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From Gushers to Reserve Growth: A Brief History of Texas Oil

William L. Fisher

From the first gusher discovery at Spindletop in 1901 to the present, Texas geologists and operators have discovered some 165 billion barrels of oil. Up to this point, nearly 60 billion barrels have been converted to producible reserves and 90 percent of that produced; well over 100 billion barrels remain for improved recovery and modest volumes exist for future discovery.

It has been a long history from creekology to surface mapping through micropaleontology, electric logging, and seismic analysis. Major new-field discovery is history. The last giant field was Fairway, discovered three decades ago; in recent years new-field additions of oil have been no more than 10 percent of total additions. Today, advanced concepts of depositional systems, facies architecture, and fluid diagenesis, coupled with advanced techniques of logging, seismic detection, and well completion, are being used to reexplore old reservoirs for increased recovery or reserve growth. As with the pioneer geologists and wildcatters in Texas, today geologists, geophysicists, and engineers are yet adding substantial new reserves. In 1984 and 1985, new reserves added exceeded production, a event last recorded two-and-one-half decades ago.

The history of Texas exploration and development is long and exciting, but it is only half-written. With future ingenuity equal to the past, as much lies ahead as behind.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91028©1989 AAPG History of Petroleum Industry Symposium, September 17-20, 1989, Titusville, Pennsylvania.