WICHITA COUNTY REGULAR FIELD
WICHITA COUNTY REGULAR FIELD. Wichita County Regular field is a consolidation of the oldest oilfields in Wichita County; generally the wells have reached the later stages of depletion. The most productive fields among those consolidated are Electra (1911), old Burkburnett (1912), Burkburnett Townsite (1918), and Northwest Extension (1919). Much of the development of the old Wichita County fields was the effort of independent oil producers, some of whom had no prior experience. Electra field was found by random drilling after oil seeped into area water wells. Burkburnett Townsite field was brought in by local amateurs who were convinced that oil lay under their farms. Oil production in Wichita County Regular field is drawn from anticlinal traps in the Cisco sands of upper Pennsylvanian age at depths of 700 to 1,900 feet. The old fields yielded little unassociated gas. Primary recovery in the fields was driven by solution gas, but extensive secondary recovery projects have been initiated. Sometime after the fields headed into decline and before 1936, the Railroad Commission of Texas grouped them under the name of Wichita County Regular field. The first commercial oil discovery in Wichita County came on January 17, 1911, when the Producers Oil Company No. 5 W. T. Waggoner, two miles north of the Electra townsite, came in at a depth of 1,825 feet with a potential of fifty barrels of oil a day. This was the discovery well for Electra field, and it created an active drilling campaign in the county, led by Producers Oil, Clayco, and Magnolia Petroleum Company. By September 1911 Electra field was producing 6,000 barrels of oil each day, and by mid-November it was yielding 12,000 barrels daily. In response to demand, the Texas Company (later Texaco) laid a pipeline from Electra field to its Dallas refinery, and Pierce-Fordyce Association constructed a carrier from the field to its Fort Worth refinery. At the end of 1911 Electra field reported annual production of nearly 900,000 barrels of oil.
In 1912 and 1913 other fields were found in Wichita County. On January 14, 1912, the Corsicana Oil Company No. 1 Schmoker was spudded with cable tools on a farm owned by Swiss-born Chris Schmoker. On June 24 the No. 1 Schmoker was brought in at an estimated depth of 1,800 feet as the discovery well in old Burkburnett field. Its initial flow was conservatively estimated to be 80 barrels of oil a day. The well created limited interest because crude, selling for only a dollar a barrel, had little demand. Corsicana and a number of small independent companies drilled several producers in the area during the year. By the end of 1912 Wichita County fields reported annual production of more than 4.2 million barrels of oil. In 1913 two new shallow pools were found in Wichita County. One was located west of old Burkburnett and the second was found six miles south of Iowa Park, Texas. By the end of 1913 Wichita County fields set their annual yields above 8.13 million barrels of oil, a figure that almost doubled the 1912 total. In 1914 additional shallow pools were defined, although the price of Wichita County crude dropped to 82.5 cents a barrel. Operators in old Burkburnett pool extended its productive area to the north and west, and they successfully used nitroglycerin to increase production from its shallow sands. Electra, the most important field in the county, confined drilling activity to inside locations. Production at Iowa Park and Fowlkes came from shallow and spotty sands, giving little confidence to operators. At the end of the year Wichita County fields reported a slightly increased annual production of more than 8.2 million barrels of oil.
On January 1, 1915, Wichita County reported 1,025 producing wells. During the year Electra field was extended one mile to the west and old Burkburnett field was widened westward over the Thom, Schnaree, and Ramming farms. By the end of the year Wichita County fields increased the number of producing wells to 1,134, but annual production declined to 5.8 million barrels of oil. Wichita County yields increased to over 7.8 million barrels of oil at the end of 1916, influenced by higher crude prices, successful deeper and wider drilling in various pools, and prolific yields from the Clara area in old Burkburnett. Over the two-year period in 1917–18, drilling continued in old Burkburnett and Electra fields. In 1917 old Burkburnett drilling interest centered in the northwestern and the southeastern extremes of the field. Flush production came from the Prechel, Ramming, Serrein, and Ruyle leases southwest of the Clara post office and northwest of the main field. In August 1917 the Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon Company, U.S.A.) No. 13 Serrein was completed to a depth of 1,680 feet and its initial production was 2,000 barrels of oil in the first twenty-four hours. In December 1917 the Perkins and Snyder No. 2 Serrein came in with a potential that rivaled that of the Humble No. 13. Before the end of the year Sunshine Hill field, located midway between old Burkburnett and Electra fields, found flush production in the shallow Cisco sands. In the western part of Electra field successive completion of new wells with initial potentials of 1,000 to 2,000 barrels of oil a day were made at a depth of 1,920 feet on Magnolia leases. At the end of 1917 Wichita County fields supported seven compression plants and one vacuum-pump plant for the manufacture of gasoline. Combined annual yields dramatically increased to more than 9.5 million barrels of oil.
By the summer of 1918 S. L. Fowler, who owned a farm near Burkburnett, persuaded a group of his friends, neighbors, and local businesses to finance the drilling of a well on his farm by investing $100 to $500 each or by providing supplies. The investors agreed to form Fowler Farm Oil Company if the well produced. One neighbor, Walter Cline, owned three drilling rigs and agreed to supply a rig and crew to drill the well in exchange for a $1,000 interest. The No. 1 Fowler was staked at the north edge of the Burkburnett townsite. On July 28, 1918, the well came in with a flowing potential of 2,500 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 1,735 feet in Cisco sands. The discovery created a town-lot leasing and drilling boom. By late August 1918, three weeks after discovery of the No. 1 Fowler, fifty-six rigs were drilling in the town of Burkburnett, encouraged by an increased crude price of $1.93 a barrel. Oil excitement inflated the price of leases to as much as $1,000 for a lot lease. Many local men who had no oil experience pooled their resources to drill wells, inspired by the success of Fowler Farm Oil Company investors, who sold their interests to Magnolia for $1.8 million in cash. The majority of the wells initially flowed 100 to 500 barrels a day, but several wells produced 1,000 to 3,000 barrels daily. To handle the demand for crude outlets, Texas Company laid a four-inch carrier to move 5,000 to 6,000 barrels of oil a day. During 1918 Wichita County reported seven compression plants that produced nearly 3.8 million gallons of gasoline, valued at more than $574,000. At the end of 1918 Wichita County reported an increased annual crude production of more than 11.5 million barrels of oil.
By April 1919 overproduction from closely set wells was prematurely depleting Burkburnett Townsite pool. Operators stepped out to drill on nearby farms northeast of the townsite and brought in more flush production to enlarge the townsite pool. On April 26, 1919, Northwest Extension field, a highly productive shallow pool 3.5 miles west of Burkburnett Townsite field, was brought in by Burkburnett-Waggoner Oil Company, organized by Clois Green, a bank clerk from Vernon, Texas. The discovery well gave up an estimated initial production of 5,000 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 1,662 to 1,692 feet in Cisco sand. The townsite boom moved to Northwest Extension pool. The influx of boomers and promoters created a demand for housing, food, and entertainment as crowds of newcomers packed public places. From the summer of 1919 and into the 1920s the marketing of crude claimed the attention of Wichita County operators. William S. Farish of Humble and Underwood Nazro of Gulf recommended voluntary proration of pipeline facilities among the wells in Northwestern Extension pool. At the same time a pipeline from Burkburnett field pumped a capacity of 10,000 barrels of oil to American Refining Company in Wichita Falls. In October 1921 Humble completed a refinery near Burkburnett with a capacity of 1,800 barrels a day. The plant manufactured gasoline, kerosene, and fuel oil. But after 1924 the Humble refinery became unprofitable and was abandoned in 1927 because the fields no longer produced enough crude to supply it.
By 1929 Wichita County fields had passed peak production and showed the effects of rapid overproduction. In 1930, with the Great Depression underway, Wichita County yields declined by 15 percent as both drilling and crude demand abated. In 1931 Wichita County production further declined by 33 percent and new drilling starts plummeted. By October 1931 crude from the field sold for only sixty-eight cents a barrel as pipeline companies reduced crude purchases. In 1936, with the worst years of the depression over, both gas injection and waterflood projects were initiated in the early fields of Wichita County. A recovery of more than 1,300 barrels of oil per acre was realized each year until 1942, when the projects were abandoned under the pressures of World War II. At the end of 1936 Wichita County Regular field covered 63,121 acres and was managed by 232 operators. Annual production reached more than 5.35 million barrels of oil from nineteen flowing and 6,168 pumping wells. From 1944 through 1952 numerous waterflood and gas injection projects were undertaken in the field. By December 31, 1948, Wichita County Regular field gave up annual production of more than 5 million barrels of oil from forty-three flowing and 4,977 pumping wells. On December 31, 1993, Wichita County Regular field recorded annual yields of more than 2.2 million barrels of oil, more than 28 million cubic feet of casinghead gas, and no gas-well production. Its cumulative production over eighty-three years approached 570.5 million barrels of oil.
Jonnie R. Morgan, The History of Wichita Falls (Wichita Falls, 1931; rpt., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1971). Edgar Wesley Owen, Trek of the Oil Finders: A History of Exploration for Petroleum (Tulsa: American Association for Petroleum Geologists, 1975). H. F. Smiley, Structure and Stratigraphy of Wichita Falls Area: Wilbarger, Wichita, Clay, Archer, and North Young Counties, Texas (Wichita Falls: Deep Oil Development Company, 1930). Charles Albert Warner, Texas Oil and Gas Since 1543 (Houston: Gulf, 1939).
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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, "WICHITA COUNTY REGULAR FIELD," accessed July 13, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dowmw.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 25, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.