Clare County Information

Clare County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Clare County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through December 31, 1989 1,549
Total oil wells drilled through December 31, 1989 451
Total gas wells drilled through December 31, 1989 186*
Total facility wells drilled through December 31, 1989 502*
Total dry holes drilled through December 31, 1989 410
Well Density - approximately three wells per square mile (577 square miles in county)
Total cumulative crude oil and lease condensate production through December 31, 1989 36,509,849 bbls.* *
Total cumulative natural gas production through December 31, 1989 64,884,517 Mcf**

* Facility well total includes wells originally drilled as natural gas producers and later converted for gas storage use.
* * Includes all production through 1986 plus prorated production only for 1987.

HARRISON - Clare County qualifies as one of the "old guard" in Michigan's oil and gas exploration history, but also has been in on play after play through the five ensuing decades before establishing a leadership role in the state's newest play for deep gas.

Situated near the center of the Michigan Basin, Clare County is billed as the "Gateway to the North.'' Luckily, oil and gas exploration companies weren't headed north 50 years ago and enough attention was given to Clare County's 577 square miles to tie the county for second on the well density list at an average of three wells drilled per square mile - a figure exceeded only by Allegan County and its 4:1 ratio.

Clare County had production before most other Michigan counties even saw a cable tool rig. The 1929 discovery of the McKay Field's gas reserves led to other Michigan Stray sandstone fields, usually from 1,200 to 1,700 feet, being found in numbers supporting large reserves.

Through 1973, based on State Geological Survey records, the leading oil producers were Midland County with 67 million barrels of crude oil produced, Osceola at 55.1 million, Isabella 53.3 million, Hillsdale 51.8 million, Arenac 46.3 million and Clare sixth with 36.1 million barrels.

Even with the production surge of the 1970's in the Northern Niagaran Reef Trend (stretching roughly from Manistee County on Lake Michigan through Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Otsego to Presque Isle on Lake Huron) approximately 40 miles north of Clare County, the Gateway County has held a position in the top ten in both oil and gas production during most or all of the last 50 years.

There have been Clare County discoveries in every decade except the 1970's since the discovery of the 1929 McKay Field. The lull in the 1970's from an exploration standpoint was quickly followed by a 1980's resurgence which included shallow Michigan Stray and Traverse discoveries, a deep gas find, the revival of an abandoned field, the expansion of a couple others and a deep gas try which appears to be encouraging and is waiting on completion.

The state's shallow producing fields have shown potential for deeper pay zones, resulting in a number of Richfield or Sour Zone pay zones being found below Traverse or Dundee producing fields. Now Prairie du Chien formation gas is being found at depths of 10,000 to 12,000 in the Michigan Basin and Clare's long list of shallow fields opens the door to more deep drilling in the future of what is now a new frontier for operators in Michigan.

Michigan's deep gas play got its official start in Mis.saukee County, Clare County's neighbor to the north, and quickly spread to other counties, including Clare.

The future might hold some potential for excitement, but it will be hard to beat Clare County's illustrious past. [n the 1930's and 1940's banner headlines in major metropolitan newspapers often hailed new oil or gas finds and Clare County was right in the thick of it.

You name it and, if it is oil and gas related, probably Clare County is involved. Within the county there are secondary recovery projects, gas storage fields, both shallow and deep producing wells and production from at least eight different formations.

In 1929 when Clare's McKay Field was discovered, only 13 discoveries were listed for the entire state. In the 1930's the state was still a fledgling at the business of finding and producing oil and gas for market and Clare County contributed three new fields: the Clare City Gas Field, the Clare City Oil Field and the Freeman-Redding Field.

The Clare City Field had production of only 87,615 barrels of oil and 2,340,880 Mcf of natural gas, but the Freeman-Redding Field in 1938. gave an indication of the promise buried deep in the county's geological formations. Through 1982 the field has produced nearly 17 million barrels of oil and two billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The 1940's were big times in the growing Michigan oil industry, and Clare was in the limelight time and time again - accounting for 13 new fields or reservoirs in the 10-year span from 1940 to 1950.

In 1932, W.J. Soverign, a Bay City industrialist and home-builder, drilled a gas well in the McKay Field on a lease obtained from the Pere Marquette Railroad Company. Soverign had negotiated leases with both the Pere Marquette and Ann Arbor railroads for miles of trackage crisscrossing Central Michigan. When the big Stray gas well came in, Pere Marquette and Detroit city officials rode to the wellsite in a private car on a special train from Detroit. All four Detroit newspapers (Free Press, News, Times and Mirror) as well as the Pathe News Reel sent men along also. The well was banner-headlined as a likely answer for cheap gas in the city of Detroit and other communities.

Soverign was later stopped by a court injunction from drilling on another railroad right-of-way site but the State Supreme Court ruled that such drilling could be done as long as it didn't interfere with normal railroad operations or endanger public safety. A State Supreme Court ruling in 1941 in the Garfield I Petroleum and Central Michigan Railroad case decreed that railroads acquire only surface rights and not fee simple (minerals) when they purchase right-of-ways.

Freeman-Redding in Clare County, a 3,800-3,900-foot Dundee reservoir, was opened by Dr. S.I. Higlemire and associates who included Judge Donald E. Holbrook and Mark H. Bicknell, a banker, both of Clare. More than 170 wells were drilled in the field, some on 10-acre and 20-acre units.

The Freeman-Redding is the county's biggest all-time producer, with Dundee production of 16,907,866 barrels of oil and 1,945,432 Mcf of natural gas through 1982. Other fields producing more than one million barrels of oil included: the Hamilton Field (6,888,649 barrels), the Winterfield Field Dundee Pool (4,896,622), the Cranberry Lake Richfield Pool (2,119,728) and the Skeels Field Detroit River Sour Zone Pool (1,368,364).

Deep gas. Those two words come the closest of any to summarizing the biggest happenings in Clare County's petroleum history in the 51 months since Michigan's Oil & Gas News first looked in March 1986 at the petroleum exploration and production events that combined to make the central Lower Peninsula Michigan county the 11th largest producer of oil and the ninth largest producer of gas among the 61 oil-producing and 49 gas-producing counties in the state through 1987.

Of the handful of field or pool discoveries officially confirmed in that four-plus year period only the Cranberry Lake and Winterfield Prairie du Chien Pools, both found on deeper pool tests of two of the county's three largest (in terms of acreage, number of wells and production) Devonian and Mississippian reservoirs, have contributed or shown the promise to contribute significant amounts of hydrocarbon production to alltime county totals.

The Cranberry Lake Prairie du Chien discovery well was drilled in 1984, but the Hunt Energy Lease Management 1-12 well did not actually go on commercial production until March 1987. In less than three years the Lease Management 1-12 well and four others in the Cranberry Lake Prairie du Chien Pool (one drilled to replace the discovery) had combined with three wells in the Winterfield Prairie du Chien Pool (discovered in 1988) to rank Clare seventh on the state's list of 13 deep gas producing counties through the end of 1989 with cumulative production of nearly five billion cubic feet (Bcf) gas. The Cranberry Lake Prairie du Chien Pool discovery well's replacement, the PetroStar Energy State Winterfield 1-12, stood at the end of 1989 as the top individual deep producer in the county, with 2,136,316 Mcfgas produced during 29 months on line.

Of Clare's "big three" of Winterfield, Cranberry Lake and the large Freeman- Lincoln and Freeman-Redding complex, only Freeman-Lincoln/Freeman-Redding has gone without successful deep drilling. In fact, the only deep drilling yet attempted in any of the three townships of Freeman (T18N, R6W), Lincoln (T18N, R5W) or Redding (T19N, R6W) has been a dry 1986 wildcat drilled by PetroStar Energy in Section 1 of Redding Township, on the southeast flank of the Winterfield Michigan Stray and Dundee reservoirs.

Deep gas production has a long, long way to go to match the 1940s through 1960s output from the Mississippian-age Michigan Stray and Marshall Sandstone Formations, which are responsible for the vast majority of the more than 64 Bcf gas produced alltime in Clare County through the end of 1987.

Four fields now converted for use as gas storage reservoirs in the Michigan Stray and Marshall horizons (Cranberry Lake, Freeman-Lincoln, North Hamilton and Marion [Winterfield]) account for more than 52 Bcf of the cumulative county output, the highest totals being from Marion (Winterfield) with 20.5 Bcf and Freeman-Lincoln with 18.5 Bcf.

Probably the most unique discovery brought in during the past four years was PetroStar Energy's Frodey 1-1 well in Section 1 of Hayes Township, T19, R4W. The deeper pool test of the Hamilton Field's Richfield oil producing reservoir was drilled to 12,358 feet in the Prairie du Chien and while not commercially productive in the deep zones, the well was tested initially at rates of up to 4,150 Mcfgas daily from the Salina A-l Carbonate in 1986.

Early testing showed the Frodey 1-1 well's completed interval was living up to at least half of the zone's general characterization as a "high pressure, low volume" horizon, with an estimated bottom hole pressure of 9,200 pounds per square inch reported at the perforated depth of 8,904 feet. How low a volume it holds there may remain to be seen, with commercial gas sales from the discovery well very limited to date. Two additional tests (one drilled to the Prairie du Chien, one to the A-l Carb) by PetroStar remain at total depth with final status unknown after 1989 drilling in Sections 34 and 35 of Frost Township to the northwest.

The mid to late 1980s saw start up of two secondary recovery waterflood projects in Clare County to go along with previously existing projects in the Cranberry Lake and Hamilton Fields. Kaiser-Francis has instituted a flood in the Skeels Field's Detroit River Sour Zone and Richfield, with latest available data showing that 11 wells were being produced, with 11 being utilized for water injection.

More recently. Dart Oil & Gas Corporation gained approval to waterflood the Winterfield Field's Detroit River/Richfield interval, with that project utilizing 21 of 38 wells reported active at the end of 1988 as Producers, with 17 in service as water injection wells.

A rundown of the recent production performance by the strongest Clare County oil fields all-time for the period of 1983 through 1986 (the most recent data available since that published in the March 1986 Profile) shows the highest output has come from two pools in the Winterfield Devonian structure. The Detroit River/Richfield zone is slightly ahead of the Dundee in that period, making approximately 284,000 barrels to the Dundee's 263,000. The Hamilton Richfield Zone was next with 180,000 barrels for the four years, followed by Cranberry Lake Detroit River/Richfield with 130,000 barrels and Freeman-Redding with 74,000 barrels.

Selected materials on this page copyright 1991 by Michigan Oil & Gas News, Incorporated.