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Joint Meeting Pacific Section, AAPG & Cordilleran Section GSA April 29–May 1, 2005, San José, California

Use of the Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses in the Discovery and Development of Natural Dry Gas Fields, Sacramento Valley, CA

Robert G. Lindblom1 and Richard G. Blake2
1 Petroleum Consultant, 20 Stowe Ln, Menlo Park, CA 94025-6330, [email protected]
2 Environmental Restoration Division, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, P.O. Box 808, L-530, Livermore, CA 94550

The propitious statement "oil is first found, in the final analysis, in the minds of men" was made by Wallace C. Pratt, renown geologist and oil finder, at the regional meeting of AAPG in Austin, TX in October 1951. If this statement is true, then Thomas C. Chamberlin's classic and benchmark paper entitled "The Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses", published in the Journal of Geology in 1897, has application and use today in the discovery and development of oil and gas fields.

The re-development of two gas fields in the Sacramento Valley, Grimes and Denverton Creek, began years after their discovery and relates to the principles set forth in Chamberlin's paper when applied to new and advanced geophysical and geological techniques and methods in field recovery.

The Sacramento Valley was established as a natural dry gas producing basin in 1933 with the discovery of the Sutter Buttes field located west of the town of Marysville in Sutter County. To date the Valley has produced 9.6 trillion cubic feet of gas (CFG)and current production totals 190 million cubic feet of gas per day (CFGD) from 1000 wells in approximately 86 fields. Gas is produced from sands ranging in geologic age from upper Cretaceous to Recent, however, the primary producing sands are of Eocene, Paleocene and upper Cretaceous age. Gas entrampment is caused by a variety of stratigraphic, structural and erosional features.

The Grimes field is located in Sutter and Colusa Counties and was discovered in 1960. The field has produced 650 billion CFG and is the third largest dry gas field in the state. Current field production is 10.4 million CFGD from 103 wells. The Denverton Creek field is located in Solano County and was discovered in 1966. The field has produced 39.6 billion CFG and currently produces 1.3 million CFGD from 8 wells.

Even today, the successful and economic recovery of gas reserves in both fields is ongoing and these efforts echo the validity of the words of Pratt and Chamberlin.

Posted with permission of The Geological Society of America; abstract also online ( © Copyright 2005 The Geological Society of America (GSA).