Isabella County Information

Isabella County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Isabella County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through December 31, 1990 1,641
Total oil wells drilled through December 31, 1990 838
Total gas wells drilled through December 31, 1990 175
Total facility wells drilled through December 31,1990 68
Total dry holes drilled through December 31, 1990 560
Well Density - approximately three wells per square mile (573 square miles in county)
Total cumulative crude oil and lease condensate production through December 31,1986 43,646,634 bbls.
Total cumulative natural gas production through December 31, 1986 35,904,219 Mcf

MT. PLEASANT - The discovery of the Saginaw Field in 1925 is officially credited with making Michigan a "commercially producing" oil state (despite the historical fact that the Oil Springs, Ontario 14 foot handdug well of 1858 put the North American continent in the hydrocarbon, as opposed to whale oil business, for fuel and is technically a part of the Michigan Basin . . . watch for that next month). The first "recorded oil production" for Michigan came from a St. Clair County hole in 1886 and first "recorded natural gas well" in 1909.

In 1925, at Saginaw, the rush was on. The 1927 discovery of the Muskegon field, clear across "the center of the mitten," proved that the Saginaw commercial field was not just fluke.

In 1928, the discovery well of what would be known as the "Mt. Pleasant field" was made, in Midland County ' and after that it was ''Katy bar the door" for Michigan as an oil state. Michigan oil production saw Central Michigan through the late '20s and early thirties vaccinated against the "national depression disease" and saw Mt. Pleasant in 1933 doing an official coffin burial of "OLD MAN DEPRESSION".

First as an accident of geology and later as a seredipity of geography, Isabella County became the center of the Michigan oil patch.

Of the County's total 368,746 acres, only about 4 percent (11,404 acres) are owned by the State of Michigan, with the remaining acreage owned by private, Federal or other governmental bodies.

The decade of the 1990s has begun quietly for Isabella County, long considered the geographic as well as geologic center of the Michigan oilpatch, after oil and gas activity during the 1980s carried on a 50-plus year tradition of Devonian-age oil development here.

Almost halfway through 1991 not a single oil and gas drilling completion had been recorded for the decade in the county, with the highest level of activity currently stemming from Oryx Energ's three-year plan to plug and abandon some 180 wells it operates in the Mt. Pleasant Field (the state's third oldest oil field -discovered in 1928), shared by Isabella with neighboring county of discovery Midland to the east.

The current Isabella County portion of Michigan Oil & Gas News' weekly Oil & Gas Drilling Activity report contains two entries, one industry hopes will be indicative of increased future activity and one that reiects more on activities of the past.

Maxus Exploration Company of Dallas plans to drill an 11,000-foot Cambrian Trempealeau deep pool test off the western edge of the Mt. Pleasant Field in Section 4 of Chippewa Township, T14N, R3W. To date, all four deep basin tests drilled in Isabella County (deeper pool tests of the Leaton, Broomfield, Mt. Pleasant and Vernon-Rosebush Devonian structures) from 1987 to 1989 have been dry.

The other active drilling permit is for the deepening of a well in ANR Pipeline Compan/s gas storage project in the Coldwater Field, whose Michigan Stray Pool is the county's second all-time leading natural gas producer with more than 7.5 billion cubic feet (Bcf) natural gas produced.

Drilling activity in Isabella rose and then fell steadily before and after the count's biggest recent play, the early 1980s development of the Detroit River Group's Richfield and Sour zones in the Vernon- Rosebush Field, whose Dundee pool was opened in 1933.

Drilling statistics for the 1980s show that 9 wells were drilled in 1980 in Isabella County, a figure that jumped to 38 in 1981 and 40 in 1982. Peak year of the decade proved to be 1983, when 112 wells were drilled, more than 70 of them oil producers. The decline started in 1984, when 40 wells were drilled and since then no more than 19 wells have been drilled in a given year in the county.

The total of 262 holes drilled in the '80s pushed Isabella's all-time completion mark to 1,641, good for fourth place on Michigan's list of most drilling completions by county through 1990, behind only Allegan (3,366 holes), Otsego (2,613) and Van Buren (1,791).

In terms of all-time production, Isabella ranked seventh in oil and 16th in natural gas through the end of 1986 (latest comprehensive production figures available by county), mostly on the strength of its Devonian Dundee Limestone oil and Mississippian Michigan Stray Sand gas output, see Isabella County At A Glance Box, this page, for details.

Those figures are even more impressive than they would first appear, since production from the Mt Pleasant Field's Dundee Pool, considered Midland County production by the Department of Natural Resources due to its discovery there, is not included. A breakdown of Mt. Pleasant Field Dundee production from Isabella County is not available, but the entire pool had produced more than 29 million barrels oil through 1986.

The Coldwater Field's Dundee Pool, discovered in 1944, still stands as the county's leader in oil output, with the 81 wells drilled there making more than 22 million barrels oil, or more than one-half of all oil production officially attributed to the county. Gas leader is the Broomfield Field's Michigan Stray Pool, with more than 13 Bcf produced through 1986.

Other fields contributing significantly to overall oil production figures have been: Vernon-Rosebush Dundee with 8.1 million barrels oil; Sherman Dundee (4.8 million barrels); Wise Dundee (4.1 million barrels) and Leaton Dundee, discovered in 1929 as the earliest commercial producer within county boundaries (1.9 million barrels). Big gas producers included: Coldwater Dundee with 6.3 Bcf, nearly as much as the Michigan Stray Pool there; Clare City Michigan Stray (2.3 Bcf); Wise Michigan Stray (1.7 Bcf) and Vernon Michigan Stray (1.5 Bcf).

Like most of its central Michigan neighbors, Isabella County has relied on Devonian horizons for the bulk of its oil production to date, with a small amount of oil produced by from a handful of Mississippian Michigan Stray wells. Most has come from the Dundee and Detroit River Richfield and Sour zones, however, with the shallower Traverse Limestone productive in several fields, but not prolific by any means.

Area independents H.E. Tope, Inc., Apollo Exploration and Development and (ay Woods Oil Company were among the leaders of the early 1980s Vernon-Rosebush Detroit River development, and a combine of the three companies, ATW Inc., was responsible for building a natural gas sweetening facility near the village of Rosebush to treat gas produced from the field after flaring of gas was halted by order of the Supervisor of Wells.

Combined daily production capabilities of the 50 wells active in the Vernon- Rosebush Detroit River Richfield and Sour Zone pools at the end of 1989 was 181 barrels oil daily, according to Department of Natural Resources Geological Survey Division records, but a soft gas market and the high costs of sweetening the gas has cut sharply into the profitability of operating the field, according to the principles.

Independents and major oil companies alike have been involved in Isabella County's as yet disappointing deep gas play. Amoco Production Company and PetroStar Energy teamed up on the first deep test, a dry deeper pool probe of the Leaton Field in Section 31 of Denver Township, T15N, R3W.

No better fortune was met by Fairway Petroleum, Inc. on its 1988 Broomfield DPT in Section 8 of Broomfield Township (T14N, R6W), or by either Sun Exploration & Production Company (now Oryx Energy) in Section 13ofChippewa Township (T14N, R3W) or PetroStar in Section 13 of Isabella Township, T15N, R4W), both drilled in 1989.

A look at the map of Isabella County oil and gas well locations on page 9 reveals that while well density is approximately three wells per square mile, most drilling has been concentrated in the major producing areas with large areas remaining untouched by the drill bit.

As Oryx Energy continues to carry out its planned abandonment of the historic Mt. Pleasant Field, including the pilot Dundee waterflood project it has conducted in Midland County's Greendale Township (T14N, R2VV), industry observers and participants are hopeful that future activity - such as the planned Maxus deep test - will bring new meaning to Mt. Pleasant's claim as "Oil Capital of Michigan".

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