Secret Science – Marathon Oil’s 2015 Activity In The Michigan Basin

Part 625 wells are specially designated Michigan mineral test wells that are top secret stuff.   Even though the land & minerals may be State owned by we the taxpayers, private companies like Marathon Oil based in Houston, TX can apply for a confidential 625 well and keep their activity off the grid.  That means there will be:  no mention of the well in the application or permit list we post each month at RMP, there will be no FOIA’s allowed, and you will not be able to get answers to questions about what is going on.

duke rmp mascot
Duke is the official mascot of

RMP’s mascot, Duke, has a keen nose for well pads and sometimes he stumbles across 625 wells.   Every so often when Duke gets outside, his nose will go straight up into the air.  His nostrils will twitch as his breath goes in and out.  Then he’ll take off running.   Now 9 times out of 10, you’ll come to find out he was chasing after a girl dog; Duke is no eunuch.   But that 10th time, on average, Duke winds up on a well pad.  Can’t quite explain it other than Duke has a knack for finding well pads.

So even though a 625 well might not show up on our monthly reports, it doesn’t mean they’re not out there.  And, chances are, Duke will find them.   On a winter day in 2014, Duke ran off into the woods into State of Michigan owned forest land & mineral territory in Crawford county Michigan.  The featured image on this post shows what Duke found: a stake in the ground that said “Science Well”.   This stake was in Marathon territory as Marathon has leased rights to drill for and produce our taxpayer owned minerals.  The well was clearly a 625 well as all questions about this staked well were denied answers over the course of 2015.

What didn’t make sense is why anyone would do secret well in an area that has been poked more times than the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  There’s a ton of data on every formation in that area.   Anyway, it’s a lucky thing that Duke stumbled upon the location so we could tell you about it.

The Science Well stake sat in the woods through the winter.  It sat through the spring.  It sat through the summer…until about a couple of weeks ago.  Marathon officially broke ground in Michigan for the first time in a long time.  Marathon cleared an access road, a well pad, started a part 625 well, and they rolled off the pad.  The pad came together quickly,  and is now silent.

We have been reporting about Marathon activity as they are the latest large company (~$15B to $16B annual revenue) to try their hand in the Michigan Basin since Encana.

Legal language pertaining to part 625 wells that talks about records being held in secrecy for 10 years is explained here: 324.62508 Part D.

(d) Require on all wells the keeping and filing of logs containing data that are appropriate to the purposes of this part. Logs on brine and test wells shall be held confidential for 10 years after completion and shall not be open to public inspection during that time except by written consent of the owner or operator. Logs for test wells drilled for exploratory purposes shall be held confidential until released by the owner or operator. The logs on all brine and test wells for exploratory purposes shall be opened to public inspection when the owner is no longer an active mineral producer, mineral lease holder, or owner of mineral lands in this state.

The video and all photos below of Marathon’s Part 625 Science well in this post are courtesy of Neo. Click any image to see all images in this post in a  gallery format.  Inside the gallery, click on the right hand side of a photo to advance the gallery and on the left hand side of the gallery to go back.  Click the X to close the gallery.

Marathon Oil Science Well
Marathon OIl’s pre-pad location for their part 625 Science Well. January 2015.

Marathon Oil's Science Well Michigan Basin
New road into State of Michigan owned forest area for Marathon Oil’s part 625 Science Well – August 31, 2015.

Marathon Oil's Science Well Michigan Basin
Entrance to Marathon Oil’s Science Well pad in State of Michigan owned forest area – August 31, 2015.

Marathon Oil's Science Well Michigan Basin
Well pad for the Science Well. This pad was created in August 31, 2015.

Marathon Oil's Science Well Michigan Basin
Well pad for Marathon Oil’s Science well August 31, 2015.

Stay tuned to RMP and we will keep you posted with Marathon Oil’s activity in the Michigan basin as it unfolds.

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