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Oil seeps had long been known and used in the Flathead region, but after official reports in 1892, all areas around known seeps and supposed seeps were staked with claims. By 1910, several wells had been drilled with oil shows in the Waterton area, two at Akimina Creek in British Columbia, four in the Kintla area (with oil and gas shows) in Flathead County, Montana, and a small, short-lived, producing field on Swiftcurrent Creek in Glacier County, Montana. The creation of Glacier National Park in Montana (1910) and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta (1911) ruled out exploration in those areas.
Exploration continued in the Flathead region of British Columbia, especially at Sage Creek, with the discovery of numerous oil and gas seeps. Drilling in the vicinity of the seeps never achieved production but almost always had numerous oil and gas shows in holes that were terminated because of equipment or hole problems. The prolific occurrences of oil and gas in lost holes was usually enough for new promoters to find new investors to spend their money on new wells. All drilling was in rocks of the Precambrian Belt Supergroup and was very difficult with cable tool rigs. Crow's Nest Glacier Oil Co. 1 spudded in 1918 and terminated at 3,265 ft (995 m) in 1932. Columbia Oils Ltd. attempted to penetrate the Lewis thrust but quit after 5 years in 1938 at 8,000 ft (2,438 m) when it found t at the hole had gone horizontal. Flathead Petroleum finally penetrated the thrust plate in 1951 at 4,400 ft (1,500 m). It tested the Mississippian Rundle Group (Madison equivalent) and found only carbon dioxide gas. The Sage Creek seeps and old open wells are still producing a fine light 42° oil as well as flammable gas from some as yet undetected source.
Several wells have tested the Tertiary Kishenehn Formation. Drilling began in 1902 when Kintla Lake Oil Co. drilled two wells, 1,290 ft (393 m) and 1,000 ft (305 m), based on oil shales from which oil was distilled. Two old wells in Canada had oil and gas shows in the Tertiary as did the recent Nyvatex Mueller 1 (test) in Flathead County, Montana, which was drilled to 800 ft (244 m). Other more recent wells in the Flathead region of British Columbia have had noncommercial shows of gas. The complex structure of the region combined with the surface exposures of Precambrian Belt Supergroup rocks have greatly hindered exploration in the past and caused current explorationists to have second thoughts. The prolific gas fields of the foothills of southern Alberta, and the fact that significa t oil and gas occurrences in the region do exist, continue to draw interest to the area. The current and latest exploration effort will finally begin to truly assess the petroleum potential felt to exist by the petroleum pioneers who broke their bits in the region.
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