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Canton, Oklahoma; 1964

This is a 1965 photograph of the Goff Oil Company No. 1 Paulus well near the small village of Canton, in Blaine County, Oklahoma. Canton is about 40 miles northwest of Oklahoma City and Blaine County is now days known for producing HZ stuff in the Cana-Woodford shale, otherwise know as the Scoop/Stack play. The Woodford shale, by the way, should not be confused with the Dog Creek Shale, nor the Flower Pot Shale.

Blaine County use to be one of the biggest sources of gypysum in the country and because it is in the Anadarko Basin it has been hammered with oil and gas wells since the early 1920's, from top to bottom, including conventional carbonates, dolomites and clastics that, unlike shale, had bottom hole pressure. Accordingly there have been some big time blowouts in Blaine County. I suspect this blowout occured in Pennsylvanian, Morrow, or thereabouts. Maybe permeable Hutton. The well burned for 10 months, so whatever it was, it was a real reservoir.

One of the very first posts I wrote on Oily Stuff in 2017 was about Blaine County, Oklahoma, and how the shale industry was destroying shallow Permian aged stripper wells with 5,000 foot vertical frac bashes, or when frac's wandered up, out of zone, or behind pipe into shallow oil wells, here:

Control was lost on the Paulus well by the morning tower (tour) at 04:00 hrs. on a Friday in August 1964; they were making a bit trip and out of the hole. The blind rams were closed but did stop the flow entirely, the well was making rocks and ignited within a few miunutes. Nobody was hurt. The mast fell in 2 hours.

The secondary fire to the right is a propane tank. Propane was a common fuel source around rigs in the old days and the best thing to do on a fire was shoot holes in the damn things with a high powered rifle to bleed them off. Joe Carpenter and I went and looked at a 1000 gallon propane tank one time in a fire that had a pop off valve on it; it looked to be empty so we tied a winch line around it and drug it away from the fire with a high track D6. As soon as I unhooked the winch line and walked a hundred yards away it ruptured at the seams like like a coke can and hissed gas for an hour.

Hands park their personal cars before going to work, usually in the backyard, behind the mud pumps. This day they wished they parked a little further away.

Big fires always draw an audience and people like to get as close as they can to hear, and feel a blowing well, as long at they don't get too close.

Folks on the left have pulled off the Farm to Market Road and are looking with binoculars.

By Saturday the rig contactor was engaged in trying to save anything of his rig he could that wasn't melted into lumps of iron. With some galvanized tin for shields some hands got up wind and in pretty close to look-see and the news was not good. Much of the blowout flow as now coming around the surface casing. The well was lost.

This Canton fire was directly in the final approach path into Oklahoma City International Airport so traffic control in OKC changed the pattern.

The Adair Company was called and primarily as a courtesy, little else, one or the other of Red, Boots or Coots went to look. As is so often is the case when blowout flow is outside the pipe, there isn't much to do. They went back to Houston.

By late 1964 the flow was ripping around the surface casing and creating a deep, wide crater. You might say it was self-excavating the crater and piling up the dirt on the outside of the rim, like a big levee. Most of the flow was gas and some condensates. The first relief well failed to intersect the blowout zone and was plugged, the rig skidded several hundred feet with the deviation oriented to a different direction.

The second relief well also failed to make intersection. Dip meter logs from both relief wells showed steep inclination of subsurface beds in the vicinity of the Paulus 1 well and geologists took charge of a 3rd relief well starting in April of 1965.

The well was not allowed to burn, it just burned. Sometimes its possilbe to flood craters with water to extinguish small, rolling fires, this well was too big.

All and all its better for the environment to just let them burn.

April 1965, a year after loss of control, the fire is still ripping in the bottom of a 70 foot deep crater. The 3rd relief well is on the right.

After re-mapping the subsurface around the blowout well with the benefit of dip meters, the 3rd relief well was spud only 200 feet away from the fire and the rate of inclination and direction of the deviated relief well was on target. It had to have sometimes been pretty warm working on the relief well that close to the crater, and you know what they say about Oklahoma and wind. At intersection of the blowout zone the relief well kicked, the crater fire started to diminish, mud weight was increased and the Paulus well was pumped dead, followed by an extensive cement tombstone.


This handsome fella on the left is a Cheyenne Chief named White Buffalo. He was born in Montana and raised hell all over the West before being sent to a reservation in Blaine County, Oklahoma where he died of a broken heart in 1929. He was in his 60's at death.


[1] The Oklahoman; 2007

[2] AAPG

[3] Annotated Bibliograhy of Red Adair

[4] University of Oklahoma

[5] Oklahoma Historical Society

[6] Blaine County Historical Society


One can buy a postcard of the 1964 oil fire near Canton, Oklahoma on eBay for about $5.

On the back of the postcard it says this was the world's biggest, wildest, longest running untammed oil well fire in history...but everyone says that about oil well fires.

Had you been with us on the past 8 years you'da gotten to read about some really bigguns.

תגובה אחת

Mike, for what it's worth, go for happiness. You have a great creative genius for putting life experiences, oilfield history and lore all into a great story told in captivating form, but in truth, it's not going to change the trajectory of shale--which is racing to the bottom of the oil drum.

Texas will survive this, though I rather suspect Midland, Carlsbad and many small hamlets and villages will turn into tombstone cities. One thing I can guarantee you: These torpedoes who are running shale oil and gas don't really care.

When I finally finished a satisfying career in cardiology, I found it necessary to write about the dark underbelly of medicine: the commercial enterprise it had turned into, the…

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