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Alpena County Information

Alpena County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Alpena County at a Glance

Total Wells drilled through December 1990. 33
Total oil wells drilled through December 1990 0
Total gas wells drilled through December 1990 9
Total facility wells drilled through December 1990 0
Total dry holes drilled through December 1990 24
Well Density - approximately one well per 18 square miles (590 square miles in county)
Total cumulative oil and lease condensate production through March 31,1990 140,730 bbls.
Total cumulative natural gas production through March 31,1990 2,130,515 Mcf

ALPENA - Finally recognized as a viable exploration frontier following the discovery of three natural gas and condensate reservoirs in the 1980s, Alpena County's vast unexplored areas now lying between proven production on the eastern and western edges of the county may begin to beckon additional exploration interest.

Located on the northeast edge of the Lower Peninsula's "mitten," Alpena County's remote geographical prosition and the lack of success among early wildcats kept drilling activity to a minimum at the same time the center of the Basin bustled with activity in the 1930s and 1940s. When the Albion-Scipio Trend lured the majority of activity to Southern Michigan, Alpena sat mostly idle more than 200 miles to the north.

In the 1970s the Northern Niagaran Reef Trend became the dominant exploration feature in Michigan, but success stayed to the west and north - missing Alpena County again.

The boom of the late 1980s was for Antrim gas in Northern Michigan, but that shallow formation outcrops in Alpena County and the play never had a change to extend into the county.

That left the young deep gas play, bom in the 1980s and still slowly and steadily developing, as the best exploration bet for Alpena. That bet began to pay off with the deep search in Alpena resulting in successful wells in both the Clinton and Prairie du Chien formations as early as 1983 and 1985 respectively.

After 1990 drilling figures were in, Alpena County still has only one hole drilled (on average) for each 18 square miles and the geologic data base for the area is slowly growing. Alpena County now has production in both the southwest and southeast corners of the county and interest shown in other areas.

Lack of pipeline access to the region also has discouraged Alpena exploration, but a 40-mile Spartan Intrastate Pipeline project extending from the Northern Wetheader System in Otsego County into Alpena County's Ossineke Township (T29N, R5W) gives market access to Fletcher Pond Field wells and could be extended if further new reserves merit.

It was H.L. Brown, Jr. who drilled the first commercial well in Alpena County, posting a 1983 Clinton gas discovery to open the Fletcher Pond Field. The wildcat was based on seismic lines and the Midland, Texas-based independent drilled on the more than 25,000 acre Turtle Lake Club lease.

Brown's Snowplow 1-5 (SE SW NW, Sec 5, T29N, R5E, Ossineke Township) was drilled to 7,572 feet in the Prairie du Chien. But when the deeper zones failed to produced after completion work, a zone in the Clinton from 5,540 to 5,610 was perforated and acidized and tested 1.25 Mmcf gas daily along with 70 barrels of condensate.

H.L. Brown, Jr.'s belief in the Prairie du Chien potential then paid off in 1985 just to the southeast on the Snowplow 5-9 (NW SE SE, Sec 9). The 8,500-foot deep hole has a gross pay interval in the PdC from 7,220 to 8,160 feet. The calculated absolute open flow rate was 4.95 Mmcf gas per day and production included 60 barrels of condensate and 1/4 barrel water daily.

While the Clinton Pool of the Fletcher Pond Held has remained on one-well reservoir, the Prairie du Chien Pool has grown to four wells and a Fletcher Pond, West Field was discovered just into Montmorency County to the west.

With few holes drilled and a meager geology base of data. Wolverine Environmental Production, Inc. and Sun Exploration and Production (now Oryx) solved the lack of geological information by getting clues from core holes drilled in the southeast portion of the county and came up with a 1988 deep gas discovery near the shores of Lake Huron.

The Wolverine/Oryx State Sanborn & Wade 1-28 (BHL: SE NW NW, Sec 28, T29N, R9E, Sanbom Township) is the discovery well of the Hardwood Point field, testing daily rates of 3,500 Mcf gas and 57 barrels condensate with 192 barrels water. The hole lists gross pay intervals in the Burnt Bluff at 4,726-4,751 feet and PdC at 6,289-6,346. The Prairie du Chien was the focus of completion work and the Burnt Bluff pay remains behind pipe.

The most recent success in Alpena County was in 1989 when Wolverine and Oryx added a second PdC well to the Hardwood Point Field, the State Sanbom Wade 1-20 (BHL: NW SE SE, Sec 20). Work currently is being done on a production facility for the two wells and construction of a pipeline will allow access to the Alpena Pipeline approximately three miles to the west.

The first well to successfully test hydrocarbons in Alpena County was drilled in 1972 by Miller Brothers and Michigan Oil Company. The Huron Cement 1 (NE SE SE, Sec 12, T31N, R8E, Alpena Township) was completed in 1973 and tested at rates up to 150,000 cubic feet gas per day from the A-l Carbonate Formation of the Salina Group. An offset to the south failed and the original well never produced commercially before being plugged and abandoned in 1978.

Alpena drilling history dates back to 1935, when the first hole was spudded. Charles Teater is credited with one of the state's first deep tests (even by today's standards) with his wildcat to the St. Peter Sandstone at 5,665 feet. The Nevins 1 (NW NW NE, Sec 18, T32N, R6E, Long Rapids Township) began December 25, 1935 and finally was abandoned 10 months later 15 feet into the St. Peter after a 15- day fishing job.

Another hole was drilled in 1936, the J. Potter 1 (NE NW SW, Sec 36) also in Long Rapids Township, and then there were no holes for the next 10 years until Sohio Petroleum Company drilled to 2,643 feet on the Turtle Lake 1 (SE NW NE, Sec 9, T29N, R5E, Ossineke Township) and came up dry.

By the end of 1982, there had been 15 dry holes to go with the 1972 test credited as a gas well. By the end of 1990 the success rate had increased to nine wells in 33 tries or a 28 percent success rate overall.

Alpena also has had other deep tests of interest, although not productive. Shell Oil Company drilled the Sheldon-State-Wellington 1-34 (SE SW SW, Sec 34, T32N, R5E, Wellington Township) in 1974, reaching 5,971 feet after drilling encountered the Glenwood member of the Black River Group at 5,864 feet and the "Knox" at 5,918.

Sun Exploration & Production (Oryx) drilled the A.A. Cousineau "A" 1-16 (NE SE SE, Sec 16, T29N, R8E, Sanbom Township) in 1984 and had shows in the Clinton with completion work finally abandoned and the hole plugged.

The most recent deep test was Union Oil of California's Christensen 1-1 (NE SW NE, Sec 1, T32N, R5E, Wellington Township). The hole reached an estimated total depth of 6,200 in October 1990 and has been plugged and abandoned.

Still active in Alpena is a permit for Union Oil's Nowakowski 1-2 (NE SW NE, Sec 2, T32N, R7E, Maple Ridge Township) to the Trempealcau at 7,500 feet and one for Quantum Industries, Inc.'s Moody 2-31 (SW NE NE, Sec 31, T32N, R7E, Maple Ridge Township) to the Cabot Head at 4,500 feet.

Approximately seven eighths of the county's 377,600 acres are privately held, but leasing interest has been shown for Alpena acreage at State Lease Sales. In 1986, the majority of the acreage offered for lease at a March sale of state-owned or controlled minerals was in Alpena County and nearly 50,000 acres were leased. Bidding passed the $100 per acre mark 12 times - all in Ossineke Township, T29N, R5 and 6E - but most of the bids were the $10 minimum in other townships.

Those 1986 leases were for seven-year terms and will be expiring in 1993, possibly setting the stage for some drill-or-lose situations where prospects are being considered, or putting the acreage into new hands if expired and nominated for a future lease sale.

One hundred and 52 of those parcels offered in 1986 in Alpena County were successfully bid upon by Shell Western E & P, Inc., Michigan exploration leader for Northern Michigan for most of the past 20 years.

In the March 1988 sale, six Alpena County parcels were offered with three going for 100,110, and 125 dollars per acre and the other three at 10,15, and 20 dollars and acre - all in Long Rapids Township, T32N, R6E, in Sections 2,10,34 and 35.

Production figures (through March 31, 1990) aren't that impressive at 140,730 barrels of crude oil or condensate and 2,130,515 Mcf natural gas, but that is credited almost entirely to the Fletcher Pond Field and Wolverine and Oryx expect to have the Hardwood Point Field adding production before mid-year 1991.

While it doesn't add to hydrocarbon production, Alpena County is one of the more-closely studied areas by geologists.

Geological Survey Division Geologist Ty Black covers the oil and gas activity in Alpena County, but also likes the area for its unique geological features, including phenomenon of fractures such as sink holes, karst and outcroppings of formations.

Oil and gas explorationists might not be enamored with the unusual near-surface underground streams and sinkholes areas, but have to take notice that Alpena County's deeper geology has been a little kinder for recent drilling and might get even better in the 1990s.

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