--> The Lima-Indiana Oil and Gas Trend: North America’s First Giant Oil Field

2019 AAPG Eastern Section Meeting:
Energy from the Heartland

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The Lima-Indiana Oil and Gas Trend: North America’s First Giant Oil Field


The Lima-Indiana oil and gas trend extends in a broad curve for 185 miles from Toledo, Ohio, southwestward to Indianapolis, Indiana. It is estimated that around 100,000 wells have been drilled in the trend since 1884. The principal reservoir rock throughout this trend is the Ordovician Trenton Limestone. Lima-Indiana was the first true giant oil and gas "field" in North America – it was developed at the same time as the famous Baku oil field of Azerbaijan. The history of its development makes a fascinating story as the world's oil and gas drilling, refinery, and transportation industries were in their infancy in the late 1800s and no “major” oil companies yet existed. The country was steadily increasing its industrial base, and inexpensive fuels and lubricants were in great demand. The economies and populations of northwestern Ohio and central-eastern Indiana, a region that was rural and agricultural up to this time, underwent a boom owing to the availability of this large reserve of oil and gas. Huge quantities of natural gas were first discovered around Findlay, Ohio in 1884; the first oil was produced near Lima, Ohio in 1885. The development of the Lima-Indiana trend came at a time when production from the early fields of Pennsylvania was declining and thus shifted the focus of the petroleum industry to northwestern Ohio. Lima-Indiana was the second major stop on the early oil trail that led from Titusville to Texas. Oil production in the trend began in the Ohio portion in 1885, rose rapidly to more than 1 million barrels in 1886, and continued to climb steeply. Production for the trend as a whole peaked in 1896 at 25 million barrels and again in 1904 at slightly less than 25 million barrels, cumulative production is thought to have exceeded 500 million barrels. Ohio was the leading oil-producing state in the nation from 1895 to 1903. All of the contemporaneous trade publications and many newspapers reported on drilling and production progress – it was big news – with individual wells coming on at rates up to 10,000 barrels per day! However, in 1901 when an East Texas Spindletop discovery well came in at 100,000 barrels per day, the media and industry focus turned that way – not to return until the Utica-Point Pleasant of today. Because much of the Lima-Indiana trend gas was piped directly from the wells into towns and factories for use, without any gauging, it's impossible to report annual or cumulative gas-production figures, but certainly well over 1 TCF was produced. No reporting requirements or agencies existed at this time making it very difficult to now report accurately the numbers of wells and production from most individual pools and fields.