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Montana oil and mining journal. [volume] (Great Falls, Mont.) 1931-1953, February 05, 1944, Image 5

Image and text provided by Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86075103/1944-02-05/ed-1/seq-5/

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Deep Drilling Brings New Life
To Structure Long in Production
Some of the facts behind the story of Elk Basin, Rocky mountain
field rated as the nation's top oil discovery in 1943, are reproduced
herewith from the "Link," publication of the Carter Oil Co. Geolo
gists will like the information given on structural conditions, will
possibly gasp slightly to learn the field may have a productive
closure of 2500Reel. Montanans, noting this was a shallow field
made enormously productive by deeper drilling, will wish for a
similar magic wand to be waved over MORE of the state's shallow
producing areas. The article follows; '
Almost a mile high and surround
ed by some of the scenic splendor
of the Rocky mountains, 23 produc
ing oil wells dot the horizon of
the Elk Basin field, which strad
dles the Wyoming-Montana line.
To the northwest are the Bear
Tooth mountains and the Granite
range, capped by Granite peak, ele
vation 12,850 feet, which towers a
mile and a half above the basin.
To the west and southwest is the
Absaroka range; on the east are
the Pryor mountains, and to the
southeast are the Big Horn moun
Yellowstone national park is
about 60 miles away, to the west
and southwest, and many other fa
mous scenic spots are even closer,
including the spectacular Shoshone
canyon, the Buffalo BUI monument,
Shoshone national forest, and Mys
tic cave, all near Cody, Wyo., 41
miles south. To the north and west
are other national forests and the
Red Lodge-Cooké City highway,
one of America's greatest mountain
highways, two miles high at one
place. To the southwest of Cody
is one of the nation's greatest para
dises for hunters of big game.
Elk Basin itself is no tourist at
traction. Without its picturesque *
surroundings, the basin holds little
beauty except to geologists who
are interested in surface evidences
of faults, dips, and anticlines. But
it was that type of beauty which
led to the discovery of oil at Elk
Basin, and there's an Interesting
story of this growing field's de
Nettie Thompson, the first home
steader in Elk Basin, probably
could tell the story of the area
better than anyone, but nobody
knows where she is or whether she
is still alive.
A famous character in early day
mineral development in the area,
and now an Elk Basin tradition,
Mrs. Thompson came from some
where In the south and lived in
Cody, Wyo., for a short time before
homesteading a placer claim on the
rim of the barren basin in 1914.
The placer mines did not develop,
but by 1915 the exploration of oil
in the vicinity resulted in a dis
covery weU which brought In a
small production in the first Wall
Creek sand at about 1350 feet.
Mrs. Thompson became firmly
convinced in her own mind that
her land would become a part of
a great producing field. It did—
Made to Exacting Specifications
later, after she had moved away.
Today, the Elk Basin field is the
second largest oil producing area ••
in the Rockies and gives promise
of surpassing the Salt
175 miles to the southe
k field,
, which
has produced more than 308,000,000
barrels of crude oil since 1911. Two
wells are being drilled on Nettie
Thompson's homestead, and pro
duction seems assured, since there
have been no dry holes so far in
the Tensleep sand horizon of Elk
Basin field. The outside limits of
the field have not been located. It's
too bad that Nettie isn't around to
see her dream come true.
With the discovery of oil in the
area In 1915, Mrs. Thompson guard
ed her claim with defiance to in
truders. She backed up her sharp
words by toting a revolver and a
shotgun. Mrs. Thompson had a
garden, a small herd of livestock,
and did laundry for other home
steaders, most of them bachelors,
and for a time cooked at the Ohio
Oil Co. camp, walking down steep
Mormon hill each morning and re
turning in the evening to sleep on
her claim. One night a wagon driver
hauling rig timbers camped on her
homestead, and she stayed up all
night, fully armed, taking no
chances on the rig being set up on
her land.
In 1921, after the first boom sub
sided, Mrs. Thompson became a
partner in the Thompson-Elk Basin
Co. Val Kirk, who later brought
in the Frannie field about 15 miles
east, contracted for the drilling, and
several Billings men put money
into the drilling venture, including
J. A. Henderson, who has figured
prominently in the developments,
including recent ones. The com
pany's first well got a showing of
oil and gas In the Frontier sands
at about 1300 feet, but didn't make
commercial production. A few
years later Mrs. Thompson formed
a syndicate for drilling another
well, but it also failed to reach
commercial proportions. An at
tempt to gb to a lower horizon
Licensed Bonded
failed when tools were lost and
funds became exhausted.
Nettie Thompson's money was
gone, her cattle gone, and her
claims were forfeited. She left
broke, but was still a believer in
the possibilities of the lower sands.
There are other stories of earlier
day Elk Basin, but none so inter
esting as that of Nettie Thompson.
Numerous other ventures were
made by groups formed in Billings
and the Wyoming towns of Cowley,
Lovell, and Byron; and about 162
wells were drilled in the basin be
tween 1915 and 1921. Some of them
found oil in commercial quantities
in the -second Wall Creek sand,
topped at about 1500 feet, and a few
of those wells are still pumping.
Some wells in the first Wall Creek
sand had obtained about 50-barrel
initial dally production, and others
in the second Wall Creek sand were
good for an initial production of
250 barrels. There was and is a
ready market for this light crude
from the Frontier formations, and
since 1917, when a pipeline was laid,
oil from Elk Basin has been loaded
at Frannle. Later this line was
connected with a line to the Stano
lind refinery at Greybull, Wyo.
Meanwhile, Henderson had held
on to most of his leases, in spite
of discouraging reports of geol
ogists, and in 1942 the Minnelusa
Oil Corp. became interested in the
Elk Basin field, A contract was
signed by Minnelusa, the Hender
son Producing Co., the Yale Oil
Corp., and the Fain Drilling Co. As
a result, the most significant dis
covery in the area came in Decem
ber, 1942, when the Henderson No.
1 found black crude in the Tensleep
sand, which was topped at 4,492
feet. A three-hour test Indicated an
open flow initial of 2,500 barrels
a day.
Since that time, interest in Elk
Basin has been revived to a high
pitch, and the daily production
from the Tensleep sand stands at
about 13,000 barrels a day under a
local pro-ration set up because of
inadequate transportation facilities
and the limited capacity of the Elk
Producers, Refiners
and Marketers
of Quality
SO** 1 MOT
i ■&&*■'**
\ dû»
\ S0- v ?
a **»® 1
Roflawr and General Office«! Great Falk, Moat
Basln-Frannie pipeline. Most of the
Tensleep crude Is marketed to the
Yale Refinery at Billings, the In
dependent Refinery at Laurel,
Mont., and the Standard (Indiana)
refinery at Greybull. Some is
shipped to Spokane, Wash., and to
Idaho and Canadian refineries.
Only a few weeks ago PAW an
nounced approval of plans for lay
ing a 6 and 8 inch pipeline from
Elk Basin to Billings, and a sec
ond from Elk Basin, connecting
with the Stanollnd's Lance Creek
to-Salt Lake City line.
Elk Basin is a thriving field and
hopes are high. The Carter's inter
est In the area last month sprang
to light with the announcement
of the company's purchase of the
Minnelusa corporation, one of the
larger operators in the field. At
present the Carter has six produc
ing wells in the field with a com
bined potential in excess of 15,000
barrels a day, and each is produc
ing about 500 barrels a day. Three
others are being drilled. Drilling
is slow, however, because of hard
formations and steep dip of the
beds demand extreme caution to
prevent crooked holes. It requires
about three months to drill a 5,000
foot hole.
(Continued Next Week)
Send a contribution to the Sun
burst Badger.
E. Byers Emrick
.-jammauone. Report*. Approval*
Estimate* of Reeervee
United Swim and Ca na da
Toole County
Abstract Company
uconzD »om>n>

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