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Bay County Information

Bay County

Contact Information

Brad Jenkins

Phone: 617-720-2808

Email: info AT bradfordgordon.com

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Bay County at a Glance

Total wells drilled through December 31, 1987 867
Total oil wells drilled through December 31, 1987 584
Total gas wells drilled through December 31, 1987 8
Total-dry holes drilled through December 31, 1987 274
Well Density - approximately two wells per square mile (451 square miles in county)
Total cumulative oil production through December 31, 1984 22,743,809 bbls.*
Total cumulative natural gas production through December 31, 1984 3,249 Mcf*

Most recent period for which complete production records are available.
Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Geological Survey Division Statistical Summary No. 38.

KAWKAWLIN - East central lower Michigan's Bay County, which boasted a long and highly successful history of shallow oil exploration and development throughout its first half century as a petroleum producing area, now appears to be on the threshold of becoming one of the state's largest sources of deep natural gas.

Some 50 years passed following discovery of Bay County's first commercially viable oil field in 1935 in Gibson Township (T18N, R3E) before Michigan's most aptly named county (being bordered entirely to the east by Saginaw Bay) was ushered into the burgeoning Central Basin deep gas play by a deeper pool test of its largest and most prolific Devonian oil field, Kawkawlin.

In that period, oil production mounted to more than 22.7 million barrels (through the end of 1984), while output of commercial ly marketed natural gas totalled only 3.25 million cubic feet, all of it from the Essexville Field. To put those figures into perspective, the county's cumulative oil production ranks it fifteenth among the 60 oil-productive Michigan counties to date, while a good Niagaran reef or deep Prairie du Chien well could equal its output of gas through 1984 in a single day.

Against this backdrop of once strong but now essentially depleted Devonian oil reservoirs looms the prospect for a bright future in the deep gas play. Future is the key word here, as Bay County's discovered deep gas reserves had gone begging for a market until the recent announcement of plans to construct a 125-mile long pipeline linking the area to a gas processing plant near Kalkaska.

Completion of the pipeline should spur both exploration for and development of the deep pools in Bay County, work that has been done primarily by Shell Western E & P Inc. to date. Shell is operator of three of the four proven deep discoveries drilled in the county and reportedly has an agree ment in principle with Michigan Consolidated Gas Company affiliate Saginaw Bay Pipeline Company to transport its natural gas and liquid hydrocarbon production via the proposed pipeline system. Before getting too caught up in the pres ent and future of oil and gas exploration in Bay County, we'll take a look back at the days when a "deep" test went "all the way" to the Detroit River Group's Richfield Zone and natural gas, when encounter ed, was often viewed as more of a nusiance than a valuable commodity .....

Initial discovery of oil in Bay County came 10 years after Michigan's first com mercial strike in neighboring Saginaw County's Saginaw Field. Approximately 38 miles north of the Saginaw Berea Sandstone production. Traverse Limestone oil pay was established in Section 11 of Bay's most northerly township, Gibson.

One of only two pre-1940 field discoveries to be made, the Gibson Traverse Pool was to become the first of the country's significant developments to be aban doned when the last of the original 12 wells was plugged in 1957.

Gibson's Traverse production was gone but not forgotten, as 28 years after being given up on the first time, the pool was revived with three wells drilled by area in dependents Gordon and Gary Tuck. All three were reported capable of production at the end of 1987.

The focus of the Michigan oilpatch in 1938 may have been in the southwest district, where 100 barrel per hour gushers of Traverse Limestone oil were regularly pictured on the pages of the Michigan Oil & Gas News. It was early that year, and without the fanfare brought on by the rigsplashing flows from the Allegan and Van Buren wild ones, that Gulf Refining Com pany drilled and completed the Kawkawlin Dundee discovery in Section 1 of Monitor Township, T14N, R4E.

Rating relatively small headlines and bottom-of-the-page placement in the Oil News, the Marston #1 (SE SW NE) well even had to compete with perhaps equally interesting at the time drilling action to the north in Bay's Mt. Forest Township for space in the weekly publication.

The Mt. Forest tests of 1938 failed, but Gulfs wildcat, which "failed to show commercially natural," logged promising oilsaturated zones in the Dundee. Forty barrels oil were recovered after initial acid treatments and by the last week of January a banner headline declared: "Gulfs Bay Wildcat Established as Oil Pumper." Daily production rates of 10 to 15 barrels oil were reported for the discovery.

Development of the Kawkawlin Dundee pool, which eventually grew to include 321 wells, was slow to get rolling, with Gulf controlling most acreage in the area. Even by year's end 1938 the discovery had failed to spark a real boom. The Dundee Lime find was followed up the next year with a Detroit River Group strike, also in Section 1 of Monitor Township. Berea Sandstone pay was tapped in Section 3 of Monitor in 1941 as well.

Perhaps the most spectacular hole ever drilled in Kawkawlin, however, was never credited with any commercial oil or gas production. The Bateson #1 (S SE SE, Sec 2, Monitor Township) test saw Gulf bring in the largest rig ever assembled in Michigan at the time, a Parker Drilling Company rotary. Highly-pressured Salina gas blew out and ignited in November 1940, destroy ing the big rig.

Committed to continuing the deep test at that location. Gulf had the rig rebuilt and the hole was saved for a sidetracked deepening. Gulf set a depth record that stood into the decade of the 1960s when it reached 10,447 feet in the St. Peter or upper Prairie du Chien Massive Sandstone.

Deep zones were declared dry, but Gulf plugged back and completed for six to seven million cubic feet gas and condensate in the blow-out zone. The well was never connected for sales, but a late December 1941 order of the Supervisor of Wells established for the Kawkawlin Salina Gas Field the state's first field-wide 640-are spacing pattern. Two Gulf offsets drilled on the big units were dry and with the lack of further development the spacing order was abrogated in 1953.

Kawkawlin proved to be Bay County's bread and butter development, accounting for more than 16 million of the nearly 23 million barrels produced all-time through 1984. The vast majority of that total came from the Dundee, with the pool ranking as 10th largest in cumulative oil production among all Michigan fields. Kawkawlin Dundee's 321 producing wells drilled makes it the ninth largest in the state in that category.

Muskegon Development, Lease Management and G & H Producers currently operate the majority of the active wells in the field. A unitized secondary recovery waterflood project was attempted by Gulf on the northwest side of the field in the 1950s, but was not completely successful. Muskegon Development has operated the Kawkawlin Unit since 1970, and while not being handled as a full-scale flood, more water is disposed of in the unit's injection wells than is pumped out in producers, according to Muskegon President William C. Myler, helping to stabilize producing rates.

Seven miles east of the Kawkawlin play, United Drillers & Producers put Hampton Townhsip (T14N, R6E) on Bay County's oil and gas production map in late 1943 and early 1944 with drilling and completion of the Essexville Dundee discovery well. The M.A. Arms if (S SE NW, Sec 7) tested at 90 to 100 barrels oil daily on pump after acid shots.

Essexville did not grow to be as large or prolific as the Kawkawlin development, but its total of 3.8 million barrels oil produced through 1984 rank it far ahead of any other field in the county. The Essexville area was given a boost with the 1981 discovery of Detroit River Sour Zone production by Wolverine Gas & Oil Co., Inc. The pool's five wells had produced more than 46,000 barrels oil through 1984.

The decade of the 1940s was to see the discovery and initial development work in the third and fourth Bay County oil fields able to boast of all-time production near the one million barrel mark. Eight months after opening of the Essexville Dundee Pool, with the southeastern Bay County field still demanding the oilpatch's attention with reports that a south offset to the discovery had flowed 350 to 500 barrels oil per day naturally, a Shell Oil Company wildcat in Section 2 of Fraser Township (T 16N, R4E) sparked interst to the northwest by show ing outstanding Dundee potential.

Follow-up reports credit the Shell Koth ft (SW NE NW, Sec 2) with 50 barri per hour flows on initial test and established it as opener of the Pinconning Field. Perhaps more interesting and important than the production rate, though, was the report carried in the September 22, 1944 issue of the Oil & Gas News that Shell had taken the Fraser acreage block "on the strength of seismograph surveys", adding that "if commercial, it will deliver Michigan its first seismograph oil discovery in history".

Also interesting to note was the fact that Shell had completed the Pinconning discovery as its first productive Michigan wildcat as the start of a "return campaign" to the state following limited activity in the Central Basin area in the mid- 1930's. More recent history shows that the major was actually making just its first "return" to Michigan in the 1940s, as it later came back in a big way to play a dominant role in northern Niagaran Reef Trend exploration and development in the early 1970s and returned to Bay County in the 1980s to begin a significant deep exploration program.

Development drilling in Pinconning proved the Dundee reservoir to be very narrow (generally only one well wide), spotty and aligned on a northeast to southwest trend, perpendicular.to the layout of the majority of Central Basin Devonian and Mississipian oil and gas reservoirs. Pinconning Dundee's 12 wells have the highest oil production on a barrel per acre recovery basis in the county, making more than 902,000 barrels through 1984 for recovery of 9,020 barrels per acre for the 100 acres drilled.

Shell seismograph work was credited with a second Dundee discovery in 1947 when L.R. Reese & McClanahan Oil Co. drilled on a "Shell seismograph high" to make the Mt. Forest discovery. The Mercer & Knoodle ffl (SW SE SE, Sec 13, T17N, R3E, Mt. Forest Township) was drilled on an acreage block of some 1,400 acres, the majority of it farmed out to Reese and associates from Shell.

Development began immediately offset ting the new find and while the 37 producers eventually drilled in Mt. Forest were not as prolific on a well-to-well basis as the Pinconning development wells, cumulative production had topped 975,000 barrels by 1984. Twenty-six of the Dundee wells were still active last December.

Post-war Bay County exploration activ ity dropped well below the pace set in the late 1930s and early to mid-1940s, with the only new field openers being drilled in Pinconning (T17N, R4E) and Garfield (T16N, R3E) Townships. The 1949 Lucht Field discovery, Don Rayburn's Cooper-Lucht ftl (NE SW NE, Sec 29, Pinconning Township), started things in what may be the county's best Traverse Lime reservoir. With one of five wells drilled still active at the end of 1987, the field had made nearly 200,000 barrels. E.V. Milliard's Crump Field Dundee discovery (Section 23, Garfield Township) proved to be marginal and was plugged after making only 1,043 bar rels oil the year after discovery in 1950.

Dramatic evidence of just how much drilling activity slowed is found in Geological Survey Division statistics which show that in the quarter century between the mid-1950s and late 1970s fewer than 70 holes were drilled in the county after the previous 25-year period had seen the drilling of more than 600 holes.

The near-drought of drilling and discoveries in the late 1950s, 60s and 70s came to an abrupt end with the start of the 1980s, which has thus far seen both Bay County's biggest Berea Sandstone develop ment and what may be just the start of a big deep gas and condensate play.

K.P. Wood, Jr., given credit in the 1960s as helping discover Trenton production in the Albion end of the prolific Albion- Pulaski-Scipio Trend, made his mark in Bay County in mid-1980 when he drilled in a Dundee prospect worked up by geologist Earl C. Majeske in Section 8 of Williams Township, T14N, R3E. The Russell Arthur & Wife tfl (SE SW NW) kicked hard in the Berea before reaching Dundee objective and flowed oil to the pits while McLachlan Rig I crews struggled to keep the shallow wildcat under control.

The well was perforated in the Sand zone and flowed oil on choke, signalling the opening of what has become the county's second largest field in terms of both acreage and wells drilled. Cumulative production for 86 wells through the end of 1984 was 586,218 barrels.

Wood rapidly developed the field, at one point drilling at least 25 productive wells in a row without a dry hole. While discovery and much of the field's development drilling was in Bay County, the Williams Field did extend into Midland County's Midland (T14N, R2E), and Larkin (T15N, R2E) Townships. Water flooding of at least a portion of the Williams Berea reservoir is thought to be under consideration, as the relatively tight sand typically gives up a fairly low percentage of original oil in place on primary recovery.

Further exploration in this decade has produced one-well, new field discoveries in: Gibson (Saganing Creek-Richfield); Merritt (Merritt-Detroit River). Beaver (Beaver, Sec 21-Detroit River Sour and Berea) and Fraser (Fraser, Sec. 9-Detroit River Sour) Townships. Lack of production records by field after 1984 for non-prorated wells makes comparison of these later fields with those drilled in the 1930s through 1950s difficult, but none appear to have kicked off significant developments.

NRM Petroleum Corporation's Conrad 1-26 (Sec 26, Gibson Township), credited as discovery well of the Saganing Creek Field in 1982, goes down as a Rich field pro ducer, but apparently tested a small amount of oil from the Detroit River Group's Amherstburg Formation as well. The rarely productive Amherstburg has been con firmed as commercially productive in only a handful of wells statewide.

The big excitement of the 1980s follow ing the Williams Field's establishment as a solid shallow producer came in mid-1984 when Shell Western E & P Inc. took a tangible step toward putting Bay County among the ranks of the state's deep producing regions by moving the first Michigan-based rig capable of 20,000-foot depths, Bigard Drilling Company's Rig 11, on its Prevost et al 1-11 in Monitor Township.

Unlike earlier deep gas discoveries drilled in relatively remote areas, of the state Shell's premier Bay County deep try was a highly visible effort, in full view of traffic on highway 1-75 just west ofKawkawlin. Location of the first Kawkawlin DPT in more than 40 years directly offset the famed GulfBateson #1 well, drilled a quarter-mile to the north. It appeared by the permitted target of the Shell test, 15,200 feet in the Pre-Cambrian, that it would set a new depth record for the county.

The hole did not reach Pre-Cambrian depths, but did become one of Michigan's deepest penetrations ever at 14,589 feet, with production casing set to 11,612 feet. Production testing confirmed the hole as a strong natural gas producer (7,990 Mcf daily) and also revealed it to be capable of high rates of fairly heavy condensate (53.5 ° API) production (309 barrels daily).

Shell petitioned for and was granted 640 acre spacing for development of the natural gas and condensate for the entire Kawkawlin Prairie du Chien. Shell's completion on the Prevost et al 1-11 was in the lower Prairie du Chien, from approximately 10,900 to 11,075 feet, some 500 feet below total depth on the nearby Bateson #1 well. A drill stem test, however, had flowed gas to surface (at a rate of approximately 500 Mcf daily) from an interval of 10,300 to 10,400 feet, a zone also penetrated by the Gulf well. Shell has since established Prairie du Chien production on a deeper pool test of the Essexville Detroit River Sour Pool and has scored with what appears to be a new field deep discovery in Section 7 of Fraser Township. Initial production from the LaHar 1-7 (NE SW SE) was marginal, but a massive fracturing treatment in early 1988, utilizing more than 600,000 pounds proppant material, was enough to boost flows of 2,500 Mcf daily on choke. A year earlier. Federated Natural Resources had also gone the route of the frac job to stimulate commercial production flows from a deep test in Section 15 of Fraser Township. The Metz 1-15 (NW NE NW) has been preliminarily classified as discovery well of the Fraser, Sec. 9 Field's PdC Pool.

Shell has potential deep successes in two more recent tries, one in Section 12 of Fraser Township that has been fracture treated and a deep pool test of the Gibson, Sec. 20 Dundee Field that reportedly flared gas and was production cased recently.

Continued development of the establish ed deep structures is expected to follow hand-in-hand with construction and start up of the Bay County-to-Kalkaska Saginaw Bay Pipeline Company project. The Essexville Prairie du Chien Pool appears poised to become the next multi-well development for Shell, with a second well drilled and a third permitted. Shell is currently drilling several stratigraphic tests in Bay County, some of them near the Essexville Pool in Hampton Township.

A deeper pool test of the Williams Berea Field in late 1985 drew less attention than Shell's Kawkawlin PdC opener, but the success of independent Richfield Petroleum's Cnudde 1-4 (SW SW SW, Sec 4, Williams Township) has led to a Dundee oil pool that has already grown to nine wells. Cumulative production figures are not available yet for the pool, but initial rates have ranged from 25 to 40 barrels oil daily.

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