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Aliso Canyon, 1968

Aliso Canyon was discovered in 1938 by J. Paul Getty's outfit, Tidewater Associated Oil Company, on the old Porter Ranch, NW of downtown Los Angeles, along the west front of Santa Susana Mountains.

Aliso Canyon is a big anticline that dips basin ward (Ventura Basin) and that has numerous stacked pays in it. Its not far from Pico Canyon, the first known commercial oil discovery in California and perhaps the United States, dated 1876.

Getty crammed 118 wells onto the structure by the mid 1950's and some 32MM BO was produced out of the Porter sand at a depth of 5,393 feet.

The Porter sand had a neat gas cap on it that often caused problems for Tidewater in drilling and completion operations, even production matters... as evidence by a blowout that occurred in December of 1968 while trying to perform a routine tubing inspection under an old standard derrick. The well was pumped dead, so they thought, and the production tree was being removed when the well blew out on December 18th. A wing valve was blown up in the derrick causing a spark and the well caught fire. Within three or four hours the derrick collapsed on the truck mounted pulling unit and a call was made to Houston.

The Adair boys were plum wore out in 1968; they'd been doing what they could to keep up with staging and controlling all the fire scenes in the movie, Hellfighters, starting John Wayne. and catching real jobs as they came in. The final filming of the five-well fire scene supposedly in Venezuela, but actually occurring outside Casper, Wyoming, was underway when Red and Coots were in Bolivia. Boots was just back from Louisiana getting much needed rest, when the call from California came in.

Aliso Canyon; December 1968

Boots ordered out an Athey wagon and boom, and two pumps from Houston and spent four full days trying to arrange for water to his location. He got some help from Getty, and rig hands and a lot of help with water from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

He got everything cleaned off the location and easily put the fire out with water. He capped the well on December 23, Christmas Eve, and hauled ass back to Houston to be with his family for the first time in several months. SICP on the Porter 31 well was 1250 PSI.

The next day, Christmas, Getty personal noticed the flange to flange connection immediately below the capping stack was hissing and leaking mud. By evening it was actually spewing gas.

The day after Christmas Boots was back in Aliso Canyon to stack another capping valve above the one that was leaking, put the well on diverter and pump mud until the well was stone cold, stinking dead. He then rigged the entire well head assembly down, repaired the scored B section flange on the casing , and re-capped the well. Satisfied this time the job was on the hip, he went back to Houston and Getty tried to bring their well back on line.

The movie the Hellfighters was released in 1969 to horrible reviews and very little box office revenue. I watched it for the 109th time last night and loved it as much today as I did 45 years ago.

In 1973, Getty etal. sold its Aliso Canyon field to Southern California Gas (SoCal) and a lower reservoir was turned into a gas storage facility. Some of Getty's original, 30 year old wells, with questionable casing integrity, were used as gas withdrawal wells.

That got the best of SoCal in 1975 and damn if Red didn't have to go BACK to Aliso Canyon on another Porter Ranch well that caught fire.

Once wasn't enough, apparently, and in October of 2015, SOCAL Gas discovered the SS-22 well bubbling out of the ground, most likely a corrosion based rupture of 7 inch casing below the surface casing shoe.

Six attempts to top kill the well with mud were attempted, Boots and Coots in attendance, but the crater around the well head kept growing, along with local residents impatience with the smell and fear of being "gassed" to death.

After over 100 some odd days, a relief well finally intersected the reservoir at 8,000 +/- feet where gas storage was occurring and B&C was able to pump the well dead. Very upset Californians, prone to being drama queens about the oil and gas industry in California anyway, called the Aliso Canyon methane release "the worse in US history. "


Here's one in Santa Fe Springs, not too far away for Aliso Canyon back in 1928, right, that impresses even me. If the 2015 Aliso Creek

"leak" looked like this from down the hill, every oil well in California would have been plugged by now.

And below was a big mama jama just up the road in Elk Hills in 1994, for Bechtel, also a gas storage facility. Now THIS is what you call a proper methane "release:"

David Thompson, Boots Hansen's protégé, blew out an ear drum on this well, but capped it in record time.

Life seems to go in circles sometimes.


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