Arizona Geological Society

Helium Exploration and Exploitation in the Holbrook Basin, Arizona

  • 03 May 2022
  • 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
  • Zoom


(depends on selected options)

Base fee:

Arizona Geological Society


Kurt Constenius and Andrew Payton

University of Arizona

Helium exploration and exploitation

in the Holbrook Basin, Arizona

Tues. May 3, 2022 | 6:30 p.m.


(ZOOM window open at 6:15 p.m.)


Photo Credit: A helium mining operation at the Nahata Dziil chapter of the Navajo Nation, near Chambers, Ariz., on April 8, 2021.

Thomas Hawthorne/The Republic

Abstract:  Helium is a strategic commodity which has important medical, industrial and research applications.   Historically, the United States has been the world’s leading producer of helium and some of the richest and highest concentrations of this gas (8-10%) are found in the Holbrook basin of Arizona.  First commercial production of helium in the Holbrook basin by Kerr-McGee Corporation took place in 1961 at Pinta Dome Field. 

In this talk we’ll review:  i) the history of helium discovery, the Kipling Petroleum Macie 1-72 well drilled in 1950,  aspects of early production (1961-1974) at the Pinta Dome and Navajo Springs helium fields, and describe how we used legacy production and drilling records combined with an understanding of governmental actions to cause renewed investment in drilling and production (2013-present);

ii) the methodology of geologic sampling and interpretation as it relates to coordination with drilling so as to optimize formation evaluation and flow-testing of productive formations during air-drilling operations;

iii) describe the stratigraphy of the Triassic Shinarump Formation as it relates to permitting and drilling strategies, reservoir heterogeneity, and the effects of sandstone diagenesis that can lead to the use of acid-matrix stimulation to enhance permeability; and

iv) conclude with some thoughts on the avenues of helium-gas migration, the potential importance of groundwater on the transport and trapping of helium, and the relationship of the Hopi Buttes volcanic field to helium production.


BIO: Kurt Constenius is adjunct faculty in Geosciences at UArizona specializing in structure, tectonics, and reflection seismology.  He has been involved in helium exploration in Arizona’s Holbrook Basin for the past decade.

Recent publication: Spencer, J.E. and Constenius, K.N., 2020, Reconnaissance study of mylonitic fabrics in the Bellota Ranch area, eastern Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona. Arizona Geological Survey Contributed Report CR-20-C, 12 p, one appendix.


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