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Flashback: Alabama Crude

Dallas oilman Duke Rudman sold all his reserves for $130 million in 1981, just before oil prices cratered. He again punched into exploration, including southwest Alabama, when pay dirt came cheap.

Dallas oilman Duke Rudman sold all his reserves for $130 million in 1981, just before oil prices cratered. He again punched into exploration, including southwest Alabama, when pay dirt came cheap.

Photo by Danny Turner

As it will be again in our not-to-miss March 2013 issue, black gold was the subject of the cover feature of the February 1990 issue of Business Alabama. Not offshore, not deep Gulf, not fracking or coalbed methane or oil shale — just good old crude, straight up from the ground.

“Independent Oilmen Ride the Updip Range” told the story of an ongoing oil play that drew a pack of Texas companies to Escambia, Monroe and Conecuh counties in southwest Alabama.

“I think we’re going to make money in Alabama,” said legendary Dallas oilman Mayer Billy “Duke” Rudman (cover photo), one of a number of Texas independents drilling the Alabama updip Smackover prospect or buying into its drilling packages.

The prospect was named for the up side of a fault line in the deep Smackover geologic zone — a line running from Escambia County, Fla. to Choctaw County, Ala.

Make money they did.

Low cost and high return was the big draw. Drilling cost for a well in the prospect averaged a relatively cheap $1 million. Oil and Gas Investor in September 1989 calculated the typical return on the 14 fields discovered in the updip Smackover prospect at “almost 10 to 1.”

Next month’s Business Alabama will look at today’s hottest oil prospect in Alabama —The Little Cedar Creek Field, in Conecuh County. It’s the most prolific oil field in Alabama and still has the courthouse record room in Evergreen crowded with petroleum landmen leasing up new drill sites.

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