Metallurgical American Institute of Mining.

Transactions of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Incorporated online

. (page 5 of 60)
Online LibraryMetallurgical American Institute of MiningTransactions of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Incorporated → online text (page 5 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

further drilling has been undertaken.

Innumerable abortive or uncertain tests have been made in the
Caucasian oil belt. Some were imdertaken at a time when nothing
short of 500-bbl. wells attracted any interest at all. At many spots produc-
tions have been obtained that would pay well in any other part of the
world. All along the Caspian Sea littoral, from Baku to Derbent,
there are frequent and encouraging indications of oil. At Berekei, a
little northwest of Derbent, about 500,000 bbl. of oil were taken from a
field in which 2000- to 5000-bbl. wells were struck; but water troubles
eventually drove away nearly all operators. At Eaikent, a large gusher
was struck in an initial effort, although all subsequent wells failed.
Aroimd Baku at Binagadi, a much despised region left for years to peas-
ants to develop by primitive methods gave, in 1913, 1,750,000 bbl. of
oil and has since exceeded 4,000,000 bbl. a year. At Puta and Kharda-
lan, a thriving industry developed as a result of hand-dugs sunk into
the outcropping oil sands and an output of 1,700,000 bbl. resulted in
1914. Drilling would yield very different results.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Miles of territory flankiiig the Caucasus foot-hills that fringe the
valley of the Kura are capable of remimerative development. In some
places small wells, still flowing, testify to past efforts, and at many places
the peasants satisfy all local wants by sinking shafts into outcropping
oil sands.

At ndohani in the Tionct valley, near Tiflis, productive wells were
sunk that flowed oil of light density in which crystals of wax separated;
at other places in the same district fruitless experiments were made with
antiquated plants where modern methods might have succeeded. At
Chatma, near the River Jora, there are numerous indications of oil and
interesting structures.

Miles of the Black Sea littoral and Taman peninsula are potential
oil fields; indeed, many dozens of productive wells have been sunk in
that region where such stupendous mud volcanoes are in evidence.
Russian geologists have estimated that there are fully 30,000 sq. mi.
of interesting imdeveloped oil land in Russia and this is probably no

Chief Russian Oil Fields
The main oil fields of Russia, in the order of their relative importance,
are as follows:

Appbozimatb Atproximatx
Pboduotion, Pbotsd Aria,






Balakhany-Saboontchy field, ] 1

Romany, } to 1918 1,697,690,000 J 2,600


Bibi-Eibat field,.

Surakhany field, to 1918... . 64,920,000

^^^y { Bc^fidd 1 ^ ^®^^ 139,868,000 8,000

Binagadi, to 1918....' 22,620,000

Khurdalan \

Puta [to 1917 9,082,000

Berekei *

Holy Island, to 1918 6,662,000


08 O Dossor, etc., to 1917 8,676,000


;§ I Chelekenjisland, to 1917 7,317.000

^ ^ Ferghana field, to 1917 3,620,000

Maikop, to 1917 4,760,000

Digitized by VjOOQIC



Table 4. — Approximate Production^ in Thousands of Barrels (8.3

Poods to a Barrel)

P^eviout to




Romany [1,427,960

Bibi-Eibat J

Surakhany 12,400

Binagadi 7,380

Holy Island 1,980

Khurdalan, Puta, etc. . . | 5,300
Terek . |

Gro«ny field ,1 noono/

BeUikfidd '/ ^'^t


North Caspian

Emba oil field


AHatie Russia











10,600 1
1,028 I







































5 gushers

burning 9



Arthxjb Knapp, Shreveport, La. — From this paper one would be
led to believe that the American system of drilling was not a success in
Russia; I spent two years in the Baku field and know that this is not true.
The firet rotary rig that I know of was sent over there in 1913. The
Russian engineers were so opposed to the use of the rotary that it was not
until 1914 that a well was drilled using American methods throughout.

The first rotary hole was drilled 1800 ft. (548 m.) in about three
months and offset a well that took 2^ years to drill by the Russian
method. The Russian method used about 120 tons of casing while the
American method used only two strings, 10 and 6 in., with a saving of
from $76,000 to $80,000. During the next two years, between eighteen
and twenty rotary wells were finished in the field. In every case there
was a saving of from 20 to 60 per cent, on casing and from 30 to 50 per
cent, on time and labor.

The fundamental difference between the Russian and American
systems of producing oil is that in America we try to keep the oil for-
mation from moving, by the use of screens, where necessary, while the
Russian engineer does everything he can to produce a large quantity of
sand. The drilling with the rotary is about the same as the drilling in
the Midway field in California.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


The Russian engineers have opposed the use of deep well pumps as
a means of producing oil. I installed an ordinary 2-in. pump in a well
that produced about 12 bbl. of oil and increased the production to 24 bbl.
on the beam. Our statistics showed a saving of 50 per cent, over bailing.
Another company under English control put about twelve wells to
pumping on jacks. They were run for some time and the cost compared
with the same kind and number of wells being produced by bailing. The
pumping wells used about 25 per cent, of the steam that was required by
the bailing wells. The labor costs were 12 per cent, and the repairs and
upkeep 5 per cent, of the bailing costs.

The deepest wells in the Baku fields at the time that I was there
were about 3000 ft. deep. They took at least three years to drill by the
Russian system and cost about $125,000. Only one out of three of the
Russian wells at this depth was a successful producer. The uniform
success of the American system was very much in its favor. Out of the
fifteen or twenty wells drilled during 1914-16, only two of the American
wells were lost.

The American rotary system is being very rapidly adopted. When
the war stopped imports the Russians tried with good success to make
rotaries of their own. The rotary may never entirely supplant the
Russian rig but it has been a great success and has come to stay in

Mr. Thompson's paper is the only one that I know of that brings
our knowledge of the Russian oil fields up to date. It is a valuable
addition to our literature.

A. Beeby Thompson (author's reply to discussion). — Mr. Arthur
Knapp's remarks, without some qualification, are apt to be misleading.
In the past, the leading oil companies of Baku have spent large siuns in
experimenting with American plant and have offered high rewards to any
successful operator who could increase speeds and reduce costs but a small
percentage. The best operators were sought and every facility granted
them but until just before the war no improved results had been achieved;
indeed, imtil the modern heavy type rotary was introduced the problem
appeared hopeless. Any driller who could have saved but 20 per cent, in
time or costs of drilling wells in the rich Baku oil field could have made
contracts that would have yielded him a fortune in a few years, as the
time factor in such congested areas meant so much to operators. Where
wells are drilled within 100 ft. or less of each other and a few square miles
are perforated by thousands of wells, it is almost inconceivable that
rotary flush drilling could be uniformly successful, for the mud enters the
loose, partly exhausted sands and follows channels of flow to neighboring
producing wells. Attempts in Bibi-Eibat many years ago caused many
wells to turn to mud and water when the rotary penetrated one of the
main sands from which the wells were drawing oil.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Rotary drilling has proved successful only in areas outside the con-
gested fields where great thicknesses of uninteresting beds have to be
pierced before the productive oil series is reached or where oQ occurs in
more compacted strata. Any operator able to save $75,000 worth of
casing and nine-tenths of the time of drilling in proved areas could within
a few years be a wealthy man.

The Russian engineers have not opposed pumping on principle, as in
Grozny and Maikop pumping has been conducted for years. As far
back as 1900, the writer made persistent efforts to use pumps in the Baku
oil fields but the large quantities of sand accompanying the oil made their
use impossible. In no case could a highly productive well be pumped for
more than a few hours without the pump being choked by sand and the
cups or plungers being cut to pieces. Induced flows through the pump
sometimes brought in sufficient quantities of sand to fill hundreds of feet
of the tubing. At that time no 12 or 24 bbl. well was accepted and prob-
ably 100 bbl. was the minimum payable jdeld. Conditions are quite
dijBferent today and there are many Baku properties where the slowly
infiltrating oil is sufficiently free from sand to enable grouped pumping to
be conducted. In the past, the output of a well fell off to an unpayable
yield unless the sand that entered the well was constantly being removed
by bottom baihng.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Petroleum in the Argentine Republic

Bt Stanlbt C. Hbbold,* Tulsa, Okla.

(New York Meeting, FebniAry, 1920)

At THE present time five localities in the Argentine Republic are
known to bear direct evidences of the presence of petroleum. The
segregation of these localities is more or less arbitrary inasmuch as minor .
indications may be found to extend from one locality to the other at no
regular distance apart, especially in the northern and western part of the
republic. These locaUties are listed as follows: North Argentine-Bo-
livian region, Salta-Jujuy district, provinces of Mendoza and Neuquen,
Ck)modoro Rivadavia, and the Gallegos-Punta Arenas region.

Economic conditions attract us to the possibiUties of developing these
and other regions of countries in the southern hemisphere. Develop-
ment work will, naturally, be undertaken first in such localities as present
direct manifestations of the presence of petroleum; ''hidden fields"
may exist, but, unless discovered by accident, their development will be
left to the last.

The problems to be solved in the development of the petroleum
resources of the Argentine republic are mainly of stratigraphy, structure,
and transportation. We are not here concerned with the unfavorable
climate of the countries to the north in the tropics where, for us of the
"far north," life hangs by a thread ready to be severed by a mosquito,
gnat, or tropical germ.

North Argentine-Bolivian Region

The North Argentine-Bolivian region has already been described by
the author.* Geographically and geologically this is admittedly one field
extending from Argentine into Bolivia. It is not necessary to repeat
here the various conditions pertaining to this field, though the summary
may be quoted as follows:

Extending from northern Argentine northward into central Bolivia is a belt of
petroleum seepages. On accoimt of the remoteness of the district it has, heretofore,
been little considered by oil operators. The regional geology is comparatively well
imderstood but the local features have not been carefully detailed.

Development work in the past has been done on an imscientific basis and has led
to failures. At the present time, access to the region is somewhat difficult but no

* Chief GeologiBt, Tulsa District, Sinclair OU and Gas Co.
I Trans. (1919) 61, 644.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


serious problem would be encountered in improving the conditions. The nearest
railroad terminal is at £mbarcaci6n, 114 mi. (183 km.) south of the Bolivian border,
or 72 mi (116 km.) from the nearest manifestation of petroleum in natural springs.

The oil is of high quality and the seepages occur in creek beds along the Sierra de
.AguaragQe fault, and at other isolated places.

Native Uhoir b good and government policies are sjrmpathetio toward foreign

Though the struotural features of the region, as a unit, have been worked out by
reconnaissance surveys, there still remain many local sections upon which no detailed
study has been made.

Several small areas have been proved unfavorable for production, though the
region as a whole cannot be condemned on this account.

Since writing the above there has been no further development in this
district, to the author's knowledge, though individuals have had their
geologists there.

The Salta^ujuy Distkict

The Salta-Jujuy district lies to the west of the foregoing area, north-
west and north of the town of Salta, extending into Bolivia. There may
be no logical reason for separating these fields except that the latter lies
in the mountainous and somewhat inaccessible part of the country. The
stratigraphy of one is closely related to that of the other. Seepages are
small and widely scattered, of high quality oil, and not of continuous
flow, for heavy rains may either temporarily efface or bring to light slight
showings of petroleum, depending on local conditions.

The structure of the district is rather complex due to the folding
and faulting of the strata l3ring on the side of igneous formation protruded
in the Andes uplift. As tiiie surface is made up of steep moimtains and
narrow gorges largely, there is small probability of extensive develop-
ment. The seepages occur along the exposures of beds dipping at high
angle and along faults.

Provinces of Mendoza and Neuquen

These two provinces lie on the eastern flank of the Andes Mountains
due west from Buenos Aires and adjoining the Republic of Chile. The
province of Mendoza is traversed by the trans-Andean railway which
extends from coast to coast. Seepages, generally of tar or asphalt and
heavy oil, extend in a north-and-south line along the frontal ranges, paral-
leling the main trend of the range. The author made but a casual observa-
tion in this district and is therefore not competent to enter a detailed
^ discussion of stratigraphic conditions. The main features are beds of
steep dip and numerous faults. Some development has been under-
taken in the past but up to autmnn of the year 1917 no success had been
met. The area has its possibilities.

Digitized by VjOOQIC



At Comodoro Rivadavia is situated the only successfully developed
oil field in the Argentine Republic. It is located in the southeast corner
of the territory of Chubdt along the Atlantic seacoast, inunediately north
of the town of Comodoro Rivadavia, on the Gulf of St. George (San
Jorge) at approximately latitude south 45"* 45' and longitude west 67** 20'
from Greenwich. From Buenos Aires, the field lies in a direction of south
30'' west, 1164 mi. (1875 km.) distant, as the ships saiL

The area includes the reserved land of the Argentine Government of
5000 ha. (12,050 acres), 5000 by 10,000 m. along the coast covering the
town of Comodoro Rivadavia itself. Furthermore, it includes various
areas adjoining this reservation to the north, west, and south. Three
properties were producing petrolemn in the latter part of the year 1917:
namely, the government reservation, the CompafLia Argentina de Como-
doro Rivadavia, and the Astro property, the latter situated about 20
km. north. Many claims or concessions have been taken up by local
parties, some of which appear to be favorable for production.

Previous to the accidental discovery of oil by drilling for water there
were said to be absolutely no signs of the existence of oil or gas under the
surface in this region. The domestic water supply of the town of Como-
doro Rivadavia was very poor and in such condition as to render the
district unhealthy. In the year 1908, the Argentine Government sent a
drilling outfit there to prospect for water, a site having been chosen
opposite the bank building in town. No water was encountered so
the drill was removed to a place 3] km. north. Drilling proceeded
until a strong flow of gas was encoimtered and later a gusher of oil at
1770 ft. (540 m.) below sea level. The well was^probably not over 70 ft.
above the sea.

Since discovery, drilling has been continued with more or less regular-
ity until, in the latter part of 1917, about sixty wells had been put down
on the reservation, a fair proportion of which proved 49uccessful. Water
is now brought from the hills to the west through pipe and supplies all

Within the government area, at least three sedimentary series exposed
at the surface have been differentiated. The lowest stratum expcraed is
that of a white, soft, tuf aceous formation lying at the base of the hills
immediately to the north of the oil field. Traces of carboniferous matter
have been found in this formation but no fossils capable of recognition
were on record at the time of the author's visit. Its age was considered
to be Lower Eocene or possibly Upper Cretaceous. About 50 ft. of the
series is exposed.

The next younger formation is a series of sandstones and shales.
The sandstone is light brown in color, soft, and easily eroded. Sand

Digitized by VjOOQIC


grains are of medium sise. Beds vary in thickness from 10 to 50 ft.,
bedding planes well defined. The shale is also light brown where exposed
and very soft. The entire thickness of the series is approximately 200 ft.
Fossils of this formation were considered to be of Eocene Age.

The third and youngest stratified series is the so-called "Patagonia''
series, a formation composed largely of soft, light brown, thinly bedded
sandstone. Some shale occurs. It is this formation that stands in high
cliffs to the west of the field. At least 300 ft. of the series is exposed in
the immediate vicinity. Fossils are very abundant. They are prob-
ably of Oligocene age.

In addition to these stratified deposits there is a great amount of
chert, water-worn pebbles lying loosely on the ground above the Pata-
gonia series and particularly along the beach. These pebbles are pre-
dominantly of yellow, red, green, and black colors and undoubtedly
were transported from a distance.

The formations below the tuff penetrated by the drill are mostly
gray shales and sandstones, the hardness of which varies somewhat in
the different strata. They may be Lower Eocene or Upper Cretaceous.

The beds at the surface lie at a very low angle, somewhat similar
to conditions in the Mid-Continent fields. The normal dip is toward
the southeast with sufficient undulation to produce flat dome struc-
tures with closures in contoimi on the northwest. At the close of
Patagonia time, a gentle but extensive uplifting took place throughout
the entire region, leaving the strata almost horizontal, producing the
great "pampas," or high plains, to the west toward the Andes. Evi-
dently little, if any, lateral pressure was exerted upon the strata, for
they appear little disturbed except for their elevation. The sea and
rains have ravaged the coast line, leaving a shelf with low relief along
the coast; it Ib on this shelf that we find the development of the field.

The oil is found on the above-mentioned domes in a sand that lies
conformably to the series at the surface at a depth close to 530 m. (1740 ft.)
below sea level. The texture of the sand seems to vary considerably,
producing non-porous parts sufficiently tight to exclude the oil. For
this reason oil is not always encountered as soon as the oil formation is
struck. In some wells it was reported that oil was not encountered
imtil a depth of 580 m. (1900 ft.) had been reached. Overlying the oil
series is a soft bluish-gray shale. The age of the series was thought to
be Upper Cretaceous, though this was not certain. Water has been
encoimtered but no difficulty is experienced in shutting it off.

The wells of this field have been drilled by a combination of the rotary
drill to a depth of 462 m. (1515 ft.) and the Fauck system with rods to
the oil strata. The rigs are of the closed-in type, covered with sheet
iron on four sides to the top. They must be heavily guyed to prevent
damage from strong winds prevailing during certain seasons. At the

Digitized by VjOOQIC


time of the writer's viflit, two American rigs had recently been built to
use cable tools in combination with the rotary outfit. As far as they
had been used, they were making an admirable record compared with
the rods. It seems quite necessary to use the rotary for the upper
part of the hole, as the walls are subject to caving. Strong flows of
briny water are encountered at 350 m. (1150 ft.) and at 435 m. (1428 ft.).
Gas is often struck at 150 m. (492 ft), and at 400 m. (1312 ft.).

In August, 1917, twenty-five wells were producing 4000 bbl. of oil
per day and an average of 60 m. (195 ft.) of new hole per day was being
drilled. The oil is heavy, about 18^ B6, on an average, black in color,
with a low content of gasoline. There is a small refinery on the ground
for extracting the gasoline. The refuse is returned to the storage tanks
for shipping to Buenos Aires, where it is used by industrial plants as
fuel. The government maintained a fleet of four tankers at that time.
Loading was often done with difficulty on account of lack of harbor
facilities, since the Gulf of St. George is quite open to the Atlantic.
Although but twenty-five wells were producing, about thirty-five others
had been drilled and had either been dry, lost holes, or abandoned as no
longer profitable to operate. It is understood that this record has been
considerably improved since that time.

A fair proportion of the territory can be surveyed in detail, as is
being done in the Mid-Continent field. The most favorable localities
may therefore be selected for the drill with a minimum of failures.
Stratigraphic conditions are favorable for a considerable extension of
present known producing area. Transportation presents little difficulty,
since the field adjoins the sea and market conditions are capable of great
expansion; all oil not needed by the industries in Buenos Aires may be
devoted to use in oil-burning vessels, which would call if fuel were available.

Gallegos-Punta Arenas Region

At the southernmost section of the continent is located the Gall^os-
Punta Arenas region. In addition to the well-known gas springs near
the town of Punta Arenas, the manifestations extend northward to a
district due west of the port of Gallegos. In the latter locality, the
streams are reported by competent observers to be carrying small quanti-
ties of crude oil toward Lake Blanca. The author has not studied this
region, so is unable to give information r^arding conditions and possi-
bilities of development.


The Chaibman (E. DeGolyer, New York, N. Y.).— The production
of petroleum id the Argentine is entirely in the hands of the government.
Some years ago, in attempting to develop a water suppfy for the
Patagonian region, the department in charge of drilling brought in a

Digitized by VjOOQIC


gushing well The president immediately withdrew a considerable
reserve aromid this well; subsequently, the government reduced the sLse
of the reserve to 6000 hectares and proceeded to develop the property.
I have studied several of the reports of the Commission that has the
matter in charge, and am not able to determine whether or not it is a
profitable venture for the government, but it seems to have devel-
oped a distinct policy of exclusion. The mining laws, like the mining
laws in most Latin-American countries, practically made no provision for
petroleum. They were a development of the old Spanish mining codes
when petroleum was not recognized as a mineral. In most of these
Latin-American countries, some sort of special legislation has been
required to make it possible for one to go in to develop the petroleum
resources. As the tendency in the Argentine seems to be to keep the
thing in the hands of the government, there is the peculiar condition that
a nation that has no coal fuel, and where fuel is the utmost importance,
seems to be determined to have no oil development either.

Online LibraryMetallurgical American Institute of MiningTransactions of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Incorporated → online text (page 5 of 60)