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Abstract: History of New York State Oil Fields

Consulting Geologist, Wellsville, NY

The New York oil fields are located in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Steuben Counties in the far southwestern part of the State. The first commercial oil production in New York was found in 1865. More than 40,000 wells have been drilled for oil production and water injection for secondary recovery of oil. Production occurs from generally low porosity, low permeability sandstones of Late Devonian age. Total oil production, not taking into account any possible tertiary recovery, will approximate 250 million barrels. Current production is about 300,000 barrels annually.

Some references indicate that the first recorded observation of oil in North America was made in 1627 in Allegany County, New York. Father Joseph de la Roche Daillon, a Franciscan priest, is said to have visited the Seneca oil spring there in the company of a group of Indians.

The first wildcat test well in New York was drilled in Allegany County in 1860. It reached a depth of 600 ft and was later deepened to 900 ft but, although shows of oil and gas were encountered, it was noncommercial. The first commercial oil well completed in 1865 was drilled by Job Moses, an early entrepreneur-promoter. The well was drilled to a total depth of 1,155 ft and made 7 barrels of oil per day. This well produced from the Bradford Third sandstone and is actually the discovery well of the great Bradford oil field in Pennsylvania and New York.

The first commercial oil well in the Allegany field was drilled in 1878 by 0. P. Taylor but he abandoned the well as too small. Later, in 1879, he completed another well about 3 mi north of the first well for a higher flow of oil and has become the so-called discovery well of the field.

It is not clear why these early wells were drilled at the locations selected. Certainly, the main stimulus for drilling at all was the Drake discovery near Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859. In one or two cases there may have been oil seeps nearby but other locations were probably based on little but hunches.

Current studies indicate that the main oil sands consist of a series of westward prograding stillstands. The shoreling trend is in a northeast-southwest direction. The sandstone zones and intervening shales represent regressive-transgressive cycles in a fluvial-deltaic environment. The initial sand deposition has been reworked by waves and littoral currents. Barrier bars are common.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90930©1998 AAPG Eastern Section, Columbus, Ohio