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HUMBLE OILFIELD

HUMBLE OILFIELD. Humble field is an oil-producing area located 1.25 miles northeast of the town of Humble in northeastern Harris County on the Upper Gulf Coast of Texas. Named for its location, the field has drawn oil and negligible amounts of gas from an anhydrite and limestone reservoir in the caprock and on the flanks of a piercement salt dome in the Eocene, Miocene, Oligocene, and Pliocene formations at depths of 580 to 5,819 feet. Along with three other highly prolific piercement salt dome fields, Spindletop (1901), Sour Lake (1901), and Batson-Old (1903), Humble helped to establish the Texas oil industry when these fields produced the first Texas Gulf Coast oil. Field development was guided by both major and independent companies and centered on the caprock from 1905 through 1913, when flank production was begun. Through continued yields from deeper horizons on the flanks, Humble field was still producing as it approached its tenth decade and as its cumulative total neared 153 million barrels of oil by 1994.

The area surrounding Humble field attracted oil prospectors who searched for another Spindletop discovery and who were encouraged by gas and sulphur found in water wells and by paraffin dirt found on the surface. In the fall of 1902 George Hart spudded a well in the field on evidence of escaping gas in the area. His operation was halted by a blowout, an unexpected volume of gas under pressure, that forced the drilling equipment out of the hole. Blowouts were encountered in several wells in the part of the field later called "the hill" and drilled in the summer of 1904 by C. E. Barrett of Houston. Despite the menace of blowouts, some success was found in the early field when Higgins Oil and Fuel Company brought in a large-volume gas well half a mile southeast of the Barrett wells in October 1904. By the end of the year Humble field reported two sporadically-producing oil wells that had yielded 2,000 barrels of oil. Since none of the crude had been sold, it was stored in earthen tanks for use in the field. Even though blowouts hampered field development, their threat was minimized by the invention of a blowout preventer, which was in use by 1905 when D. R. Beatty brought in the No. 2 Fee. The well came in on January 7, 1905, and gave up the first gusher production in the field with a potential of 8,500 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 1,012 feet. Other wells were sunk into the same shallow caprock, and some showed potentials of 10,000 barrels of oil per day. At the end of the first month of flush production Humble field reported a yield of 152,653 barrels of oil, and in February operators brought 495,847 barrels to the surface. On March 3, 1905, salt water began to appear in the wells. At the end of June, after six months of gusher production, the field peaked with a monthly figure of 2,798,162 barrels of oil and immediately began its decline. Because no Texas fields were prorated before 1930, no regulations prevented operators from overproducing the field, and the first annual yield was an astounding 15,594,310 barrels of oil. Excessive overproduction in the first year extracted a toll on the field by bringing salt-water encroachment in wells, by damaging the gas cap drive of the reservoir, and by forcing Humble field crude prices as low as $.16 per barrel when millions of barrels of new oil were dumped onto the market. From 1905 through 1913 development of the field concentrated on the caprock of the salt dome, producing at depths of 1,100 to 1,200 feet. By the end of 1906, with flush production waning, the field yielded less than 3.6 million barrels of oil, and by 1907 it gave up only 2.9 million barrels, most of which was shipped to refineries by railroad tank cars. From 1907 through 1913 field production averaged 2 million barrels of oil per year, and no deeper exploration was attempted. When deep production was found on the dome flanks at Sour Lake field, operators in Humble field drilled into zones below 2,500 feet, hoping to emulate the success at Sour Lake. In November 1913 the effort was rewarded when Producers Oil No. 11 Carroll came in with a potential of 10,000 barrels of oil per day at a total depth of 2,700 feet in the Miocene to establish flank production in Humble field. Forty-six wells were completed before the end of the year, when annual production reached nearly 2.8 million barrels of oil.

With the addition of pay zones from the deep flank sands, Humble became an important coastal dome field by 1915 when more than 11 million barrels of oil were produced. In 1916 the field expanded to the west, southwest, and northeast by the addition of 305 new producers, but the yearly yield dipped below 11 million barrels of oil. In 1917 Texas Company built a carrier to move crude to its refinery at Port Arthur. Sun Company laid a line to Sabine Pass to connect with tankers bound for Pennsylvania. Development of the flanks continued, and Grant Oil Company brought in a good producer below the 2,800-foot depth in the southwestern part of the field. Even with deep production from the flanks, Humble field yields continued downward, and by the end of 1919 only 3.7 million barrels were given up. The diminishing-yields trend continued until late in 1929, when pay was found below 5,000 feet in the Yegua formation, and the annual figure for 1930 rebounded to more than 5.8 million barrels. The next year, with initial yields from the new horizon waning, annual totals slumped. By 1938 the field covered 2,250 proved acres, 331 producing wells, and three pipeline outlets-Houston Pipeline Company, Port Arthur Pipe Lines, and Magnolia Pipe Line Company. Field production continued a general decline with peak periods of resuscitation from small, short-lived pocket reservoirs through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. In the mid-1940s deep production was separated from the main field only to be merged into it again the next year. By 1955 production pushed past 600,000 barrels and by 1965 the totals neared 700,000 barrels of oil. After Humble field reached its seventieth anniversary, Humble Light field was added to it, and annual production for 1975 was 923,245 barrels of oil and 434,071,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. Several secondary recovery projects, including salt-water injection for waterflood and pressure maintenance, steam injection for thermal recovery, and gas injection for attic recovery, were initiated in the field. At the end of 1985 annual production declined to 453,125 barrels of oil and 268,060,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. On January 1, 1994, Humble field, one of the four early salt dome fields that laid the basis for the Texas oil industry, reported cumulative production of 152,808,092 barrels of oil.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Corpus Christi Geological Society, Typical Oil and Gas Fields of South Texas (1967). Alexander Deussen, "The Humble (Texas) Oil Field," Bulletin of the Southwestern Association of Petroleum Geologists 1 (1917). 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). Frank J. Gardner, Texas Gulf Coast Oil (Dallas: Rinehart Oil New Company, 1948). David F. Prindle, Petroleum Politics and the Texas Railroad Commission (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981).

Julia Cauble Smith

Citation

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

Julia Cauble Smith, "HUMBLE OILFIELD," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/doh07), accessed April 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.