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University of Texas Oil Connections

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This is a picture of the Santa Rita in the early 1920’s.

In 1883, the year UT was opened, an endowment was established by the state of Texas that donated 2.1 million acres in West Texas to help UT. Not much was expected of the desolate land besides to perhaps develop it for real estate. In the 1920’s curious men acquired drilling permits from UT, hoping to strike it rich. There were in fact huge oil discoveries. Oil from the Permian Basin has generously provided for the UT system. The PUF continues to receive royalties from oil and gas production in West Texas while the AUF, Available University Fund, continues to receive all surface lease income. Surface lease usually entails “grazing and easements for power lines and pipelines.”1

Big Lake Oilfield and Santa Rita #1 Oil Well

In 1919, Rupert P. Ricker started advertising the land given to UT for oil exploration. The UT alum had utilized a law passed two years earlier permitting state land to be chartered for oil exploration. Having trouble making the sale of 431,360 acres, Ricker turned to an army buddy, Frank T. Pickrell. The original price of the permits for the land and other processing fees was approximately $41,136; however Pickrell paid only $2,500 due to the approaching thirty day deadline for Ricker to make the sale. In 1921, Pickrell started making his runs desperately searching for Texas Tea.

Much to his delight, the Santa Rita #1 oil well produced oil on the final day before the permit expired. A group of Catholic women had large investments in the exploration; when they heard all of this, they wanted it called Santa Rita (“Patron of the Impossible”). But on May 25, 1923, Cromwell, with fellow worker Dee Locklin, decided to “shut down the well to keep reports tight while they leased surrounding acreage for themselves.”2

The oil well was a part of the Big Lake Oilfield. By 1926, the oilfield had already contributed $4 million to the PUF. In the beginning, the single oil well was producing around 3,000 barrels of oil daily. Different wells in the field also had success early on; “the No. 9 well’s initial daily production was 1,400 barrels, on June 24, 1924. The No. 10 came in with 1,840 barrels on July 11. But the No. 11, which began producing 3,600 barrels daily on July 31, proved the field’s productivity.”1

The Santa Rita had served its purpose to the UT system in its sixty-seven years. In 1990, the plug was pulled. The Texas State Historical Association had the original Santa Rita #1 rig moved to the UT campus, and it can be seen next to MLK Blvd between Trinity and San Jacinto streets.

Yates Oil Field

is one of the richest oil fields in the United States; it is rated in the top ten for overall production and second for reserves. Much like the Big Lake Oilfield, permits were granted by UT, and in turn, the school received royalties from the drilling in West Texas.

According to the DrillingInfo website, Yates has over 1 billion barrels left in reserves, which is the largest amount of reserves in the entire nation with the exception of the mammoth Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. It continues to produce around 20,000 barrels of oil per day and around 85,000 MCF (thousand cubic feet) of gas daily. In 1998, it was reported that a research team named Golder Associates of Redmond, Washington was attempting to discover ways to maximize production using natural drainage systems. “Very effective gravity drainage, combined with a secondary gas-cap expansion drive is responsible for the estimated ultimate recovery of 50 percent of the original oil in place.”3 The oil field is so well maintained since it contributes so much to the University.

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Pioneer Bets On West Texas Shale Oil To Rival Bakken

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Two wells drilled by Pioneer Natural Resources have already exceeded expectations. The company has 900,000 acres under lease.

By MARILYN ALVA, INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY Posted 01:41 PM ET

U.S. oil production is enjoying a renaissance, thanks to new technology that has made oil recovery possible in tight shale rock.

The busy Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana is the largest and best-known oil shale play.

The Eagle Ford in South Texas and the Barnett “combo play” (gas and oil) in North Texas are also fairly famous unconventional plays.

But the Wolfcamp Shale?

“Over the next two or three years, everybody is going to be making a beeline to the Wolfcamp,” said Scott Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD).

Spanning numerous counties across West Texas, the Wolfcamp formation is located below the long-plied Spraberry field, which helped make Midland, Texas, oil-central starting in the early 1950s.

Its location in the Midland Basin is within the larger Permian Basin.

Sheffield and other oil experts say the Wolfcamp is probably the thickest of any onshore U.S. oil shale play, with up to 1,000 feet of potential payout across hundreds of thousands of acres.

Biggest And Thickest

“It will be the biggest, and it is already the thickest,” Sheffield said. “So it’s got the most pay zones of any oil shale play in the U.S. I call it the third or fourth coming of the boom in West Texas.”

If Wolfcamp does turn out to be the next big oil shale play, Pioneer is on the ground floor. With 900,000 acres under lease in the Spraberry, it has the largest land position.

Pioneer believes that more than 400,000 of those acres are ripe for horizontal drilling.

Its game plan: drill 10,000 feet down through the Spraberry to the Wolfcamp and then out 7,000 feet horizontally.

For now, it’s targeting 200,000 acres in the southern portion of the Spraberry field.

Pioneer’s two completed wells in the Wolfcamp have already exceeded expectations, each producing 800 to 1,000 barrels of oil a day, and they’re still early in production.

EOG Resources (EOG) started drilling in the Wolfcamp earlier and is now seeing higher output from its 35 or so wells.

But Sheffield says Pioneer will be a bigger operator in the Wolfcamp in the sense that it has 400,000 prospect-worthy acres to EOG’s 100,000.

“We are going to drill 80 wells in 2012 and 2013,” he said.

EOG’s wells in the Wolfcamp are producing 2,000 barrels a day, says Dan Morrison, analyst with Global Hunter Securities.

“Even if Pioneer’s don’t get to 2,000 barrels a day, at 800 barrels a day the play is incredibly economic,” Morrison said.

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Permian Basin of West Texas seeing oil boom

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DALLAS — The Permian Basin of West Texas is experiencing an oil boom, leading some of the region’s top oilmen to predict that Texas oil production will double within five to seven years.

Oil drillers over the last eight years have found that the dense oil rock of the basin surrounding Midland and Odessa responds well to hydraulic fracturing, releasing lush yields. Total oil production last year in Texas averaged more than 1 million barrels per day for the first time since 2001.

“Right in the basin, we could get up to 2 million barrels a day,” Jim Henry of Midland-based Henry Resources told The Dallas Morning News for an article in its Sunday’s edition.

“I’ve been totally surprised by the amount of oil we’re finding out in the shale zones,” Scott Sheffield, chairman and chief executive of Irving-based Pioneer Natural Resources Co., told the newspaper.

“We have 30 billion barrels of new oil discoveries,” said Tim Leach, chairman and CEO of Midland-based Concho Resources. “It can be hard to get your mind around that.

The cloud on the horizon is the persistent drought that has gripped the region. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” requires massive amounts of water to pump into the ground under high pressure.

Drillers also worry about the prospect of tax increases and limits placed on land use by the presence of such endangered species as the dunes sagebrush lizard.

But as long as crude oil prices remain high, around $100 per barrel, drilling will remain profitable.

Similar booms are under way in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas and the Bakken Shale of North Dakota and Montana. Production also is climbing rapidly in western Alberta Canada, which is now the largest source of U.S. oil imports.

“I could paint a scenario for you where we are producing 3 million more barrels per day by 2016, which would almost get us to the point where we could eliminate 60 to 70 percent of our OPEC imports,” Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman told The News. “With that greater control over our own energy security, we could care less about what happens in the Strait of Hormuz.”

The narrow straight between the United Arab Emirates and Iran is considered strategically vulnerable to blockade by Iran’s revolutionary regime.

The United States still imports 45 percent of the 19 million barrels of petroleum that it consumes, but that is a sharp reduction, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2005, about two-thirds of all liquid fuels the United States consumed was imported.

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