Little Bits of History

Oil, Oil Everywhere

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 14, 2014
Lakeview Gusher Number One

Lakeview Gusher Number One

March 14, 1910: The Lakeview Gusher Number One goes out of control. The Lakeview Oil Company was drilling in the Midway-Sunset Oil Field, located in California. The oil field is the largest known in California and the third largest in the US. It was discovered in 1894 and through 2006 had produced nearly 3 billion barrels of oil. By the end of 2008 it was estimated there were about 532 million barrels left in the ground. Lakeview began drilling their Number One well on January 1, 1909. With the initial drilling, only natural gas was found. They continued to drill and partnered with Union Oil who wanted to build storage tanks at the location.

The technology of the day didn’t have the many safety features which have been implemented since and one of the features lacking was blowout preventers. These valves are used to seal, control, and monitor oil and gas wells and cope with extreme pressures as well as uncontrolled flow. By controlling for these factors, a blowout can be prevented. When drilling depth reached 2,440 feet on March 14, 1910, the pressurized oil blew through the well casing and a gusher started. Initial daily flow lost was 18,800 barrels per day. Crews were rushed in to try to contain the black gold by building sand bag dams and dikes.

Eventually, peak flow reached 90,000 barrels per day and as much oil as possible was diverted via pipline to storage tanks 2.5 miles away. Even with all these efforts nearly half of the oil spewing forth was lost. Since about 9,400,000 barrels gushed up before it was able to be capped in September 1911, it means 4.5 million barrels were lost to evaporation or soaking into the ground. It took 544 days to stop the leak. About 1,230,000 tons of crude spilled during that time. This is far greater than any other leak on land or water. There are several oil spills which have an unknown quantity of crude lost. With 492,000 tons lost, the Deepwater Horizon spill is the second worst on record.

Taylor Energy wells Platform 23051 in the Gulf of Mexico and operated by the US, is an ongoing spill. Somewhere between 70 and 109 tons of oil have been lost since September 2004 when hurricane Ivan struck. Most of the leaks have been contained but the spill is still being serviced by Ocean Saratoga and monitored by the United States Department of the Interior. The leak has been oozing for over 3,400 days. The Kuwait Oil Fires of January to November 1991 destroyed around 6 million barrels of oil per day before the last fire was extinguished. This is, of course, different than an accidental leak situation. Initial efforts to put out the fires were hampered by the mines set around the fields during the Persian Gulf War.

Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil. – J. Paul Getty

The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun. – Ralph Nader

The extraction of oil, coal and minerals brought, and still brings, a cost to the environment. – Bono

We have to rethink our whole energy approach, which is hard to do because we’re so dependent on oil, not just for fuel but also plastic. If plastic vanished, there would be total chaos. We have to think quite carefully about using oil and its derivatives, because it’s not going to be around forever. – Margaret Atwood

Also on this day: Cotton is King – In 1794, Eli Whitney was granted a patent for the cotton gin.
PCN – In 1942, Penicillin was first used on a patient.
Roughest and Toughest – In 1950, the FBI instituted the Ten Most Wanted list.
Cut That Out – In 1937, the Mit Brennender Sorge was read at Catholic Masses in Germany.


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