Wasson Field

By: Julia Cauble Smith

Type: General Entry

Published: January 1, 1996

Updated: February 16, 2019

Wasson field is a triangular-shaped oil and gas producing area in southwestern Yoakum and northwestern Gaines counties on the Llano Estacado of West Texas, five miles east of the New Mexico line. The field, which covers 62,500 acres, is so large that early wells, located several miles from each other, were regarded as discovery wells in separate fields. Bennett was the first of those fields. It developed after the L. P. Bennett No. 1, drilled by Honolulu Oil Corporation and Davidson Drilling Company (later Cascade Petroleum Company), was brought in on April 6, 1936. Wasson field (later South sector) was recognized after Amon G. Carter, Sr., and Continental Oil Company found oil in their Wasson No. 1 on June 19, 1937. Denver pool was named for its operator, Denver Producing and Refining Company, which made a producer of the Whittenburg No. 1 in September 1937. However, these producing areas, as well as those called Baumgart, Clawater, Dowden, Kendrick, and Roberts, were defined as sectors within the same field on December 1, 1939, when the Railroad Commission determined that all of them produced from the same structure and combined them under the name of Wasson field.

The land around Wasson field had attracted oil prospectors first in the late 1920s, but the Great Depression halted their drilling before a discovery was made. By 1935 wildcatters returned to Yoakum County, and on April 4, 1935, Honolulu and Davidson spudded their Bennett No. 1. The location was chosen by surface geology, and the nearest production to the site was in Lea County, New Mexico, thirty-five miles to the southwest. The operators drilled the well with rotary tools to a depth of 5,085 feet, reaching the San Andres formation, where the hole filled with 700 feet of oil. The volume of gas found in the well was estimated at 500,000 cubic feet per day. Seven-inch casing was cemented in the well, and the level of oil rose to 3,700 feet. On April 6, 1936, the discovery well was completed after being deepened to 5,282 feet, where it was shot with nitroglycerine and tested 234 barrels of oil per day. Although the Bennett No. 1 was an indisputable producer, the operators were discouraged from hastily drilling offsetting wells by three obstacles-legal title to their lease, transportation for their production, and low crude prices. The question of legal title to the lease evolved from an overdue mortgage on the Bennett ranch, which was facing foreclosure. The Bennetts cleared their ranch title by selling sufficient royalty interest to repay the outstanding loan. Having secured legal title to their lease, the operators of the Bennett No. 1 still struggled with transportation problems. Moving crude from the isolated field to market was a challenge, since no nearby pipeline or railroad existed. The cost of trucking the production sixty miles to the pipeline terminal in Andrews County threatened to erode profits, since West Texas crude sold on an average for only $.84 per barrel in 1936. Despite the expense, production from all sectors of the field was trucked to Andrews or it was sold locally to stripping plants until November 1937, when Humble Pipe Line Company built a six-inch line to connect the field with its terminal in Hobbs, New Mexico. Even with the cost of trucking crude in 1936, the operators of the Bennett No. 1 produced 9,506 barrels of oil. In 1937 other tests were successful in Yoakum and Gaines counties. In the first week of January the Bennett No. 1 of Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company came in one-half mile west of the original well and in the same section. After an acid treatment, it flowed 540 barrels of oil and 1 million cubic feet of gas per day.

In June 1937 Amon G. Carter and Continental Oil Company brought in their Wasson No. 1. This well was twelve miles southwest of the Bennett No. 1 and was regarded as the discovery well in the South sector. Reaching a depth of 4,959 feet, its potential was set at 333 barrels of oil per day. The completion of this well was notable because it caused an active drilling interest in both Bennett and South sectors. In September 1937 a third well was hailed as a discovery, when the Whittenburg No. 1, operated by Denver Producing and Refining Company in Yoakum County, was gauged with a potential of 892 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 5,001 feet. This well, ten miles southwest of the Honolulu-Cascade Bennett No. 1, was called the Denver pool (later the Denver sector). At the end of 1937, with the Humble pipeline available to carry production and to motivate future drilling, the widely scattered sectors jointly reported twenty-six flowing wells and a yearly production of 314,024 barrels of oil. As field expansion intensified in 1938, several new tests were significant to the growth of the field. In January the Texas Company (later Texaco) made a producer of its Walker No. 1, four miles northwest of the Whittenburg No. 1, and extended the producing area that many miles to the west. Shell Oil Company established two new sectors-the Roberts in the west and the Baumgart in the east. Honolulu and Cascade opened the Kendrick sector with the Kendrick No. 1. This well was midway between the South and Bennett sectors and spurred offset drilling that eventually linked the two into one producing area. Data gathered from this test aided future development, because it proved that the water level was actually 100 feet or more below the depths found in wells to the west. During 1938 several flush wells came into production, each with potentials of 2,000 barrels of oil per day, and the different sectors reported a combined yearly production of 2,801,745 barrels of oil from 201 flowing wells.

The ninefold increase in the 1938 production over that of 1937 strained the limits of the one six-inch pipeline leading from the area. The new demand was met in May 1939, when Aloco Pipe Line Company laid a second six-inch carrier from the sectors to Hobbs, New Mexico. Later in the year Shell Pipe Line Corporation installed a third six-inch line, which also transported crude to Hobbs. At the end of 1939, when the Railroad Commission officially united the eight sectors into one unit called Wasson field, peak drilling was reached, as nearly fifty wells were being completed each month. Cumulative production through 1939 climbed to more than 9 million barrels of oil from 729 wells. In response to mounting production, Basin Pipe Line Company installed a fourth six-inch line in July 1940 to connect Wasson field with the Cosden Refinery at Big Spring. By the early 1940s primary development on forty-acre well spacing was concluded in the original San Andres field, and operators began to drill for deeper pay. That endeavor assumed two forms. First, those wells drilled prior to the Kendrick No. 1 were deepened by 100 to 150 feet to include the reservoir found by that test. Secondly, deep drilling tests were initiated to tap zones below known production. In late 1940 a new formation yielded production when the Amon G. Carter No. 5-D Wasson in Gaines County reached 6,881 feet in the Permian Clear Fork and gave up 230 barrels of oil on a seven-hour test. This discovery was found through subsurface geology, and it ushered in the Wasson Deep, or Clear Fork 66, field. On October 16, 1941, the Amon G. Carter No. 4-D Wasson was also successful at a depth of 7,200 feet. It produced 511 barrels of oil in the first twenty-four hours from the Permian Wichita-Albany. Because of its depth, this producing horizon was called the Wasson 72, or Clear Fork 72, field.

With these newly discovered areas, the potential for all of Wasson field was over 1.2 million barrels of oil per day. Yet, the Railroad Commission set the allowable for the field at 57,280 barrels of oil per day on February 1, 1942. Production in the original field for 1942 dropped by 3.5 million barrels under regulation. Production for 1943 was held to less than 12.4 million barrels. The 1944 figure, however, reflected the demand of the war effort, and it almost doubled that of 1943 by producing over 23.7 million barrels of oil from 1,509 wells. Peak production in the field came in 1948, when over 28.1 million barrels of oil were taken from 1,588 wells. During the early 1950s deep drilling continued in the field with the opening of the Clear Fork Bennett field. On September 3, 1954, Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company brought in its Ruth Bennett No. 55 in Yoakum County. The well was found by subsurface geology and reflection seismograph, and it produced from the Permian Clear Fork at 7,800 feet. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s field production was curbed by low allowables and by cheap crude prices. The lack of economic incentive prevented any secondary recovery attempts before 1964. That year one of the largest waterflood projects in the United States was instituted in Wasson field with satisfactory results. In 1969, with crude selling above $3.00 per barrel, infill drilling commenced on twenty-acre spacing to reach oil in non-continuous pays that were not exploited by waterflooding on existing forty-acre spacing. In the 1970s tertiary recovery was undertaken in a carbon dioxide injection plan, which attempted to claim an estimated 1.3 billion barrels of oil left in place after waterflooding and infill drilling. By 1992 cumulative production from the combined Wasson field was 1,823,664,000 barrels of oil from 2,242 wells, making it the largest-volume producer in West Texas and the second largest in Texas, after East Texas oilfield. The original field produced 1,658,892,000 cubic feet of gas from 1939 until its depletion as a gas field in 1947. Since operators in Wasson and other older Texas fields are exempted from the Pugh clause, they retain rights to all depths of their producing leases in perpetuity. Therefore, in the summer of 1993, when known reserves were estimated to be less than 125 million barrels of oil, the field was shot with 3-D seismic to reevaluate the San Andres, Clear Fork, and deeper objectives for more production.

Samuel D. Myres, The Permian Basin: Petroleum Empire of the Southwest (2 vols., El Paso: Permian, 1973, 1977). Oil and Gas Journal, November 1, 1976. Edgar Wesley Owen, Trek of the Oil Finders: A History of Exploration for Petroleum (Tulsa: American Association for Petroleum Geologists, 1975). W. T. Schneider, "Geology of Wasson Field, Yoakum and Gaines Counties, Texas," Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists 27 (April 1943). W. T. Schneider, "Wasson Field, Yoakum and Gaines Counties, Texas," in Occurrence of Oil and Gas in West Texas, ed. Frank A. Herald (Austin: University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, 1957).


  • 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, “Wasson Field,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 25, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wasson-field.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996
February 16, 2019