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Julia Cauble Smith

BATSON-OLD OILFIELD. The Batson-Old field is an oil-producing area on Pine Bayou a mile north of Batson in southwestern Hardin County. The field draws oil and negligible amounts of gas from an anhydrite and limestone reservoir in a caprock structure above a piercement salt dome in the Miocene and Oligocene formations at an average depth of 1,100 feet. Along with three other highly prolific piercement-salt-dome fields—Spindletop (1901), Sour Lake (1901), and Humbleqqv (1905)—Batson (1903) helped to establish the basis of the Texas oil industry when these shallow fields gave up the first Texas Gulf Coast oil. Batson field was still producing in its tenth decade when its cumulative production reached more than 45 million barrels in 1993. The area surrounding Batson field gained the attention of oil prospectors as early as 1900, when gas seeps and paraffin dirt on the surface suggested that oil could be found in the shallow subsurface. In 1901 the Libby Oil Company staked a location three miles south of the future site of Batson field. The test had a small show of oil near the 1,000-foot depth, but no commercial well was made. Two years later, S. W. Pipkin and W. L. Douglas, who had no prior oil-industry experience, organized the Paraffine Oil Company with backing from a number of Beaumont businessmen. In late October 1903 Paraffine staked a location for a test, the No. 1 Fee, on evidence of paraffin dirt that Douglas found on the surface. This was the first known use of paraffin dirt as a prospecting guide. On October 31, after nine days of drilling, the location proved to be near the center of the salt dome when oil was found at a depth of 790 feet in the sandstone above the caprock. Initial production for the No. 1 Fee was 600 barrels a day. In mid-December, six weeks after completion of the No. 1 Fee, Paraffine completed the No. 2 Fee in the same sandstone. It produced more than 4,000 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 1,000 feet. Drilling of the No. 3 Fee quickly followed; it penetrated the caprock below the sandstone and initially produced 10,000 barrels of oil a day. By the end of December 1903, Batson field reported annual production of 4,518 barrels of oil as twenty-eight rigs continued to drill for new pay.

In January 1904 the J. M. Guffey Petroleum Company No. 1 Brooks came in with initial production of 18,000 barrels a day. Drilling excitement seized operators in the field, motivating them to sink densely-spaced wells into the shallow caprock quickly and pull out all the oil they could reach. Because no Texas fields were prorated before 1930, no regulations prevented operators from overproduction of the field. Peak daily production was reached in the field by March 4, 1904, when more than 150,000 barrels of oil was brought to the surface. Full production continued through the end of the year. In 1904 the field reported a dramatic yield of 10,904,737 barrels of oil, the peak yearly production. Flush production in the field may have been driven by gas-cap expansion and gravity drainage, but excessive overproduction in the first year allowed salt-water encroachment and the loss of any gas drive. In the winter of 1904 and 1905 salt water was detected in some deeper wells and drilling was restricted to four new wells on the west side of the field, where encroachment was less evident. However, by mid-March 1905 water invasion had continued westward, engulfing even shallower wells. By this time, the limits of Batson field were defined by dry holes as covering 400 acres. In 1905 production in the field plummeted to 3,790,629 barrels of oil, just over one-third the 1904 production.

Production continued a steady decline for the next twenty years. In 1924, however, a practice was established in the field that kept it producing. Although no secondary or enhanced recovery was attempted over the years, the field production was maintained through additional yields from newly discovered sectors in the flanks of the dome. The 1924 discovery was the result of deeper wells drilled on the northwest flank of the dome to reach oil held by a stratigraphic trap in the Miocene and Frio formations at a depth of 3,600 feet. At the end of 1924 annual yields had increased by almost 150,000 barrels. In 1925 the Kirby Petroleum Company No. 1 Hodges was brought in, boosting annual production for the field by 4,000 barrels. Production and field development again slipped downward by 1931 and continued declining until early November 1934, when new oil was found in the southwest flank of the dome. At that time the John Deering and Batson Oil Company No. 1 Hooks found the productive Yegua sands pinched against the salt mass. In 1935, with the Yegua–Southwest Flank yields, annual production increased markedly to 616,474 barrels of oil. The Yegua–Southwest Flank sector remained a part of Batson field until 1939, when the Railroad Commission of Texas separated it under the name Batson-New field. At that time, the old field reported 190 wells, nine operators, and a reduced annual production of only 217,277 barrels. Even though drilling continued on the southwest and northwest flanks of the dome, the limits of the areas were defined by 1947. At the end of 1948 the total number of wells drilled in the field was reportedly 1,450. Most oil left the field by the carriers of Sun Pipe Line Company and Gulf Pipe Line Company.

In 1951 another sector, called Yegua–Northwest Flank, was brought into production when Stanolind and Freeport Sulphur Company No. 1 Kirby Lumber Company came in. This sector, like the Yegua–Southwest Flank, produced from accumulations in the Yegua sands that were pinched against the salt mass. In 1953, after fifty years of production, the annual yield was 111,429 barrels. On October 5, 1961, a new sector, called North Flank–North Extension, was added to the field when the Pan American Petroleum Corporation No. 2-C. C. G. Hooks Fee was completed in Basal Frio sands on the north flank of the salt mass. In 1963 the field reported a yield of 169,713 barrels. On December 31, 1973, the seventy-year-old field reported annual production of 86,576 barrels of oil and 1,183,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. By the field's eightieth anniversary, the annual production rebounded to 108,863 barrels of oil and 1,699,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. But as the field neared its ninetieth anniversary, production fell to 69,772 barrels of oil and 1,285,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas from 185 producing wells. On January 1, 1993, Batson-Old field reported cumulative production of 45,150,379 barrels of oil.

N. M. Fenneman, Oil Fields of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coastal Plain (U.S. Geological Service Bulletin 282, Washington: GPO, 1906). William E. Galloway et al., Atlas of Major Texas Oil Reservoirs (Austin: University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, 1983). Edgar Wesley Owen, Trek of the Oil Finders: A History of Exploration for Petroleum (Tulsa: American Association for Petroleum Geologists, 1975). David F. Prindle, Petroleum Politics and the Texas Railroad Commission (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981). Railroad Commission of Texas, Annual Report of the Oil and Gas Division (Austin, 1953). George Sawtelle, "The Batson Oil Field, Hardin County, Texas," Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists 9 (December 1925). Fred L. Smith, Jr., and J. T. Goodwyn, Jr., "Batson Field," in Typical Oil and Gas Fields of Southeast Texas, ed. R. L. Denham (Houston: Houston Geological Society, 1962).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Julia Cauble Smith, "BATSON-OLD OILFIELD," accessed November 21, 2018,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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