--> Texas University Lands: History, Opportunities, and Geoscience Vision

Southwest Section AAPG Annual Convention

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Texas University Lands: History, Opportunities, and Geoscience Vision


University Lands have been an integral part of Texas history since they were instituted by President Lamar in the early days of the Republic. He envisioned that proceeds from the Lands would help support a university system second to none. Today that dream is realized through the Permanent University Fund that subsidizes the University of Texas (2/3) and the Texas A&M University (1/3) Systems. Initially the principal value of the Lands was seen in grazing, farming and hunting. With the discovery of oil in 1923 in the Santa Rita well however, the focus of the Lands' potential shifted to oil and gas exploration and development. From early on, activity centered on conventional structural and stratigraphic traps that exploited the multiple petroleum systems in the Permian Basin from Ellenburger through Permian aged strata. University Lands has done an excellent job administering the asset over the years. Currently there are over 2.1 million acres situated in West Texas throughout the Midland, and Delaware Basins, the Central Basin Platform, and the Orogrande Basin to the west. With the recent creation of Drilling & Development Units (DDUs), operators enjoy the opportunity to produce oil and gas on large, contiguous tracts. In this era of long lateral wells, this is an exciting and welcome innovation. In 2015 a strategic shift in the UT System's approach to managing the Lands resulted in the formation of a “development team” in Houston consisting of Geologic and Engineering expertise. Their charge is to understand the value and the potential of the Lands, working alongside the Land and Surface people who have established a legacy of great management of the asset. Over the years, 20,000 wells have been drilled on the Lands. With the onset of the shale revolution in the Permian Basin, nearly 2000 horizontal wells have been drilled. In recent years, Spraberry through Lower Wolfcamp section has been the primary focus of drilling, although state of the art drilling and completion techniques are incorporated throughout the section: conventional and unconventional alike. In all 5–6 prospective horizontal benches have been identified over much of the Midland and Delaware Basinal areas. These are challenging times. In 2015, less than 300 wells were drilled throughout the 2.1 million acres. This compares to nearly 900 wells in the previous year. There is reason for optimism in the innovation and creativity demonstrated by our operating partners in cutting costs and increasing production. Although many of the largest companies operate on University Lands, we are proud to call over 200 companies our partners. Critical to the exploitation of hydrocarbon resources on the Lands is easy access to the voluminous well and log data stored in the University Lands library. Recently a well data web portal was rolled out that allows anyone with internet access to quickly view well, log, and production data. Other commercial ventures on the Lands include a wind farm, winery, grazing, and potable ground water production. Excellent potential exists for solar energy as well.