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Landscape Modification of the Smackover Field, Arkansas

A. Culver and M. L. Barrett
Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport, LA 71134

The Smackover Oil Field in south central Arkansas remains the largest oil field in Arkansas. In the early to middle 1920s it was one of the biggest oil fields in the United States. With such success came oil field waste and land destruction. This study characterizes landscape modification and healing that has occurred in the Smackover Field since the years of peak production. Aerial photography from 1936 and1996 was used to study landscape change. The major features mapped were earthen storage pits and associated landscape scars. The pits held millions of barrels of oil and unwanted saltwater, which commonly leaked into drainage areas.

GIS software was used to evaluate pit distribution through time. Digital mapping allowed for quick comparison of surface topography and drainage plus production distribution. Two types of pit types were defined, active pits and scars. Active pits were areas that still held the basic shape of the original pit. Scars were defined as areas that were leveled out, but retained the basic shape of the original pit due to a lack of vegetation present there. A variety of comparisons can be made from two sets of photographs. The areas of the pits and scars in 1936 and 1996 were compared to determine the percent of reduction of the pits and vegetative healing that has occurred over 60 years. The distribution of scars has a direct relationship to the density of wells in the field. Areas where the well sites are denser produce more scars and pits.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90901©2001 GCAGS, Annual Meeting, Shreveport, Louisiana