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Sicily; 1953

Bitumen mining in Provinci di Pescara Italy; 1951. Photo courtesy Archivo Mino Gelsomro

East of Rome, along the coastline of the Adriatic Sea, thick bitumen occurrences were quite common and as early as 1867 mining for the stuff happened for a host of uses we recently found to be the same as those in Mexico...for the sealing and repair of wooden ships, roofing, chalking and chinking, to make asphalt with, even medicinal purposes. After WWII, very commercial efforts were made at mining bitumen near the village of Pescara. The remarkable photograph above is not a scene from the movie, Tremors, but an actual bitumen extrusion in that region of Italy.

Where there is bitumen there are often oil seeps and natural gas bubbling up out of the ground and inevitably the existence of visible hydrocarbons leads to humans needing to drill wells to see what's down there.

Avienda Generale Italiano Petroli (AGIP, later Eni) was founded in 1926 and explored the east coast of Italy, along with numerous US companies, where significant gas fields were made as early as 1939 (Vellezza), an 18 BCF field near Milan in 1944, Auostino-Porta Garibaldi (1969) and the large, Monte Alpi oil field (1981), discovered by Eni. Italy has a rich and colorful oil history, often fraught with big boo-boos that required the help of American well control experts, like Wild Well Control and Pat Campbell in northern Italy, at Trecate, in 1991, below:

J. Elmer Thomas and Everett DeGoyler were mates and after Mr. De founded the American Association of Petroleum Geologists he named Mr. Thomas its first president. Working independently and under retainers with several US companies, Thomas mapped a beautiful structure in the SW portion of Sicily, in the Ragusa Basin, near the village of Ragusa in 1948 and passed his prospect on to a man named Albert Bally. Bally then partnered with a fella named, Eduard Trumpy at Gulf Oil. Concessions were acquired and sometime in 1952 Gulf spud its first well in Sicily, below.

Gulf Oil, left, Ragusa Sicily, 1952

Its first well on the Ragusa structure was a war horse. So unprepared they were to make a discovery in Sicily they essentially had to burn off the multi day DST test. The oil was heavy, in the 25 API range. Ragusa then proceeded on with its development and in 1953 Gulf and AGIP lost control of a structurally high well in the gas cap and it caught fire. Shit happens, even in the oilfields of Italy.

Kinley, left, Ragusa, Sicily

In 1953 there were only two men in the entire world capable of handling this sort of thing, both from Houston, Myron Kinley and his young protegee, Red Adair. The year 1953 was an incredible year for the MM Kinley Company and my records suggest Kinley and Adair might have attended as many as 47 blowouts and fires that year, including a giant one off the Louisiana coast for Pure Oil. Kinley nevertheless went running to Italy and left Adair behind doing other things.

As you watch these films, below, remember in 1953 Myron Kinley is 55 years old. His right leg is mangled, badly, and now stiff, from an explosives drum that went off prematurely, killing the man standing next to him, his right ankle has been broken twice, and the skin on his right back side, from his shoulder to his knee is scared from a fire in Venezuela and painful, still, after 8 years. He will work in the well control business only about 10 years, the last four years alone, before he calls it quits... a little shy of 65 years old. He died in 1978 at the age of 80.

Below is a different film of the same Ragusa fire, this one in English:

Ragusa Oil Field produced over 350MM BO. Nearby Gela Field, discovered in 1956, produced more than that. Gela was close to the beach on the Mediterranean Sea and led to the first offshore well ever drilled in all of Europe in 1959. Eni is still working in the Ragusa Basin, even today.

Ragusa, Sicily, 2019


For more on Mac Kinley please click on the Oily Stuff article, above, and google other articles on Oily Stuff about Mr. Kinley.


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