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Astrodome; 1921

Six miles south of downtown Houston, a little elevation bump with five feet of structural relief on an otherwise flat, coastal plain was observed and mapped with plane tables. Near it were stinky gas and tar like substances percolating out of a local bayou. Some shallow wells were drilled on the hump as early as 1909 and they found small accumulations of natural gas; deeper wells found salt. Gulf Oil moved off to the SW and discovered 3,000 BOPD from a Miocene sand at 3,500 feet. Subsequent wells found salt and productive sands had steep dip rates into the salt wall where oil was trapped.

After the Gulf well the flanks of the surface anomaly were covered up with rigs making some really big wells. The field was named, Pierce Junction, after the nearby community and because of its proximity to local creeks and bayous that all came together at one spot.

Pierce Junction Field, also called the Kaiser dome, above. The Texas Company slid in to the fray and leased the east flank of the surface feature, bought some leases from Gulf and most of the photographs below are of Texas Company wells in Pierce Junction Field, courtesy the Sloan Gallery in Houston.

Over the ensuing 25 years, deeper Oligocene pays were found to the north and northwest and production from Pierce Junction soared. As late as 1948, Frio and Vicksburg wells were drilled in the field as far north as where Loop 610 is located now.

By the 1960's approximately 104 MM barrels of oil had been produced from Pierce Junction and as Houston grew, marginal wells in the field began to get plugged and abandoned to make room for subdivisions and industrial complexes.

In 1962 the Houston Astrodome started construction just north of Pierce Junction, inside Loop 610, and numerous old plugged Vicksburg wells lie under the dome and adjoining parking lot. When the dome became obsolete for some odd reason in the mid 70's, an even larger stadium for both baseball and football was built next door to the Astrodome, once called Reliant and now called NRG Stadium.

In the early 1990's short radius HZ laterals in mostly Vicksburg sands were drilled from empty lots and undeveloped land south of Kaiser dome, north and northwest into the salt face. There are still several wells producing in Pierce Junction Field, most of them are now operated by Morgan Enterprises, Inc.

A company called Fairway Enterprises leased most of salt dome itself for potential salt leaching and subsequent oil storage. Numerous wells were drilled on the dome itself (see TRRC map, above). Fairway went belly up and the idea has changed hands several times. I do not know if there is currently any oil being stored in Pierce Junction Field or not.

A Fairway Energy Partners well being drilled in 2005 on Kaiser Dome itself. In the distance, straight behind the derrick itself, looking due north, is the Astrodome and NRG Stadium and off in the far distance to the Northeast is the skyline of downtown Houston.

Thru 3-D imaging we can see, right, what Kaiser Dome and Pierce Junction Field might look like and this will help you envision how salt extrudes upward from basement rock and drags with it sediments, in for instance, the thick Frio Formation. This happens at some point in geological time, then later in time hydrocarbons will migrate from source beds along various Frio sands and become trapped against the salt wall. Wells are drilled around the dome looking for sediments containing oil and gas; often salt dome, or salt piercement wells will have multiple, stacked pays in them.

This image also shows how a well can be drilled into the actual salt and leached to form a cavern for storage. Most of America's oil storage facilities located along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts would look something like this.

This is a very cool contour map of South Houston showing the level of surface subsidence from 1906 to about 1973. Several billion barrels of oil and gazillions of barrels of produced water have been extracted from salt domes in this immediate vicinity, including Pierce Junction Field, and rendered many growth faults in the area very active and unstable. This instability, and massive volumes of fluid withdrawal, caused an area around Green Bayou Gas Field (Galveston Freeway) to collapse almost 9-12 inches. Fortunately most of this subsidence and fault movement stopped in the 1970's.


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