Mr. Williams and Gull Island Oil

I’ve seen a number of posts and websites about Gull Island, all based upon Mr. Lindsey Williams’ talks (see here, here, or here for examples) and his book, “The Energy Non-Crisis,” published in 1980.  Mr. Williams claims that there is enough oil under Gull Island just offshore of Alaska’s North Slope to fuel all of America’s oil needs for the foreseeable future.  I’ve noted in my comments to other blogs that I don’t believe Mr. Williams knows what he’s talking about.  Most posts on the subject, especially this one, are full of errors.  For the record, less than a dozen tanker loads of Alaska crude have been shipped overseas, all back in the 1990s.

Petroleum News has weighed in on the issue, and agrees with me, that Gull Island is a myth or misunderstanding that has turned into an urban legend.  From Petroleum News (full story by Alan Bailey here):

Gull Island Buzz:  200 Years of Oil from Alaska’s North Slope?

Along with a surging interest in fuel-efficient automobiles and biking to work, the legend of Alaska’s Gull Island, a speck of land four miles or so offshore the North Slope in the middle of Prudhoe Bay, seems to have an uncanny ability to appear when the United States is facing soaring oil and gasoline prices.

Back in 1981 when crude oil prices hit unimaginable highs in excess of $30 per barrel, a letter from U.S. Rep. Bob Stump of Arizona popped into the mail bag of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Anchorage, Alaska.

“I have been contacted by several constituents concerning the recent allegations of a massive oil find off the North Slope on Gull Island. Those allegations range from a business cover-up to a giant federal conspiracy to perpetuate our energy crisis,” Stump said. “I would appreciate any information that you can offer me that will aid with my correspondence with these constituents.”

Some of Stump’s constituents had presumably been reading a book called “The Energy Non-Crisis,” written by sometime Baptist missionary Lindsey Williams and published in 1980. Williams’ book included a description of the Gull Island field.

And, as oil prices started climbing in 2006, this time past $60 per barrel, Williams told a meeting of the Midwest Concerned Citizens group in Kansas City about how the fabulous Gull Island field could supply the United States with oil for 200 years. Gasoline prices could drop to just $1.50 per gallon if only the U.S. government and the oil companies were to open the spigots on the vast, undisclosed North Slope oil reserves, he said.

North Slope chaplain

Williams said that in the 1970s Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. had given him a position as chaplain for people working on the northern section of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and the camp at Prudhoe Bay. He said that Alyeska became so pleased with his success in counseling workers that they gave him executive privileges on the North Slope, thus enabling him to sit in on board meetings held by company executives.

Williams said that in 1976 he stumbled across the discovery of a vast oil field penetrated by an exploration well drilled on Gull Island by ARCO. He said that at the time of the discovery he had attended the management meeting in ARCO’s North Slope base camp, in which the “top eight oil company men of the world” had confirmed the find. But ARCO refused to make public the Gull Island discovery and the field has remained a closely guarded secret ever since, Williams said.

Williams outlined the field’s characteristics in a second edition of the “The Energy Non-Crisis.” The Gull Island field has a 1,200-foot thick pay zone and an area four times the size of the giant Prudhoe Bay field, he said. He said that three wells drilled from Gull Island had encountered the field, as did a well at East Dock. All wells drilled in an area extending 40 miles to the east of Gull Island had struck oil, thus demonstrating the huge areal extent of the field, he said.

And now, with oil prices moving through $130 per barrel, a flood of Internet chat has appeared on the subject of the supposed government and oil industry Gull Island secret — at the time of writing this article a Google search for “Gull Island” resulted in multiple pages of hits. Although some Web sites question Williams’ claims, many seem to view the claims as evidence of government manipulation of the price of oil and a cover-up of the real status of world oil reserves.

“The public needs to demand the opening of the Gull Island oil field,” appears as a call in some sites.

And Petroleum News has heard of congressional staffers in Washington, D.C., asking questions about the truth behind the Gull Island story.

One Internet site quotes an official in Alaska’s Division of Oil and Gas expressing concern that Gull Island might explode because of excessive amounts of underground oil, thus causing an environmental disaster (hint: the url for the Web site begins with the word “sirsatire”).

Three wells

So what are the facts concerning oil drilling at Gull Island?

There have been three wells drilled from the island. And, although these wells were tight at the time of the drilling, the data from the wells are now in the public record. Williams’ supposed Gull Island field discovery presumably relates to the Gull Island State No. 1 well, completed and suspended by ARCO in 1976.

In a response to Rep. Stump’s 1981 letter AOGCC Commissioner Harry Kugler set the record straight on the two Gull Island wells that had been drilled at that time (Gull Island State No. 3 wasn’t drilled until 1992). The Gull Island No. 1 well tested 1,144 barrels of oil per day in “the equivalent of the North Prudhoe Bay (Permo-Triassic) reservoir,” while the Gull Island No. 2 well tested 2,971 barrels of oil per day from the Lisburne, Kugler said.

“We do not believe the evidence from these two wells indicates a massive new oil find,” Kugler said. “Additional wells will have to be drilled and additional studies made before the economic feasibility of developing these known reservoirs is determined.”

Geologist Peter Barker didn’t sit in on senior oil company executive board meetings, but he did sit the Gull Island No. 1 well in 1976 (“sitting a well” is geologist speak for monitoring and interpreting the geologic evidence from a well while the well is being drilled). The objective of the Gull Island drilling was to test a deep structure on the north side of a geologic fault, to the north of the Prudhoe Bay field, Barker told Petroleum News July 7. The drilling proved disappointing, he said.

“There was an (oil and gas) trap there but there wasn’t an economic quantity of oil,” he said.

However, the drilling team did recover a beautiful core sample from the Ivishak formation, the main reservoir rock in the Prudhoe Bay field. Because Gull Island is closer to the inferred source of the sand that constitutes the Ivishak sandstone, the sandstone is coarser grained at Gull Island than in the Prudhoe Bay field, Barker said.

Barker said that the drilling results were extremely confidential at the time of drilling — the critical data display instrumentation was even covered, to prevent unauthorized viewing of data. “We ran it as a very tight hole,” he said. “… There was no information that got out of there.”

In fact, the electric well logs were taken off the North Slope in a very secure manner and were unlikely to have even been seen in ARCO’s North Slope camp, Barker said.

Long-time Alaska geologist David Hite also sat the well briefly and told Petroleum News that only ARCO personnel were allowed on the rig and rig floor. If necessary, one expert from the mud logging company was allowed to come in to troubleshoot the mud logging, Hite said. And Barker recalls the expert having to determine, without being allowed to see the instrumentation, why the gas detectors failed to signal gas as the well penetrated the Sag River formation, the uppermost reservoir rock at Prudhoe Bay. It turned out that mud from the well had formed a dam, blocking new mud from reaching the detectors, Barker said.

Ken Bird, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist and an expert on North Slope geology, provided Petroleum News with some geologic perspective on the Gull Island drilling.

“Three directional wells have been drilled from Gull Island in Prudhoe Bay to different subsurface targets, all of which tested different geologic ‘prospects’ in and beyond the northern boundary of the earlier discovered Prudhoe Bay oil and gas accumulation,” Bird said.

The Gull Island State No. 1 well drilled a faulted block of rock known as a horst and recovered oil from a very thin, 9-foot-thick interval at the base of the Shublik formation, Bird said. Gull Island State No. 2, completed in 1977, was deviated to the southeast to delineate the gas cap of the previously discovered Prudhoe Bay field and the underlying Lisburne oil pool, he said. The Gull Island State No. 3 well drilled in 1992 targeted a Cretaceous horizon in an area between the two older wells but proved to be a dry hole, Bird said.

Since 1980 at least four oil pools, the West Beach, Niakuk, Point McIntyre and North Prudhoe pools, as well as Prudhoe Bay satellites, have been delineated and developed in the area immediately around the Gull Island wells, Bird said. The four pools in the immediate Gull Island area are all currently in production: According to Alaska’s Division of Oil and Gas 2007 annual report, Point McIntyre had a cumulative production of 395.6 million barrels of oil at the end of 2006, with 164 million barrels of remaining reserves. The other three pools are much smaller than Point McIntyre.

“Both the geologic evidence and the small area not yet developed into oil fields around the Gull Island wells preclude the possibility of a giant oil accumulation,” Bird said.

But the Gull Island legend seems to persist. And just to cap it all, used versions of Williams’ book “The Non-Energy Crisis” have appeared on Amazon.com as collector’s items — on July 7 three copies were listed with prices ranging from $1,299 to $1,499.

Maybe there’s money to be made from Gull Island after all.

Some other posts that talk about Gull Island are here and here.

UPDATE:  Anchorage Daily News is also carrying this story.  Additional blog information here.

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14 Responses to Mr. Williams and Gull Island Oil

  1. Pingback: Energy Crisis Information » Alert - crude oil price

  2. sirsatire says:

    Hi,

    I am the “sirsatire” writer alluded to in this story.

    This publication is beholden to the oil industry in that its advertisement money is derived, directly or indirectly, from Big Oil.

    I have been writing satire about Gull Island for several weeks now. You would not believe the amount of interest in Gull Island! I get many reads per day on my Gull Island stories. I do believe Mr. Williams, but if there really is no oil there then why the secrecy reported in the article regarding the test drilling? Of course there would be no “evidence” if facts are being withheld!

    We need an honest Congressional investigation (yeah, I know — good luck with that) into the matter. Bring Mr. Williams in to testify under oath, along with the Big Oil companies. Let’s have the facts once and for all. It should be easy to establish who’s telling the truth and who is not… This isn’t rocket science.

    Tim Sharpe
    “Sir Satire’s New World Order News Service”

  3. wilco278 says:

    sirsatire – While Petroleum News is indeed an industry rag, the quoted personnel in the story are predominantly state regulators, whose job it is to maximize economic benefit of the resource to the state.
    Regarding the secrecy surrounding the test drilling, that is pretty much standard operating procedure for new exploratory wells. FWIW, the state leases stipulate that the state regulatory agencies receive copies of the well logs and core results.
    Yes, it is amazing how much interest there is in Gull Island. If only there was as much interest in gas hydrates…
    BTW, you have a great blog… very funny!

  4. Carl says:

    Ever heard a news story on Gull Island? Neither have I. Although I’ve contacted ever imaginable News outlet, Congressmen, Energy, Committees and even talk shows. The talk shows are of interest because they won’t allow you to mention or discuss Gull Island???? For those of you who still believe in the Constitution i ask that you visit my site- http://www.MarchForYourCountry.com for a more complete picture. We ARE on the verge of being taken over from within and only by standing up and being counted can we reverse this trend. Patriots, this is your time. Get off your butts and be a part of the solution.
    You’ll find sirsatire has a place on my site and yes that is funny!

  5. wilco278 says:

    It is interesting to note how, as oil prices rise, people start looking for conspiracies. As I’ve noted in comments to other blogs, George W. Bush spoke with more truth than he realized when he said that we are “addicted to oil” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060131-10.html). The current climate, including the renewed interest in Gull Island, reminds me of a heroin addict who can’t afford his habit. We make excuses, blame somebody else, invent conspiracies, commit crimes, anything to keep the cheap fix.
    Sorry Carl, but Gull Island has more in common with the National Enquirer than the national congress.

  6. jimbo says:

    I haven’t read Mr. Williams book. Only a bunch of blogs commenting on the story, and I heard him talk on a radio show once.

    Your technical details of the wells drilled sound convincing. Presumably you can vouch for where you got your data. I guess you can vouch for Mr Barker as well. If “the powers that be” really were trying to hide such a find I would think they would make the extra effort of fudging the data. (Hey a lot of our financial institutions do it!). However, Mr. Barkers account sounds convincing.

    On the radio show Mr. Williams sounded like an honest man, and if I had to put down money I would believe him. However, your blog sounds very accurate as well.

    So I would propose this… could it be that Mr. Williams, and that executive board he was sitting at truly believed that the find was enormous? However their discussions were premature, and not based on the analysis of the geo experts, and solely based on the “operators” take.

    So I guess it would have been a little embarassing for those execs after they got the real results, and maybe lindsay was gone by that point.

    Anyways, very strange. Has lindsay been preaching this story from the get go? Or has this come about recently.

    I must say he is very convincing. But you never know.

  7. wilco278 says:

    jimbo – I suspect that your proposition (that Mr. Williams sat in on preliminary results that weren’t verified) is probably close to the truth.
    I’ve watched a few of Mr. Williams’ videos and have read the relevant chapters of his book online (I didn’t read the entire book), and I agree, he sounds (and writes) like he truly believes what he is saying. I think that Mr. Williams believes he saying the truth. But the technical aspects that he talks about don’t ring true to me. He’s not a geologist or a reservoir engineer, and his use of terms and explanations of processes show that he doesn’t have a good technical grasp of petroleum geology. I suspect to some extent that he didn’t understand what he was hearing. If they were discussing preliminary results, as you propose, that would only compound the confusion. It’s kind of like the telephone game we used to play as kids at parties.
    As far as I can tell, Mr. Williams has been preaching his story since the early 1980s. It’s only been recently, with the release of his videos and book online and the current talk of oil shortages and high oil prices, that his story has gotten a lot of traction.
    My theory is that what he says resonates with us now because of the current political/energy situation. We, as a culture, “made” Mr. Williams’ story as much as Mr. Williams did. Which I believe is a sad commentary on our culture. I wrote a rather acerbic post a couple days ago on that subject.

  8. Joseph A. says:

    Anyone can contribute to the doubt or verification of William’s statements indicated in his book.

    We have seen our past and present congressional leaders and presidential administrations pass legislation which permit the codification of secret agreements with whomever, friend, foe, or competitor they enter into in the name of our country. Because of these past deeds, we now find ourselves to be struggling as tenants living in our own country, while paying a mortgage debt to those who sell us oil while our own oil lies untapped in American soil. At this same time, we learn that anyone, friend or competitor, in the world who wishes to drill off our shores, can come here and drill for oil off our shores as they please, except for Americans of course, because if they drill they are reprimanded, go to jail, or perhaps worse.

    It is difficult to point a treasonous finger at the past congressional leaders and administrators because we assume that they perform to the best of their ability, limited though it may be. One could imagine that if the effect of the laws they put in place were grounds for treason, many today would be incarcerated, as their performance certainly could not be successfully defended by their claiming that they were looking after America’s best interest. That would be a distasteful joke!

    One can not know for certain when anyone is telling the truth or simply lying for self interests. In Mr. William’s case it is difficult to impute a motive for lying, he speaks modestly, appears modest; I must believe him when he claims publicly that he has never received a paycheck during the time of his experiencing the events he writes about, from any source other then the ministry for which he was working.

    In light of his recognition that his credentials are inappropriate for the disclosure of such technical information coupled with the fact that he sought more expert help in disclosing the information, makes it equally difficult to ascribe technical ignorance in formulating his disclosures; particularly when the information he discloses appears to be corroborated by none other then the very man in charge of the operation long after all the well test verification was evaluated and the findings established. If what Mr. Williams and the executive who corroborated what he says are true, I am not surprised to find an army of oil industry and bureaucratic types rushing to disclaim the information and attempting to discredit Williams as a fraud. After all, if the event can no longer be concealed, the next best strategy is to diminish the belief that it exists as represented by Williams.

    We as Americans, those of us who have been raised to focus on the qualities of others, find it difficult to believe that good people do evil deeds, but they do through deception, through ignorance, through misguided “good intentions”, and a countless number of other commendable and not so commendable motivations; however, if you put Mr. Williams testimony into any prospective you choose, his scenario of what happened, if true as he tells it, appears to be the only cogent explanation of historical events which can possibly explains the persistent appearance of “anti American interests legislation” which continues to flow from congress and the administration mindlessly creating today’s inflation inducing energy policies.

    I can see no profit for Mr. Williams in publicly disclosing his testimony, other than that he feels it his duty to do so. Through the surreptitious economic manipulations of cartels and our Government, our freedom appears to be in danger of ending soon, and this is not the first story we have heard of economic manipulation by the Government and Industry and I am sure it will not be the last. If more people like Mr. Williams, come forward and bring into the light of day any such events that endanger freedom and are willing to suffer the ridicules, doubts, and insults of the too many anesthetized and complacent fellow Americans, there will be hope that America’s freedom will survive!

    Joseph A
    God Bless America

  9. jimbo says:

    Joseph,

    I believe in Mr. Williams integrity. So that is why I am proposing that at that time Williams and those executives believed it to, and they probably still do to this day.

    However, given the technical data that wilco provided on the “drills” that were tapped, and based on what an expert on site had to say about it, we can’t just shrug that off either.

    Now I’m thinking maybe based on today’s consumption rate the resources sitting up there, aren’t as big as they use to be.

    I just saw this article via YaHOO news:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080724/ts_afp/uscanadaarcticoilgasenergyenvironment_080724082723;_ylt=AiD96a8ylXPYZmRgt16MuJaFOrgF

    Quoting:

    “The top of the world, shared by half a dozen countries including the US, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Norway and Greenland, holds an estimated 90 billion barrels of crude, 1,670 trillion cubic feet of gas and 44 million barrels of natural gas liquids, the USGS said in a report”

    So I’m horrible at math (and spelling) so I am not sure if that coborrates with what wilco posted in terms of barrels/day from these wells. I am also not sure if Gull Island falls under the survey taken. I’m guessing Gull is within the arctic circle. But maybe the USGS bypassed it. But if they didn’t it should cast a shadow of doubt on Mr. Williams original understanding many years ago.

    Again, numbers may be “fudged” to distort the truth. But it is also true that executives are pretty good a jumping to premature conclusions.

    Could Lindsey’s Numbers be outdated, and the operators, geo experts at the time had a best guess that was off?

    Again, I believe in Mr. Williams, he strikes me as being up front and honest.

    Please note, I haven’t seen his video or read his book. Only heard him on the radio once.

  10. wilco278 says:

    Hi jimbo- Yes, Gull Island is within the Arctic Circle, although I doubt that it was included in the estimate from the USGS. The Arctic is considered one of the up-and-coming areas for oil exploration, especially since the sea ice is retreating. I’ve blogged about it before, (here) and (here). Every new estimate that I’ve seen, however, seems to reduce the oil potential and lean more towards the Arctic being a natural gas area. The geochemistry that determines whether you get gas, oil, or coal all depends upon pressure, temperature, and time, and it appears that much of the Arctic historical geology had the wrong pressure/temperature regime to produce an oil majority.
    Having said that, 90 billion barrels of oil is a lot, equivalent to roughly 300 years of Alaska North Slope average daily production. Which is why Russia, Canada, and Denmark (Greenland) are all scrambling for a piece of the pie. The U.S. will be left out because the Senate failed to ratify the U.N. Law of the Sea protocols covering offshore territorial claims. Thank Sen. Tauzin of Louisiana for that.

  11. matt says:

    I know this is just someone who told someone who told someone….but whatever, here goes….

    I told my father about this story after listening to Mr. Williams a few years ago. My father laughed and said yeah I know about that…..not from Williams, but from someone he knew years ago who worked on those pipe lines. The guy told him there is so much more oil up there, they found it and they are sitting on it….

  12. We don’t know, is all that can be assumed in this discussion. We know people can be mistaken, we know people lie, we KNOW government and corperations lie. Who benifits is always a sure indicater, but, in this case, both the government and Mr. Linsey are suspect.

  13. Kenguru says:

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2005/1389/

    [Blog editor's note: The link is to a USGS poster presented at an oil and gas conference, describing one of the "stranded gas" fields on the North Slope, this one being to the south of Prudhoe Bay, in the foothills of the Brooks Range. There are very significant amounts of natural gas on the North Slope, but so far they have not been economically utilized, except for some small-scale production to fuel North Slope facilities and Nuiqsut. The saga of the stranded gas, and attempts to get it to market, could be/has been the subject of many books.
    But to clarify, Gull Island lies to the north of Prudhoe Bay, offshore.]

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