Report of Investigations--KGS


Drilling and geophysical data demonstrate that the Mississippi Valley Graben, Rough Creek Graben, and Rome Trough are fault-bounded structures filled with as much as 27,000 ft of Cambrian sediments. Data including stratigraphic tops from 1,764 wells, 106 seismic profiles, aeromagnetic and gravity surveys, and mapped surface geology at a scale of 1:24,000 were used to study seven stratigraphic packages across parts of Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee. Detailed analysis of the thickness patterns of these stratigraphic packages was used to interpret the locations and timing of movement along major fault systems in the study area.

Active rifting of the Precambrian crystalline bedrock began by the Early Cambrian and resulted in thick, sand-rich deposits of the Reelfoot Arkose in the Mississippi Valley Graben and Rough Creek Graben, and the Rome Formation in the Rome Trough. Subsidence continued in these grabens during the Middle to Late Cambrian, leading to deposition of an alternating succession of shales and carbonates (Eau Claire Formation of the Illinois Basin and Conasauga Group of the Appalachian Basin) on top of the coarse clastic Reelfoot Arkose and Rome Formation. Although the tectonic extension that formed these features ended by the Late Cambrian, fault-zone reactivation during the Taconic, Acadian, and Alleghenian Orogenies altered fault-block orientations and produced areas of basin inversion, possibly creating numerous deep structural traps for hydrocarbons sourced by the Cambrian shales of the Eau Claire Formation and Conasauga Group.

Publication Date



Series XIII

Report Number

Report of Investigations 4

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


© 2018 University of Kentucky

Statement of Benefit to Kentucky

Structural movement in Cambrian rocks in Kentucky, deposited from 490 to 515 million years ago, may have created traps for oil and natural gas. Producing these natural resources could benefit Kentucky companies and mineral rights owners and provide tax revenue for the commonwealth.