East Texas Oil Field

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East Texas Basin geologic map East Texas Basin geologic map.png
East Texas Basin geologic map
Red counties show the core of East Texas East Texas map.PNG
Red counties show the core of East Texas
East Texas Basin geologic cross section, where PM is Pennsylvanian-Mississippian, J TR are Lower and Upper Triassic "red beds" and volcanics, Js is Middle Jurassic salt, Ju is Upper Jurassic, Kl is Lower Cretaceous, Ku is Upper Cretaceous, Tp is Paleogene, and Tn is Neogene. East Texas Basin cross section.png
East Texas Basin geologic cross section, where PM is Pennsylvanian-Mississippian, J TR are Lower and Upper Triassic "red beds" and volcanics, Js is Middle Jurassic salt, Ju is Upper Jurassic, Kl is Lower Cretaceous, Ku is Upper Cretaceous, Tp is Paleogene, and Tn is Neogene.

The East Texas Oil Field is a large oil and gas field in east Texas. Covering 140,000 acres (570 km2) and parts of five counties, and having 30,340 historic and active oil wells, it is the second-largest oil field in the United States outside Alaska, and first in total volume of oil recovered since its discovery in 1930. [1] Over 5.42 billion barrels of oil have been produced from it to-date. [2] It is a component of the Mid-Continent Oil Province, the huge region of petroleum deposits extending from Kansas to New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population, right behind Alaska. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

Kansas State of the United States of America

Kansas is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States. Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita, with its most populated county being Johnson County. Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. Kansas is named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the (south) wind" although this was probably not the term's original meaning. For thousands of years, what is now Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.

New Mexico State of the United States of America

New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern region of the United States of America; its capital and cultural center is Santa Fe, which was founded in 1610 as capital of Nuevo México, while its largest city is Albuquerque with its accompanying metropolitan area. It is one of the Mountain States and shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona; its other neighboring states are Oklahoma to the northeast, Texas to the east-southeast, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua to the south and Sonora to the southwest. With a population around two million, New Mexico is the 36th state by population. With a total area of 121,592 sq mi (314,920 km2), it is the fifth-largest and sixth-least densely populated of the 50 states. Due to their geographic locations, northern and eastern New Mexico exhibit a colder, alpine climate, while western and southern New Mexico exhibit a warmer, arid climate.


The field includes parts of Gregg, western Rusk, southern Upshur, southeastern Smith, and northeastern Cherokee counties in the northeastern part of the state. Overall the field is about 45 miles (72 km) long on the north-south axis, and five miles (8 km) across. Interstate 20 cuts across the field from east to west, and the towns of Kilgore, Overton, and Gladewater are on the field. At one time, downtown Kilgore had more than 1,000 active wells clustered in a tight area, making it the densest oil development in the world. [3]

Gregg County, Texas County in the United States

Gregg County is a county located in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 121,730. Its county seat is Longview. The county is named after John Gregg, a Confederate general killed in action during the American Civil War.

Rusk County, Texas County in the United States

Rusk County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 53,330. Its county seat is Henderson. The county is named for Thomas Jefferson Rusk, a secretary of war of the Republic of Texas.

Upshur County, Texas County in the United States

Upshur County is a county located in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 39,309. The county seat is Gilmer. The county is named for Abel P. Upshur, who was U.S. Secretary of State during President John Tyler's administration.


East Texas Basin stratigraphic column Austin Chalk stratigraphic column in Texas.png
East Texas Basin stratigraphic column

The primary productive geologic unit is the Cretaceous-age Woodbine Formation, a regional petroleum-bearing unit which had been known since the early part of the 20th century. This sandstone unit was deposited during a period when East Texas was a shallow sea, approximately 100 million years ago. During a subsequent period it was uplifted, eroded, and then covered again by the sea, which this time deposited a layer of impermeable chalk, creating a stratigraphic trap – a situation where oil, which is lighter than water and migrates upwards, reaches a point where it can move no farther, and pools. The source rock for the oil in East Texas is the overlying Eagle Ford Shale. [4]

The Cretaceous is a geologic period and system that spans 79 million years from the end of the Jurassic Period 145 million years ago (mya) to the beginning of the Paleogene Period 66 mya. It is the last period of the Mesozoic Era, and the longest period of the Phanerozoic Eon. The Cretaceous Period is usually abbreviated K, for its German translation Kreide.

Woodbine Formation

The Woodbine Group is a geological formation in east Texas whose strata date back to the Early to Middle Cenomanian age of the Late Cretaceous. It is the producing formation of the giant East Texas Oil Field from which over 5.42 billion barrels of oil have been produced. The Woodbine overlies the Maness Shale, Buda Limestone, or older rocks, and underlies the Eagle Ford Group or Austin Chalk. In outcrop the Woodbine Group has been subdivided into the Lewisville Sandstone, Dexter Sandstone, and/or Pepper Shale formations. Thin-bedded sands of the Woodbine and Eagle Ford are collectively referred to as the "Eaglebine" oil and gas play in the southwestern portion of the East Texas region.

In petroleum geology, source rock refers to rocks from which hydrocarbons have been generated or are capable of being generated. They form one of the necessary elements of a working petroleum system. They are organic-rich sediments that may have been deposited in a variety of environments including deep water marine, lacustrine and deltaic. Oil shale can be regarded as an organic-rich but immature source rock from which little or no oil has been generated and expelled. Subsurface source rock mapping methodologies make it possible to identify likely zones of petroleum occurrence in sedimentary basins as well as shale gas plays.

Water intrusion from deeper in Woodbine Formation is the mechanism pushing oil through the reservoir toward the producing wells. A 1932 study showed that oil wells stopped flowing when water pressure dropped below 800 pounds per square inch. [5]

More recently, the gas-rich Jurassic Haynesville Shale has become the target of exploration and production. [6]

The Jurassic was a geologic period and system that spanned 56 million years from the end of the Triassic Period 201.3 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the Cretaceous Period 145 Mya. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic Era, also known as the Age of Reptiles. The start of the period was marked by the major Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. Two other extinction events occurred during the period: the Pliensbachian-Toarcian extinction in the Early Jurassic, and the Tithonian event at the end; however, neither event ranks among the "Big Five" mass extinctions.

Haynesville Shale

The Haynesville Shale is an informal, popular name for a Jurassic Period rock formation that underlies large parts of southwestern Arkansas, northwest Louisiana, and East Texas. It lies at depths of 10,500 to 13,000 feet below the land’s surface. It is part of a large rock formation which is known by geologists as the Haynesville Formation. The Haynesville Shale underlies an area of about 9,000 square miles and averages about 200 to 300 feet thick. The Haynesville Shale is overlain by sandstone of the Cotton Valley Group and underlain by limestone of the Smackover Formation.


Several early attempts were made to produce oil in the area, beginning in 1911, with the failed Millville Oil Company, but drilling technology had not progressed sufficiently to reach oil at the depths it is found there, which are mainly below 3,501 feet (1,067 m); most early wells ended in broken bits, dry holes, and bankrupt operators. Finally, an enterprising Alabama man, Columbus Marion (Dad) Joiner, was the first with enough persistence to succeed, and on October 3, 1930, his Daisy Bradford No. 3 well (named after the widow who owned the farm) hit oil at 3,536 feet (1,078 m) below ground surface. [7] The well is located near the southeastern boundary of the oil field. [8]

Columbus Marion Joiner, nicknamed Dad Joiner, was an American oilman who at the age of seventy drilled the discovery well of the East Texas Oil Field of the 1930s.

Shortly after the Daisy Bradford find and after another two smaller wells were drilled near the original hole, another new well, this one on the Crim family farm about nine miles (14 km) north of the Bradford farm, reached oil, producing a gusher with a spectacular initial daily flow of 22,000 barrels (3,500 m3). That the two wells were in a connected oil reservoir was not immediately obvious to those who drilled them, as no field this large had ever been discovered. [9] In January 1931, yet another group of investors and drillers put in a third important well about 25 miles (40 km) north of the initial Daisy Bradford well; it gushed 320 barrels (51 m3) of oil per hour, from approximately the same depth as the other two wells, 3,587 feet (1,093 m). Within a few months, drillers, landowners, and investors began to realize they had a spectacular oil field two thirds of a mile under their feet, one that would produce enormous quantities of high-grade oil almost anywhere they drilled. [3]

Haroldson Lafayette “H.L.” Hunt was among the independent oil producers who rushed to East Texas. Hunt had been successful during the 1920s in the El Dorado and Smackover oil fields of Arkansas. When Dad Joiner found himself in legal trouble soon after the Daisy Bradford No. 3 discovery, Hunt met with him at the Baker Hotel in Dallas in November 1930 and bought the well and 5,580 acres for $1.34 million. By the summer of 1931, about 1,200 Rusk County oil wells were producing 900,000 barrels of oil a day. Hunt's purchase provided the financial base for him to found Hunt Oil Company in 1934. [10]

It was the enormous quantities of oil from the East Texas Oil Field and their importance to the Allied effort in World War II that led to the creation of the world's largest pipeline until that time, the "Big Inch", a 24-inch (610 mm), 1,400-mile (2,300 km) pipeline which transported crude to refineries in the Philadelphia area. Prior to building the pipeline, oil had to be transported by ship, and many such ships were sunk by German submarines during the early part of the war, especially in 1942 and early 1943. Construction of the pipeline commenced in August 1942 and terminated on March 2, 1944. By the end of the war, over 350 million barrels (56,000,000 m3) of crude flowed from East Texas to the northeast states through the Big Inch. [11]

In the middle of the 20th century, the East Texas Oil Field was the center of a slant-hole scandal. [12] Some unscrupulous operators had drilled slanted holes from across their lease lines into the productive portions of the Woodbine formation. Inspectors found 380 deviated wells and shut them down with the assistance of the Texas Rangers. [13] An estimated $100 million worth of oil was stolen over several decades from legal owners. [3]

Today, the area remains a strong contributor to oil production in Texas. The significance of the region to Texas' overall production, however, has been tempered by the increase of drilling activity in the Eagle Ford shale and the Permian Basin Plays. [14]

Since its discovery, the East Texas Oil Field has produced more than 5.2 billion barrels (830,000,000 m3) of oil, and it originally contained more than 7 billion barrels (1.1×109 m3). [3] [15]

See also

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  1. Smith, Julia Cauble. "EAST TEXAS OILFIELD". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
  2. Dokur, M., and Hentz, T.F., (2012). Reservoir Characterization of the Upper Cretaceous Woodbine Group in Northeast Texas Field, Texas. AAPG Search and Discovery Article #20152.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "East Texas Oilfield," Handbook of Texas Online
  4. Hyne, p. 51-55.
  5. Interpretation of Bottom-Hole Pressures in East Texas Oil Field Archived February 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine . (AAPG Bulletin, 1932)
  6. Roach, Eric. "The East Texas Bsin Continues to Surprise". DI Blog. drillinginfo. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  7. Silvey, Lucille (2009). The History of the East Texas Oil Field Archived June 24, 2016, at the Wayback Machine .. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  8. East Texas Oil Field Brochure (joint production of several area Chambers of Commerce)
  9. East Texas Oil Museum online
  10. Wells, Bruce. "H.L. Hunt and the East Texas Oilfield". American Oil & Gas Historical Society. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  11. "Big Inch and Little Big Inch", Handbook of Texas Online
  12. SLANT-WELL INQUIRY RESUMES IN DALLAS, "New York Times", September 11, 1962" (Accessed 31 March 2009)[ dead link ]
  13. Drilling on the Slant, "Texas Ranger Dispatch Magazine" Archived June 24, 2016, at the Wayback Machine . (Accessed 30 June 2011)
  14. "Texas Drilling Permits". Well Activity.
  15. Hyne, p. 52

Coordinates: 32°23′8″N94°52′7″W / 32.38556°N 94.86861°W / 32.38556; -94.86861