Saturday, November 10, 2012

Old News That's New Again: Oil Drilling

(Clarion photo by Leslie Palmitier, 1976)
Recent news that the Jordan Development Company of Traverse City is seeking leases in Rochester Hills to conduct exploratory drilling for oil reserves has caught the attention of our citizens, but as one Remembering Rochester reader reminded me, this topic is really old news.

Back in 1976-1978, as a reaction to the 1973 oil crisis, independent drilling companies stepped up their efforts to locate fossil fuel resources in Michigan, and Avon and Oakland Townships were included in their explorations.  In April 1976, Reef Petroleum Corporation of Traverse City drilled a test well at the corner of Rochester and Gunn roads in Oakland Township; they were issued a permit to drill as far as 4,050 feet into a pinnacle reef formation known as the Niagaran reef (see the Clarion photo from 1976, at left).  The well, designated Axford 1-22, quickly proved to be a dry hole and was immediately plugged. Two years later, Reef Petroleum was granted another permit to drill a gas well designated Dillman 3-1 in section 1 of Avon Township (now Rochester Hills), at a location about 400 feet west of Winkler Mill Road. Dillman 3-1 was drilled to a depth of about 3,600 feet and was eventually designated a dry hole after producing very little gas; it was plugged in 1979. Although Reef Petroleum was not successful with these two wells, they did drill a group of wells in nearby Addison Township that produced both gas and oil. Overall, in the 1970s Michigan oil companies drilled a total of 4,935 holes resulting in 1,174 oil wells, 475 natural gas wells, 2,610 dry holes and 676 service wells.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality produced a map that shows the location of all of the active and inactive well units lying within Oakland County. This maps shows a cluster of well units in the northeast corner of Rochester Hills (look at T3N,11E).

If you are interested in the topic of oil and gas wells in Michigan, there is a wealth of information available from the web site of the Clarke Historical Library, as well as from the Department of Environmental Quality's GeoWebFace site.

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