Julia Cauble Smith

GOMEZ ELLENBURGER FIELD. Gomez field is a giant dry gas-producing area of the Permian Basin in central Pecos County. Located geologically in the Delaware Basin, the field extends from the town of Fort Stockton to the northwest for twelve miles. It is one of the largest-volume gas fields in the nation and draws its production from a faulted anticlinal fold in Ellenburger dolomite below a depth of 21,000 feet. Although reflection seismography was used in field exploration, its reliability lessened with the extreme depths of the wells. Primary recovery is through gas expansion and water drive. Cumulative production at the end of 1993 was almost 4.21 trillion cubic feet of gas from ninety-four producing wells on 22,000 acres of land. The discovery well for the field, the Pure Oil Company No. 1 W. C. Tyrell, nine miles northwest of Fort Stockton, was spudded on June 18, 1962. Its first show of gas came in early September, on a drill-stem test in the Bone Spring formation below 6,034 feet, when gas came to the surface at the daily rate of 63,500 cubic feet. Since the operators planned to drill the well until the bit encountered either water or granite in the Ellenburger formation, they continued to drill after the test. In early March 1963 a second drill-stem test was conducted in Devonian dolomite and chert at 17,081 feet, where no oil or salt water was found. By mid-May drilling in the well extended below 20,000 feet, and by early June the depth neared 21,000 feet in Ellenburger dolomite, approaching the world record for producing depth. On June 10, 1963, after 357 days of drilling, the No. 1 Tyrell drilled into granite wash and dolomite at 21,584 feet. The well flowed dry gas at the daily rate of thirteen million cubic feet from the section between 19,834 and 20,530 feet and claimed the new record for producing depth. No petroleum fluids or formation waters were present in the well. By September 27, 1963, the No. 1 Tyrell was cleaned out to a total depth of 21,063 feet, where pipe was set and the well was completed.

At the end of 1963, after the expense of more than $1.5 million in capital and 1½ years of effort, the No. 1 Tyrell was not yet in full production and reported an annual yield of only 26,256,000 cubic feet of gas. The cost and time required for drilling deep wells, the lengthy pay-out period, and the high risk of dry holes restricted the field to major oil companies and well-funded large independents with the financing to cover such expenses. Even with the necessary funding, companies moved slowly in development of the field. Problems unique to the field also contributed to its unhurried development. Good seismic data was hard to acquire at the field because of the depth of the prospects. Lease prices inflated quickly after some potentials in the field were set as high as 100 million cubic feet of gas a day. To be profitable when gas sold below $.13 per thousand cubic feet, a well had to produce 20,000,000 to 40,000,000 cubic feet of gas a day. Although pipelines of two companies, El Paso Natural Gas and Northern Natural Gas, were extended to the field, the feat of bringing gas through four miles of pipe to meet the carriers was an engineering challenge. But even with the problems of finding and producing deep gas, the Pure No. 2 Tyrell was completed three-fourths of a mile northeast of the discovery well with a potential of sixty-eight million cubic feet a day. By the end of 1964 a third well was completed, but only the original well supplied the field's yearly production of 193,924,000 cubic feet of gas. At the end of 1965 three wells were reported in the field, yet only two wells supplied the annual production of 412,476,000 cubic feet of gas.

In the last half of the 1960s, development of the field continued with the completion of more record-breaking wells and with the entry of more operators into the deep gas play. Major companies in the field were Atlantic, Socony Mobil, Sun, Gulf, Phillips, Pan American, Humble, Sinclair, and Texaco. Several large independent companies, namely Sunray DX, Forest, Jake Hamon, and Ralph Lowe, became participants in the field. By the end of 1969 the field reported a total of forty-five producing wells, while annual production climbed to 153,994,964,000 cubic feet of gas. Although it was a prorated field, some of the wells were allowed to produce above proration limits. Throughout the 1970s exploration continued in the field. Peak drilling was reached in 1979 when 112 wells yielded annual production of 188,383,794,000 cubic feet of gas. In the 1980s the number of wells and yearly production began a decline. By 1982 approved spacing for wells was 640 acres. Six dry holes had been drilled in the life of the field and six wells were being drilled. The number of producing wells declined to 100 at the end of 1989, and annual production fell to 88,196,192,000 cubic feet of gas and 194 barrels of hydrocarbon liquids. By 1992 Gomez field reported ninety-four producing wells with an annual yield of 80,686,761,000 cubic feet of gas and 247 barrels of fluids.

Gas Fields in West Texas: Symposium, Vol. 3 (Midland: West Texas Geological Society, 1977). Oil and Gas Journal, May 31, 1965, March 6, 1967.

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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, "GOMEZ ELLENBURGER FIELD," accessed May 26, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dogwl.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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