Florida Appeals Court: “Everglades open for oil drilling”… Drill, baby, drill!

Guest cheer-leading by David Middleton

Everglades open for oil drilling after court ruling

A Tallahassee appeals court reversed a decision by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday, ultimately granting Kanter Real Estate the authority to drill.

By Samantha J. Gross Feb. 5

TALLAHASSEE — After nearly four years of legal battles, a Miami family that made its fortune in real estate will now be able to drill an exploratory oil well in the Everglades, just west of the Broward County suburbs.

A Tallahassee appeals court reversed a decision by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday, ultimately granting Kanter Real Estate the authority to drill.

The land Kanter Real Estate President John Kanter is interested in drilling is on a 20 mile-wide, 150-mile-long stretch of shale between Miami and Fort Myers dubbed the Sunniland Trend. The western part of that stretch has been tapped into by a Texas oil company, but the Kanter family argues that they have found the potential for oil on the eastern part.


Tampa Bay Times

The Sunniland Trend

Many people would probably be surprised to know that a fairly active, long-established oil play is present in Southwest Florida…

SWFL is Oil Country

Legislature looks to expand inshore drilling

| December 15, 2011

Special to Florida Weekly

THERE’S OIL IN THEM THAR’ HILLS. OK, maybe a slight exaggeration; Southwest Florida is, after all, flat.

But just 30 miles inland from Naples, Fort Myers and area beaches threatened by last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, a dozen oil wells churn out nearly 2,800 barrels daily — much as they have for nearly 70 years. Owned by Collier Resources and operated by Californiabased BreitBurn Energy Partners, the Sunniland Trend, an oil reserve extending from Fort Myers to Miami, has produced more than 120 million barrels since oil was first discovered 12 miles south of Immokalee in 1943, says Tom Jones, senior vice president of Collier Resources, a minerals management company jointly owned by the Barron Collier Companies and Collier Enterprises.

Today, as state lawmakers continue to debate the pros and cons of offshore oil drilling along Florida’s coast and ponder a bill introduced last week that seeks to rejuvenate wells drilled before 1981, fields in Lee, Hendry and Collier — from Lehigh Acres to the Big Cypress National Preserve — continue to produce nearly half of Florida’s oil. Jay, a small town in the Panhandle, is the only other inland oil-producing region in the state. Combined, these wells have produced 600 million barrels without incident or environmental impact.

Wait: Oil production in Florida? For many Florida residents the introduction of House Bill 87 by Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, was an eye-opener, to say the least. The bill advocates the re-exploration of abandoned inland oil wells — a move that could ante up the state’s oilproducing cache while creating jobs and tax revenue. Sure, proposals that would permit off-shore drilling continue to loom over the state and on the minds of many residents and tourists, but on-shore oil production is part of Florida’s history, too, and it happened right in Collier County.

A century of drilling

Although oil production in Florida has never reached the scale of Texas or the Middle East, exploration traces its history back to the turn of last century, when wildcatters were lured here by Indian folklore and dreams of striking it rich. The search for Florida’s black gold centered on the Panhandle and the 1.3 million acres owned by Barron Gift Collier, who was convinced his land would fuel America’s growing demand for oil. Early oil exploration proved fruitless until Sept. 26, 1943, when after decades of failed attempts and dozens of dry holes throughout the Panhandle and Southwest Florida, the Humble Oil & Refining Co. struck pay dirt at Sunniland just south of Immokalee. Humble, which later became Exxon, spent $1 million and reached a depth of 11,626 feet before tapping into the reserve. Sunniland No. 1 became Florida’s first producing oil well.


Charlotte Florida Weekly

Oil & Gas Journal

More than 120 million barrels of oil have been produced from the Sunniland Trend since 1943…


Many don’t realize the long and storied history that oil exploration and development has in Florida. But, in fact, oil exploration and production has been ongoing in Southwest Florida since it was first discovered on Collier minerals in 1943. It was discovered by Humble Oil and Refining Company after Florida’s Governor and Cabinet offered a $50,000 prize for whoever could be the first to find oil in Florida.

Since 1943, when crude oil production commenced, more than 120 million barrels of oil, nearly all from the Upper Sunniland formation, have been produced from eight commercial oil fields across the Sunniland Trend, a well-defined, onshore oil reserve that stretches from Fort Myers to Miami.

A large part of the Sunniland Trend is located within the Big Cypress National Preserve. Created in 1974, the Big Cypress National Preserve was established as the first preserve in United States, in part, for the purpose of maintaining certain existing rights – one of which was oil and gas exploration and development.

In order to establish the preserve, the Collier family conveyed 76,790 acres to the National Park Service but maintained private ownership of the mineral rights. In addition, in 1996, the Collier family conveyed an additional 83,000 acres to the National Park Service for the expansion of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Today, nearly 2,800 barrels of oil per day continue to be produced in the Sunniland Trend. The focus of Collier Resources Company today is on the exploration of their minerals and potential future resource development.

Collier Resources Company

The production has largely been from Cretaceous limestone formations…

The Sunniland Oil Trend, largely located in the Big Cypress National Preserve, is a well-defined, onshore oil reserve stretching from Fort Myers to Miami. Oil was first discovered in the Sunniland Trend in 1943 by the Humble Oil and Refining Company. Since then, eight commercial oil fields have produced more than 120 million barrels of oil at some of the highest onshore per-well flow rates in the country.

Wells in the Sunniland Trend produce oil from limestone formations located more than two miles below the surface and contain very low amounts of natural gas, meaning they must be pumped in order to bring the oil to the surface.

The variety of oil produced in the Sunniland Trend, when refined, produces auto and aviation fuels, diesel fuel, lube oils and asphalt.

Collier Resources Company

Sunniland Trend Stratigraphy. Collier Resources Company.

Horizontal drilling has rejuvenated this old oil play…

Florida Sunniland Trend well wows BreitBurn

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, June 8 – BreitBurn Energy Partners LP, Los Angeles, said a horizontal development well it completed in early May in Florida’s onshore Sunniland Trend is making 1,200 b/d of oil, more than double the rate the company used in predrill economics.

The CL&CC 27-5AH, in Raccoon Point field, Collier County, also makes 1,500 b/d of water from the Cretaceous Sunniland C formation (see map, OGJ, Mar. 8, 2010, p. 32). The well has more than 1,500 ft of pay in the horizontal section at 11,407 ft true vertical depth.

The well has been on production 4 weeks, and reservoir pressure is such that oil cannot reach the surface without continuous operation of the electric submersible pump.

BreitBurn is drilling a second horizontal well in the field and expects results in July.

The Sunniland Trend has been producing oil since the first discovery well was drilled in the early 1940s. BreitBurn’s total production from the trend is 2,850 b/d. The company is operator with 100% working interest and 83.6% net revenue interest.

Oil & Gas Journal


Access to this play has been an ongoing legal battle against environmental terrorists activists, who even idiotically opposed the acquisition of a 3d seismic survey…

Oil exploration in Big Cypress wins approval

May 6, 2016

A Texas company won approval Friday to explore for oil at Big Cypress National Preserve, after the National Park Service concluded the work would have no significant environmental impact.

Environmentalists immediately denounced the decision, saying it will cause lasting damage to some of the last extensive wildlife habitat left in South Florida.

Burnett Oil Co. has requested permission to use special off-road vehicles to pound the ground with seven-inch-thick steel plates, creating vibrations to reveal the presence of the geological structures that could contain oil. The work would take place across 70,000 acres straddling Alligator Alley about 10 miles west of the Broward County line, a region of cypress and pine forest, swamps and wet prairies that’s home to Florida panthers, black bears and much more wildlife.

“Scientists with the National Park Service evaluated the potential effects of the survey on the preserve,” said a statement from the preserve released Friday. “After extensive agency and tribal consultation and analysis of public comments, the agency found that the proposed seismic survey would pose no significant environmental impacts.”


Sun Sentinel

The play extends offshore


The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that the Sunniland/South Florida Basin have an undiscovered technically recoverable resource potential of 250 million barrels.  This represents less than 10% of the estimated 3.6 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico panning area.

It is currently off limits to oil & gas exploration…

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Geoff Sherrington
February 8, 2019 4:18 pm

The matter of access to land to explore and develop natural underground resources is of high national importance. However, there are few people who have adequate grasp of the fundamental principles, so citizens and politicians usually have confused ideas about the impacts of decisions. It follows that they can be easily led by strident muck-rakers.
Few people adequately understand the high, new, national wealth that can be created from underground resource developments and few people understand the really small impact of these developments on the surroundings. There is scarcely a more rewarding land use, temporary as it is, than resource extraction and use. Acre for acre, it is streets ahead of farming and values like national parks are not even on the comparative benefit radar.
Well done, Tallahassee Court. Geoff.

Bruce Hall
February 8, 2019 4:32 pm

This has to be carefully watched. I’m all for maximum development of our natural resources, but the Everglades is more than just a swamp. Any oil exploration and production done there will be a potential disaster for the oil industry if there is damage to the Everglades.

I’d rather see an expansion into less fragile environments.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
February 9, 2019 11:33 am

Obviously there’s no going back to the original state of the Everglades, but you do realize that the ACOE has been working for decades trying to undo much of the devastation they’ve done?

J Mac
February 8, 2019 5:03 pm

Another modest but significant ‘win’ for science driven resource management.
Drill Baby, Drill!

Joel O’Bryan
February 8, 2019 5:09 pm

One day in the distant future, an energy-starved human population will dig up, drill, and burn every last kilogram, barrel, and CubicFoot of hydrocarbon they can get their hands on…
unless nuclear power is allowed to continue its commercial development to large scale deployment around the world.
That reality of that is as predictable and inevitable as the sun coming up everyday in the east.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
February 9, 2019 1:05 am

You are so right in this – we need to spend money where we know it will provide real energy alternatives to the day when oil becomes uneconomic to recover in the quantities required to preserve modern life. Fortunately we are still some distance off and it is reassuring that we still have new drilling technologies and new reserves to push that day far into the future.
Nuclear power utilises a proven technology which can and does provide virtually all the power a modern nation needs (France until green rabies took hold) and the energy “density” of nuclear fuel makes everything else pale into insignificance by comparison.
In the meantime, we choose to impoverish our societies and harm millions because of the eco-drivel of a people hating minority filled with an inappropriate belief in their scientific and moral authority.
Madness indeed.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
February 9, 2019 4:00 am

I’ve often wondered why oil companies weren’t more involved in the development of nuclear energy. Gas for electrical generation is cheaper than nuclear. Oil is needed for transportation and the chemical industry (along with gas). And peak petrochemicals will occur eventually. Why not divert a small fraction of profits to an alternative energy source like nuclear that has the potential to be around for hundreds or thousands of years? Seems like s good strategy to diversify energy streams.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  David Middleton
February 9, 2019 8:14 am

That attitude is what got the various railroads into trouble. They thought they were in the railroad business, not the move things from Point A to Point B business. In business, as in other aspects of life, adapt or die. Exxon-Mobil et al need to understand they are in the energy business, not the oil and gas business.

Reply to  David Middleton
February 9, 2019 12:00 pm

Oil companies are not energy companies.
They own no power plants.

Any company that loses focus on their primary business, will soon go out of business.

There is no overlap between drilling for gas and oil, and running a fossil fuel power plant.
There is even less overlap if the power plant is nuclear.

John MacDonald
Reply to  David Middleton
February 11, 2019 12:15 am

Most oil and gas companies, especially those that own refineries, are in the electric power generation business. They run gas turbines as cogen units and run steam boiler plants to produce process heat and motive power for pumps and generators. They run these plants themselves, using in-house engineering and maintenance crews. The same can be said for upstream oil and gas facilities, where power plants can range from a few MW to many hundreds of MW. Some of the power is often sold to the grid when not needed for plant use. There is always a studious focus on the utilities systems that power refineries, because even very small hiccups in power delivery (as short as a few cycles) can bring down units or the whole refinery. Indeed, that is a major reason refineries run their own turbines plants, because electric utilities cannot usually be depended upon to provide this quality of power.

william kotcher
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
February 9, 2019 4:39 pm

but? oil is not used to produce electricity? So, you state we should not develop more oil resources, hence not use more oil? So who, should go without? Under your plan, who should be deprived of oil? We certainly are not going to drill and produce oil to let it set on the shelf, hence that oil is needed. So which industry, which population, which nation, should go without oil?

February 8, 2019 5:22 pm

I live in Broward, I’m guessing the first thing they’ll find out there is about 100,000 missing absentee ballots with big D’s on them and call everyone back in for a recount.

February 8, 2019 5:42 pm

David, you need a visual aid…..this is the well in Big Cypress


Barry Cullen
Reply to  Latitude
February 9, 2019 10:01 am

Looks like the road covers much more area than the drilling pad.

Reply to  Latitude
February 9, 2019 6:51 pm

2 1/2 acre drill pad? Many local ordinances require 5 acres to build a house.

Joel O'Bryan
February 8, 2019 5:50 pm

What is amazing is that Spindletop in Beaumont, came in on January 10, 1901, at a depth of 1,139 ft (347 m), and usher in the oil era for the Gulf. The Lucas Geyser as it was called blew oil over 150 feet (50 m) in the air at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day. Spindletop was the first oilfield found on the US Gulf Coast. Today, the wellhead site is in the middle of swampland on private land and is not accessible.

Nature is resilient. Climate whiners… not so much, and easily forgotten by history.

michael hart
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 8, 2019 6:19 pm

And it was events like this that helped accelerate the developing economic superiority of the United States. Bountiful cheap energy propelled the nation beyond that of the European powers, to the lasting benefit of the whole world. Today’s ‘environmentalists’ not only don’t understand this, they also want to reverse it.

Steve R.
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 9, 2019 8:27 am

@ Joel,
What part is amazing? Not being a jerk…I just want to share in the amazement with you.

Walter Sobchak
February 8, 2019 6:59 pm

Drill, Baby, drill.

February 8, 2019 7:12 pm

Did a lot of work in Hendry, Collier and Everglades in eighties for Exxon. The no seeums were hell at night.

February 8, 2019 7:13 pm

No good deed goes unpunished. I find it amazing that this was tied up so long in the courts when mineral rights and land ownership was so straightforward. I guess the presiding judge thought so, too. (Bold mine)

The search for Florida’s black gold centered on the Panhandle and the 1.3 million acres owned by Barron Gift Collier, who was convinced his land would fuel America’s growing demand for oil.

A large part of the Sunniland Trend is located within the Big Cypress National Preserve. Created in 1974, the Big Cypress National Preserve was established as the first preserve in United States, in part, for the purpose of maintaining certain existing rights – one of which was oil and gas exploration and development.

In order to establish the preserve, the Collier family conveyed 76,790 acres to the National Park Service but maintained private ownership of the mineral rights. In addition, in 1996, the Collier family conveyed an additional 83,000 acres to the National Park Service for the expansion of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Collier owned swampland that had value if there was oil to be had. Otherwise, a nature preserve was a fine use for it. I don’t think there were hot prospects for lucrative condo developments for the land. So the deal was, the NPS gets the land and Collier or his agents get to drill for oil on the (swamp)land. That was remarkably generous. “You get all this land. I get to drill some holes looking for oil.” Sounds fair and square and legal and I’m sure all the i’s were dotted, t’s crossed and stamps and seals put in the right places when the deal was struck.

It sucks that such generosity is repaid with a protracted legal tussle just to get what was agreed upon in the first place. The Colliers could have just kept the land and the rights and drilled without all the legal hassle.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  H.R.
February 9, 2019 12:31 am

Sounds fair and square and legal and I’m sure all the i’s were dotted, t’s crossed and stamps and seals put in the right places when the deal was struck.

There should have been a clause stating that if there is ever a question of our right to drill then the entire area reverts to the family — properly done, of course, with legal language.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Thanks David M. for the history lesson.

Tom Halla
February 8, 2019 7:15 pm

Nice bit of history on oil production in Florida.

February 8, 2019 7:16 pm

As a Floridian I support drilling.

Phil Rae
February 8, 2019 7:38 pm

As always, David, a great little article about a little-known oil producing area. I always enjoy your contributions and your efforts to counterbalance all the negative vibes and drivel churned out by the so-called environmentalists and the MSM against the most important industry on the planet. Without cheap reliable energy, we’re all doomed…………so let’s keep making the most of our wonderful, valuable, natural and totally organic hydrocarbon resources. We are so lucky to have them!

February 9, 2019 1:05 am

I don’t think there is a shortage of shale oil resource outside/distant from a large water eco system, a national park, a piece of natural heritage? for heaven’s sake don’t even think of drilling for anything in your greatest pieces of natural environment.

Plenty elsewhere

Steve R.
Reply to  David Middleton
February 9, 2019 8:33 am

Tell that to the mineral rights owners over the Marcellus shale in New York .

Rich Davis
Reply to  David Middleton
February 9, 2019 9:43 am
Reply to  griff
February 9, 2019 3:16 am

Well how about southern Alabama. A State of modest incomes I believe that might welcome oil/gas money and jobs . A non geologist lay person like myself looks at Alabama, with oil/gas regions on either side and thinks , why not?
But why is it off limits to exploration?

Steve R.
Reply to  David Middleton
February 9, 2019 9:03 am

Southwest Alabama has a long history of Oil and Gas production

Reply to  griff
February 9, 2019 4:36 am

Don’t worry Griff. With the advent of the Green New Deal all fossil fuels will have been replaced by alternative sources within 10 years. One wonders why an undertaking like this is even being contemplated. Better the resources are invested in the New Green fuel source(s).
If your buying anything of what AOC is selling I have some Florida swamp land you may be interested in

Reply to  griff
February 9, 2019 6:25 am

griff: 2 points.

You say “for heaven’s sake don’t even think of drilling for anything in your greatest pieces of natural environment.” Does that include water? After all, how do you think that drinking water is provided to the people in most areas of the world? You would have people die from water deprivation rather than allow them to drill wells for water?

“I don’t think there is a shortage of shale oil resource outside/distant from a large water eco system, a national park, a piece of natural heritage?” You’d be against that, too.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  griff
February 10, 2019 1:23 pm

We have millions of acres of natural environment in this country that has no significant mineral or oil resources. So drilling in the CNP is not a problem (even assuming that the drilling will spoil the entire reserve, which is pretty far fetched). Plenty of natural environment elsewhere.

February 9, 2019 6:18 am

Mobile Bay and the land to the west was some of the earliest oil producing areas in the Gulf. Right now a couple of ExxonMobil rigs in the southern part of Mobile bay have been enhanced with artificial reefs to improve the recreational fishing. South of Theodore, Alabama is the Bellingrath Estate, now a botanical park and museum. Is was the “country estate” of one of the founders of Standard Oil and the area is an old oil patch. It’s well worth visiting if you’re in the area.

JRF in Pensacola
February 9, 2019 7:46 am

David, thanks for this information. I’m somewhat familiar with the Panhandle operations near Jay but had never considered production in SW Florida. Let’s see, with hydrocarbon production up in SWFL and more rich fleeing the high tax states for our state (and others), my states taxes will remain low.

Although, speaking of local taxes, the “Rain” tax has been in the news lately as some states want to tax the runoff from hard surfaces. Interestingly, the City of Pensacola levied a Storm Water Assessment starting in 2003 which measures roofing, concrete and other hard surfaces to calculate ESU’s (Equivalent Storm Units) and to use that money to mitigate runoff into local surface waters. The maximum tax for my property is $110+, which is what I pay. We also have a tax from the Northwest Florida Water Management District but that’s only a few dollars. Then, there are the additional fees added to my Escambia County Utilities Authority (ECUA) for the new WWTP, Water system and sewer system, which add $20 to my water/sewer bill and increase the bill about 30%. Taxes, franchise fees and other fees on utilities are under-the-radar expenses that hit peoples’ budgets

February 9, 2019 9:50 am

A few thoughts. Out of sight , out of mind . I would venture to guess that > 99% of South Florida voters are unaware that oil drilling occurs in South Florida , for the most part in sparsely populated areas, within , and in areas adjacent to State and National preserves .Travel from Miami /fort Lauderdale to the Marco Island /Naples area occurs via I75 (95% of which is fenced to protect the wildlife, and , as a result the Florida Panther, and Black bear populations are increasing ) , and Tamiami Trail . Most never leave their cars as they travel from coast to coast, thus never visit the interior of the state, and the areas targeted for exploration and drilling would continue to be, because of the flat topography and small footprint , out of mind/ out of sight . The oil reserves lie 12,000 ft below the very porous and superficial fresh water aquifers , the sole source of S. Fla portable water. A much greater risk of contamination comes from the surface. The most significant risk to the S.Florida ecology , and economy , is the discharge of over- nutrified water from Lake Okeechobee , the problem, and the solution , highlighted in the most recent Gubernatorial race . I do not believe(I haven’t read it) this most recent legal decision addresses drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, since , as far as I know, only “We the people” , own the bottom.

February 10, 2019 7:39 am

I would like to point out the difficulty in drilling in The Everglades in that there are so many hurricane proofing requirements for the installation of even a port-a-john that the agency attempting to exploit the resources will likely never turn a profit on the enterprise.

The Everglades are full of regions in which heavy equipment simply drifts down to hell, spillage and state fines for spillage (the minimum definition being roughly equivalent to a half gallon of concentrate) will result in MASSIVE capitol losses.

Not to mention the number of high powered rifle rounds that will be striking the equipment simply for the entertainment of the local populations.

Drilling in The Everglades will be nigh-on impossible unless it is literally done from floating rigging equipment and I doubt the exploration companies are willing to even deal with the expenses involved in driving simple piers in order to place slabs for the parking of private vehicles.

Add to that the medical expenses incurred in the region due to fevers and the weather as well as the environment being highly hostile AND the gas explosions that will literally have nothing to do with the natural resource and we’re likely to see the largest boondoggling marathon in United States history.

So, as much as I see the exploitation of The Everglades as moronic, I am looking forward to watching the idiocy that occurs.

Let me warn any agency who decides that taking up this possibility is a good idea that in Florida the State agency responsible for monitoring such activities is not only backed up by our own version of the FBI but is also The Final Authority on pollution, enforcement and criminal prosecution of such violations that an exploratory and production project for Oil will likely produce. A company engaging in such activities Will Not have any protections against the brutal and swift actions of the FDEP and it’s Enforcement branch.

You will not get “accused” or “charged” you will simply be processed against and fined and/or shut down permanently.

John MacDonald
Reply to  Prjindigo
February 11, 2019 12:27 am

I think I hear banjos.

Reply to  Prjindigo
February 12, 2019 8:15 am

Brah? You ever work oil field jobs in south Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas? I thought not.

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