By Nikki McKim
Local farmer Alvin Simon has made an interesting discovery west of Falls City: An oily substance seeping out of the banks of a creek on his farmland.
Simon, who says he has known about it for decades, has decided to act.
This spring, as Richardson County has experienced heavy rains, the oil started showing up all over the place. Bill Sydow, executive director of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, told the Lincoln Journal Star, “It’s possible there’s an oil field down there and for whatever reason it’s just leaking, or its been leaking for a long time and nobody’s ever noticed.”
Sydow admitted that heavy rains could have played a role in the appearance of oil, saying that runoff traveling toward the water table would displace any crude creeping up. There are records of dry holes near Simon’s land but no history of any drilling. Sydow said the oil isn’t a remnant of past production and are no pipelines in that specific area that could have broken.
In 1994, Simon had his land tested by Orion Geophysical Consulting of Lakewood, CO. He was told there weren’t high enough levels of petroleum to warrant further investigation. But, Orion said that didn’t mean there wasn’t a possibility of oil and gas pools in deep formations.
The same year, Interstate Land Co., of Topeka, KS advised Simon that the possibility of conducting any further testing required Simon wait until all crops are out, and the ground is frozen, as to eliminate the possibility of property and crop damage. Midwest Laboratories, Inc., of Omaha, reported that the Total Extractable Hydrocarbons were high but stated it was a “man made thing.”
Simon thought about acting on it at the time but decided to put the land in the Conservation Reserve Program instead. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a cost-share and rental payment program under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). The program is designed to remove from produced 40 to 45 million acres of highly erodible cropland. Some of the benefits include lower water-treatment costs and lower sediment removal costs.
Richardson County has a long and rich history of oil production. Nebraska’s first oil producing well was drilled west of Falls City. In December 1940, oil production from the southeast Nebraska area had amounted to about 75,000 barrels of oil for the month. In August production mounted to 199,000 barrels. It seemed as though the rate would climb in the future. Yet in September of 1941 showed a decline of 33,000 barrels under August. Producers were having difficulty in selling their crude oil.
Simon recently collected a sample of the oil to have it tested and is talking with oil companies inviting them to come take a look at his discovery. Simon told the Lincoln Journal Star “I’m going to get somebody to drill and start drilling. I’ve got some oil people interested.”