Date of Award


Degree Type

Non-Thesis Project


Geological Engineering

First Advisor

Larry Smith

Second Advisor

John Getty

Third Advisor

Chris Gammons


The Pennsylvanian Tensleep Sandstone is an eolian and nearshore marine/sabka quartz arenite unit with prominent outcrops along the western Pryor/Bighorn Mountain front east of Red Lodge, MT. Regionally, the formation represents one of the largest ergs in the global geologic record. High permeability makes it an important oil and gas reservoir and aquifer in south central Montana and throughout much of Wyoming. The Tensleep Sandstone’s high percentage of quartz content and grain roundness, due to its eolian origin, makes it a prospective source for natural proppant sand.

Three continuous 4-inch cores were obtained during a cooperative project between Montana Tech and industry partners. Using stratigraphic sections, cores, thin sections, and x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis, the usefulness and economic feasibility of the Tensleep Sandstone as a minable hydraulic fracture proppant was explored. Usefulness depends on cementation, grain shape, grain size, and depth from surface of the prospective zone. Grain shape and size were determined by thin sections, sieving, and stereomicroscope analysis. Analysis of 20 disaggregated sand samples has shown that as much as 30 percent of the grain sizes fall between 30-50 mesh (medium- to finegrained sand size) and about 45 percent of the grain sizes fall between 70–140 mesh (very fine-grained sand to coarse silt), grain sizes appropriate for some hydraulic fracture operations. Core descriptions and XRF data display the distribution of lithology and cementation.

Core descriptions and XRF data display the distribution of lithology and cementation. Elemental (XRF) analyses help to delineate more pure quartz sands from those with grain fractions reflecting fine-grained clastic and evaporitic inputs. The core and nearby stratigraphic sections are used to quantify the amount of overburden and the 3 amount of resource in the area. Initial results show favorable crush strength and useable grain size and shape.


A Non‐thesis Research Paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Master of Science Degree Geoscience: Geology Option.

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