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The Promise of the 21st Century

The new century finds the Michigan oil and gas industry in some ways where it was during the 1940s and early 1950s; finding marketable quantities of oil and particularly natural gas but lacking any major new discoveries. But if the past is any guide, the future may well be one of promise. Over 50,000 holes have been drilled in Michigan to date in the search for oil and gas, and of those known; the result has been 14,744 oil wells, 11,518 natural gas wells and 20,961 dry holes. From less than two percent of Michigan land area, 1.240 billion barrels of crude oil and 6.358 trillion cubic feet of natural gas have been produced from 64 Michigan Lower Peninsula counties. The belief prevails among some that the elephants (big oil & natural gas fields) have all been found and there is nothing left but small discoveries and secondary, tertiary and quaternary recovery production. This belief flies in the face of the lessons of Michigan petroleum history which has followed a boom-bust cycle for nearly eight decades. As Michigan petroleum geologist Michael Barratt has said, "There is at least as much oil and gas to be found and produced in Michigan as we have already found."

There is reason to believe that bountiful oil and natural gas resources remain to be discovered in Michigan and the people who look for and find those resources continue to do so. They also continue to be a close-knit fraternity, linked through professional journals such as the Michigan Oil & Gas News and trade groups such as the Michigan Oil And Gas Association. But the fraternity is more than simply a matter of knowledge and professional courtesy. Over the years the personal relationships between those in the industry have grown. It is, in addition to everything else, a group of friends, sometimes friendly rivals, but often good friends.

Once a year, the third Thursday of June, that friendship is celebrated in Mt. Pleasant. For a day the town becomes again the epicenter of the Michigan oil and gas exploration and production industry universe as oilfolk with Michigan roots from around the state, the nation, and sometimes the world, gather for the Annual Michigan Oil And Gas Association Picnic/Reunion, a tradition that now spans more than 70 years.

Since 1933, every year but two (1943 and 1945 during World War II), oilfolk from points nationwide have held the date of the "Oil Picnic" sacred as a day for warm handshakes, fond memories, and greeting friends old and new in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. It's a day which weather can not dampen, a day for golf togs instead of neckties, a day when the only total depth fretted over is the few inches directly below the hole-flag and the only off set to be concerned with is that from the tee to the flag.

Originally what was to become the picnic was a formal banquet. The mid-year meeting of the Michigan Oil And Gas Association, from 1934 until 1939, was for directors only, held in Mt. Pleasant. But in 1939, then MOGA President Harold McClure, Senior, held a summer picnic in lieu of the banquet and declared the event open to "the oil fraternity as a whole", with all oilmen (MOGA members or not) invited. Mt. Pleasant and the Mt. Pleasant Country Club became the official home of the Annual MOGA Picnic/Reunion in 1946. Since then, regardless of where the current field action or "boom" is, oilfolk have known that on picnic day it was time to come to Mt. Pleasant.