The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the State Office, Reservoir Management Group (RMG), of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Casper (Wyoming), investigated the coalbed methane resources (CBM) in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming and Montana, from 1999 to the present. Beginning in late 1999, the study also included the Williston Basin in Montana and North and South Dakota and Green River Basin and Big Horn Basin in Wyoming. The rapid development of CBM (referred to as coalbed natural gas by the BLM) during the early 1990s, and the lack of sufficient data for the BLM to fully assess and manage the resource in the Powder River Basin, in particular, gave impetus to the cooperative program.
An integral part of the joint USGS-BLM project was the participation of 25 gas operators that entered individually into confidential agreements with the USGS, and whose cooperation was essential to the study. The arrangements were for the gas operators to drill and core coal-bed reservoirs at their cost, and for the USGS and BLM personnel to then desorb, analyze, and interpret the coal data with joint funding by the two agencies. Upon completion of analyses by the USGS, the data were to be shared with both the BLM and the gas operator that supplied the core, and then to be released or published 1 yr after the report was submitted to the operator.