Oscoda County Information

Oscoda County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Oscoda County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through March 31, 1988 31
Total oil wells drilled through March 31, 1988 5
Total gas wells drilled through March 31, 1988 5*
Total facility wells drilled through March 31, 1988 0
Total dry holes drilled through March 31, 1988 20*
Well density - approximately one well per 18 square miles (568 square miles in county)
Total cumulative oil and lease condensate production through December 31, 1984 76,678 bbls.**
Total cumulative natural gas production through September 30, 1987 779,218 Mcf.**

* Status of most recently drilled well unknown at press time.
** Cumulative production figure includes only production from Echo Lake and Mio Richfield Pools, with data available for cumulative production only through 1984. Condensate production from Mio Prairie du Chien Pool did not commence until late 1986. All natural gas production is from Mio Prairie du Chien Pool (see Oil & Gas Fields Table).

MIO - Seldom-drilled Oscoda County may boast a less auspicious petroleum past than some of its more extensively developed Lower Peninsula Michigan neighbors, but with a relatively long if not productive history behind it, the area can nonetheless lay claim to a number of firsts in the state's development as an oil and gas producing province.

Situated in a frontier territory between the prolific Devonian-aged reservoirs of the Central Basin and the more recently active northern Niagaran reef trend, Oscoda County has been passed by in nearly all of Michigan's big oil and gas plays to date.

Production has come from only two geologic horizons, with output of oil from the Detroit River Group's Richfield Zone and upper Prairie du Chien Sandstone gas and condensate in the Echo Lake and Mio Fields limited to a small geographic area in the south central portion of the county.

Following a scenario that has repeated itself time and time again across the Michigan Basin in the decade of the 1980s, Oscoda County's entry into the state's deep gas play was directly related to an older play, in this case the first and only significant oil development there, in the Mio Field.

Michigan was just emerging from its adolescent years as a commercial oil state in 1946 when Oscoda County saw its first oil and gas drilling activity. Important discoveries of Richfield Zone oil had been made in the St. Helen, Rose City, East Norwich and Enterprise Fields in the early 1940s, providing much needed crude oil to help support United States efforts in World War II.

Perhaps with an eye toward identifying and developing a reservoir similar to those in nearby Rose City and St. Helen, Ohio Oil Company (predecessor of today's Marathon Oil Company) made history in 1945 by putting together Michigan's first unitized area for oil and gas development in parts of southern Oscoda and northern Ogemaw Counties.

The large tract took in 34,560 acres, the equivalent of 52 square miles, with mineral ownership in the area held by state, federal and private interests, according to a 1945 account in the Oil & Gas News.

After putting Oscoda County in the news and on Michigan's petroleum map before making a turn of the drill bit with its plan for unit development, Ohio Oil gained the added distinction of making good on the county's first oil and gas test in the summer of 1946.

Current observers of the Michigan oilpatch might think the first "deep" discovery in Oscoda County was made by Sun Exploration and Production Company's U.S.A. Mentor "C" 1-29 Prairie du Chien gas well in Section 29 of Mentor Township (T25N, R3E) in 1985. It was the first deep discovery, at least by today's standards. But in 1946, the Ohio Oil Company Mio Unit #1 (SE NW SW, Sec 20, T25N, R3E, Mentor Township), targeted to the Richfield, was also considered to be a "deep test".

Despite the fact that it was completed for oil production, the questionable potential of Oscoda's first oil and gas test and the size of the headlines it was to make in the Oil & Gas News seemed to foretell what proved to be a commercially marginal future for the Mio Field.

"Little promise of a commercial pay" was noted in the first Oil & Gas News field report following completion of drilling and initial testing of the Richfield at the Mio Unit ifl. A second, larger acid treatment resulted in swab and flow tests that were upgraded to "encouraging" by mid-April 1946.

A late April 1946 report seemed to lend more credibility to the Mio Unit #1 as being a legitimate discovery well, saying that the Ohio-Sohio (Sohio was Ohio Oil's principal partner in the venture) unitized development was "certain to be extended this year as a result of the initial deep test". Estimated oil recovery at that time was in the range of 15 to 45 barrels daily, which the Oil & Gas News rated as "so far not outstanding, but sufficient to encourage continued development of the structure".

In what appears to have been an attempt to determine the extent of the structure Ohio Oil started almost immediately two outpost tests, one three miles northwest of the discovery in Section 22 of Big Creek Township (T25N, R3E), Oscoda County and one seven miles to the southeast in Section 29 ofGoodar Township (T24N, R4E), Ogemaw County, spudding both on April 16, 1946.

First to reach bottom was the Mio G-3 (C NE, Sec 29, Goodar Township), which was plugged at 1,780 feet after showing for gas in the Berea Sand. The northwest outpost try also disappointed, as the Mio Unit ff2 (SE NW NW, Sec 22, Big Creek Township) drilled the Richfield Zone dry in mid-June 1946.

Despite the poor results from Ohio's initial tries to expand the Mio play, their discovery had secured them the distinction of opening Michigan's most northerly commercial oil field. Detroit River Group, Monroe Zone oil had been tested in Montmorency County's Avery Township (T30N, R3E) approximately 30 miles to the north in late 1945, but E.R. Morris' discovery had recorded no oil sales by the time the Mio well went on production.

Only one significant Devonian-aged oil field would be developed further north than Mio, the 1947-discovered Beaver Creek Field in Crawford and Kalkaska Counties. Cumulative Richfield oil production for Beaver Creek had exceeded 15 million barrels by 1984, with contributions to the total nearly equally divided between primary and secondary recovery.

Well records show that no further holes were drilled in the south central Oscoda and north central Ogemaw County area by either Ohio Oil or Sohio after the mid-1946 Mio outpost failures. It's not known if the dry holes alone served to condemn the area for further exploration by the duo, but one clue to the loss of interest could be their concurrent participation in what appeared at the time to be more promising Michigan Basin plays.

Oil & Gas News accounts of the day made repeated references to activity by the pair in fast-growing Montcalm and Isabella County developments. Sohio had moved quickly to become the first to offset a mid-1946 discovery of lower Detroit River Group gas and condensate in Clare County' s Garfield Township (T17N, R6W). Drilled as a deeper pool test of the Orient Stray Sandstone gas reservoir opened the previous year in neighboring Osceola County, Pure Oil Company's "deep" discovery was touted at one point as 'one of the most important exploratory wells ever drilled in the state'.

Pure, Sohio and other players soon learned otherwise, however, as the well which came on flowing 26.5 million cubic feet gas and 100 barrels distillate daily would produce more than 13,000 barrels condensate and 540 million cubic feet gas before 1948 abandonment, but never be successfully offset in the sandstone pay zone.

As original Oscoda County developers Ohio and Sohio turned their attention elsewhere in the late 1940s, so, it seemed, did the rest of the industry. From 1946 to drilling of the first successfuly Mio offset in 1949 only one test, J.O. Mutch's dry Dundee shot in 1947 in the same Section as the Richfield discovery, was to go down in Oscoda.

United Drillers & Producers Inc. moved across the county line into Section 4 of Ogemaw County's Rose Township (T24N, R3E), and completed the State Rose ft3 (SE SW NE) for 11 to 18 barrels oil daily. The play progressed slowly, with Mogul Oil Company completing for approximately 25 barrels daily southeast of the discovery in Section 32 of Mentor Township in 1951. United drilled the fourth and final Mio producer in 1956, making 15 barrels daily on the State Rose #1 and providing the final link in the four-well, 10 year-long Richfield oil development.

Throughout the remainder of the 1950s and early 1960s a smattering of Richfield tests in Mentor, Big Creek and Rose Townships could not match even the modest success of Mio field's quartet of producing wells.

No one drilled in Oscoda County in the latter pan of the 1960s, but the explosion onto the Michigan petroleum scene of the Niagaran boom lured reef-hunting pioneers Shell Oil Company and Amoco Production Company into the area for their first and only tries there as operators of record shortly after the turn of the decade.

Extensive seismic studies reportedly preceded the lone wildcat of the 1970s, the first of which was drilled by Shell in Section 12 of Big Creek (T25N, R2E) Township. The Niagaran-targeted U.S.A. 1-12 (W2 SW SE) actually penetrated upper Ordovician-aged strata, but apparently showed no real promise from any zone. Much closer to what has become a relatively well-defined trend, but still at least 10 miles basinward of the prolific northern reef belt, Amoco followed with a Section 16, Greenwood Township (T28N, R1E) wildcat in late summer 1971, a hole which also failed to either produce or spur immediate interest in the otherwise unexplored area.

It was nearly another decade before Oscoda County's third generation of "deep" plays would spark renewed drilling activity. The initial wildcat test in Hunt Energy Corporation's exploration program in "southeast" Big Creek Township (T25N, R2E) was dry at a total depth of 11,691 fee in the Cambrian-aged Trempeleau Formation in early 1981, but established a county drilling depth record and found natural gas pay in an uphole zone.

The U.S.A. Big Creek Unit #1 (NE NE SW, Sec 14) encountered highly-pressured sour gas in the Salina A-1 Carbonate and was plugged back and completed there as a shut-in gas discovery after being determined dry in the deep horizons.

Hunt chose a spot approximately one and one-half miles to the northwest and spudded its second Oscoda deep test less than two weeks after reaching total depth on the U.S.A. Big Creek Unit #1. The Consumers Power Deep Unit 1-10 (NE NE SW, Sec 10) was plugged and abandoned at a total depth of 11,194 feet in late June 1981.

Setting their target shallower in the lower Detroit River's Black Lime, Hunt staked two wildcat tests in Section 23 of southeast Big Creek Township in July. Both the U.S.A. Big Creek 2-23 and U.S.A. Big Creek 1-23 were completed for oil production that summer, but their productive capabilities of from 10 to 20 barrels oil daily made it appear that the new Echo Lake Field would prove no better than nearby Mio.

After two dry holes to the west in Section 22 (near Ohio's first miss) and one between the Echo Lake and Mio Fields in Section 25 of Big Creek Hunt added a third producer in its Oscoda play, commingling Detroit River Sour Zone and Richfield production from the U.S.A. Big Creek 7-23.

Sun Exploration & Production Company has mounted the most recent full-scale development program in Oscoda County, one which has also become the most productive with four upper Prairie du Chien Sandstone gas and condensate producers now on line in Sections 29, 30, 32 and 33 of southwest Mentor Township (T25N, R3E).

Prior to concentrating their efforts within the Mio Field's Devonian structure Sun had tried at two wildcat locations to the northwest of the Echo Lake wells in 1983. Their Richfield Zone wildcat in Section 16 of southeast Big Creek was on trend with the two Oscoda oil pools, as was a Prairie du Chien penetration in Section 3. Both were plugged and abandoned. Sun cored in the Burnt Bluff and upper Prairie du Chien on the Consumers Power 1-3 (SE NE NW, Sec 3) deep try.

In March 1985 Sun became only the second operator to be granted a field-wide spacing order for development of the Prairie du Chien in the Mio Field, and the first to be granted larger units for deep drilling before completion of a discovery well. The U.S.A. Mentor "C" 1-29 (SW NE SW, Sec 29, T25N, R3E, Mentor Township) went down in mid-1985, with flows of more than one million cubic feet natural gas daily through untreated upper Prairie du Chien perforations good enough to rate the test as a pool opener.

Sun put the discovery on production after building its Mentor Gas Plant in October 1986, making the Mio Prairie du Chien Pool Michigan's most northerly to go on commercial production. Sun drilled and completed three offsets in 1987, with all finding the same upper Prairie du Chien pay zone.

Wolverine Gas & Oil, Grace Petroleum and Sun are co-operators of record on Oscoda's newest deep try, a deep pool test of the Echo Lake Richfield structure in Section 23 of southeast Big Creek Township. Drilling was completed in late February, details on the confidential test are still not known.

Recent exploration and leasing activities in northwestern Oscoda County's Greenwood and Elmer Townships seem to point to more deep drilling efforts in the near future. All three sales of oil and gas lease rights to state-owned lands in 1987 contained substantial blocks of Oscoda acreage in Greenwood and Elmer Townships, much of it going for the state's minimum bonus bid of $10 per acre while some tracts in the southeastern corner of Greenwood Township (T28N, R1E) pushed bidders over $600 per acre.

Interest by majors Mobil and Marathon, with Amoco and Shell presumably also represented by successful second-party bidders, make it a good bet that one of Michigan's least-drilled areas (the northern one-half of Oscoda County has seen only two oil and gas tests) may soon explode with wildcat activity.

Multi-horizon potential could be an added attraction in the area. Shell is said to have found a tall reef in late March 1988 about five miles north of the 1971 Amoco Greenwood Township Niagaran wildcat in Section 22 of Montmorency County's Albert Township, T29N, R1E. Their revision of the hole's target from Niagaran to the Cabot Head Shale would give them a look at lower Silurian Manistique and Burnt Bluff intervals, thought by many to have hydrocarbon potential.

The area's highest lease prices were paid for acreage near the sites of two Amoco stratigraphic tests drilled in late 1987 in southwestern Elmer Township (T28N, R2E). Thought to have been targeted to 5,000 feet, the confidential test holes probably served as control points for seismic studies of the nearly unexplored area.

It's not clear who will step forward and punch the first deep hole in northern Oscoda County, but with proven deep gas reserves to the southeast in Mio and discovered, but not yet commercially produced Burnt Bluff and Prairie du Chien reservoirs to the northeast in Montmorency and Alpena Counties, it's likely just a matter of when the industry will begin to "fill in the gap".

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