top of page

Dammam; 1938

Part 2

The Prophecy Well, ٧بئر رقم

Max Steinike, left, proved very pursuasive in SOCAL's headquarters in San Franciso the summer of 1937. He'd brought with him from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia revised maps, rock samples, fossils, little bottles of Dammam oil from the No. 1 well and laid his beliefs all out to the Board He needed more time to be sure but he didn't have that time so he put his neck on the chopping block. The goal was deeper Arab Zone carbonates, the last hope.

Steinike's speel worked and about the time he was to begin his long journey from California back to the KSA, the No. 7 well was approved by the Board.

Well 7 was spud on December 7, 1937.

It was the well from hell to drill from the get-go. The first 700 feet of 20 3/4 inch hole caved in before casing could be run. Mud returns were lost constantly and the well kicked gas much of the time. Cement around protective casing strings were never circulated to surface and rumors around the CASOC camp were that the well was in "bad shape." The Hith anyhride beds below the Bahrain zone were hard to drill thru. The Arab A and B zones below the Hith, on drill stem tests, were marginally gassy and oil volumes are disappointing.

But time-drilling indicated the buried dome seem to push upward with depth, from underlying salt, and when the Arab C zone was encountered, penetration rates increased signicantly and things began to get exciting. Wires to San Francisco from the camp were designed to be very upbeat and promising, while everybody back in the KSA was puckered up with anxiety.

On the last day of 1937, at 4,535 feet, the 7 well encounred a very porous carbonate below anhydrite and blew out. A valve was stabbed on the drill pipe and the well put on diverter, mostly dry gas and no oil. It was killed with mud and operations suspended, then resumed in late January of 1938. They immediately stuck the drill pipe, again, but this time it could not be rcovered. The bottom hole assembly was shot of and left in the hole. The well was deviated around the planted bottom hole assembly and the well drilled to a depth of 4,694 feet when it blew out again, this time making oil. It was diverted to the pits and killed with mud. The interval, believed to be Arab C carbonates, was drill stem tested and the results of the DST were wired to San Francisco, below.

The flowed the well thru the DST tool for several weeks, into open pits, and rates varied around 3,500 BOPD. 100,000 BO was produced into the pits. That oil was pumped back down into the nearby No. 1 well. The oil was mid level gravity of 35 API but sour with a sulfur at 1.5 PBV.

Orders from California headquarters were to cease drilling and set casing. The test tool could not be be pulled and the standard derrick was almost pulled down trying to unstick the DS tool and pull DP. Casing was finally run, cemented, and everybody took a breather. This sort of shit can be more stressful than you can possible imagine. In Chapter 3 I will explain that better,

It was clear from pressure draw down during DS testing the Arab C zone was going to be a commercial discovery.

King Saud and a caravan of cars and Princesses motored over from Riyahd to celebrate the very first oil discovery in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The King declared the well to be prophecy to the Kingdom

Storage tanks were built and a plan was initiated to build a pipeline to lay on the Gulf floor to the refinery in Bahrain. Mooring and piers were built into deeper Gulf water to accomodate tankers and this facility became known as Ras Tanura.

Dammam No. 7 Rig Crew

The Dammam No. 7 had multiple strings of casing set in it, large washouts that were never fully cemented to barrier status, and two bottom hole assemblies (BHA's) with drill collars, stabilizers, bit subs and bits stuck and left in the well bore.

It was perforated in late 1938 and flowed until 1958 when it was shut in still making 1,800 BOPD. In 1982 it was retested at the the same flow rates and then plugged and permanently abandoned. Its cummulative production, the one well, was 37 MM barrels oil. As one might expect the Dammam 7 well is a sort of a national shrine in the City of Dhahran.

Dammam wells 2 and 3, previous failures in the Bahrain zone were deepened to the Arab C and they too flowed pipeline oil into earthen pits while bolted storage tanks were built and a pipeline was laid on the sea floor to the refinery near Awali in Bahrain. In 18 months something in the order of 1 MM BO was pumped back into the Bahrain zone in Well No. 1 for storage.

San Francisco was elated and the first of many central air conditioning units were sent to the camp. An enormous ice plant was built and the camp self-generated its own electricity. Wives of American workers arrived soon there after.


Meet "Dammam 7," the name of Aramco's latest super computer used for 3 and 4 dimensional seismic modeling. The image on the left is of the Dammam dome and shows the deepseated, Hormuz salt origins of the dome. Vertical well profiles into Jurrasic Arab zones can be seen and more recent deeper tests into lower Jurassic, even Triassic age rocks have yielded encouraging results.

If for one reason or another you ever get a chance to visit a 4D modeling station like the ones in the video below, do it. It is amazing !


Next, In Part 3, Tragedy At Dammam No. 12

Author's note: this is all for fun, to simply summarize an important milestone in the history of world oil and gas. There are countless articles and papers about the first discovery in Saudi Arabia, all far better and more historically accurate than mine. I hope what I have done is stir your interest.

I am sorry for any misuse of the Arabic language or any mistakes I might have made with regard to facts. Again, I am hitting in the high points. This is a four part serices and I will acknowledge all of my sources and references at the end of Part 4


bottom of page