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Midland County Information

Midland County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Midland County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through June 1989 1,302
Total oil wells drilled through June 1989 989
Total gas wells drilled through June 1989 3
Total facility wells active June 1989 8
Total dry holes through June 1989 302
Well Density - approximately 2.5 wells per square mile (523 square miles in county - 334,720 acres)
Total cumulative oil production through 1986 82,000,494 bbls.*
Total cumulative gas production through 1986 12,931,387 Mcf

* Cumulative oil production figure does not include production from two fields for the years of 1985 and 1986. (See footnotes on table of oil and gas fields).

OIL CITY - The story of Midland County's petroleum history is a very rich one.

Rich because the discovery of Dundee oil near the Isabella-Midland County line in 1928 removed any doubt that all the oil and gas in the state would be found in underlying the edges of the Michigan Basin as had been postulated by some both before and after the first two major strikes had been made in Saginaw on the east and Muskegon on the west.

Rich because that discovery led to development of the Mt. Pleasant Field, the largest of its day and one that firmly established Mt. Pleasant and the mid-Michigan area as the state's "Oil Capital".

Richer yet when five years after the Mt. Pleasant strike Porter was opened some 12 miles to the southwest, with that structure proving to be just as large and considerably more prolific in terms of oil production than Mt. Pleasant.

Rich now in the present day because after more than 60 years in the oil and gas exploration and production business. Midland County has been ushered into perhaps the most exciting phase of the modern petroleum era by the discovery of deep gas in Jasper Township (TON, R2W), at the northwestern end of the large Porter-Jasper Devonian structure.

With all that in its past and what seems to lie ahead in the future it would be difficult to examine in detail each and every play that Midland County has seen, but in the limited space available here we'll touch on some of the highlights, from the earliest to the most recent events that have made the county in central Lower Peninsula Michigan so rich in oil heritage.

A chemical firm, Dow Chemical Company, located in eastern Midland County in and near the city of Midland, played a key role in the birth of Michigan's commercial oil and gas industry. A Dow chemist, James C. Graves, led a group that made the second pass at finding oil at Saginaw in 1925. The Saginaw Prospecting Company made the discovery on the Deindorfer Woods property, kicking off Michigan's petroleum history with flows of oil from the Missippian Berea Sandstone.

Though historically important, the Saginaw Berea development was not a huge economic success. Graves was armed with what at the time would have to have been considered a wealth of geologic data from the drilling of Dow's many Marshall Sand brine wells in and around the Midland area. He had access to the data that gave evidence of structure in Greendale Township (T14N, R2W) and often suggested drilling there, but because a decidedly non-scientific surface study of the area in 1927 by a prospector affiliated with his group condemned the area as "worthless for drilling", Greendale went untested until 1928.

Pure Oil Company didn't let reported oil shows from some of the brine wells go unnoticed though, and in late 1927 started a well on the Laura Root farm in the NE SE, Section 18, Greendale Township after having acquired as much as 12,000 acres of teases in the area.

What happened after the Pure Dundee oil strike is history, and the field developed from what turned out to be an almost central spot to the east in Midland County and to the northwest, after taking a dogleg turn and widening in Isabella County. Through the end of 1987, some 562 productive wells had been drilled in the Mt. Pleasant Field, with production reaching more than 29,000,000 barrels oil (for a barrel per acre recovery rate of 4,973) to rank number four all-time in the state in that category.

The big Mt. Pleasant boom drew noted geologist and Chicago University professor Virgil R.D. Kirkham to Michigan, representing Michigan Pacific Oil and Gas Company. Their initial wildcat test made some oil in Section 26 of Porter Township (T13N, R1W), but offsets were dry. That was in 1931. Almost two years later, Kirkham put a deal together with Charles W. Teater to drill a test one-half mile to the northwest. Dundee oil flowed over the crown block on the Otway ff2 discovery well, rated at 3,200 barrels per day initially, and what was to become Michigan's biggest development up until the Albion-Pulaski-Scipio Trenton- Black River development of the 1950s and 1960s was on.

Porter, also dominated by Pure, was developed on 10-acre units, and along with Jasper, drilled on 20s, matched Mt. Pleasant in number of wells drilled, but far exceeded it in recovery, making more than 7,400 barrels per acre. Cumulative production is now over 50,000,000 barrels, second only to A-P-S, which is considered to be a trend of separate but similar reservoirs, rather than a contiguous structure like Porter.

Midland County's production history reflects that of the entire state in that more oil has come from the Dundee and stratigraphically nearby Reed City Zone in the Devonian system than from any other. Midland's example is more extreme than the state as sf whole though in recent years, as the more than 82,000,000 barrels produced there (the figure includes output from Mt. Pleasant Field wells in Isabella County) is virtually all from the Dundee. Statewide, with the advent of the northern Niagaran Reef Trend development of the 1970s and 80s, Silurian oil production has topped 300,000,000 barrels to rival the long-time kings Dundee and Reed City.

Of all Midland developments following Mt. Pleasant and Porter, the biggest in recorded production was started in 1938 in Edenville Township, T16N, R1W. The Edenville Dundee Pool had made nearly 1.4 million barrels through 1986, more than five times as much as the next most prolific field (see table, page 24).

All commercial production has been from Mississippian or Devonian-age strata, with Berea Sand production next most important to the Dundee. Very limited success has been found in the Detroit River and its Richfield Zone. Above the Mississippian, one officially recorded discovery of Pennsylvanian Saginaw Formation gas at Edenville has yet to be added to the list of economically successful wells, but may be further explored in the future, according to interest holders there.

Since the wane of significant production in the Mt. Pleasant and Porter Fields (only six million of the nearly 80 million barrels taken from the two big fields has been produced in the last three decades), Berea developments had been the big story, in Midland at least prior to the early 1989 discovery of deep gas.

M.G.U. Development Company re-activated the long dormant Larkin Field (two wells had been drilled in the 1930s) in 1984 and that play along with the nearby extension of Bay County's Williams Field saw some big Berea producers (many over 300 barrels oil daily) brought in. The flush production didn't last too long, however, and principal developer Sun Exploration & Production (who bought out M.G.U. 's Michigan properties) apparently abandoned plans to waterflood the field and later sold its interest there.

Biggest Berea producer before the rejuvenation of Larkin was the Porter Berea Pool, and while the oil production was a plus, the wells' gas output has helped by providing lease fuel to run pumping units more economically in the Dundee stripper operation.

One of the most striking statistics to be found in Midland County's oil and gas activity is the overall drilling success ratio of nearly 80 percent. The vast majority of the 302 dry holes drilled there to date have been rank wildcat tests scattered across the county's 532 square miles. Typical of most Devonian-aged structures in the Michigan Basin, Mt. Pleasant and Porter did not require a great deal of dry holes to define their productive limits and neither did the other relatively shallow fields there.

Ordovician Prairie du Chien drilling has gotten off to a perfect one-for-one, 100 percent start, as Coastal Oil & Gas started on the extreme northwestern end of the Porter- Jasper Devonian development on its deep drilling program, bagging a gas discovery with the Conley & State Jasper 1 -3 (Section 3, Jasper Township, T13N, R2W) well.

The Isabella-Midland County area's first successful deep well was gauged at more than two million cubic feet gas daily on initial test with additional completion work planned for the discovery. Coastal hasn't revealed all the cards it's holding in its current exploration plans, but has already staked a test three miles to the northwest in Section 32 of Greendale Township and another in rank wildcat territory in Section 15 of Lee Township (T14N, R1W), some seven miles to the northeast. Street talk is that they will drill at least twice that number in the initial exploration phase, with full successful development possibly meaning many more.

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