Friday, June 11, 2010

Lakeview Gusher

The Lakeview gusher after the flow had partially subsided and the well surrounded by a sandbag berm, 1910.

The Lakeview Gusher Number One is regarded as the largest recorded U.S. oil well gusher. Located about a half-mile east of the Taft-Maricopa Highway (State Route 33), in the Midway-Sunset Oil Field in Kern County, California, the site is marked by a Caltrans guide sign and a bronze plaque. It is also identified as State Historic Landmark #485.

Drilling at Lakeview Number One well was started by the Lakeview Oil Company on January 1, 1909. As the drilling continued and only natural gas was found, the Lakeview company partnered with Union Oil Company which wanted to build storage tanks on Lakeview property.[1]

While modern well-drilling techniques have advanced safety features such as blowout preventers that reduce the chances of a gusher, early-twentieth-century well-drilling technology could not contain the high pressures encountered at Lakeview. The gusher began on March 14, 1910, as the drill bit found the 2,440-foot level. [2]

The well casing is a steel pipe-liner that contains oil as it is pumped from the depths. During drilling, the casing also guides the drill bit and drive shaft in a roughly-straight line. Pressure blew at least part of the well casing out, along with an estimated 9 million barrels (378 million gallons/1.4 million m3) of oil, before the gusher was brought under control 18 months later, (about September 1911). [3]

Initial flow from the gusher was 18,800 barrels per day. The peak flow during the gusher was estimated to be 90,000 barrels per day. The large flow created a creek of crude oil running downhill from the well site. Crews rushed to contain the river of crude oil with a system of improvised sand bag dams and dikes. Remarkably, the gusher never caught fire during its 18-month duration.[4]

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