The historic Santa Rita #1 well ― the first well to produce crude oil on West Texas acreage managed by University Lands (UL) ― has received a major restoration. The site located about an hour outside of Midland, TX, in Reagan county, underwent preservation as it nears its 100th anniversary.

Phoenix 1 Restoration & Construction, headquartered near Dallas, TX was tapped for the project which began in 2020 and was completed this year. They had the challenging task of addressing substantial structural deterioration at the site due to decades of weather damage that caused severe disrepair.

The significance of the site as the first commercial oil-producing well in the Permian on Permanent University Fund (PUF) lands drove UL’s interest in conserving the storied location.

“The existing well and pump house are a memorial to the ambition and toughness of the people who explored and discovered the first commercial oil well in the Permian Basin, which fortunately happened on PUF Lands,” UL Senior Vice President of Operations Richard Brantley said.

Repairs of the site included replacement of the foundation timbers, enhancement of the structure’s integrity, and replacement of the metal building with a modern structure. Its steel components were sandblasted and painted, the well platform was repaired and oiled to preserve it from heat damage, the historical sign and plaque restored, and a layer of decomposed granite was placed over the surrounding site.

The original equipment used to drill the Santa Rita #1 well was moved to the University of Texas Austin campus in the 1940s where it remains today and after producing for more than 65 years, the West Texas well was plugged in 1990. 

The Santa Rita #1 well, named for the patron saint of the impossible, began producing on May 28, 1923, after nearly 2 years of drilling. In August of that year, the Permanent University Fund (PUF) endowment received its first $516.63 royalty payment.

Since then, the Permian has become the largest energy-producing region in the U.S., and the PUF has grown to be the largest public university endowment in the U.S. benefitting Texas’ most distinguished higher educational institutions, The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M System.

The Santa Rita #1 well’s importance to these institutions, the state of Texas, and the world goes without saying. The discovery of oil from its well ushered in a whole new era of exploration and wealth and positioned Texas as a major world energy provider.