels of oil and 35,074 billion cubic feet of natural gas (USGS).
Wyoming is a state rich in hydrocarbon resources, due to a fortuitous overlap of geology and geography. The bulk of the oil and gas in Wyoming began as organic-rich shales deposited in the shallow Permian seas of the Phosphoria Formation (~278–253 million years ago) or the Cretaceous western interior seaway (~124–65 million years ago). Subsequent burial and increased pressures and temperatures allowed the organic material to mature into hydrocarbons, which migrated in the subsurface through fractures and porous sandstones and were ultimately trapped in various locations in the basins throughout the state. These traps are currently Wyoming’s oil and gas fields.
Wyoming also has enormous deposits of oil shale rock, known as marlstone, which can be converted into crude oil through a process called destructive distillation. The Green River Formation, found in parts of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, contains the largest known oil shale deposits in the world. Wyoming’s oil shale deposits, concentrated in the Green River and Washakie basins in the southwestern part of the state, contain an estimated 300 billion barrels of oil, equal to about one-fourth of the world’s proven oil reserves.
What is Oil?
Crude or “unprocessed” oil is a fossil fuel, meaning that it formed naturally from decaying plants and animals living in ancient seas millions of years ago. Wyoming was once an ancient sea.
What is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is a vital component of the world’s supply of energy. This flammable gas consists largely of methane and other hydrocarbons, occurs naturally underground and is primarily used as a fuel source. Natural gas is one of the cleanest and safest energy fuels.
The petroleum industry has been exploring for oil and gas in Wyoming for more than 130 years. In 1884, the first oil well was drilled southeast of present day Lander. Wyoming’s first refinery was in Casper in 1895. The first crude oil pipeline was constructed in 1911.
Wyoming Severance Taxes
Oil and natural gas production paid more than $633 million in severance taxes in 2011 (65 percent of all severance taxes paid by Wyoming minerals produced).
Wyoming Labor Statistics
What does the oil and gas energy sector mean for the Wyoming workforce
- 26,000 jobs in 2011 were supported by this industry
- $2.1 billion contribution to WY labor income
- $2.4 billion contribution to WY economy
U.S. Oil and Gas Industry
Today, the oil and natural gas industry supports 9.2 million U.S. jobs and 7.7 percent of the U.S. economy, delivers $86 million a day in revenue to the U.S. government, and since 2000, has invested more than $2 trillion in U.S. capital projects to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives.
The WSGS maps occurrences of oil and natural gas in fields within the state, does research that helps find new occurrences of oil and natural gas, and projects prices and production of oil and natural gas for Wyoming revenue estimates.
- WSGS Wyoming Oil and Gas Map
- WSGS Oil and Gas Resources Summary Report
- Wyoming Public Service Commission
- Wyoming Infrastructure Authority
- Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
- Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Land Quality Division
- Western Area Power Administration
- The History of the Oil Business
Petroleum Association of Wyoming
U.S. Energy Information Association
Wyoming Mining Association
Ranie Lynds, PhD, PG
(307) 766-2286 Ext. 235
(307) 766-2286 Ext. 235