12/07/15 9:15am

Map of Oil Wells in and Around Pierce Junction Salt Dome, Houston

Right next door to the fairways of the Wildcat Golf Club, Fairway Energy Partners is moving forward with plans announced this summer to put nearly half a billion gallons of crude oil back into the ground, right in the center of the once-wild Pierce Junction oil field just south of the Inner Loop between S. Main St. and Highway 288. (The field, which a 1956 Time Magazine article called the site of “the biggest of all Gulf Coast oil booms,” still pumps out oil.) Fairway announced in November that they’ve picked engineers to help them retrofit 3 of the 8 man-made caverns dissolved into the Pierce Junction salt dome for crude storage.  A dense ring of current and closed oil wells (mapped as green dots above) traces the uppermost reach of the migrant salt, buried approximately 950 feet below the surface and extending several miles deep to its source layer.


Partners in Brine
05/12/14 12:30pm

WHY THESE SEISMIC VIBRATOR TRUCKS HAVE BEEN SHAKING UP SOUTHEAST HOUSTON Seismic Vibrators on Detroit St., Park Place Acre Villa, HoustonA neighborhood resident tells Swamplot what George Henderson, owner of Premier Geophysical Services, told the Park Place Civic Club last week about what the firm’s seismic vibrator trucks have been doing in the area: “He is going west as far as I-45 and south of I-10 from Beltway 8 East. He is mapping gas, oil, and minerals. Per Henderson, Park Place property owners own the mineral rights. No, he will not divulge his client. No, COH does not have access to his findings. He gave an example in the past where they set up equipment on a commercial lot and purchased a house next to it for a hefty sum. He said they can work across long distances from set-ups like that. They should be done here in two weeks.Photo: Swamplot inbox

05/02/14 5:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE FOLKS THUMPING YOUR PROPERTY Listening to Seismic Resonance“As someone who used to work on seismic crews for years before moving into designing these subsurface programs, I can tell you all about these. Vibe machines shake the ground using varying frequencies, some you feel, many you can’t. Those waves penetrate the earth with some of the energy reflecting back to the surface when it hits a density change while some of the energy refracts deeper down. Geophones are placed in an array at set spacing surrounding the source (vibe) and ‘listen’ for these reflected waves to return and record the strength and timing of the returning wave. So, as previously mentioned, this is an oil/gas survey not ‘minerals,’ although the subsurface rights are called ‘mineral rights.’ Mineral rights supercede those of surface rights. You absolutely can shoot seismic on someones land without their permission. It sets up bad rapport and ultimately it’s not the seismic company that makes that decision, it’s the oil/gas company that is hiring them to do so. It usually only has to happen on large tracts. Small ones, you can navigate around the refusal without compromising data integrity. Large tracts you have to get a TRO (temporary restraining order) and usually the local sheriff is brought in to ensure security. It was rare, but it did happen. Aside from bad blood between the landowner and the field crew, we would generally find some of our equipment damaged upon removal.” [jeff, commenting on The Seismic Vibrators Shaking Up Some Southeast Houston Neighborhoods]

04/30/14 10:00am

Seismic Vibrator Trucks on Detroit St., Park Place Acre Villa, Houston

A couple residents of Park Place Acre Villa are interested in finding out what the point was of this fleet of Boone Exploration seismic vibrator vehicles rolling up Detroit St. and Findlay St. this week — and areas further east of the Gulfgate-area neighborhood earlier. After a few phone calls, a representative of council member Robert Gallegos reportedly showed up to talk to the crew from Premier Geophysical Services, which has been conducting seismic testing in the area.


Urban Prospecting
08/10/11 11:33am

RIG VOTE IN LEAGUE CITY League City’s city council voted last night to double the minimum distance oil and gas rigs must keep back from most buildings, including homes. The new requirement is 600 ft., though some residents of the Magnolia Creek subdivision — right next door to one of 2 proposed new drilling sites in the city — had hoped to get a 1000-ft. buffer approved. [abc13; more info; previously on Swamplot] Photo: abc13

12/08/10 4:28pm

There had to have been a pretty good view of the developing oil business from the back windows of this home. It was built in 1843 on the eastern bank of Goose Creek in what’s now Baytown, and probably enjoyed those first quiet 60 years before anyone suspected there’d be any oil back there. A little after 1916, though, it must have smelled pretty nasty, backing up to the state’s first offshore oil field.

It went on the market as an estate sale in August: first at $89,000, then lower after a $10K price cut in November. Someone put a contract on it late last week.


10/28/10 5:50pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LUCK OF THE DRAW “Houston lucked out in that it held on to the oil industry, even after a major bust that had the Houston real estate landscape looking much like what we are seeing in parts of FL, NV and CA. The energy industry is now king again, and we are all lucky that the City did not hedge its bets on dot coms, financials or casino gambling. And the energy industry did not [choose] Houston because there was no zoning or because their executives could knock down bungalows in the Heights. The energy industry chose Houston because it was where the oil was. Refineries were built in Houston because it was a good location for them, not because it was cheap to do a strip mall on FM 1960. Yet, Houston’s good fortune has been warped into a specious argument that Houston is successful because it shuns anything that might be good for citizens quality of life, but that would impede a developer’s bottom line. Thus, instead of using our oil riches to construct a better and more liveable city, we think that any attempt to keep a developer from dropping a highrise or big box retailer in a residential neighborhood would send the energy industry packing . . .” [Oh please, commenting on Comment of the Day: Here for the Money]

10/13/10 3:38pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AND WHAT ARE THE STATS ON GALVESTON COUNTY’S STRIP CENTER OUTPUT? “If you look at production data, Galveston County is currently producing around 30000 BOE (barrel of oil equivilent) per month on over 20 wells. One of the fields that is producing is less than 1000ft off 45 just south of [Kemah]. Depth of producing interval is around 4000ft. I have a hard time believing that moving a rig out there for about the 3 weeks it takes to drill a well to 3000ft, set casing, and complete it to a producing well, would be any worse than having some tacky strip mall taking 6 months to construct.” [Mr. Hand, commenting on League City’s Neighborhood Drilling Boom]

10/12/10 12:04pm

Residents of the Magnolia Creek subdivision in League City are protesting plans by developer Lynn Watkins to drill for oil and natural gas on a 3-acre site next to a daycare center near the corner of League City Parkway and Bay Area Blvd. To gain the drilling permits, Watkins would need to rezone the land to light industrial. Abc13’s Kevin Quinn reports:

Those who purchased homes say they were told the land is zoned as commercial. They expected a strip mall of some sort to be built here — not a drilling rig that stands 131 feet tall. Dozens of homeowners have signed a petition asking the city not to grant the special use permit the developer seeks. . . .

[Watkins] insists there would be minimal impact to the surrounding neighborhood and schools.

Additional traffic, he insists, would be less than that coming and going from a home being built in the neighborhood. He says also of the 400,000 operational wells across the state, there have been only 900 blowouts in the past 30 years. Those, he says, resulted in 131 injuries and nine deaths.

“In that same period, there’s been 90,000 traffic deaths on Texas highways in that same period,” Watkins said.


05/11/10 1:39pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN HOUSTON WAS RIGGED “The Astrodome is ~1 mile north of the old Pierce Junction Oil Field. Most of the area is industrial, but there are homes along the perimeter of the field where Glenn McCarthy, who later built the Shamrock Hotel, made his first millions. Here’s a link to a 1956 TIME magazine article about the field and issues regarding growth of Houston versus industrial development. If anyone reads the article, I believe the dump it refers to is now a golf course. There are methane candy canes all around it. This is to say nothing of the Humble area. If anyone can find any old aerial photos of Humble online, let me know. I’ve seen them in the past and would like to do an overlay of current use versus prior use.” [J Wilson, commenting on House Shopping in the Chemical Discount Zones: Finding Houston’s Less-Toxic Neighborhoods]

04/12/07 9:13am

Woodwind Lakes Website Logo

Here’s another Texas tale about discovering oil on your property—only not the way you’ve probably dreamed about. Don’t we all live on top of former oil fields around here? Many of us do, but in Woodwind Lakes, a relatively recent development inside the Beltway and north of 290, some residents are living on the more toxic and unremediated spoils of a former gas processing plant. Houston Press writer Todd Spivak unearths the gooey details:

The Brookses . . . hired Klein, a licensed geologist, to take more soil and groundwater samples from their backyard. The results were chilling.

Klein found elevated levels of benzene, ethylbenzene, styrene and acetone. Total petroleum hydrocarbons were detected as high as 23,000 milligrams per kilogram — more than twice the level deemed safe by state regulators.

Worst of all: A layer of hot, oily sludge was discovered just one to four feet below the surface. Touching the sod or breathing the air likely exposed them to dangerous contamination, Klein says.

There’s real drama here, but we’re only scratching the surface: What about the strange rashes on pets, the angst over diminishing property values, the vicious feuds among neighbors? It all highlights how easy it can be to put up fancy Houston homes just about anywhere. So many tiny scandals wrapped up in this spicy story: