Oil drill in area

Published 11:25 pm Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A prolific oil formation known as Smackover has drawn the Houston-based company Fossil Oil to the Atmore area, where drilling on the first of a possible four-well project has already begun just outside of town, company officials said.

Just north of Interstate 65, off exit 69, is the area where two current oil wells known as “South Ingram” and “Roll Tide” are now in various stages of drilling. Less than 3 to 4 miles from those locations are the sites of two more possible projects, said Fossil Oil founder Dennis Kittler, who is slated to visit the area Thursday.

“We’re going to drill at least three, maybe four wells when it’s all said and done,” Kittler said. “So I’m pretty excited. There is a lot of stuff starting to happen down there in southwest Alabama and the Atmore area.”

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According to Kittler, the Smackover formations often found along the U.S. gulf coast have a lot to do with his company’s presence near Atmore.

“You can look up a whole list of the various famous formations that you find all over Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and all over the gulf coast,” he said. “They all seem to be in there. The Smackover requires a couple of things. It requires a very, very hard formation, which is called the Bruckner Anhydrite.  The Anhydrite, it’s what traps the oil.”

Kittler said his company is partnering with operators Choice Exploration Inc. for their local drill and added the collaboration is intricate to the project’s success. Together, he said, their teams have been able to utilize 3-D seismology in order to locate Dolomite, the substances contained in Smackover.

“Much of Fossil’s recent drilling successes are the result of its close relationship and teamwork with Choice Exploration,” he said. “Together, we hope to continue our exploration efforts in the southwest Alabama region. The use of 3-D seismic technology has provided the all- important geologic tool required to encounter the Dolomite and Norphet formations found in most areas of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.”

Currently Kittler said “South Ingram,” the first drilling site, has been drilled to a depth of 14,500 feet, while the “Roll Tide,” the second site, is currently being drilled.

“I think this morning we were at 3,500 feet,” Kittler said Tuesday.

Wells three and four are still being prepped, Kittler said. “We have them already picked out and we’ve drawn up the leases. We’ve done all the various things that need to be done before you start drilling.”

Kittler said although the success of the wells remains to be seen, the types of geological formations being explored can be very lucrative.

“They can be huge wells,” he said. “They can come in at 200 to 400 barrels of oil a day and sustain themselves for two or three years.”

As for the economic advantages for the surrounding areas, Kittler said the outcome is not always easy to predict. One hurdle he pointed out for areas like southwest Alabama is the lack of local services and machinery that must, in turn, be brought in from other areas at a high cost to the companies drilling the sites.

“There is not the infrastructure of oil and gas service companies in this area,” he said. “Just hasn’t been this huge drilling activity going on. So we have to get the completion rig, that had to come out of south Mississippi. The drilling rig had to come out of Houston.”

What Kittler said could be an economic boost for the local area would be, of course, the run off from mineral owners in the area should large amounts of oil be found. Kittler said trips to the area from company executives, investors and workers could also provide Atmore hotels, restaurants and shopping with an added economic nudge.

“Before the rigs rig up the crews come in and they try to stay in local hotels and motels,” he said. “Every time there is a new drilling operation there are crews of twenty to thirty people staying in the local area.”

“Whenever possible they try to use local equipment,” Kittler added. “If they have need for a dozer they’ll rent them locally.”

And that boost may be present for some time in Atmore, according to Kittler. He said for “initial intake” of the first two wells crews would be in the area until mid summer, or late fall and even longer if Fossil Oils third and fourth wells produce results.