Oceana County Information

Oceana County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Oceana County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through December 31, 1990 1,005
Total oil wells drilled through December 31, 1990 348
Total gas well* drilled through December 31, 1990 17
Total facility well* drilled through December 31, 1990 3
Total dry holes drilled through December 31, 1990 637
Well Density - approximately two wells per square mile (541 square miles In county)
Total cumulative crude oil and lease condensate production through December 31,1986 15,969,796 bbls.
Total cumulative natural gas production through December 31, 1986 1,170,545 Mcf

HART - Western Lower Peninsula Michigan's Oceana County was ushered into the ranks of the state's oil and gas producing areas in much the same way as many of its neighbors to the east and south, with the discovery of a shallow Devonian-aged reservoir during the decade of the 1930s.

Located nearly in the center of the 541- square-mile county, the Hart Field was drilled and developed on close spacing, and in fact abandoned, prior to passage of Act 61 (Public Acts of 1939), Michigan's "Oil and Gas Act", which established minimum sparing standards and set limits on production following the town lot drilling booms of the early 1930s in Van Buren and Allegan counties.

Though its 17 wells drilled and more than 116,000 barrels oil produced rank it still as one of the county's largest and most productive developments among the 39 fields or pools given official status as commercial, if not prolific, reservoirs, the Traverse Limestone-producing Hart Field was apparently not exciting enough to encourage oilmen of the day to follow up with extensive exploratory drilling.

It wasn't until midway through the next decade that another Oceana County oil discovery was to be made, north of Hart in Crystal Township, T16N, R16W.

The 1945 Crystal Valley Traverse find in Section 16 led to discovery of Dundee oil the next year in Section 15 and signalled the start of the county's busiest period of petroleum exploration, drilling and production.

Before the decade of the 1940s came to a close, the county's two biggest oil fields would be opened at Stony Lake (Claybanks Township) and Pentwater. The Pentwater Field was larger in terms of number of wells drilled and acreage covered (it even spilled into Mason County to the north), but didn't produce quite as much as Stony Lake, falling just short of 7 million barrels produced.

The "dynamic duo" of Stony Lake and Pentwater combined to produce a whopping 90 percent of all oil given up by Oceana County, which ranked 22nd on the list of oil production by county in Michigan as of the end of 1986, latest comprehensive production figures currently available.

The remaining approximately 1.6 million barrels oil produced in Oceana County is fairly well scattered among numerous Traverse, Dundee and "Berea" (stratigraphic equivalent) reservoirs, the best of which, the 1961-discovered Hbridge Field, produced just over 420,000 barrels.

Oil is where Oceana County made its mark in Michigan petroleum history, at least through the decade of the 1960s. Gas was not marketed from the large Traverse fields, with the only recorded commercial production of gas in the county prior to 1988 coming from the Pentwater (just over one billion cubic feet) and Crystal Valley (165 million cubic feet) Dundee Pools.

Of the "old" Devonian fields, only Elbridge, Pentwater, Pentwater Lake and Stony Lake were actively producing oil at the end of 1989, according to Department of Natural Resources, Geological Survey Division records. Combined daily oil production capability reported (not actual production) for the four fields at the end of 1989 was less than 90 barrels.

Two waves of exploratory activity have swept through Oceana County since the last significant Devonian discovery in the 1960s, one before and one just after Michigan Oil & Gas News last profiled Oceana County in late 1985.

Both the early and mid-1980s passes at Oceana were targeted to horizons deeper than the 1,700 to 2,200-foot depth most Traverse and Dundee oil had been found at. Both resulted in discovery of Niagaran reefs and included probes below the Silurian to Ordovidan-age rock.

Hydrocarbons were found in commercial quantities in Niagaran reefs in both cases, while the deeper probes yielded an interesting look at rarely drilled horizons in the area, but failed to establish the county's first commercial deep production.

As with other nearby areas underlain by the southwestern end of the Northern Niagaran Reef Trend (in Mason County to the north and Muskegon County to the south), the Oceana reef production encountered has been, without exception to date, accompanied by significant quantities of hydrogen sulfide, necessitating either costly treatment of the gas or use of innovative techniques to allow commercial production of the strong Niagaran reservoirs.

Steps have been taken in both directions to allow the apparently substantial oil and gas reserves found and in some cases left shut-in for nearly a decade to be produced and marketed.

Conoco Inc. has instituted a gas reinjection project in the three-well Claybanks 2-13N-18W Niagaran oil reservoir, discovered in 1981 with the Miller Brothers Oil Corp. Fams-Hopper 1-2 well, which tested at initial rates of more than 1,000 barrels oil and 1.6 Mmcf sour gas daily.

Prior to the sale of the Claybanks 2 wells and substantially all of its western Michigan reserves to Conoco, the Miller group had successfully petitioned the Supervisor of Wells for approval of a plan of unitization and secondary recovery through reinjection of the hydrogen sulfide contaminated gas back into the reef.

Early results of the project, based on latest available production records, appear positive, as the field's cumulative production has risen from the initial test total of less than 20,000 barrels oil to more than 150,000 barrels oil through mid-1990, including 75,000 barrels from January to June 1990.

While the gas reinjection project serves a dual purpose, helping maintain reservoir pressure as well as eliminating a need to sweeten the gas at the present time, other avenues must be taken by owners of wells tapping primarily sour gas reserves.

Two proposals to construct a pipeline to gather and transport sour gas from Oceana and Muskegon county wells to planned sweetening plants are currently before the Michigan Public Service Commission. Approval of either the Intercon Gas, Inc. or Western Gas Processors, Ltd. applications (not expected until late 1991) should allow the numerous wells drilled and completed in Oceana County in the early 1980s to go on production, along with several more drilled in Muskegon and Oceana since 1985.

Kicking off the latest round of Oceana County exploration that resulted in discovery and completion of three strong Niagaran gas and condensate wells from 1986 to 1988 was a SheB Western E & P me. deeper pool test of the Elbridge Field in Section 21 of Elbridge Township, T15N, R16W.

The Slocum 1-21 well became one of the most talked about in years in the Michigan oilpatch when after being drilled to a permitted target in the Ordovician Prairie du Chien in late 1986, data released in August 1987 revealed it had penetrated a more tHan 600-foot tall Niagaran reef near the old Traverse reservoir.

Not unexpectedly sour, the big reef well did make waves due to its location several miles basinward of previous Oceana County reef wells. Shell followed up with two more strong, sour reef wells, in Section 24 of Golden Township (T15N, R16W) and Section 8 of Grant Township (T13N, R17W), and several dry holes before apparently putting the reef play on its exploratory backburner.

Origins of Oceana County deep exploration go even further back than the early 1980s push, to unsuccessful deep wildcats drilled as early as 1952 in Weare, Crystal and Claybanks townships. Perhaps as responsible as any for keeping the deeper interest alive in the county was Amoco Production Company's Schiller Unit 1-10 wildcat in Section 10 of Claybanks Township, a 1979 test that produced as much as 7 barrels per day oil from the Trenton before being plugged and abandoned.

Along with Shell, who added a deep wildcat in Section 18 of Leavitt Township to go along with the Slocum deep test, independents Terra Energy LTD and Michigan Oil Company also tested the deep waters with three tries in Sections 15 and 16 of Leavitt Township along the Walkerville Anticline, none commercial successes.

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