Ingham County Information

Ingham County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Ingham County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through March 31, 1986 349
Total oil wells drilled through March 31, 1986 103
Total natural gas wells drilled through March 31, 1986 17
Total facility wells drilled through March 31,1986 14
Well density - approximately one per two square miles (560 square miles in county)
Total cumulative oil and condensate production through December 31, 1982 17,669,149 bbls*
Total-natural gas production through December 31, 1982 34,259,653 Mcf*

* Latest cumulative figures available by county

MASON - Ingham County's petroleum production history began with a "bang," literally, when in September of 1970 a strong gas kick was experienced during coring of a Mobil Oil Corporation wildcat in Section 16 of Vevay Township, T2N, R1W. Mobil and Calvert Eastern Drilling Company crews were able to control the highly-pressured A-l Carbonate/upper Niagaran zone, but more importantly the gas kick and Mobil's ensuing completion of the first producing oil well in Ingham County sparked new and unprecedented interest in the suspected but little-understood "Niagara bank," productive to both east and west, but lying fallow throughout most of south-central Michigan.

The hole was abandoned when the gas continued to cut drilling mud, but Mobil moved quickly to skid the rig and drill a new wellbore for the EIlsworth Brown #1 (W2 SE SE, Sec 16, Vevay Township). The Vevay discovery, located near the US-127 freeway and just south of the city of Mason, went on line at a rate of more than 300 barrels per day oil, flowing, along with nearly a quartermillion cubic feet per day natural gas.

Despite being drilled after two disappointing tests to the northeast in Leroy Township earlier in 1970, the big discovery showed Mobil was well prepared for the inevitable rush, as leasemen "combed the area, but were finding poor pickings," according to an Oil & Gas News account of the day.

The use of seismic surveying, which was becoming relatively common in the Northern Reef Trend but was still unusual "down south," is credited with giving Mobil and other early Southern Trend players the edge in pinpointing the untapped Salina-Niagaran reservoirs.

Following their discovery of the Vevay 16 Pool (whose two wells are still active and have produced more than 275,000 barrels oil and 2.25 billion cubic feet natural gas), Mobil continued drilling on the seismic "wonderspots," bagging the Vevay 19, Onondaga 10 and Onondaga 21 discoveries within nine months of the original find.

Onondaga 10, which was unitized and became a waterflood project in mid-1983, is far and away the most prolific producing field in Ingham County with the 17 wells drilled in it making more than 7.8 million barrels oil, nearly half the county's all-time cumulative output. Along with secondary recovery projects in Aurelius 35, Ingham 13 and two Onondaga 21 units, Mobil also discovered and developed similar prolific reefs in Calhoun County's Convis 18 and Pennfield 35 Fields in the early 1970's, with those reservoirs now also being waterflooded.

While the early 1970's Niagaran play in Ingham County would rate as a genuine overnight success (Oil & Gas News records show no drilling activity to any horizon in the county from 1963 until Mobil began it's program), the search for productive reefs has not been an easy one. Overall success rate for all holes drilled for oil and gas in Ingham stood at 36 percent through early 1986, placing the county on a par with the predominantly Niagaran-producing counties of Grand Traverse and Otsego to the north.

Success rates is where similarities with the northern counties end. While the generally more prolific taller, reefs of the north are spread in a fairly uniform band from Mason and Oceana County on the west to Presque Isle County on the east, the southern trend is made up of smaller and shorter reefs, dotted along a winding, irregularly-shaped path.

Reefs containing Brown Niagaran sections 500 to 600 feet thick are not uncommon in parts of the north, while reef buildup found in Ingham County and other south central areas tends to be more on the order of 300 to 400 feet. Compared to the six to eight-mile width found across the northern trend, the southern belt spans several townships north to south in Livingston County to the east, but may narrow to as little as two miles in Vevay Township, according to explorationists.

Since Mobil's early finds, no reefs have been drilled with nearly the areal extent of Onondaga 10, which is thought to underly some 880 acres in parts of sections 2, 3, 10,11 and I4of Onondaga Township (TIN, R2W). Sharing a common base, reef structures like Onondaga 10 and the Onondaga 21 units appear to have two or more "bumps" growing up from them as high as 440 feet, and would probably be more accurately described as reef complexes.

Evidence of the winding, sinuous nature of the trend in Ingham County is the drilling of numerous water-filled reef structures in Vevay and northern Leslie (TIN, R1W) Townships, south of the established Vevay production, but east and well north of the large Onondaga reefs. In general, the basinward reefs (to the north in the southern trend) display a tendency to be salt-plugged, while reefs nearer the carbonate bank seem to be "wet." Some geologists have theorized that slower subsidence of Silurian-age seas which once covered the central Michigan Basin played a part in creating the irregular reefing pattern.

While Mobil began the play and established dominance early by finding several of the largest structures in the Southern Reef Trend, independents were eventually able to gain a foothold later in the 1970's. Bermax Oil Company was the first independent to find a productive reef in Ingham, drilling the Danto #1 (NW NE SE, Sec 20, Vevay Township) as an oil discovery in early 1972. Other independents to successfully play Ingham County, making discoveries in the late 1970'sand early 1980's have been: Kulka & Schmidt, Michigan Oil, Michigan Gas Utilities, Traverse Oil, Reef Petroleum, Michigan Petroleum Exploration, Sullivan & Company, Petrotech and Empire Oil & Gas.

Amoco Production Company is the only major other than Mobil to be credited with a reef discovery in the county, Jackson-based Consumers Power Company and its subsidiary Northern Michigan Exploration Company made a total five reef discoveries.

Prior to the Niagaran boom, Ingham County had been virtually unexplored, save for scattered Dundee tests from as early as 1929 into the early 1960's and a handful of sub-Niagaran tests. Mobil drilled below the Niagaran on many of their early wells, their Kranz # 1 (C S NE, Sec 29, Vevay Township) remains the county's deepest probe, reportedly ending in the basement at a depth of 7,866 feet.

According to geophysicist Ken Stroder, who lead the seismic exploration team which enabled Mobil to crack the Ingham nut in 1970, it was the promise of finding either Niagaran or Trenton-Black River production, or both, along with the ready availability of leases, that drew Mobile into the central Southern Trend area.

"There was hope of finding another Atbion-Scipio type feature," Stroder said, "and our studies indicated the possibility of reefing was also good." Utilizing some of the earliest cross-country vibrator type seismic acquisition equipment and state-of-the-art processing techniques through their in-house computers, Mobil was able to show the way in finding the reef anomalies.

The story could have had a different ending had Stroder's team not run a line over the Vevay 16 reef when it did. Already spudded on the third well of a planned five-well program, Stroder said the lack of success on the first two holes made scrapping of the entire operation a distinct possibility. With seismic data showing their "best prospect yet," Stroder said, Mobil moved a rig on prospect number four, the Brown #1 in Section 16 of Vevay Township, spudding the hole before the third well, in Section 29 of Vevay, had reached bottom.

On the future of Niagaran exploration in Ingham County, Stroder said "reef hunting there is certainly not over, it's just a matter of a company being aggressive enough to obtain the leases, shoot seismic and drill the anomalies."

Saying the gap in production between Vevay and Onondaga Townships to the west and Ingham, White Oak and Stockbridge Townships to the east should not condemn the area to further exploration, Stroder offers the theory that tectonic activity may have rendered the stratigraphic layers directly above the Niagaran interval an "ineffective seal" for hydrocarbons.

Stroder says he believes reef anomalies in that area can be detected with seismic, adding that the lack of development is based more on absence of commercial production than an inability to locale the reefs. "Tremendous improvements have been made in seismic technology since we started our work there in 1969," Stroder said.

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