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Quema de Gas

Potrero del Llano Numero Quatro, Huasteca Region, Eastern Mexico; 1914

The rough meaning of that in English is venting gas. The photo is courtesy of the Ben Manning Collection at the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University and, for a student of early Mexican oil history, a great find worth sharing.

This is a photo of perhaps the greatest oil well the world has ever known. I invite you please to read about this great well on Oily Stuff Blog, here, and again here in a bit of a "sequel" to the original Jefe post. No well in the world has ever produced so much oil in a shorter period of time than the Potrero 4.

After a lightening strike in 1913 that set the nearby river on fire, the Potrero 4 well itself was literally almost covered in dirt, with a large, earthen levee like berm around it, the fear of lightening actually striking the well bore itself was so great.

While the fire in the river embankment raged on, efforts were made to open the well itself and eliminate any restrictions in the downstream gathering system. The idea was that this would prevent more surface breaches and slow the fire down in the river bed.

In the photo above we can see the earthen berm thrown up around the well bore and the large OD flowlines coming out of the levee. All of this was encircled in a protective fence, with guard towers at each corner to watch for revolutionists. All of the vent stacks seen in the photo are from this one, single well and are helping to blow off pressure.

One can assume these were all good problems to have, even in 1914, but Aquila's production hands must have literally been on the brink of a heart attack, constantly. So large was the flow rates from this well that any restrictions in the well head, capping assembly and fragile production casing wanted to send it all into orbit. The mere placement of production pipelines caused enough head/back pressure to breach the casing shoe and blow, hard, up thru the ground in a half dozen areas. Before the lightening strike the eruption in the river bank was putting 15,000 barrels of oil per day into the water. Lots of it it was skimmed off, more of it had to be burned off.

And, if that wasn't enough, there were revolutionary's always taking shots at the well head, trying to ignite it.


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