Van Field

By: Julia Cauble Smith

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: January 26, 2019

Van field is an irregularly-shaped oil and gas producing area located around the town of Van twelve miles east of Canton, the seat of Van Zandt County. The field produces from an average depth of 2,700 feet in a Woodbine sandstone on a faulted anticline. Van field was the first discovered of five large-volume fields that drew production from faulted anticlinal traps in Woodbine fluvial, deltaic, and strandplain systems in Northeast Texas. The other fields are Cayuga and Long Lake in Anderson County, Neches in Anderson and Cherokee counties, and the giant Hawkins in Wood County. The source of primary recovery in Van field was a water drive. Secondary recovery in all the fields of the Upper Cretaceous Woodbine Group of Northeast Texas was the result of a number of waterflood and gas-injection projects. Infill drilling on seven-acre units has been used in Van field to enhance recovery. From the initial Van field yield in 1929 to January 1, 1994, cumulative production neared 502,000,000 barrels of oil. Van field is significant because it was the first completely unitized field in Texas and the mid-continent. Pure Oil Company began subsurface studies in the area of Van field, in the form of refraction seismograph and torsion balance, in February 1927 and continued them into the summer after detecting a large, deep-seated salt dome. Pure leased a large block of acreage around the town of Van in July and August 1928. To pinpoint the highest part of the subsurface structure, Pure drilled two lines of core holes, one running north to south and the other east to west, in the first half of 1929. Armed with the results of their subsurface work, the management of Pure spudded the Jarmon No. 1 in the Nacogdoches County School Lands Survey in Van Zandt County. The well was completed on October 13, 1929, and flowed 147 barrels of oil in the first hour from a total depth of 2,710 feet in the Woodbine sand. Since four other oil operators-Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon Company, U.S.A.), Shell Oil Corporation, Texas Company (later Texaco), and Sun Oil Company-had acquired leases around the new producer, an agreement was made to unitize 5,800 acres surrounding the Jarmon No. 1. Pure owned 81.7 percent of the unit and became the operator, assisted by representatives of the other companies. Field-wide unitization led to the orderly development of Van field and prevented wasteful competition among the oil companies.

At the end of 1929 Van field reported annual production of 144,000 barrels of oil and 42,494,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. By April 15, 1930, Van field had twenty-four producing wells that yielded 20,000 barrels of oil per day. In 1930 two ten-inch pipelines were completed to connect the field to refineries. One line carried crude to the Pure refinery at Beaumont and the second, operated by Humble, transported oil to the Standard Oil Company line running to its Baton Rouge refinery. In April 1931 Van field reported 232 wells with a potential of 452,649 barrels of oil each day, but proration held yields to 40,000 barrels a day. Field allowables were based on a plan of gradual increase until the maximum reached 50,000 barrels of oil a day. As the field ended 1931 with annual production of 15,969,137 barrels of oil, Pure built a gathering system and a gasoline plant in the field. Peak production in Van field came in 1932 when 17,192,857 barrels of oil were brought up. Although production slipped downward throughout the 1930s and the early 1940s, the annual figure climbed to more than 11,600,000 barrels in 1944 to support the war effort. Yearly production remained above 10,000,000 barrels until 1949, when the total declined to 8,200,000 barrels. A downward trend characterized the 1950s, and the field ended 1959 with an annual total of 5,600,000 barrels of oil. Successful attempts at enhanced recovery pushed the annual figure to nearly 9,000,000 barrels in 1969, but by the end of 1979 annual yield slipped to 7,300,000 barrels. During 1989 the depleting field could manage just over 1,000,000 barrels of oil. At the end of 1993 Van field reported annual production of 632,337 barrels of oil and 388,863,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. Dry gas production for the field from 1973 through 1993 was only 227,601,000 cubic feet. By January 1, 1994, the first field of the Upper Cretaceous Woodbine Group in Northeast Texas reported cumulative production of 501,668,021 barrels of oil after sixty-five years of operation.

William E. Galloway et al., Atlas of Major Texas Oil Reservoirs (Austin: University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, 1983). Frank A. Herald, ed., Occurrence of Oil and Gas in Northeast Texas (University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology Publication 5116, Austin, August 15, 1951). Oil and Gas Development, Year Book 1931 (Dallas: National Oil Scouts Association of America, 1931).

  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Fields and Wells

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

Julia Cauble Smith, “Van Field,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 26, 2019