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Missaukee County Information

Missaukee County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Missaukee County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through December 31, 1988 835
Total oil wells drilled through December 31, 1988 433*
Total gas wells drilled through December 31, 1988 128
Total facility wells active through December 31, 1988 130**
Well Density - approximately 1.4 wells per square mile (572 square miles in county)
Total cumulative oil production through December 31,1986 28,530,110 bbls.
Total cumulative natural gas production through December 31, 1988 33,035,588 Mcf

* Oil well total may include some wells drilled for water injection in waterflood projects.
** Many of the facility wells in the total shown are also counted in totals for oil or gas wells (converted for injection or gas storage).

FALMOUTH - The far-reaching impacts of Dan Oil & Gas and PPG Industries' 1981 discovery of commercial quantities of natural gas at depths below 10,000 feet here to open deep Ordovician-age horizons in Michigan's Central Basin to hydrocarbon exploration and development virtually demands it be given top billing in any study of the petroleum history of Missaukee County.

The deep gas discovery; rumored, tested, kept confidential and discussed in terms of awe for several months between completion of drilling in late 1980 and the data release in April, 1981 added nearly 3,000 feet to the "deepest Michigan production". The news touched off a flurry of lease activity and national publicity for Michigan's oilpatch almost unprecedented in the state's long history as a petroleum producing state. The oil field equivalent of a "gold rush" ensued. "Deep hole fever" reached epidemic proportions.

The temperature of the industry soared with excitement ... as did lease prices . . . deep hole rig influx . . . number of new faces in the business in the state . . . and out-of-state inquiries about the business with each new estimate of potential reserves and potential land area the new field discovery could encompass.

Mother Nature proved again not to be quite as quickly abundantly generous as the hoardes of new wave "deep explorers" had hoped. The deep tight sands of the Prairie du Chien failed to as readily give up the natural gas in the great quantities or with the ease of accessability at first anticipated . . . and the "producible pockets" proved smaller and less easily detectable than early estimates. Many, many deep holes were drilled quickly and, as with most newly evolving petroleum exploration provinces, many of those holes were dry.

That string of dry holes, combined with a slackening of the national economy and the economics of the oil business, cooled but did not kill "deep hole fever".

The Michigan deep hole play, born in Missaukee County and still in it's infancy, had it's growth distracted by a combination of elements. First, the basis of Michigan deep hole data is still too small on which to base an analysis according to many geologists. Second, shallower formations in Michigan use up a great deal of seismic energy, making resolution and identification of deeper structure more difficult. Third, the biggie, higher operating costs on deep hole exploration in the face of an oilfield economic recession and a trend toward greater investor confidence in less expensive, less risky shallower field development drilling.

The degree of interest generated by the Edwards 7-36 (Section 36, T22N, R7W, Reeder Township) well, known throughout the Michigan oilpatch by now as simply "the Edwards well", and the amount of money spent on speculative leasing and drilling in the mad but largely unsuccessful rush to follow up on it had seldom been seen before and won't likely be seen again in the near future anywhere in the state.

Tapping of the prolific gas pay (initial test flows were gauged at over 12 Mmcf daily on choke) in a horizon rarely drilled and never productive in the deeper portions of the Michigan Basin was truly significant and the event is generally acknowledged today to be as important to the future of Michigan's petroleum industry as were the discoveries of what was to become known as the Albion-Scipio Trend in the late 1950s and the Northern Niagaran Reef Trend in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

While the Trenton-Black River and Niagaran booms that resulted from the previous landmark discoveries have resulted in the production of literally hundreds of millions of barrels of oil from their relatively narrow and well-defined trends, the "deep play" has already spread across a much larger region in the Central Basin and holds the realistic promise of giving up vast quantities of natural gas and liquid hydrocarbons before maturation.

The deep play has not been an easy one for the industry, at times testing the limits of exploration and drilling tools and technology, with the numerous commercial successes tempered by dry holes and frequent "geologic successes" that unfortunately are economic failures. The pace of the deep play over the past eight years has been a relatively slow one, owing to many factors, not the least of which is the complexity of land and title work necessitated by the large drilling units (640 acres) and fragementation of mineral rights in the areas of older, shallower production, where most drilling has taken place.

Falmouth was designated as the county seat, but only for three years, when Missaukee was created by the Legislature in 1871. At that early date the settlement was known as Pinhook. The county seat (as several hundred of lease people and title checkers now are aware) presently is at Lake City, where it was voted to go in 1873 by a 131 to 95 ballot.

Lake City at the time was known as Reeder.

Missaukee originally was a part of Manistee county, and still later was attached to Wexford, before it was set aside as an independent unit.

Missaukee county, (population 7,100), is by no means new to oil and gas exploration. Fields known as East Norwich and Enterprise were discovered in the early 1940s, and the Riverside gas field, now a giant gas storage complex, brought drillers to the county in 1940. The Prosper oil field area east of Falmouth has accounted for at least two strong drilling periods and now development is being shaped for deep drilling taken place for gas.

The oil pumps still work daily in the McBain oil field, a 1959 development.

A number of other smaller fields have been developed too such as Cannon Creek Reeder, Vogel Center and Forward.

Older, shallower production is something Missaukee County has had a lot of, but before going any further into the origins and future directions of the deep Ordovician-age play there and throughout Michigan, let's take a look at some of the earlier days of Missaukee's petroleum history ...

The year is 1940. America has not yet been drawn into the world's second great war and Missaukee County still rates as a virtual wilderness in oil and gas production terms. Only one field discovery had been credited to the county, a 1931 Traverse Limestone gas well (the Pioneer Field) for which no commercial production totals are available.

Drilling activity in southwestern Michigan's Allegan and Ottawa County's was dominating the headlines in the issues of the OIL & GAS NEWS in the spring of 1940. Indications of Missaukee's first commercial breakthrough were heralded by the March 29, 1940 issue of the OIL NEWS, which reported the coring of a thick, (60-foot) oil and gas saturated Michigan Stray Sandstone bed in McClanahan and Rowmor's Quist #1 (Sec 22, T21N, R7W, Riverside Township), just three miles east of the town of McBain.

The wildcat was targeted deeper, however, and continued on to test the Traverse and Dundee zones. A good show in the Traverse Lime caught the attention of the 'patch, with an April 1940 issue of the OIL NEWS describing the action: "The royalty play bounded upward when the Quist logged Traverse at 3,250 (some what high) ...; the play soared higher when at 3,275 gas was logged and at 3,289 feet the hole started to fill with oil".

Despite the interest shown by speculators the OIL NEWS noted there was "little actual lease turnover, for the simple reason that the district is closely held between McClanahan, Rowmor, Smith Petroleum, Pure, Sun and Gulf. Anticipation turned to disappointment for those watching the early Riverside wildcat, and after plugging and abandonment as a dry hole in both the Dundee and Traverse, no activity was shown in the township for several weeks.

It wasn't long, however, before Taggart Bros., developers of large Michigan Stray Sandstone gas reservoirs to the south in Mecosta County's Austin Field and Montcalm's Winfield Field, moved in to try the Stray in the Riverside district.

Their Quist #29, also in Section 22, was gauged at seven million cubic feet daily and by late September word was out that a play was on. Four wells had been drilled and tested and the headline read "Big Area Now Set up in Riverside". Taggart Bros. drilled with their own tools, sinking one well every five days as in their other shallow developments, originally putting in only one well per 160 acres.

The field blossomed to cover more than 1,400 acres, producing from 79 wells before being converted to gas storage in 1962. Its cumulative gas output of 5,292,251 Mcfgas was to be eclipsed only by Missaukee's most prolific oil field. East Norwich, which had produced more than 15 billion cubic feet through 1986, and later the Falmouth Prairie du Chien Pool, which had topped 5.3 billion feet produced in 1988.

Oil production finally came to Missaukee County in early 1942 when Turner Petroleum Corp. made its third test in the area count, bringing the Abram Cavanagh # (CN SE NW, Sec 14, Riverside Township) in as discovery well of the Riverside Dundee Pool. The area had originally been "blocked" by Gulf, Pure and Ohio Oil, according to the OIL NEWS, who had core drilled extensively through the district.

Turner and partner Gordon Oil Co. had managed to gain a foothold in the area among the majors as the only independents involved, but major and independent had cooperated, with the trio of Gulf Pur and Ohio reportedly contributing to the exploratory efforts.

Turner's Cavanagh ffl flowed 451 barrels oil in its first 24 hours and has held up remarkably well, with Department of Natural Resources records showing it still capable of flowing 20 barrels oil daily with no water at the end of 1987. Riverside Dundee success was relatively spotty, only six producers were drilled, but all were reported capable of production 45 yeas after discovery. Cumulative output had reached 235,000 by 1986.

The Riverside oil find marked the third in central and northern Lower Peninsula Michigan for 1942 and it appeared that the region was busting out all over. "Deep" drilling (to the Richfield Zone or Monroe as it was often referred to then) had begun to yield important discoveries and indications of future potential in Arenac, Ogemaw and Roscommon Counties. Prior to the Riverside strike, nearby Winterfield in Clare had been opened in the Dundee on the basis of subsurface geology, core correlation work and deep well information, while subsurface work was the primary technique utilized in Roscommon's Headquarters Dundee discovery.

Sun Oil Company drilled oil shows in the Monroe at a deep test of the Headquarters Dundee development in mid-May, 1942, about the same time it had begun a test in Section 11 of Missaukee County's Norwich Township (T24N, R5W). Shallower water flows and sour gas in the Detroit River delayed testing of a sweet oil pay in the Monroe at nearly 4,400 feet in the Horner #2 well.

News of what was to become the discovery well of East Norwich broke slowly and lacked the immediacy of prior Traverse and Dundee strikes in the Central Basin, which commonly gushed oil over drilling crews and onlookers to signal a new strike.

The relatively quiet nature with which word of the East Norwich find broke was probably due in large part to the characteristics of the Richfield Zone. The dolomitic limestone typically had exhibited low permeability in most areas tested, limiting initial production potentials. The Homer #2 was acidized, swabbed and pump tested at from 15 to 30 barrels daily after it showed little free oil naturally.

Adequate pressure and gas volume in the Richfield was noted early on in some of the producing areas to allow oil to be lifted naturally, saving pumping costs and partially offsetting its lower potentials. That 1942 assessment had proven to be extremely accurate, as many a Richfield well drilled in that day still flows now, often with no water.

Illustrating just how different the Dundee and Richfield pay sections were in initial stages of development was a 1943 summary of the annual drilling activity in Missaukee County carried in the OIL & GAS NEWS. Prosper Field drilling had seen 12 out of 16 tries succeed, with combined I.P. rates of the keepers being more than 6,800 barrels oil, while East Norwich activity had four of four good wells, for combined daily output of 110 barrels. Barrel per acre recovery for Prosper through 1986 was higher at 3,685 (compared to East Norwich's 2,769), but the larger Richfield pool has outproduced Prosper by a ratio of nearly 8:1.

Undaunted by what might have appeared at the time to be an unexciting play, compared to more prolific strikes elsewhere, Sun drilled more wells in Norwich, and that fall moved south to explore Enterprise Township, T23N, R5W. A long core taken in the State A-l (Sec 11) well showed several potential pays in the Dundee, and that well combined with a Gordon Oil wildcat to the southwest in Section 26 of Aetna Township (T22N, R6W) which also looked like a winner in the Dundee, served to-steal some of the thunder from what would shape up to be Missaukee's biggest oil and gas reservoir at East Norwich.

Enterprise failed to make it in the Dundee, Gordon's discovery of the Prosper Field kicked off a 13-well development that would eventually become the county's fourth most-productive oil pool, but it was East Norwich in the extreme northeastern corner of the county that would prove to be Missuakee's bread-and-butter play.

East Norwich made 5.8 million barrels in oil on primary production and in 1947 Sun initiated the state's first major secondary recovery project, flooding the reservoir with fresh water and recylcing produced gas to maintain pressure. The first has also proven to be one of the best, ranking right alongside neighboring- Crawford County's Beaver Creek Richfield Unit (operated by Union Oil) as tops in both overall and secondary cumulative production among all waterfloods in the state. Through 1986, East Norwich had logged more than 10 million barrels on secondary recovery, its gas sales also led other county challengers by a wide margin, with more than 15 billion cubic feet gas sold.

Enterprise followed East Norwich as the next big Richfield find in Missaukee in 1943 and development by operator Sun was carried out on a similar course, though on a smaller scale. The 1,320 acre pool (compared to East Norwich's 8,640-acre size) was unitized and went under flood in 1953 and secondary recovery was well ahead of the primary output of nearly two million barrels there through the end of 1987.

New producing horizons were tapped in existing fields throughout the remainder of the 1940s, but a new field discovery would not be made in Missaukee until 1950, when Brazos Oil & Gas opened Cannon Creek in Pioneer Township for Traverse Limestone gas. The 21-well pool was fairly short-lived, producing just less than a billion cubic feet gas before abandonment in 1956.

Following a pattern of earlier exploration in the then remote northern Missaukee area, Brazos had reportedly run a core drilling program including some 40 closely-spaced cores around the discovery. Brazos held 75 percent of the field opener. Sun and Gulf were their partners.

Save for a one-well Richfield pool in the Prosper development uncorked in 1954, it would be nearly another decade before Missaukee would again draw the envy of the oilpatch by showing off another oil discovery. Leonard Oil Company used subsurface geological work in locating its Laarman & Wood #1 well in Section 19 of Riverside Township, keying off a dry hole to the south in Section 31, according to Mt. Pleasant geologist, who worked with Leonard in development of the McBain prospect.

The field opener flowed over 100 barrels oil daily after acid treatment and was the first of 24 to be drilled in the pool. Twentytwo of the wells were still capable of producing in 1987, cumulative oil production had surpassed 3.5 million barrels at the end of 1986. Typical drilling method was to rotary drill to the Bell Shale, convert to cable tools and spud into the Dundee pay, within a few feet of the top of the zone, Knapp said. Some wells were acidized and some flowed natural on initial completion.

An extension of the Prosper Dundee Pool, classified as Prosper, South, made the biggest splash of the 1960s in Missaukee, adding more than a million barrels oil to the original pool's total to push all-time output from the district near three million barrels. Woods Oil Company made the 1967 discovery.

Also opened in the decade was a small Dundee pool in Clam Union Township (T21N, R6W), Merrill Drilling's 1966 discovery of the two-well Vogel Center Field, and a lone Traverse producer in the Riverside development in 1961.

Dart Oil & Gas Corporation had made a name in Missaukee County before finding itself in the center of the deep drilling frenzy in 1981, adding Detroit River Sour oil production to Cannon Creek in 1979, Richfield and Dundee oil to Falmouth in 1977 and 1978 and Traverse oil to Prosper in 1980, all after taking over as operator of Woods Oil's Falmouth Traverse discovery in mid-1977.

Only the Falmouth Richfield Pool proved to have real significance among those late 1970s involvements for Dan, but little did they or anyone else know that along with the more than one million barrels oil and two billion cubic gas the Dundee and Richfield Pools combined to produce through 1986, the presence there would also be Dan's ticket to possibly the biggest show yet, the deep gas play.

Dart was original operator of record on the Edwards 7-36 deep wildcat well drilled in late 1980, fronting for PPG Industries and three Canadian firms. While deep deposits of natural gas and/or liquid hydrocarbons were no doubt a potential target, primary thrust of the early 1980s regional exploration program by PPG that led to the deep Falmouth find is believed to have been a desire to identify sources of potash in the Michigan Basin.

PPG-backed drilling effons took place in Kalkaska and Osceola Counties as well as Missaukee, both before and after completion of the Edwards discovery, a pilot program to test the feasibility of solutionmining potash reserves found in the Hersey area in Osceola County was established. Many of the Osceola wells were drilled as dual-purpose tests, after discovery of gas in the Silurian Clinton or Burnt Bluff there.

Confirmation of the success of the Falmouth deep well was accompanied by a flurry of deep drilling in the immediate area, with at least three dry holes going down within the shallower productive limits of the Falmouth Richfield Pool. One of those, the Doornbos et al 5-30 (Sec 30, Aetna Township), operated by another PPG affiliate, JEM Petroleum, became one of the Michigan Basin's all-time deepest probes, bottoming at 14,724 feet.

Other established fields tested by deep drilling in that initial rush were Prosper (JEM, Joutel, Woods Visser 3-35/PN 34606) and Cannon Creek (JEM Bruggers 3-7/PN 34078). Three other tries, the Petromax Oil & Gas Marsh-Pollington 1-2 (PN 35021), Page Petroleum & KEP Resources Schoenmaker 1-7 (PN 34964) and Hobson Petroleum Bacon 1-33 (PN 34511), were more or less rank wildcats, south and west of Falmouth production. All were dry until Patrick Petroleum picked a spot just across Blue Road to the nonhwest of the Edwards well to drill the Gilde 1-25 (PN 35899), first and only successful follow-up in the Falmouth Prairie du Chien Pool.

Later deep tests were drilled unsuccessfully in or very near each of Missaukee County's three most-productive oil fields, East Norwich, Enterprise and McBain. None of the tests drilled by PetroStar, Miller Oil Corporation and Terra Energy Ltd., respectively, showed commercial potential in the deep zones, but Terra made an interesting test of a Trenton gas show at 10,030 feet on its Cramer 1-20 in McBain.

Despite the significance it carries as the first commercially producing Prairie du Chien reservoir in the state, it appears Falmouth may ultimately rate as just an "also ran" in terms of production, having made 5.4 billion cubic feet through the end of 1988. Three younger fields have already surpassed that total, with Woodville in Newaygo County at 18 Bcfand going strong early this year.

Falmouth's pay is in the upper Prairie du Chien sand, a zone which may already be essentially depleted by the Dan and Patrick wells. Discovery of pays deeper in the Prairie du Chien in other pans of the basin since the play was kicked off prompted Dan to deepen the historic Edwards well, but recent data on completion and testing of the deepened hole show disappointing results with initial flows of only 358 Mcfgas and 6 barrels water daily from the Glenwood and Lower PdC sand. As of the end of 1987 the Gilde well had dropped off to 230 Mcf gas daily.

A summary of Dan's work in the Falmouth area would be incomplete without mention of their establishment of the counties third secondary recovery waterflood project in the Richfield Pool. Dan convened approximately half of the producing wells to water injection and began unit operations there September 1, 1983. By the end of 1986, Falmouth Richfield had become the sixth most-productive oil pool in the county, just cracking the million barrel mark with 1,000,859 barrels.

Exploration technology is probably more sophisticated today than any other point in time, but a journey through the petroleum past of Missaukee County reveals numerous references to use of the time-honored practice of "trendology", or simply extending the search for oil and gas along known trends of production in nearby areas.

As the vast unexplored areas of Missaukee County and much of the Michigan basin get a closer look from explorationists in the deep gas play, application of the same trendology techniques employed in less scientifically oriented times may be just as important today, while being augmented by seismograph surveys, satellite photography and other modern oil- and gas-finding tools.

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