Allegan County Information

Allegan County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Allegan County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through December 31,1990 3,369
Total oil wells drilled through December 31,1990 1,352
Total gas wells drilled through December 31,1990 90
Total facility wells drilled through December 31,1990 174
Total dry holes drilled through December 31,1990 1,753
Well Density - approximately (our wells per square mile (837 square miles in county)
Total cumulative crude oil and lease condensate production through December 31,1986 20,559,899 bbls.
Total cumulative natural gas production through December 31,1986 30,769,189 Mcf

BURNIPS - A special edition of Michigan Oil & Gas News commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the 1887 discovery of oil at Port Huron in August 1937, with that same issue highlighting one of the year's biggest discoveries near here under the banner headline "Salem floods oil into West Michigan".

Dundee Limestone oil developments were dominating the headlines in most weekly editions of Michigan Oil & Gas News of that era, as Central Basin Devonian Dundee oil plays like those in Buckeye (Gladwin County), Sherman (Isabella County) and Clayton (Arenac County) roared ahead at a boom pace.

It wasn't Michigan's all-time leading oil pay horizon Dundee but the shallower Traverse Lime that boosted Allegan into the upper echelons of Michigan oilpatch activity that year with the discovery of the Salem Field, a development that would eventually grow to include more than 300 wells and produce in excess of 9 million barrels oil to rank it as one of the all-time biggest producers in the state.

While Salem's was not the first Devonian Traverse oil to be found in the state, the 1937 anniversary edition characterized prior finds in the horizon as being of "little life" and notes that the Salem play had begun with the industry's collective fingers crossed, lest it turn out like the other, largely disappointing plays.

Early tests and sustained production runs from the big Salem Traverse wells, as high as 2,000 barrels per day from some wells, did much to encourage continued development. By the end of 1937 Allegan County's Traverse wells were turning more and more in the oilpatch into believers, with the December 31,1937 issue of Michigan Oil & Gas News reporting that tentative figures were indicating the Salem Field could boast the greatest percentage profit of any field in Michigan in 1937 - and perhaps all-time.

One observer's figures showed 55 wells had been drilled at a cost of approximately $350,000, with their production generating $600,000 revenue.

Success in Salem sparked the Trowbridge and Allegan Field discoveries in 1937 as well, with three of the four other most prolific reservoirs to be discovered in the county opened the following year at Overisel, Diamond Springs and Monterey.

The excitement wasn't limited to Allegan County, however, as the hot play helped serve as catalyst to probably the most famous (or infamous) drilling boom the state has seen, the big townlot drilling spree begun in 1938 at Van Buren County's Bloomingdale to the south.

Through the end of 1990, a combined total of 5,157 holes had been drilled in Allegan and Van Buren counties, a figure representing an almost unbelievable 13 percent of the 38,268 holes drilled at that point all-time in the state, or more than one of every eight holes ever put down since the birth of the Michigan's modern commercial petroleum industry in 1925.

Allegan's 3,369 holes drilled continues to lead the way in drilling completions by county in the state, but the current surge of shallow Antrim Shale development drilling in Otsego County has pushed its all-time completion tally to 2,613 through the end of 1990, moving ahead of Van Buren into second place after rushing past Central Basin counties Midland (1,313 holes drilled), Montcalm (1,533), Clare (1,546) and Isabella (1,642).

Otsego County was not on a sufficient pace to match its 1990 total of 807 drilling completions, with 178 holes drilled through the end of June 1991, but does have Allegan's drilling completion record within reach if the Antrim boom continues unabated.

Allegan County oil and gas fields have produced both oil and gas from horizons as shallow as Western Michigan's "Berea" Sandstone equivalent to as deep as the Salina-Niagaran, with the vast majority of its 20 million-plus barrels oil produced coming from the Traverse.

Most of the nearly 31 billion cubic feet (Bcf) gas produced through the end of 1986 (latest comprehensive cumulative production data available) has come from horizons in the Salina Series, with a small portion of overall gas production coming from a handful of Detroit River reservoirs.

The best of the oil follow-ups to Salem would prove to be the Overisel Field to the west, with its 164 wells making more than 3 million barrels oil. More wells were actually drilled in Trowbridge than Overisel, but the 167 wells had a considerably smaller yield, making 536,739 barrels oil through the end of 1986.

It was a much different game in the early days of Allegan County's petroleum history, with many shallow cable tooldrilled Traverse wells going down during the first few years after the Salem find, before the enactment of Act 61 (Public Acts of 1939) would place restrictions on both well spacing and production in the wake of the wild Bloomingdale townlot spree.

Crude oil prices were hovering around the $1 per barrel mark (some higher, some lower) and it was the big, early flush production producers would often find after drilling in the big Traverse wells that would lead to quick payout and big profits while the wells still flowed strongly.

Salina gas was discovered in the Salem Field in 1941, with the county's biggest oil field becoming for a time its biggest and best gas producer as well, making more than 11.5 Bcf gas before being converted for gas storage use in 1963.

Even bigger (in terms of number of wells drilled with 194) and better for gas was the Overisel Field's Salina Pool, opened in 1956. Overisel Salina would produce nearly 15 Bcf gas in just four years before it became the county's first gas storage reservoir in 1960. The Overisel storage field boasts a storage working capacity of 24 Bcf.

More recent activity in Allegan has been scattered between development wells in old Traverse and Salina pools and wildcat shots aimed at finding deeper producing horizons.

Only 31 wells were drilled from 1984 to 1990, with cumulative production in the county for the five-year period of 1982 to 1986 standing at approximately 450,000 barrels oil and 300,000 Mcf gas.

One of the more ineresting projects in recent years in Allegan was West Hopkins Petroleum's use of lateral drilling in early 1987 on a West Hopkins Field, Salina Pool development well. The approximately 220- foot lateral "drain hole" succeeded in turning what had been a dry hole into a 32 barrel per day producer from the A-2 Carbonate. It may have been a mechanical and/or geologic success, but the lack of follow-up lateral drilling in the heavy oil (rated at 21 degrees API) producing reservoir indicates it probably wasn't a successful from an economic standpoint.

Independent AUexco (Allegan Exploration Company) mounted a fairly concerted exploration program in the mid-1980s, drilling at least a half-dozen tests to the Silurian Clinton and Cabot Head Shale in Saugatuck, Overisel, Valley and Wayland Townships. One, a wildcat in Section 11 of Overisel Township, reportedly made 14 barrels oil and 288 barrels water on initial test from the Niagaran before being converted as an observation well in the Overisel gas storage reservoir.

History shows that if Allegan is to maintain, or if necessary regain, its distinction as all-time most drilled in Michigan it will probably need the help of a new and exciting play, like the one that got its petroleum historystarted in 1937 or the one that appears detsined to push Otsego County past it one day in total drilling numbers.

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