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Mecosta County Information

Mecosta County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Mecosta County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through December 31, 1989 1,043*
Total oil wells drilled through December 31, 1989 132
Total natural gas wells through December 31, 1989 217
Total facility wells through December 31, 1989 240
Well density - approximately two per square mile (570 square miles in county)
Total cumulative natural gas production through December 31, 1987 10,608,415 bbl.**
Total cumulative natural gas production through December 31, 1987 17,610,588 Mcf.**

* One hole from 1989 status unknown
** Cumulative oil, condensate and gas totals include all production through 1986 and only prorated production for 1987.

BIG RAPIDS - On the heels of a sluggish decade of the 1970's, Mecosta County appears on the verge of rising to the high levels of oil and gas exploration activity that marked the 1940's and 1950's and helped the county to a position as the 10th most-drilled- into county in the state with 1,016 well completions through 1986.

It was Mississippian (Michigan Stray) and Devonian (mostly Dundee and Traverse) which led the way in Mecosta, beginning in 1933 with the discovery of Michigan Stray gas in the Austin Field and continuing through 12 field discoveries in the 1940's and six more in the l950's.

The 1970's lull saw no new field discoveries and only 36 holes were drilled in Mecosta County in the 10-year span from 1976 through 1985 before dropping even below that 3.6 holes per year average in 1986 with only two drilled.

Mecosta County was big in the gas business right from the beginning in 1933 when production first came to the county with the discovery of the Austin Field by Taggart Brothers on the James Barton 1 (NW SW SW, Sec 11, T14N, R9W, Austin Township). The Michigan Stray Field produced 6,231,214 Mcf of natural gas from 123 wells before being converted to a gas storage field in 1941 with a working storage capacity of 13 billion cubic feet.

The county joined Michigan's exploration picture when Midland, Isabella and Muskegon were the hot areas and the logical move was into Mecosta. Most of the early attention was directed at Michigan Stray gas and 14 of the 25 fiends credited to Mecosta are from the Stray Member of the Michigan Formation.

The exploration covered Mecosta County's 570 square miles well enough that 15 of the 16 townships have had successful oil or gas welds and Grant Township, the only one without a producing well, has a well within a half mile of the township boundary in four different locations.

The Martiny Fleld's gas play in 1934 was the second in the county, but only resulted in five producing wells, with four of those drilled by Michigan Cities Natural Gas Company 23 years later in 1957. Four were still active at the end of 1982, helping the field to a total gas production figure of 1,343,479 Mcf through December, 1982 (the latest production figures available).

By a wide margin, the county's biggest oil producing reservoir is the Fork Field, with oil pay zones in the Dundee and Richfield combining to account for 7,777,026 barrels of oil through 1982. The field's Dundee pay was discovered in 1942 and produced heavily to aid America's war effort. The Dundee had 64 wells producing and was abandoned in 1969.

Sun Oil Company started the Fork play in September 1942 with the Ruth M. Murray 1 (S NW SW, Sec 5, T16N, R7W, Fork Township). The well tested 129 barrels of oil in the first five hours and 278 in the first 24 hour span. The second 24 hours tested 519 barrels and development of the field was off and running led by Sun and joined by Smith Petroleum, Gulf, Gordon Oil and others.

An extort was made in 1984 and '85 to drill between producing wells to gain oil that may have been left by coning of production or pulling up water. Michigan Oil started the 1984 program and sold it to NICOR Exploration Company. Three holes were drilled with little success.

Taggart Brothers. led by W.C. "Top" Taggart, used the Austin Gas Field find to earn the title as "king of the gas people" The company imported a complete rotary rig from Texas in 1934, including a crew of hands and then steam-power drilled all the way to the gas and casing point of l,307 feet on its first hole. Many of the holes drilled around Mecosta County were producers of that rig.

Stuart A. Merrill, Merrill Drilling Company, has been active in Mecosta County over the years and is one of those who believe that there are still undiscovered Devonian structures in Mecosta County. Merrill Drilling has been a consistent exploration force, especially on the east side of the county with holes since 1980 in Chippewa, Fork, Sheridan and Morton Townships.

Although the county ranks in the top ten in total number of holes drilled with 1,016 total, the Austin Gas Field and a portion of the Six Lakes Gas Field which juts into Millbrook and Hinton Townships in the southeast corner of the county account for a large percentage and other areas are relatively unexplored.

A renewed interest in Michigan Basin counties was spurred on by deep gas success just north of Mecosta in Osceola County and to the west in Newaygo.

The county's introduction to the deep gas play came in 1981, when a Dome Petroleum Corporation hole. The Wager 2-12 (NE SW NW, Sec 12, T14N, R7W, Wheatland Township) was transferred to Willmet, Inc. and drilled to 10,137 feet and drill stem tested before being abandoned. Willmet then came back on the Wager 2-12A from the same surface and cored the A-1 below 7,136 feet before again abandoning the hole. Federated Natural Resources then gave a shot at the Clinton Formation of the Wager 1-12 drill stem testing between 7,914-27 feet before abandoning the hole in 1985.

The premiere deep gas well in Mecosta is Jennings Petroleum Corporation's Armstrong 1-8 (SE NW NW, Sec 8, T13N, R10W, Aetna Township) completed in mid-1986 for test production of 1.5 Mmcf (million cubic feet) with two barrels per day (bpd) condensate. The hole was a deeper pool test of the Hardy Dam Field. One of the hottest plays in the United States in the last half of the decade of the 1980's was Michigan's deep gas play and the State's top county for discoveries of new deep gas pools during the last two years was Mecosta.

The 10 new gas pools discovered in the last five years in Mecosta County came amid busy leasing and seismic activity.

Mecosta ranks 24th among Michigan counties for gas production through the end of 1987 and 25th for oil production for the same period. Most of the gas came from shallow Michigan Stray reservoirs, and the gas production figure for the county through 1987 was 17,610,588 Mcf (including all production through 1986 and only prorated production for 1987). The oil flow has dropped dramatically since the abandonment of the Fork Field's Dundee and Richfield Pools in the 1960's. Before being plugged, Fork wells accounted for 7,777,026 barrels of oil of the 10,608,415 produced through 1987.

Since the first deep well went on line in December 1986 a total of 6,659,714 Mcf of natural gas has been produced from deep reservoirs and the well total has grown to seven on-line producers in six fields. The top single well is the Shell Western E & P's Alber 1-23 (SE SW SW, Sec 23, T14N, R10W, Mecosta Township) the discovery and lone producer in the Stanwood Field PDC Pool at 2,290,946 Mcf, beginning in December 1987 and tallied through the end of 1989.

The leading field through December 1989 is the Big Rapids Field with two wells accounting for 2,777,610 Mcf after both went on line in early 1989. Other deep gas fields and respective production through 1989 (from single wells at this point) include: Austin 213,530 Mcf after going on line March 1989, Hardy Dam 972,393 Mcf on line with one well in December 1987 and a replacement well in September 1988 and Cato Field 250,935 Mcf beginning in March 1989.

Credit for Mecosta County's first deep gas discovery goes to Jennings Petroleum Corporation on the Armstrong 1-8 (SE NW NW, Sec 8, T13N, R10W, Aetna Township) in mid-1986 as a deeper pool test of the Hardy Dam Field. When the just well dropped off, the 1-8A was directionally redrilled to a bottom hole target in the NE NE NE of Section 7 and put on line as a replacement well.

But the real attention-getter for Mecosta came in 1987 when Shell Western E & P, Inc. filed the first report with the Department of Natural Resources Geological Survey Division noting an oil zone in the Middle Prairie du Chien at 9,121-38 feet. Previously deep wells had been of a high gas/oil ratio with small amounts of condensate.

On Shell's Fenstermacher 1-14 (SE SE NE, Sec 14, T16N, R10W, Green Township) gas was tested in the Lower Prairie du Chien (PDC) and Upper PDC in addition to the Middle PDC oil zone. Earlier this month Shell had a public hearing before the Supervisor of Wells asking for a 640-acre oil spacing (previous Geological Survey orders addressed only gas production) for the Fenstermacher unit and to establish allowances for production.

Less than three miles southeast of Big Rapids, operators Northern Michigan Exploration Company (NOMECO), Wolverine Environmental Production, Inc. and Grace Petroleum Corporation combined on another deep test which shed new geological data on the relatively young deep play.

On Hudson 1-19 (NE NE NE, Sec 19, T15N, R9W, Colfax Township) there were as many as four or five separate intervals with hydrocarbon shows which appeared productive. Besides introducing a Burnt Bluff or Clinton zone at 7,149-94 feet, the Prairie du Chien group had four intervals listed as productive. Most other successful deep drilling across the State had resulted in usually finding one gross pay interval.

Special Order 1-86 was issued in August 1986 establishing 640-acre drilling units for natural gas below the top of the Glen- wood member of the Black River Group in 51 Lower Peninsula counties, including Mecosta. The Hudson 1-19 well was completed in the Prairie du Chien group and NOMECO petitioned for and was granted 320-acre spacing for the Burnt Bluff or Clinton development and in mid-1989 completed the Hudson 2-19 (BHL: NE NE NE, Sec 19) for 2 Mmcf per day natural gas with 40 barrels per day (bpd) condensate.

The Anger 1-20 (BHL: SE NW SW, Sec 20) was added (at 2 Mmcf a day gas) to the PDC Pool of the Big Rapids Field and the latest activity in the Burnt Bluff reservoir is a permit issued March 9 to Wolverine for the Whitney 1-17 (SE NW SW, Sec 17).

The Big Rapids Field also made marketing history as the first Michigan-produced gas to be marketed out-of-state. Beginning in January 1989 gas from the deep reservoir was being purchased by Marketer Access Energy Group for delivery to end-users on Northern Illinois Gas Company's system.

Wolverine and Miller Energy enhanced Mecosta's standing for multi-zone production potential in mid-1988 by testing gas from both the Burnt Bluff and the St. Peter (or Prairie du Chien group) on the Bassett 1-16 (NW SW NE, Sec 16, T16N, R10W, Green Township) on a deeper pool test of the Paris Field. Wolverine now is petitioning for 320-acre spacing in all or parts of 12 sections in Green Township for development of the Burnt Bluff Pool.

With most of the attention focused on the deep play in the northwest corner of the County, Fairway Petroleum went to the southern county line and completed a discovery gas well in the Glenwood member of the Black River Group, good for 1,330 Mcf a day on test with 25 bpd condensate for the Deerfield 1-36A (BHL: NE SE NW, Sec 36, T13N, R9W, Deerfield Township). A west offset is temporarily abandoned pending further evaluation and the drilling of a south offset to the Cato Glenwood discovery.

Future development of the Austin Field PDC Pool has been discussed after Jennings Petroleum Corporation completed the discovery well with the Schuberg 1-33A (BHL: NW NE NW, Sec 4, T14N, R9W, Austin Township) in early 1988 with gas flow of nearly 1 Mmcf per day credited to the PdC.

The discovery was made on a deeper pool test of the Austin Gas Field, which produced from the Michigan Stray beginning in 1933 and was converted to gas storage in 1941 with a working storage capacity of 13 billion cubic feet.

Prior to the deep play finding success in Mecosta, the deepest producing pay zone was at 5,001 feet on a Richfield well in the Fork Field. Of the 13 Michigan Stray reservoirs, none were deeds than 1,500 feet and 10 have been abandoned or converted to domestic use.

Taggart Brothers, based in Big Rapids, was the early exploration leader from the day in 1933 when the company made the Austin discovery, which has been followed by more than 130 wells in the field. The Hardy Dam Field had 23 wells drilled (see chart on page 42 for latest field totals), the Paris Traverse Pool 22 and the Fork Field's Dundee and West Fork's Michigan Stray had 64 and 17 respectively.

Mecosta also is unique in that every township in the County has or has had at least one producing well. The biggest single group of wells ironically comes from the Six Lakes Field, which is credited to Montcalm County but spills over into Mecosta with more than 100 wells of the 400-plus drilled. The reservoir was discovered in 1934 and converted to gas storage in 1953, tying as the State's largest at 54 Bcf working capacity.

Six different fields have produced oil and/or gas from the Dundee, but none reached the prolific levels of the Mt. Pleasant or Porter Fields to the east or the Muskegon Field on Michigan's western edge.

Besides the deep gas and the Burnt Bluff or Clinton found along with the deep exploration program, the last time a field was opened in Mecosta was in 1982 when a one- well Detroit River find was made. Prior to that there were no discoveries in the 1970's and only four in the 1960's.

Hints of what might come in the 1990's can be found in the recent successes, which give explorationists further information on the play and provide some answers as well as further questions. Seismic activity along Mecosta roads or across fields was a novelty four or five years ago but is more common today, indicating further interest.

Leasing is hard to track in Mecosta, as nearly all the acreage is private. At a 1987 State Lease Sale an 80-acre parcel in Morton Township's Section 26 (T14N, R8W) went for $51 per acre and a 40-acre tract in Section 14 of Grant Township (T16N. R9W) drew a bid of $240 per acre.

Geologist Eric Taylor has been involved in the recent deep drilling, especially in the Bevens Lake Field, and notes. ''It is one of the more interesting areas. Having the multiple zones may be unique to the Bevens Lake area."

Much of Mecosta's deep drilling has been targeted in areas where shallow fields were producing or had produced before being abandoned.

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