Oil!

Oil Well 1907

Oil Well 1907

gaswell1930

Gas Well 1930

 

Yes, Payette Valley has both gas and oil wells (but, very few — I doubt many are working wells–altho with fracking that could change quickly).  There have been sporadic attempts over the years.  The photo of the 1907 well shows good pressure, however the proof is not the initial “blow” but, instead, how long it blows. Drillers build a large containment pond to hold such, just in case.

In the 50s a number of leasing agents went around to all the farms with proposals to lease their land.  The goal was to tie up the entire county.  What oil companies do is to reserve enough of the land to preclude another oil company from coming in.  It is simply insurance in our case.  It takes considerable capital to “open” a field.  No company wants to simply drill, and then have still a different company come in and drill right next door pulling gas or oil out from under the adjoining parcel.  Causes big fight.

I remember in Bakersfield I had three oil wells on my own farm. Not far away Shell had charitably given an acre corner of a big field to the Mennonite Church for their church building.  But, the guy writing up the gift forgot to exclude the mineral rights!  The Mennonites promptly drilled three wells and were selling oil lickety split sucking oil from Shell’s adjoining land. Shell was not ready to drill on that land — so they were watching their oil disappearing!  Big lawsuit!

One time ~1959, I was home visiting while still in dental school.  My dad showed me his lease forms. An oil company was trying to tie up all the land along the New Plymouth bench.  Dad wanted to know if I would recommend him signing the lease?  I told him yes.  It was not much, maybe $50/year, but I said, why not?  The leases were merely a ploy to keep other companies out.  I told him that the odds of them bringing the field on line was slim to none — so he might as well get what he could. If it were a feasible area, they would drill, and he might get some bigger bucks.  However, there are countless small fields seemingly everywhere in Idaho, but none big enough to be worth the development cost.  And, no oil company would expend the necessary development cost unless thy fully controlled all the land.

That part of Idaho was sea floor and small islands hundreds of millions of years ago in South Pacific.  Tectonic plate activity has moved it centimeters/year over those millions of years until the Pacific Plate collided with the North American plate — where it was subducted under the American Plate.  This is what caused Hell’s Canyon, and the Rockies, and the general lava over much or Oregon and Washington state. This “rumples” the land, much like a rug rumples when pushed from the side.  It does this rumpling in layer after layer along the border of Oregon with Idaho.  This creates folds of sediment overlaying other folds.  These folds then trap oil under some of the folds, in small and skinny long folds.  The problem is that each fold is separated from the next.  Few are joined with another fold.  The effect is to create tiny narrow oil fields, within each rumple, that are not economical to develop.  The Idaho fields are not large enough to warrant the huge development cost.  Remember that one can’t simply drill a well, but must also, provide a way to string many wells together in a “satellite” system working together, then a way to get the combined crude to a refinery.  While there is a pipeline thru the county, it is entirely dedicated to moving refined oil from Salt Lake to Spokane and so cannot be used for crude.

I do not remember if the leases included gas as well as oil.  The gas (fracking) has a much better chance of being developed.  However, at this point in time, it simply cannot compete with so many other fields.  Plus now the oil companies must contend with environmentalists–it is like being in a fight with someone else hanging on each arm and leg!

Oil companies will drill test wells — which is what these photos show.  The reason is: To get the records of what the geology looks like from the well borings, to test flow amount, on the off chance there is a large amount possible.  You can tell if the oil companies are serious by how many test wells are done in the area.  Where there is smoke there is usually fire.  Only a couple of wells means, they are not serious — at least at this time. Over the years 50s-80s nearly the entire west has been tested for oil. Test wells, Thumper trucks, blasts to track the waves thru the ground.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of small narrow potential fields like Payette County.  Perhaps in the distant future they may be exploited.  However, the rise of fracking gas will likely put that off for at least decades.

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