top of page

Holy Shit Moments

Mike Shellman, 1995; photo by Joe Carpenter

Core temperatures in oil well fires can often be as high as 4000 degrees Fahrenheit; they are much hotter than gas well fires and will melt big massive drilling rigs into molten heaps of iron very quickly. In this photo we have drug a lot of rig debris away from the fire already and what is left is the BOP stack with drill pipe sticking out of it and broken off. All of that is engulfed in the fire. What you see in this photo at the base of the fire is what's left of the rig substructure, which we are about to start clearing away to get to the BOP stack so that we can cut it off and get the fire going straight up.

True story; this rig had a skid mounted, 500 gallon butane tank sitting of the ground behind what use to be the doghouse. After 2 days of the well burning it was still in tact and needed to be drug out of the way. We had no idea how full it was or whether the pop-off valve had released or not. We started spraying water on it from a monitor stand and Joe held some galvanized tin to block some of the heat while I tied a winch line onto the skid. We were maybe 80 feet from the BOP stack and it was a hot son of a bitch.

The dozer operator drug the tank out a couple hundred yards to where all the other rig debris was, I unhooked the winch line and stated back toward the fire when the pop-off valve blew hundreds of feet into the air, like an RPG round, and the tank started venting butane. It was definitely a "holy shit" moment.

bottom of page