“It was desolate country – sand, mesquite, bear grass and jack rabbits. Hobbs had a store, a small school, a windmill, and a couple of trees."



Hobbs, New Mexico; 1941. Photo by Lee Russell, Courtesy the Library of Congress.



The Pastime Parlor was a joint to get a ham and red onion sandwich and a beer so cold it would break your teeth. You could sit in the back, in a dark corner, in front of a fan, and give your dark brown, leather-like skin a bit of reprieve from a constant New Mexico sun that had the intensity of a fireball and floated in the sky, dawn to dusk.


At the counter of this joint there might be few ranchers talking in a low whisper about the war in Europe, or some boys on leave from the Army base laughing out loud; now and then a mangy roughneck would drop a nickel in the jukebox and play a Hank Williams tune to liven the place up a little. A few more cold beers and a fella could talk himself in to slapping some dominoes and even more cold beers. Joints were often good places to uncomplicate complex lives.


The very first of tens of thousands of commercial oil and gas wells to be drilled in the great State of New Mexico occurred near Shipwreck, in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, in the San Juan Basin, in 1924. It made 324 BOPD and was called the Hogback No. 1. Midwest Refinery Co. (Amoco) drilled ten more good wells in the Hogback Field.


In 1924 it would have taken six days to find a new fangled auto-mobile in New Mexico, then another 4 days, and nine flat tires, to drive from Shipwreck to the part of New Mexico in the Southeast that would eventually become the mighty Permian Basin. It was a long way across a lot of nothing. By horseback it would have taken two weeks and you and your pardnor would have died of thirst or been sent to heaven by a rattler; pick your poison. But the well in Shipwreck was a great motivator for New Mexico, particularly with new wells being drilled down in Texas near Crane and Wink.

Later in 1924 a well was shot with nitroglycerine and came in like a house a fire, west of Artesia in Eddy County. A few more mediocre wells were drilled out yonder, then in 1928 the big, Hobbs Field was discovered right outside Hobbs, in Lea County, with the Midwest Refinery (same folks) Terry No. 1. That well made 700 BOPD. A hand could sail a dried cow patty from Hobbs Field over into Texas on a windy day if he had a mind to.

Between Andrews, Texas and west of Carlsbad, New Mexico is so flat you could watch a fat guy run all day long before he got out of sight. It's a good thing it never rains in this country because there is no place for the water to go.


So, there were no surface anomalies or fault traces, or seeps for oil men to figure out the early Permian Basin, they followed each other around like sheep until about the mid 1930's when well logs started to pop up and two dimensional refractive seismology started getting processed; then the picture started to get clearer. So did Hobbs Oil Field. And along it, Jal, Eunice, Cooper and Empire Fields.


This was San Andreas, Grayburg and other porous, permeable stuff on the Platform; shallow, cheap and easy to find. Put a little nitro shot on it and here she came. In 1931 Humble Oil and Refining dug a well three miles north of Hobbs on the Bowers Ranch and it made 9,870 BOPD.

Hobbs Field; 1931

North of Hobbs, 1937


By 1934-1935 there were 130 wells producing over 1,000,000 BOPD in Hobbs Field. Within the field the quality of the wells varied greatly and it is noteworthy that some of the biggest producers were located well down off the top of the structure; the largest well in Hobbs was located in Sees. 29 and 30, T. 18 8., R. 38 E and it made 15,000 BOPD for something like nine years before it started its slow march to oblivion.


Here is a breakdown of well costs in Hobbs Field in 1932. Above the Grayburg pay there was a over pressured gas zone that kicked everybody's ass and required something close to 18 pound per gallon mud (at 3,900 feet!) to control. Nevertheless, even at $2 oil prices the economics on Hobbs wells were terrific.


Excavation for pit and cellar .............................................. $ 600

Concrete for piers and cellar ....................................... 500

122-foot high steel rotary derrick..................... 2,100 Derrick s i l l s , lumber and galvanized iron........... 2,000 Derrick erection ............................................................... 800

Hauling, total................................................................. 3,700

1,500-bbl. tank for fuel oil ............................................... 1,000

1,500-bbl. tank for water ................................................ 1,000

7,500-bbls. of fuel oil for drilling .......................$ 7,500

Welding around rig at $5 per hour ........................ 1,000

Drilling at $8 per foot--4,200 feet (oil and water furnished) .................................... 33,600

Day work coring.................................................... 1,000

CASING: 200 feet, 15 1/2-inch, 52-pound...............................700

3,012 feet, 9 5/8-inch, 40-pound ....................... 6,000

4,200 feet, 6 5/8-inch, 26-pound ....................... 6,720

4,200 feet, 3-inch tubing...................................... 2,000

FITTINGS: 1 control head ..........................................................280

I Manual operated blowout preventer....................1,250

2 Drilling valves, 3,000-pound capacity. ......... 665

1-9 5/8-inch casting head.........................................150

Valves for 3-inch tubing ...........................................400

Oil acd gns separator ........................................... 2,500

Line pipe for lease................................................. 1,000

Cementing casing---labor . . . $ 500; Cement, material. 1,000.................. 1,500

Mud admixture average 200 tons at $55 per ton ............................................ 11,000

Water system for drilling well............................. 800


Total........... $89,765


You can't rent four porta potties and a trash trailer for three months for $89,000 in Lea County now days.


By the early 1940's the little town of Hobbs grew up and became a bustling center of oilfield activity for the eastern part of Lea County. In May of 1941 the war in Europe was escalating and President Franklin Roosevelt hired a former Secretary of the Interior, a fella names Harold Ickes, to form the Petroleum Industry Council for National Defense. Ickes named 72 American oil company CEO's to sit on the Counsel to begin making plans for gearing up US oil production. Six months later the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Hobbs Field, and many like it, because the life blood of the Allied war effort. After Pearl Harbor many fine young men rushed to sign up, to go to war; if you were in the oil business in Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana and Oklahoma you were asked not to sign up, to do your duty to country by producing oil.



Downtown Hobbs, 1943. The Derrick Theatre is on the right.


Hobbs, New Mexico; 1941. Photo by Lee Russell, Courtesy the Library of Congress



Today Oxy operates Grayburg/San Andreas Units north and south of Hobbs, both are under CO2 EOR schemes and on their way to recovering over 1,000 MM barrels of original oil in place, at least 50-60% of that OOIP, anyway. CO2 has been injected into Hobbs Field since 1975.

Lea County New Mexico currently has more HZ rigs running in it than any other county in the entire Permian Basin tight oil play, the US for that matter. The county has severe groundwater AND produced water problems, both source water going in for frac's and produced water coming out for disposal. New Mexico is clamping down on both from a regulatory standpoint; Texas, always the great accommodator, allows groundwater to be pumped into Lea County and produced water pumped out, down into Culberson County, where 3.0 magnitude earthquakes rock the place daily. Nobody lives out there where these earthquakes, occur, save jackrabbits, and they fled that part of Texas 10 years ago for fear of getting ironed out flat by vacuum trucks.





 

Hobbs Army Air Base was actually located just a mile down the road from Hobbs Oil Field; it was over 3000 acres large in 1943 and housed some 5,000 men and women. Hobbs Air Field was a large training facility for instructing B-17 pilots and bombardiers before heading to Europe. It was also the primary training facility in the entire US for B-17 and B-29 mechanics.


Courtesy, Texas Portal of History