Burial history, thermal maturity, and timing of oil and gas generation were modeled for seven key source-rock units at eight well locations throughout the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming and Montana. Also modeled was the timing of cracking to gas of Phosphoria Formation-sourced oil in the Permian Park City Formation reservoirs at two well locations. Within the basin boundary, the Phosphoria is thin and only locally rich in organic carbon; it is thought that the Phosphoria oil produced from Park City and other reservoirs migrated from the Idaho-Wyoming thrust belt. Other petroleum source rocks include the Cretaceous Thermopolis Shale, Mowry Shale, Frontier Formation, Cody Shale, Mesaverde and Meeteetse Formations, and the Tertiary (Paleocene) Fort Union Formation.
Locations (wells) selected for burial history reconstructions include three in the deepest parts of the Bighorn Basin (Emblem Bench, Red Point/Husky, and Sellers Draw), three at intermediate depths (Amoco BN 1, Santa Fe Tatman, and McCulloch Peak), and two at relatively shallow locations (Dobie Creek and Doctor Ditch). The thermal maturity of source rocks is greatest in the deep central part of the basin and decreases to the south, east, and north toward the basin margins. The Thermopolis and Mowry Shales are predominantly gas-prone source rocks, containing a mix of Type-III and Type-II kerogens. The Frontier, Cody, Mesaverde, Meeteetse, and Fort Union Formations are gas-prone source rocks containing Type-III kerogen. Modeling results indicate that in the deepest areas, (1) the onset of petroleum generation from Cretaceous rocks occurred from early Paleocene through early Eocene time, (2) peak petroleum generation from Cretaceous rocks occurred during Eocene time, and (3) onset of gas generation from the Fort Union Formation occurred during early Eocene time and peak generation occurred from late Eocene to early Miocene time. Only in the deepest part of the basin did the oil generated from the Thermopolis and Mowry Shales start generating gas from secondary cracking, which occurred in the late Eocene to Miocene. Also, based on modeling results, gas generation from the cracking of Phosphoria oil reservoired in the Park City Formation began in the late Eocene in the deep part of the basin but did not anywhere reach peak generation.