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Refugio County, 1939

This is a photograph of a doozy of a gas well blowout that occurred in 1936 in Greta Oil Field located between Victoria and Refugio in South Texas. The well was actually in a railroad right of way approximately 100 feet off Highway 77; it completely engulfed the highway and destroyed the adjoining railroad tracks. Vehicles traveling to and from South Texas were detoured through nearby pastures for two and one half years while the crater kept getting bigger and bigger. In late 1938 Myron M. Kinley was hired by the railroad company to cap and kill the well.

Early in 1938 Kinley erected several wooden stanchions on opposite sides of the crater and drill line was strung across to use as a trolly system, of sorts, in different attempts to cap the well. It was after these capping attempts that the well started making more formation water and filled the crater back to the surface. The crater was pumped out virtually 24 hours a day for five months before the water level started to receed and capping efforts could be resumed. What is left of the surface casing is below the water level in this photo and the well, as one can see, is still bubbling. During the 10 months Kinley worked on the blowout it caught fire seven different times.

The photo, above, is an early attempt at placing a hood and diverter system over the remains of the well head below the crater's water level. The "trolley" lines mentioned above are being used. This was unsuccessful and the attempt abandoned. Pumping out the crater, to be able to actually see the damaged surface casing and well head, then became a priority.

Mr. Kinley, on the far left, worked most of this Geta job on crutches, his right leg mangled and stiff from having a glycerin shot canister explode while he was loading it at a gas well fired near Bay City in 1936. The explosion killed the man standing next to him. In 1938, before he started this job, he had to jump off a rig floor in the Valley and broke his right ankle.

Often exsperated at the difficulties and set backs of this Greta blowout, Kinley was once quoted as saying that he would cap and kill this Greta well if it was the last thing he ever did.

He did. Greta is an incredible story, one that I have written about before on Oily Stuff, here.


Satellite image of Greta Fld.; Refugio County. By 1936 there were over 140 wells producing in Greta Field. It lies to the NNW of Tom O'Connor Field, discovered by Hugh Roy Cullen in 1932

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