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|Total wells drilled through 1986||837|
|Total oil wells drilled through 1986||464|
|Total gas wells drilled through 1986||6|
|Total facility wells drilled through 1986||13|
|Total dry holes drilled through 1986||354|
|Well density - approximately one well per square mile (868 square miles in county)|
|Total cumulative oil and lease condensate production through December 31,1984*||18,623,354 bbls.|
|Total cumulative natural gas production through December 31,1984*||5,007,224 Mcf|
*Date of most recent cumulative production figures.
GRAND RAPIDS - Overshadowed in its early days by the big Salem and Bloomingdale drilling booms to the southwest, oil and gas development in Kent County came on fast and came on strong in the late 1930s and 1940s as the Walker Field provided the area with what may be the biggest drilling boom the state has ever seen.
Not the biggest in terms of cumulative production, the 30-mile-long Albion-Pulaski- Scipio Trenton/Black River trend in south central Michigan holds that distinction with more than 120 million ban-els produced, Walker claims top honors for number of producing wells drilled all-time with 784.
Kent County's first and only major oil field, Walker had produced a total of 17,784,287 barrels oil through the end of 1984 and had 341 wells still active at that time, second only to Albion-Pulaski- Scipio's 475. The oil production total was good enough to place Walker eighth on Michigan's all-time list and put Kent 19th among Michigan's 59 oil producing counties.
Commercial oil production in Kent County had a rather inauspicious start nearly 50 years ago, but the relative dearth of coverage in pages of the late 1938 Michigan Oil & Gas News was probably due more to the attention grabbing reports of big initial flows from the shallow Traverse Limestone wells in Allegan and Van Buren than a lack of interest in Kent County activity.
Michigan's commercial oil industry was just approaching adolescence when Allegan County's Salem Field was discovered in 1937, followed by other Traverse Lime finds in Diamond Springs and Dorr as well as Van Buren County's Bloomingdale Field the next year- The lure of the relatively shallow (less than 2,000 feet in some areas) Traverse Lime oil pays attracted lease men, developers, drillers and service companies from other parts of the state and country to southwestern Michigan.
Average daily crude oil runs from Allegan County fields increased tenfold from autumn 1937 to September 1938, going from 807 bpd to 8,640 bpd in just one year. The Bloomingdale discovery quickly kicked off a town lot drilling spree in and around the small community which probably more than any other single event caused officials of the state Conservation Department to consider regulation of both spacing and proration to control the drilling for and taking of oil from such fast developing fields.
Michigan Oil & Gas News reported on the enactment of local and state regulation in response to the spree at the same time completion work was quietly being conducted on Byron McCallum and George F. Herr's L.M. Story #l.well in Section 32 of Kent County's Walker Township, T7N, R12W, in late 1938.
A completion report showed that the well flowed at 90 barrels per day oil after acid. Not bad by today's standards, but apparently not enough to steal the thunder from the weekly reports of scores of rigs drilling and photos of gushers being brought in only 20 to 30 miles away.
The initial Kent County producer was not the most spectacular discovery in the state's history and not the first of the shallow southwestern oil plays, but it marked the spot on the map where the focus of the Michigan industry and even the national oil patch, to an extent, was to be for some time.
Smith Petroleum Company moved in their own drilling tools on an east offset to the McCallum-Herr discovery in early January 1939, encountering oil and gas shows in the Berea Sandstone on the way to their Traverse objective. Completing drilling later that month, the Edmund Whalen #1 (SW SE SW) proved that the earlier well was no fluke, testing 125 barrels per day natural, with output jumping to an estimated 350 per day after acidizing.
Smith and partner Gerald Wagner had similar success on the Whalen #2 well in late February and the list of staked and active locations carried in the Oil & Gas News weekly drilling report began to grow by leaps and bounds.
On the regulatory front, the Conservation Department, headed by P.J. Hoffmaster, had drafted a state conservation bill which gained the endorsement of the Oil and Gas Association of Michigan in January 1939. A late May 1939 emergency order was issued setting 10-acre units as the base pattern for Michigan drilling. The June 2, 1939 issue of the Oil & Gas News reported issuance of 50 drilling permits in one week, an all-time high, with the bulk of the locations in the hot southwestern Michigan area.
By the summer of 1939 the Kent-Walker play had evolved to take center stage, combining with the Allegan and Van Buren activity to draw attention away from the deeper central basin plays and making Grand Rapids the state's unofficial "oil capital," at least temporarily. In that same summer Kent lost the right to claim the Walker play as its own, when the development moved west into Ottawa County's Tallmadge Township, T6-7N, R13W.
The map of Kent County well locations shows approximately one-half of the wells drilled in the Walker Field, with the remainder of the wells going down in Ottawa County. In keeping with the Geological Survey Division's current policy of attributing a field's production to the county of discovery, cumulative production statistics quoted here give all of Walker's 17 million-plus barrels oil to Kent, with that figure representing more than 95 percent of County output.
Just as the Walker Field dominated Kent's production history, the Traverse Group's Limestone zone, with an average pay thickness of eight feet, has accounted for nearly all the oil produced from the county. Offshoots of the 1938 Traverse Lime oil discovery were discovery of natural gas in the Berea, Traverse and Detroit River the next year in Section 4 of Walker Township (T6N, R12W), to the southeast.
Fourteen wells in the Walker gas pool produced and sold a total of 1,348,473 thousand cubic feet gas, the five wells still active in 1984 produced gas for lease fuel and domestic use. Oil was tapped in the same section from the Berea in 1940, the 21-foot sandstone pay made a total of more than 58,000 barrels oil through the end of 1984. (The Department of Natural Resources does not list the number of Berea producers in its statistics, but includes those producers with Traverse wells in well totals.)
The deepest oil production startigraphically in Kent County has been made from a lone Detroit River well located on the extreme eastern edge of the Walker Field in Section 2 of Wyoming Township, T6N, R12W. Also the most recent new pool or field discovery drilled in Kent County, the 1957 well's cumulative production is lumped with Traverse output in DNR statistics, but recent yearly totals indicate it was still making approximately one barrel per day as late as 1984. The 2,132-foot deep pay zone was described as a 12-foot dolomite interval.
Approximately one and one-half miles southeast of Walker was the site of discovery and development of another Traverse pool in 1939, the Wyoming Park Field. Abandonment of the last of the 21 producers was in 1970, the small step-out field ranks third highest in all-time county production with more than 150,000 barrels oil.
Cumulative Kent County oil production reached the 10 million barrel mark in just seven years in 1945, surpassing totals being posted at the time by the Allegan and Van Buren Traverse fields. Two additional Traverse Lime fields were discovered in the mid-1940s, Rockford and Tyrone to the north. S.L. McCall's discovery of the Rockford Field in Section 25 of Algoma Township (T9N, R11W), led to a 23-well development that resulted in the second largest oil production total among fields in the county.
The 1946 discovery of the Tyrone, Section 15 Field proved to be non-commercial, but a follow-up development of seven wells beginning in 1952 produced a modest 31,558 barrels oil in four years.
In the scattered and brief history of oil and gas exploration prior to the 1938 Walker find, records show only 17 permitted locations in the county, although unrecorded drilling before the state began issuing drilling permits in 1927 may have taken place. The pioneer drillers in the county scattered their wildcat tests throughout the county's 868 square miles, but history should give credit to one prospect in particular, that of Mid- Continent Development Company Incorporated in 1928. Their G. Barley #1 (Sec 19, T6N, Rl 1W, Paris Township) was aptly named; for ten full years before the initial commercial strike in Kent, it tested the Detroit River Group to a depth of 2,467 feet less than two miles east of what was later developed as the Wyoming Park Field. Mid-Continent had shows of gas and water in the Marshall as well as both gas and oil shows in the Coldwater before plugging the test in 1930.
Also coming close to finding production years ahead of other operators was Gulf Refining Company with their Baker #1 in Section 35 of Algoma Township in 1938. The Detroit River test was only a few 10-acre drilling locations away from eventual production in the 1945-discovered Rockford Field.
According to the Department of Natural Resources Geological Survey Division, nine exploratory tests in Kent have penetrated the Prairie du Chien Formation or deeper, the deepest being a brine disposal well in Section 3 of Bowne Township, T5N, R9W, which reached bottom at 7,820 feet in the Cambrianage Munising Formation.
Two years into the Walker development a Producers Committee was formed for the purpose of drilling a deep test of the Devonian structure in Section 30 of Walker Township, T7N, R12W. According to Oil & Gas News accounts, operators in the field participated on the basis of the number of producing acres they held in the field, with refiners and pipeline companies even taking a piece of the action in hopes of finding what was underneath the prolific oil-paying horizons.
Five-inch casing was set to 5,161 feet in the St. Peter sand to shut off water, a slight show of oil was reported two feet below. Hoped for shows in the Salina series, Trenton and Monroe were not found. The hole was plugged at 5,222 feet.
Relatively little drilling has been done in Kent County in recent years, with only nine drilling completions being recorded since 1975. Four of the wells were completed as small producers by Grand Rapids-based Jack Goodale in the Walker Field's Traverse pool between 1979 and 1985.
Another locally headquartered oil and gas firm. Peninsular Oil & Gas Company, has drilled three of the five exploratory tests to go down in the past 12 years. Peninsular's wildcats all tested the Detroit River in northeastern Kent County's Oakfield (T9N, R9W) and Spencer (T10N, R9W) Townships. Oil shows were reported in the Reed City zone on the Oakfield tries while gas shows were observed in both the Antrim and Dundee on two of the holes.
A 1975 Consumers Power Company wildcat was plugged after testing the Traverse in Section 4 of Solon Township (T10N, R11W), while a 1984 wildcat for Petro Hunt Inc. of Kentucky in Section 21 of the same township encountered oil shows in both the Traverse Lime and Reed City before plugging was ordered.
Selected materials on this page copyright 1991 by Michigan Oil & Gas News, Incorporated.
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