Introduction

Michigan's state motto reads "If you seek a pleasant peninsula look around you". In the Lower Peninsula that motto might well read "If you seek an abundance of oil and gas look beneath you". Michigan has an abundance of oil and natural gas located under its landscape. That abundance can be measured in many ways. One is output.

  • Since 1925 more than 50,000 oil or natural gas wells have been drilled in Michigan.
  • Wells in 64 Michigan counties have cumulatively pumped 1.248 billion barrels of oil and 6.591 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
  • In 2004 crude oil accounted for 20 percent of Michigan's principal mineral production while natural gas accounted for 29 percent, together amounting to almost half of Michigan's mineral resources.
  • Michigan's geology provides the largest natural gas storage capacity of any state, with 47 percent of the U.S population and more than half of the nation's manufacturing capacity within a 500 mile radius of Detroit.
  • The productive capacity of the Michigan natural gas industry has been estimated at 6 to 8 trillion cubic feet over the next 20 to 30 years.

Another way to measure Michigan's abundance of oil and natural gas is its economic impact.

  • In 2004 the industry provided jobs to more than 8,000 Michiganians.
  • In 2004 the industry paid 14,000 private mineral owners more than $174 million.
  • In 2004 the industry paid about $40 million in state taxes and other fees.
  • Overall the Michigan oil and natural gas industry was responsible for about $2 billion in economic activity in 2004.

Whether measured by output or economic impact, for over eighty years the Michigan oil and natural gas industry has played an important role in the state. This publication is a history of that industry with an emphasis on the people who have made the industry possible. Unlike timber or surface water, oil and natural gas lies hidden, deep underground. The resource has to be first found and then removed from the earth. This history focuses primarily on the people who do that important task and make possible an American way of life that for over a century has largely been based on the availability of fossil fuel.