this were a mystery story, you might call it
The Kings Meadow Ranch 17-1 discovery well at the Covenant Field in early 2004, which may open a new frontier
no mystery about what Wolverine Gas & Oil Corp. found in central
Utah, even though results went unannounced for more than a year.
Field discovery opens up the most promising new onshore play in
the United States in recent memory.
expect this to be a billion-barrel province -- I expect that we'll
find another 10 fields out there," said Doug Strickland, exploration
manager for Wolverine in Grand Rapids, Mich.
member Strickland, the Covenant find is a gratifying payoff after
more than 25 years of paying attention to a prospective area.
were a business article, you might headline it
discovery well, the 17-1 Kings Meadow Ranch, hit 1,000 feet of Navajo
Sandstone pay in Utah's Sevier County in late 2003.
said the company's Covenant area of interest is a strip about 75
miles long and 20-30 miles wide along the Central Utah Overthrust.
thrust belt system extends north into Canada, where it is flanked
by numerous Alberta fields. Another productive province lies on
both sides of the Wyoming-Utah border.
completed and began producing the Covenant discovery well in May
2004, and its second well in September 2004.
those wells have produced a cumulative total of 210,00 barrels,
wells produce good-quality, 40-degree gravity crude and show a very
low gas-to-oil ratio, he said. Production from each of the field's
first wells now averages 850 barrels per day.
stepping up that production systematically -- we're designed for
1,500 barrels a day," Strickland said.
significant production is from fields at the edge of the Uinta Basin,
about 120 miles to the northeast and unrelated to thrust belt geology,
the Anschutz Ranch East Field in the Wyoming-Utah trust trend as
a closer analog. On the Wyoming side, the productive zone is called
the Nugget, the Jurassic equivalent of the Navajo Sands.
currently drilling its fourth Covenant well, directionally drills
several development wells from one pad.
expects the company will drill nine wells on 160-acre spacing this
year, with the possible addition of a water-disposal well.
drilling, Strickland said the 500,000-acre play area could contain
at least 25 structural closures, five of them on the producing unit.
field sizes range from 1,000-4,000 acres, as he expects, the Central
Utah Overthrust will yield years of fruitful exploration in multiple
were a historical account, the headline might be
the Utah hingeline and looked at it for 25 years. First of all,
I did my graduate work, my dissertation, in western Utah," Strickland
drilled a key well in the area in 1981. The well evidenced the presence
of both a hanging wall and a foot wall, he said.
clue helped define the idea for the Covenant prospect almost 20
kept his eye on western and central Utah drilling and stayed active
in the region.
on through the years, I've leased out there maybe four times during
my career," he said.
first big break in the Central Overthrust came in 1999, when Chevron
approached Wolverine owner Sid Jansma Jr. to offer its large and
up-to-then uneconomic acreage position, according to Strickland.
pulled out of the Rockies altogether at that time. I think they
had one landman there. This was right before their merger with Texaco,"
put its 80,000-acre holdings on the table, Wolverine was quick to
express an interest.
initial contact, we ended up taking the acreage deal from Chevron.
We bought them out of it. We ended up with a 65,000-acre Federal
unit," Strickland said.
that, the company got Chevron's 2-D seismic data.
reworked the data under the direction of company geophysicist Keith
Johnson, also an AAPG member.
a series of hanging-wall anticlines, and from that we were able
to put together this play," Strickland said.
out future prospects, Wolverine continues to rely primarily on 2-D
seismic, he commented.
out there really triggers a whole series of events," he said. "It's
quite a bit easier to permit and acquire 2-D."
has shot 120 miles of 2-D seismic in the Covenant area and plans
to add about 350 additional miles of data in 2005.
said 3-D seismic will be used for final imaging of structures once
they've been identified.
were a journal paper, you might call it
cross-section schematic for Covenant shows an anticlinal
trap along the deformation front of the thrust belt.
through early-Tertiary compressional deformation in the evolving
foreland basin resulted in structural systems that include large-scale
include complex back-thrusting, duplexing, tectonic-wedge formation
and extensive faulting.
for the system is the Arapien formation, locally defined by salt,
gypsum, hydrite and shale, according to Strickland.
is highly deformed, and in the Covenant field area it is in a triangle
zone," he said.
complex, in that the foreland Cretaceous deposits change very rapidly.
The marine section is on the east side, the alluvial plain-fluvial
plain section is on the west," Strickland observed.
of that is a Miocene basin-and-range extensional fault system,"
of the scrambled transition is that the Cretaceous rock systems
"just don't correlate," Stickland noted.
the difficulties of analysis, Strickland said the discovery well
found a structure explicitly foreshadowed by Chevron's 1981 attempt.
a fault-bend fold or a hanging-wall anticline," he said. "That's
exactly what we were looking for."
countered earlier speculation about possible sourcing of the Covenant
for the oil is the Mississippian system in west Utah," he said.
"We have a lot of biomarkers and isotope data to show that."
were a comedy, you might call it
2-D seismic, Wolverine pieced the Utah play together from the ground
a year and a half putting the technical work together," Strickland
said. "We usually keep a quarter to a third of a project and then
bring in partners."
had a well-defined play package, the company showed it to potential
industry partners and offered it at the North American Prospect
it to NAPE twice. We had people who were interested in looking at
it, but we never had any of the conventional companies take an interest
in it," Strickland recalled.
up breaking up the package and selling it to private investors and
small companies," he added.
nature of the play may have curbed the enthusiasm of larger independents,
and the general area already had a history of uneconomic prospecting.
oil companies began abandoning exploration in the Rockies to small
independents years earlier.
ended up funding the Covenant attempt with money from a mixture
of industry insiders, individual investors and intrigued independents,
according to Strickland.
them were industry people, some of them were not," he said.
got a share of the first well and the right to take an interest
in the Federal unit.
he wanted to emphasize anything in the Covenant story, Strickland
said he'd like to thank the technical people "who made this happen"
-- Keith Johnson (geophysics) and the Wolverine staff, Dan Schelling
(SGI) and David Wavrek (PSI). And he'd include "a tribute" to Sid
Jansma Jr., and the investors who took a chance on the play.
people were very courageous," he explained.
EXPLORER story, we called it
Makes Lots of Headlines
it's got a lot of news angles maybe with more coming.
Covenant find opens up a promising, southern extension for Western
U.S. thrust-belt exploration.
this very quiet and confidential for the first year," Strickland
said, enabling Wolverine to extend its position before published
reports began to appear.
in the area have already climbed to $1,000 an acre, he noted.
Covenant's success has already touched off a mini-boom of interest
in the Central Utah Overthrust.
both a happy ending and an opportunity for future exploration and
development for Strickland.
by far the most exciting thing I've ever been involved in in my
career," he said.