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Eldorado Oil and Gas Field

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The first attempt to develop petroleum in the Midcontinent field dates back to 1860, when several shallow wells were drilled in the vicinity of Paola, Miami county, Kansas. In one of these wells, located about a mile east of Paola, good showings of oil were encountered but no commercial production was obtained. With the outbreak of the Civil War, in the following year, further attempts at finding oil were abandoned, and not until 1873 was another forward step made in the development of the oil and gas industry of this region, when gas from the Acers mineral well at Iola, Allen county, Kansas, was piped to a neighboring sanitarium and used as an illuminant. No further development occurred until 1882, when commercial quantities of gas were encountered in several wells near Paola, being piped into the town two years later. At about the same time and in the same general region small oil wells were also occasionally found. Through these later commercial developments near Paola, Kansas bears the distinction of being the earliest gas and oil producing state in the entire region lying between the Appalachian belt and California.

The oil and gas industry in Kansas made no marked strides during its earliest years, and until 1916, with the exception of the years 1898 and 1904, the annual production of gas exceeded in value that of oil. The year 1904 was also the first year in which the state's oil production exceeded one million barrels, and from this time on, to and including 1915, the annual output of oil fluctuated between one and five million barrels. The year 1915, however, marked the end of the fluctuating period, for after that the production increased at a remarkable rate. From 2,823,487 barrels in 1915, the production rose to 8,783,077 barrels in 1916, to 36,536,125 barrels in 1917, to 45,451,017 barrels in 1918, to 29,683,972 barrels in 1919, and to 33,919,772 barrels (estimated) in 1920. This greatly increased production came principally from newly discovered fields in Butler county, and of these the Eldorado field, which is the subject of this report, was by far the leading one. The relationship of the production of the Eldorado field to that of the state of Kansas is graphically represented in plate 11.

The importance of the Eldorado field deserves additional emphasis. Discovered late in 1915, it soon became the greatest field ever developed in Kansas. Its importance, however, was not to be confined to state lines, for by its 1918 output, 28,807,680 barrels (which was more than that of the entire Appalachian field), with a value of about $63,000,000, the Eldorado field proclaimed itself the leading field, not only in the Midcontinent region, but in the entire United States. Its importance may be further emphasized in pointing out that the value of its oil production in 1917 was 6.8 per cent, and in 1918, 8.9 per cent, of all the oil produced in the United States.

In still another and at the same time wholly different respect the Eldorado field has shown itself a very striking example, and that is in the measure in which geological knowledge was applied to its development by the discovering company, the Empire Gas and Fuel Company. Of the 34 square miles of territory which the company's geologists, from their study of the surface rocks prior to the drilling of the discovery well, outlined as the most promising in the main part of the field (not including the Wilson and Robinson domes) only 7 square miles have since proven barren of oil (McDowell, 1917, map on p. 296. Outside of this area outlined as most promising, only 3 1/2 square miles have since proven productive). With this advance information the company was able to acquire about two-thirds (19 3/4 of the 30 1/2 square miles) of the territory that has since proven productive, and through these large holdings it has been by far the leading producer in the field.

The importance of the Eldorado, field led to its selection as the subject of a cooperative investigation by the State Geological Survey of Kansas and the United States Geological Survey, in the hope that a public report of the geological conditions present in this field would lead to a better understanding of the underlying and governing features of oil and gas accumulation, and in addition would be a benefit and incentive to the discovery and development of other fields, especially within the state of Kansas. The funds necessary for the field work were divided equally between the two surveys.

Scope of Report

The present report gives a short historical account of the field's development and a brief sketch of its geographic setting. Its principal aim, however, is a detailed description of the geology, which embraces both stratigraphy and structure. Under stratigraphy, consideration is given to the rocks extending from the pre-Cambrian basement through the entire unexposed Paleozoic succession to the Permian limestones and shales which outcrop at the surface. This stratigraphic consideration includes not only a description of the strata, but also their historical significance. Under structure is described the structure of the surface rocks and of the various oil and gas pay sands, in the consideration of which the relationship in structure between the various horizons is emphasized. The relationship between production and the structure in each sand is also considered. Emphasis is given to the origin of the structural features and a theory is advanced explaining the mode of formation. The character and utilization of the oil and gas is discussed and the technological features of producing and handling of the oil and gas are briefly described.

Two features embodied in this report present new conclusions concerning the geology of the region. One of these is a stratigraphic problem, for which evidence is presented to consider the deep or Stapleton oil zone to be of Mississippian age, a conclusion which at first may seem radical in view of the fact that this oil zone lies at a considerably higher altitude than the Mississippian rocks in the neighboring region to the east. The other is a structural problem, for which evidence is presented to indicate that the anticlines and domes of the general region were not caused by horizontal thrust as is generally conceived, but were formed through vertical movements originating along ancient tectonic lines developed in the pre-Cambrian basement rocks. This structural problem has been anticipated by an earlier dissertation (Fath, 1920), which in this report is considerably amplified.

Field Work

The investigation on which this report is based consisted of geologic field mapping and study and the collecting of large quantities of drilling and production data. It began on September 17, 1917, and continued with a few short interruptions until May 15, 1918. Of the 200 days in this period given to the Eldorado investigation, 127 were spent in actual field work, mapping and studying the geology, and the remaining 73 days in collecting well logs and other data from the operating companies.

The field work consisted of mapping in detail with a plane table, telescopic alidade, and stadia, the outcropping formations as differentiated on plate I, and in determining the elevations of all the wells. The latter part of the work was very greatly assisted by the well elevations supplied by several of the operating companies. In addition to the purely geologic mapping, an accurate road and stream map was made, which in itself required several weeks of the 127 days spent in field work. Every stream meander, even those of the small drainage channels, was located and tied to the land lines, and the locations of all permanent roads and streets were determined. It is believed that these features, as shown on the map (plate I) represent a correct road and stream map as for the spring of 1918.


In the field mapping Mr. Ray P. Walters operated the plane table from the beginning of the work until the end of January, 1918, when he resigned to resume his studies at the University of Kansas at the beginning of the second semester. For the remainder of the season Mrs. A. E. Fath took over this phase of the work. For the conscientious and painstaking work of both these individuals the writer is deeply indebted.

The Empire Gas and Fuel Company was exceedingly generous in assisting the investigation. Field maps, well logs, well elevations for the entire field, water analyses, gas-production data and sand samples were supplied without restrictions. The officials to whom especially grateful acknowledgment is made for these courtesies are Everett C. Carpenter, chief geologist; A. W. McCoy, research geologist; Everett C. Parker, resident geologist at Eldorado; and Mr. McCune, superintendent of gas production, who also were very free in discussing the problems involved, and thereby added greatly to the usefulness of the information collected.

The Gypsy Oil Company was also very generous in furnishing a list of well elevations, field maps, and logs of all its wells. For these courtesies thanks are due to Mr. A. F. Smith and Mr. J. V. Howell, geologists for the company, and to Mr. W. T. Hartman, formerly production superintendent for the Kansas district.

Field maps and individual lease maps in addition to well logs were liberally supplied by the Carter Oil Company, through Mr. T. M. Newman, chief geologist, and in like manner field maps and well logs were furnished by the Sinclair Oil Company, for which considerations grateful acknowledgment is made. Well logs were very generously supplied by all operators, and for these and many other courtesies thanks are due to the following companies and individuals: Atlantic Petroleum Corporation, Bodarc Oil and Gas Company, Mr. R. H. Bradford, British-American Oil Company, Cassoday Oil and Gas Company, Central West Petroleum Company, Messrs. Chapman & McFarlin, Cosden Oil and Gas Company, Mr. J. T. Davis, Mr. A. L. Derby, Eldorado Oil and Gas Company, Eldorado Refining Company, Eureka Oil Company, Forrest Drilling Company, Foster Oil Company, Mr. O. E. Foulke, Mr. R. E. Frazier, Messrs. Galbraith & Compton, J. W. Gilliland Oil Company, Great Plains Oil and Gas Company, Great West Oil and Gas Company, Haverhill Petroleum Company, Hickman & Kennedy Drilling Company, Hickory Oil and Gas Company, Mr. F. W. Higgins, Hilty Drilling Company, Mr. L. V. Hites, Iron Mountain Oil Company, Leonard Petroleum Company, Mr. Deering Marshall, McK Oil Company, Melroot Oil Company, Mid-Co Oil Company, Midland Refining Company, Monitor Oil and Gas Company, National Refining Company, Oil and Gas Company of Eldorado, Oklahoma Petroleum and Gasoline Company, Page-Lewis Oil Company, Mr. H. H. Patton, Phillips Petroleum Company, Prairie Oil and Gas Company, Ramsey Oil and Gas Company, Ramsey Petroleum Company, Selby Oil Company, Mr. J. G. Shelden, Sharp Bros. Construction Company, Messrs. Skelly & Bole, Southwestern Petroleum Company, Standard Oil Company of Indiana, The Texas Company, Theta Oil Company, Tidal Oil Company, Towanda Oil and Gas Company, Union Oil Company of Wichita, Wichita Crude Oil Company, Mr. Winthers, and Mr. C. J. Wrightsman.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web July 28, 2017; originally published 1921.
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