top of page

Altamont; 1971

Altamont Field in Duchesne County, in the N.E. part of Utah, was rocking in the late 1960's and early 1970's and some deep Green River and Wasatch oil and gas wells were being made by a Shell and Chevron Joint Venture in the area.

Brinkerhoff Drilling Company, Denver, a well known Rocky Mountain contractor owned by the famous, Sonny Brinkerhoff, had a number of rigs working in NE Utah drilling in the Altamont Field and in the fall of 1971, before the first big snows came, it had two of its biggest rigs burn up under the ever watchful eye of the Shell Joint Venture.


In September of 1971 Shell was drilling its King Silver-Evans 1 well at 13,800 feet, five miles west of the community of Altamont, Utah. It blew out and caught fire. Shell called Houston; Red and Boots were on a job already so Coots and Richard Hatteberg assumed responsibility. They were able to get pumps and loaded out in Houston before they left for Utah and once there started working on their water sources while their stuff was making the drive north.

The following photographs of the Evans fire are courtesy of the Thorne Collection of Photographs at the J. Willard Marriott Digital Library at the University of Utah. Not a big fire at all but some very nice, very high quality photographs.

Above, Coots and Richard getting a peek at the BOP stack thru the back door. There is never mistaking Coots long, lanky figure and his bowed legs.

The following four photographs sort of give folks an idea of what goes on behind the scenes waiting to go to battle with one these things. Its busy out there with welders welding, lease crews and drilling hands laying pipe, rigging up monitor stands, all kinds of things, and all kinds of money are spent days before you can even lay a hand on one of these fires.

Here's a little secret, a good lead off hand can sorta tell if the well is going to bridge or not. By no means can you take a chance that it will bridge and you have to carry on like you are about ready to do war with the Devil himself, but you can sorta tell. It may not be blowing hard to begin with, and it starts slugging water, after a few days it looks like its not blowing near as hard, its making more water and then muddy, sandy water and its a good bet that its going to bridge off.

In the mean time, there is stuff to do.

Richard Hatteburg told me one time he remembered this job as heavy, low gravity oil (8-12API) coming out of the ground like cow patties. "It'd hit your hard hat and splatter and when it got on your coveralls it was so thick it never even stuck."

After day six, they were ready to start clearing rig debris and this one bridged, deader than a door knob.

Seven weeks later, Shell burned another Brickerhoff rig down 1 mile north of Altamont. This one had drill pipe in it and was a much bigger fire, one that could be seen as far away as Roosevelt, Utah, 30 miles to the east. Ute residents in Roosevelt said at night it looked like the sun never went down. Jimmy Adair came out of retirement to help Coots sting into the drill pipe on the 2nd fire and pump it dead.


bottom of page