DARST CREEK OILFIELD
DARST CREEK OILFIELD. Darst Creek field was a linear-shaped oil-producing area on the Gulf Coastal Plain in eastern Guadalupe County. Its discovery was made by the Texas Company No. 1 Dallas Wilson on July 18, 1929. Its orderly development was primarily the work of Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon Company, U.S.A.), Gulf Production Company, and Magnolia Petroleum Company, as well as the Texas Company (later Texacoqv). The original field produced from an average depth of 2,650 feet in a trap along a sealing fault in Edwards limestone of the Lower Cretaceous. The source of its primary recovery was a water drive. Its secondary recovery used water injection to maintain reservoir pressure. From its initial production until September 1, 1960, when Darst Creek field ceased to exist, it yielded almost 107 million barrels of oil. On that date two separate fields called Darst Creek-Edwards and Darst Creek-Buda were identified by the Railroad Commission. The original field was significant because it was the first to operate under proration in its region of Texas. Darst Creek field was named for the nearby watercourse. Before September 1928 A. B. Bauchman, an attorney and amateur geologist, found evidence of a subsurface fault structure in a gully near Darst Creek, five miles from the southwestern edge of the Luling oilfield. Bauchman told Dilworth S. Hager, a geologist, about his find. Shortly after the conversation with Bauchman, Hager and Robert Franks mapped the structure with alidade and plane table, finding it impressive. Hager, Bauchman, and their associates leased a large block of acreage around the structure and sold much of it to Humble and Texas, who agreed to drill a test. On July 18, 1929, the Texas Company brought in the No. 1 Dallas Wilson with initial production of 1,000 barrels of oil per day.
Since most of the leases around the discovery well were held by major companies that saw no need to develop them quickly, the field was shut in for ninety days because overproduction in other fields had flooded the crude market. By November 1929 active drilling began with rotary rigs that needed only fifteen days to complete a well at the average cost of $22,500. Some short-lived wells were sunk into the cavities along the fault plane, finding prolific reserves. One well flowed nearly 42,000 barrels of oil the first day, illustrating the potential for overproduction in the field. To avoid the risks of unregulated production with its resulting loss of reservoir pressure, water encroachment, and cheap crude prices, operators installed voluntary proration in the field. H. H. Fitzpatrick, the appointed field umpire, arrived in the field on December 16, 1929, to prepare allowable schedules for the new year. At the end of 1929 Darst Creek field reported annual production of 243,000 barrels of oil. On January 1, 1930, Fitzpatrick placed the field on twenty-acre units and based allowables 50 percent on the unit and 50 percent on the potential of unit wells. Under regulation Darst Creek field produced only 15,369 barrels of oil per day. Fourteen operators drilled offsets to prove acreage from the northeastern end of the fault to the southwestern edge, an area of almost six miles in length and of less than a mile in width. By February forty-four wells were completed for a daily potential of 44,768 barrels of oil and by the end of the month operators were violating the voluntary proration. On March 17, 1930, the Railroad Commission held a hearing to consider problems in the field. By April 1 operators increased the number of productive wells to ninety-two with a daily potential of 135,014 barrels of oil. The commission raised the daily field allowable to 23,829 barrels on May 1, 1930, and operators stayed within that limit until late June. On July 12, 1930, the commission ordered operators to abide by their voluntary system of proration and to limit production to market demand. Not all companies accepted the latest order from the commission. Harrison and Abercrombie gained a temporary injunction against it and proration collapsed in the field, but other operators worked out a plan to reinstate controls on August 4, 1930. By late October, when 186 new wells were completed and daily potential climbed to 156,822 barrels of oil, the commission set the daily allowable at 30,000 barrels. Annual field production peaked in 1930 when 11,552,000 barrels of oil were brought to the surface. In the same year the field was defined in all directions, leaving only inside locations to be drilled. By the end of 1930 four pipeline companies-Gulf, Humble, Grayburg, and Texas-connected the field with refineries. Crude was shipped also in tank cars on the Southern Pacific Railroad.
In 1931 the commission responded to the slow national economy and to flush development in other Texas fields with a 10 percent reduction of allowables in all fields across the state, except the Panhandle field. Darst Creek daily allowable was restricted to 18,000 barrels of oil for the 1,670-acre field. The new allowable held annual yields to 8,196,000 barrels of oil. In 1932, as the economic depression deepened, the commission further reduced the daily allowable for the field to 14,000 barrels of oil. Yearly yields for 1932 declined to 6,084,000 barrels of oil. In August 1935 an uphole extension to Darst Creek was discovered in the Austin Chalk at a depth of 2,441 feet. However, the new production made little difference in the declining annual yields that continued throughout the decade, ending 1939 with 2,617,478 barrels of oil. In the 1940s annual productions in Darst Creek field maintained descending totals that hovered around 2.5 million barrels of oil. By August 1943 water encroachment became a problem in the field. In January 1951 the field was described as fully developed and in the advanced stages of depletion. The water-oil ratio in some wells reached as high as 90 percent water and 10 percent oil. On September 1, 1960, the commission dissolved the original Darst Creek field, listing its cumulative production as 106,918,612 barrels of oil. At that time, two separate fields at Darst Creek were formed by the commission. One was Darst Creek-Edwards, which appeared to include the original reservoir, producing by a water drive at an average depth of 2,650 feet on five-acre spacing. The other was Darst Creek-Buda, producing from a solution gas drive at an average depth of 2,395 feet on ten-acre spacing. During the 1960s water injection was initiated in the fields to maintain pressure. The waterfloods appeared successful in the Edwards field, but they managed limited results in the gas-driven Buda field. At the end of the 1960s Darst Creek-Edwards field reported annual yields of 1,385,611 barrels of oil and 16,980,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. Darst Creek-Buda field reported 789,731 barrels of oil and 43,293,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. Neither field produced dry gas. Production in both fields declined significantly in the 1970s and 1980s. By the end of 1993 the Edwards field annual production plummeted to 373,845 barrels of oil and 2,029,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas, and the Buda field production fell to 166,045 barrels of oil and 137,117,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. During 1993 the fields reported a combined total of 750 producing wells. In the seventh decade after major companies recognized the need to preserve the reservoir by voluntary proration, the cumulative total from the original Darst Creek field combined with those of Darst Creek-Edwards field and Darst Creek-Buda field was 158,710,523 barrels of oil.
William E. Galloway et al., Atlas of Major Texas Oil Reservoirs (Austin: University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, 1983). H. D. McCallum, "Darst Creek Oil Field, Guadalupe County, Texas," Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists 17 (January 1933). Oil and Gas Development, Year Book 1931 (Dallas: National Oil Scouts Association of America, 1931). Railroad Commission of Texas, Annual Report of the Oil and Gas Division (Austin, 1994). Charles Albert Warner, Texas Oil and Gas Since 1543 (Houston: Gulf, 1939).
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