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Historical Development of the Allegany Field--New York and Pennsylvania

Arthur M. Van Tyne

The Allegany field is the northernmost oil field in the Appalachian basin. The productive area covers about 67,500 acres. Estimated ultimate recovery is 175 million bbl oil. About 1/3 of this amount was recovered by primary, dissolved-gas drive and about 2/3 by waterflooding. Production occurs in a deltaic-shoreline sequence with shale enclosed sandstones forming stratigraphic traps. There is minor structural involvement.

A nearby oil seep, known to the local Indians, was visited in 1627 by a French missionary. His letter about the occurrence is the first record of an oil seep in the United States seen by a European. Several shallow wells were drilled near this and other nearby seeps in the early 1860s with no success.

The discovery of the northern portion of the Bradford field in Cattaraugus County, New York, in 1865 spurred exploratory drilling to the east in Allegany County. In 1879, Orville P. Taylor brought in a small, but commercial, producer which became the discovery well of the Allegany field. In 1881 better production was discovered at a location about five miles west of the Taylor well. A drilling boom followed.

Early drilling was haphazard, but attempts were made to stay in the vicinity of thicker sandstone development. As time progressed, deeper productive zones and outlying pools were discovered. The last such pool was discovered in 1844. Although wells experienced a rapid decline in oil production due to pressure depletion, there was enough new drilling to keep overall production reasonably stable during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

By the turn of the century, local oilmen had noted that groundwater flowing into abandoned wells caused an increase in oil production from nearby wells. The technique of waterflooding was developed from this observation. During the early 1900s several methods of flooding were tried before the 5-spot pattern was settled on as the best for this area. Waterflooding was legalized in 1919 by the state of New York and large-scale flood development began.

For many years the greatest depth reached in drilling was about 1,800 feet. The first deep test in the field was drilled in 1928. That well encountered commercial gas in a fractured Middle to Upper Devonian limestone at about 4,000 feet and eventually was drilled to a depth of 6,250 feet.

The peak period of primary production was in 1882 when daily average production reached nearly 24,000 bbl/day. This had dropped to about 1,600 bbl/day by the time waterflooding began to show an effect in 1920. Waterflood production peaked in 1942 at more than 11,000 bbl/day and has declined since then. Production in 1988 was less than 200 bbl/day.

The Allegany field was discovered by hunch and developed when principles of petroleum geology were first being formulated. However, its later development has aided in the understanding and expansion of these principles. Much of the technique of waterflooding was first worked out here. Older fields, such as this, have been laboratories where a shrewdness of thought was developed which has formed the basis for the development of petroleum geology and the oil industry.

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