Wolverine's 17-1 Kings Meadow Ranch discovery well, while providing good news for the company and the industry in general, is shaping up as being a real good development for the state of Utah, too.
Members of the Utah Geological Survey already have experienced the excitement -- and spotlight -- that comes with a major discovery.
And, because of it, they are very busy.
"We have collected oil samples (confidential until September) from the well and will do a source rock evaluation in order to determine oil migration pathways and sources," said AAPG member Tom Chidsey, petroleum section chief with the Utah Survey.
"We also plan on doing an outcrop analog study of the Navajo Sandstone (the producing reservoir at the Covenant Field) in the San Rafael Swell to determine the 3-D reservoir properties, depositional environments, etc.," he said.
And, importantly for the state, Chidsey and Survey members, along with the regulatory Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, recently began meeting with the Sevier County commissioners to review the play and its potential economic impact on the county.
Recent lease rates of federal and state lands in the area range from $10 to $1,200 an acre.
"The Covenant discovery is a potentially huge economic boom to Sevier and surrounding counties, and the state of Utah," Chidsey said. "If the oil reserve estimates of the area become a reality, Utah will make a significant contribution in reducing the nation's dependency on foreign oil."
The last major oil find in Utah before the 17-1 Kings Meadow discovery was the 1975 Pineview Field, east of Coalville in northern Utah. Pineview has produced over 31 million barrels of oil and is still pumping about 15,000 barrels a month, Chidsey said.
Wolverine's Covenant discovery is reportedly flowing nearly 900 barrels a day, and already has tallied over 130,000 barrels since May.
The company believes there may be 25 additional geologic structures in central Utah that could contain oil reserves comparable to the Pineview or Anschutz Ranch East field in the Utah-Wyoming region of the thrust belt.
Oil companies have been exploring central Utah for over 50 years with little or no success until now, Chidsey said, mainly because of "the extremely complex geology.
"The outcrops at the well and along the east side of Sevier Valley, especially near the mouth of Salina Canyon (a favorite geologic field trip stop), are typically highly contorted and faulted," Chidsey said. "As a result, what you see at the surface does not necessarily reflect what exists 7,000 feet below.
"The real trick is to identify deep drilling targets using state-of-the-art seismic data, three-dimensional models, well information, high-quality surface geologic maps, geochemical analyses and other techniques."
In other words, the industry is about to descend on a new, and for many, wholly unexpected frontier.
"The Covenant discovery demonstrates central Utah has all the 'right stuff,'" Chidsey said, "large anticlines, source rock, reservoir rock, sealing rock and good timing."
"Industry interest in the area is extremely high," Chidsey noted. "The anticlines must have had good timing."