News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Breaking News


December 19, 2013

30 feet at a time

Bits bite dirt, as work starts on well near east edge of ISU campus

TERRE HAUTE — Black smoke from a roaring engine the size of a minivan signaled another adjustment to the massive drill. Three workers wearing hard hats, mud-covered boots and coveralls struggled with the heavy steel equipment, intently focused on their demanding work.

They had just attached a heavy tungsten carbide drill bit, a little larger than a football and the color of gold, onto the end of a long hollow metal pipe. The pipe stretched 30 feet above their heads into a towering oil derrick that reached much higher still.

Oil company executives, staff of Indiana State University and others watched on Wednesday as the workers eventually got the drilling equipment ready to go. It was cold, about 35 degrees, and breezy, as the drill bit finally made its way beneath the platform toward the ground about 15 feel below.

The pipe seemed to glide effortlessly down, making it seem as if the drill bit were moving through nothing more substantial than water. The bit, weighing more than 100 pounds and costing up to $40,000, is capable of slicing through earth and rock and coming back to the surface in like-new condition, said Don Jones Jr., president and founder of Pioneer Oil Co., the company behind the effort.

Wednesday was a special day for Jones, a fourth-generation oil man. He recalls being about 18 and helping plug a leaky and long-unused oil well on the site of what would later become Hulman Center. It was grimy relic of Terre Haute’s turn-of-the-century (the 20th) oil boom.

That day, many years ago, “I saw the oil,” Jones said in his Midwestern drawl. “It’s good, commercial-grade oil.”

So, Pioneer knows there is oil down there, he said. “We just don’t know how much.”

Pioneer Oil, an Illinois-based company, is doing something no one has done in more than a century: Drilling for oil below downtown Terre Haute. The city, Pioneer believes, still sits atop a reservoir of oil, similar to what was discovered about 1889, when a gusher at about Ninth and Eagle streets launched the city’s “oil craze.” The last successful well downtown stopped producing in the 1920s.

According to Indiana Department of Natural Resources records, there have been more than dozen oil wells in Terre Haute between Wabash Avenue and Spruce Street and between Seventh Street and 13th Street, an area including – among other things – Hulman Center, the Cherry Street Parking garage and Clabber Girl.

Pioneer conducted seismic testing downtown a year ago to identify the outlines of the suspected oil pool. ISU is providing the property for the oil derrick around 10th and Chestnut streets, north of Chestnut.

ISU is also, no doubt, the largest property owner that will benefit financially if the well is successful. However, more than 11 other downtown property owners, including some churches and not-for-profits, have signed oil royalty leases, which entitle them a share of any oil sales.

The drilling site could hardly be more out-of-the-way and still be within the “downtown.” It is between Chestnut and Spruce streets on a triangular piece of land outlined on two sides by railroad tracks. On the west is “Tom Brown Boulevard,” also called North 10th Street. To the east is a diagonal street, North 101⁄2 Street. It is an area zoned for industrial manufacturing with special permission – granted in September by the Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals – for oil exploration.

The drilling site is small by industry standards, but covers a few acres. Trailers are parked around the edges, and large machines and equipment fill much of the rest of the space. Long pipes to drill into the earth lie next to the derrick for future use.

A small trailer serves as an office, although it contains little more than a table and chairs. On Wednesday, an inspector from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources was at the site talking with Jones and Steve Miller, chief financial officer for Pioneer. DNR inspectors always come to drilling sites when they are starting operations, Jones explained.

Pioneer will be drilling down about 1,600 feet, Jones said. The drill will then turn and gradually move horizontally under the earth. The turn will be south, toward downtown, he said.

Inside the drilling site, which is surrounded by vinyl privacy fencing, are storage tanks for oil. There are also large tanks designed to capture gases and odors from the well.

The well has been secured to avoid “blow outs,” which are explosions of natural gas such that killed workers and polluted the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Jones said. The drilling business can be dangerous, but if you do everything correctly, it doesn’t have to be, he said.

It will be about a month or more before Pioneer knows whether this effort will pay off. Until then, the operation will be going round the clock. Drilling will even be taking place on Christmas Day, Jones said.

“We don’t usually do that,” he noted. “But we’re not usually in a place like this.”

If oil is produced from the well, tanker trucks will be coming and going from the site, Jones said.

Would that be as often as daily? he was asked. “We hope so,” he answered.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@trib

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • MET 071314 CUP FINAL PARTY.jpg Germany’s day

    The atmosphere, which smelled delicious, was thick with excitement as dozens of German soccer fans crammed into the Bierstube Sunday afternoon for the World Cup final match.

    July 13, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET 021712 12 POINTS FILE.jpg Building up for grabs

    It would be impossible to name all of the entrepreneurs who have opened businesses over the past 100 years in and around the 12 Points Hotel on Terre Haute’s near north side.

    July 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Road to funding Indiana highways jammed

    If you’ve driven on either of Indiana’s two busiest interstates recently, you’ll understand why a blue-ribbon commission last week called for adding traffic lanes to those harrowing highways.

    July 13, 2014

  • Restaurant Inspections: July 14, 2014

    June 23-27

    July 13, 2014

  • Grave.jpg Airman laid to rest back home in Indiana six decades after death

    Unchecked tears rolled down Paul Martin’s lined face as he clutched the hand of an Air Force servicewoman who handed him a handwritten note at the graveside service for his older brother.

    July 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET 070914 GARDEN 01LARI.jpg Plentiful harvest

    Along the southern bank of Otter Creek near Clinton Street, across the street from North Terre Haute Christian Church, some rocky soil has proven to be fertile ground for new seeds.

    July 12, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • MET 071014 GARDEN 01DIEMER.jpg Meeting need for fresh foods

    There’s something about watching a zucchini go from seedling to soup that is satisfying for Jean Diemer.

    July 12, 2014 3 Photos 1 Story

  • MET 071214 60 YEARS.jpg Celebrating 60 years of pride at Hulman Field

    The buildings may have changed, and the mission has certainly changed, but the pride remains the same when those celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 181st Intelligence Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard came together Saturday at Hulman Field.

    July 12, 2014 5 Photos

  • MET071214 treasure sign.jpg Treasure-hunters forced in doors

    Rain on a Saturday morning can be a big bummer for yard sales.

    July 12, 2014 5 Photos

  • Tank wiring said to be cause of oil-field fire

    An electrical short has been blamed for a Friday night fire at the Pinnacle Exploration oil field on Fruitridge Avenue south of Hulman Street.

    July 12, 2014

  • MET071114  St bens ellis.jpg Annual St. Ben’s community festival kicks off

    The St. Ben's Community Festival kicked off Friday night and continues from 5 p.m. until midnight today.

    July 11, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET 071114 DELISH GREENE.jpg Adding to the mix

    The mix of local food choices will get a fresh stir in the near future, as a café opens a second location, a pizza place moves downtown and a national chain sprouts in two more spots.

    July 11, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET071114 guard bennett.jpg Shift from jets to intelligence

    Loud, impressive fighter jets once zoomed regularly across the sky in Terre Haute, their roars drowning out the sounds of televisions and telephones all around the area.

    July 11, 2014 4 Photos 2 Stories

  • MET 071114 MANN P.C..jpg Candidates’ views clash over more education testing, vouchers

    Indiana needs to change direction to improve education, said Democrat Jim Mann, who will face incumbent Rep. Robert Heaton, R-Terre Haute, in a rematch race for Indiana House District 46.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET071114bad check.jpg Fraudulent checks with an extra ‘t’

    A Terre Haute woman who received a large check in the mail this week wants to warn others that though the check looks legitimate, it is a scam.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Truck, van collide, stopping some U.S. 41 lanes for an hour

    Northbound traffic on U.S. 41 south of Terre Haute was blocked for about one hour Friday because of a two vehicle crash.

    July 11, 2014

  • council mtg 013.JPG Mayor: City will not file bankruptcy

    The Terre Haute City Council took well more than  an hour to ask questions and discuss the health of the city’s finances with top city officials in a special meeting Thursday night. A few councilmen expressed grave concern about the financial picture, while Mayor Duke Bennett said things were improving.

    July 10, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • State official threatens prosecution of city leaders who talk about audit

    A state official has threatened to pursue the prosecution of city officials if they violate a confidentiality agreement signed last month.

    July 10, 2014

  • MET 071014 181 02EXPO.jpg ISU, 181st Intelligence Wing show off capabilities at expo

    Communication and getting unmanned eyes in the sky can be vital parts of responding to a natural or man-made disaster.

    July 10, 2014 3 Photos 1 Story

  • Feds relent: Military to restore equipment program for fire departments

    An agreement has been reached to keep surplus military equipment rolling into rural fire department bays in Indiana and 47 other states.

    July 10, 2014

  • united way.jpg UW kicks off pilot campaign

    Dottie King remembers the day she saw a young man leaving St. Ann’s Dental Clinic after having 17 teeth pulled. He had not received sufficient dental care before that day so his need was dramatic. That was unlike King, who had visited the dentist regularly since childhood, but still found getting a tooth filled not on her list of fun things to do. “I thought to myself, ‘I never have thought about the blessing of dental care,’” King recalled, sharing that story on Thursday morning with other volunteers for the United Way of the Wabash Valley.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 071014 181 HILL.jpg Indiana’s director of homeland security sees unmanned systems’ potential

    Integrating unmanned flight systems into use for domestic surveillance can provide first responders with key information in responding to fires, earthquakes and man-made disasters, said John Hill, director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Stunt performer scheduled to be at Wigwam

    A celebrity stunt man named Jim “Crash” Moreau is scheduled to perform at Terre Haute’s Wigwam Skate and Event Center on Saturday.

    July 10, 2014

  • Rain barrels offered for sale

    The Vigo County Soil and Water Conservation District is taking orders for 55-gallon rain barrels.

    July 10, 2014

  • Ash.jpg Tips lead to meth lab bust

    Two people were arrested after police busted a clandestine methamphetamine lab Thursday in the 2200 block of Fourth Avenue in Terre Haute.

    July 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET070914 house exterior.jpg Historic Ohio Boulevard house inspired by 1948 Cary Grant movie

    Spurred in 1948 by a newly released movie staring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, coupled with a growing post-World War II housing market, General Electric partnered with Hollywood’s RKO Studios to build “dream homes” throughout the country.

    July 9, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • Detour ahead

    A panel of public and private officials is calling for $10 billion in projects to upgrade Indiana’s aging roads and bridges, but its members concede there’s no money to pay for it all.

    July 9, 2014

  • MET070814 barrels.jpg MARK BENNETT: Making road work a barrel of fun for drivers

    We’re lucky orange barrels can’t talk.

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • City Council to take up city finances tonight

    The Terre Haute City Council will have a chance in a special meeting tonight to delve deeply into the city’s financial health. However, council members are being asked to avoid raising the most controversial subject of recent weeks: The city’s use of Redevelopment Commission tax increment finance (TIF) money.

    July 9, 2014

  • Bennett accepts $5,000 fine in ethics settlement

    Former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett has agreed to pay $5,000 as part of a settlement with Indiana’s ethics watchdog in which he admits to using state resources for campaign work but is cleared of formal ethics violations in the grade-change scandal that cost him his job as Florida’s schools chief last year.

    July 9, 2014

Latest News Poll
AP Video
Joy Fills Streets of Cleveland As LeBron Returns Robot Writes Jewish Torah Scroll Israel Deploys Ground Troops to Gaza Strip Bull Run Comes to Middle America Raw: Divers, Snorkelers at Undersea 'Concert' Space Station Shipment Launched From Virginia Wisconsin Cop Ready to Roll...On Skateboard Lightning Kills Two in National Park in Colorado Raw: Stunning Timelapse of WC Final Host City Giant Whale Vacuumed in New York City One Dead, 19 Injured in Greyhound Bus Crash Diaz and Segel Strip Off for 'Sex Tape' Texas Shooting Suspect Collapses in Court Ana Ortiz on 'Devious Maids' Finale Raw: German Players Head to World Cup Final LeBron: Move Back to Cleveland 'Exciting' WH: LeBron's Move a 'Powerful Statement' Proposed Bill to Regulate NY Costumed Characters Raw: Australia Hosts Annual Beer Can Regatta Soft Robot Fish Lead New Wave of Robotics
NDN Video
Germany Wins The 2014 FIFA World Cup!!! RAW VIDEO: Stampede injures ten at Georgia World Congress Center Cellphone Video Shows Assault Tracy Morgan released from rehab month after crash LeBron: Move Back to Cleveland 'Exciting' Cleveland welcomes home LeBron Houston Killer Collapses in Court When Read Capital Murder Charges for Allegedly Killing Family of Six Worst Valet Ever Wrecks $500K Lamborghini Glee Star Becca Tobin's Boyfriend Matt Bendik Found Dead in Hotel Aerial fish restocking in Utah ScarJo Channels Marilyn Monroe Obama Responds to Hecklers on Immigration Tiny Hamsters Who Ate Burritos are Back for a Tiny Hedgehog's Party Watch Kelly Ripa Get Soaked! 'Referee' Hands Out Yellow Cards for Social Faux Pas in NYC 2014 Emmy Nominees: 8 Snub Shockers Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino 7 Infamous Sports Blowouts Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010

Real Estate News