Sulfur has been reported in Eddy County, N. Mex., in rocks ranging from Silurian to Holocene in age at depths of 0-15,020 feet. Targets of present exploration are Permian formations in the Delaware Basin and northwest shelf areas at depths of less than 4,000 feet. Most of the reported sulfur occurrences in the shelf area are in the 'Abo' (as used by some subsurface geologists), Yeso, and San Andres Formations and the Artesia Group. Sulfur deposition in the dense dolomites of the 'Abo,' Yeso, and San Andres Formations is attributed to the reduction of ionic sulfate by hydrogen sulfide in formation waters in zones of preexisting porosity and permeability. A similar origin accounts for most of the sulfur deposits in the formations of the Artesia Group, but some of the sulfur in these formations may have originated in place through the alteration of anhydrite to carbonate and sulfur by the metabolic processes of bacteria in the presence of hydrocarbons.
Exploration in the Delaware Basin area is directed primarily toward the Castile Formation. Sulfur deposits in the Castile Formation are found in irregular masses of cavernous brecciated secondary carbonate rock enveloped by impermeable anhydrite. The carbonate masses, or 'castiles,' probably originated as collapse features resulting from subsurface solution and upward stopping. Formation of carbonate rock and sulfur in the castiles is attributed to the reduction of brecciated anhydrite by bacteria and hydrocarbons in the same process ascribed to the formation of carbonate and sulfur in the caprocks of salt domes.