From Bob Wiener...All the best for the New Year! This is a reflective report. I spent the past month in my bucolic hometown of Narragansett, Rhode Island enjoying a nice New England Christmas and New Year’s with snow and ice. Once it gets above 20 degrees, it’s fine. A nice thing about New England winters with snow on the ground, and temperatures in the teens, is you do not need to deal with gardening. After the sidewalk is cleared and the car is shoveled out you can just stay inside and read. And, I know this will upset our HGS Legend, George DeVries Klein (now retired in Guam, American Samoa), but Belichick and the Patriots are still winning.
I read a timely article in the January 1, 2018, New Yorker magazine titled, “The Glut Economy” by Lawrence Wright. It describes the evolution of Texas’s resource based, cyclic economy in terms of three key exploration wells. It even quotes our HGS fellow member, Walter Light. He says, “The city (Houston) is still the international center of the petroleum industry. ‘Every place else is a backwater’ Walter Light, an independent oilman in Houston, told me.” Right-on Walter! I paraphrase and add to parts of the article below.
The first key well is the 1901 well that Patillo Higgins hired Captain Anthony Lucus to drill on Sour Lake Mound near Beaumont. They used the new technology of rotary drilling with drilling mud. This allowed them to get through the unconsolidated sands around 535 feet that cable tool rigs could not manage. At 1021 feet the well blew out. It produced 100,000 BOPD for nine days, when it was eventually capped. The well produced at a rate of 17 MMBO/yr; the field was called Spindletop; and it was the origin of Texaco and Gulf Oil. Both now part of Chevron.
The second key well is the 1930 Daisy Bradford #3 drilled by Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner. He started working on the Bradford lease in 1927. His first two wells were dry. To keep his project going he dreamed up structure maps and fabricated geological reports. He raised money by over-selling stock certificates to farmers. He paid his workers in script. He dreamed, predicted, and preached Woodbine sands at 3500 feet. Finally at 3456 feet cores from the #3 showed oil. After drilling a little deeper, the well blew out shooting oil into the air. Within a year there were 1000 producing wells in the East Texas Field and oil dropped from $1.10 to $0.13 per barrel. Dad Joiner’s reckless business practices lead to years of lawsuits. He eventually sold out to H.L. Hunt, who became the richest man in America. Dad Joiner died broke in 1940.
The third key well is 1998, Mitchell S.H. Griffin #4. In 1954 George Mitchell’s Mitchell Energy and Development Company signed a contract to supply 10% of Chicago’s natural gas needs. Mitchell held 300,000 acres in the Fort Worth Basin, but the individual wells were not very productive because reservoirs were tight. Tight gas reservoirs are common and the industry began to experiment. At first dynamite, machine guns, and napalm were used. Then in the1960’s the Atomic Energy Commission began Project Plowshare and starting fracking with A-bombs. It worked, but the gas was radioactive. (I hope landmen know where those 30+ tests took place.) In the 1970’s hydraulic fracturing tests began. In 1981, Mitchell drilled his first fracked well, the C.W. Slay #1. It lost money as did most of his fracked wells. In the 1990’s Nick Steinsberger, one of Mitchell’s engineers began tinkering with the frack fluid mix. He developed what became known as “slick-water” frack fluid and added sand as a proppant. This worked. Mitchell used this fracking formula with horizontal wells, a drilling technique developed for the offshore. And, finally in 1998, the S.H. Griffin #4 was drilled, made a profit, and horizontal drilling and fracking took off. Many of you younger members can thank your jobs for that.
Today, much of the industry is focused on the hard work of getting hydrocarbons out of the ground but it is important to remember Wallace Pratt’s 1952 insightful comment “Where oil is first found, in the final analysis, is in the minds of men.” I am sure Pratt would say “in the minds of men and women”, if he was to comment about today’s work force.
The HGS continually strives to keep our members minds focused on the future of exploration and technology.