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When a well strikes a high-pressure formation about 6,500 feet beneath Oklahoma City – and oil erupts skyward – the prolific Oklahoma oilfield will become famous worldwide.

Newsreel photographers will send film of the “Wild Mary Sudik” well to Hollywood. Within a week, newsreels appear in theaters around the country. When the Mary Sudik is brought under control, crews will recover 200,000 barrels of oil from pits and ponds.

The Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company’s Mary Sudik No. 1 well flows for 11 days before being brought under control on April 6, 1930.

The well, which produces about 20,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas a day, becomes a public sensation known as “Wild Mary Sudik.”

The giant discovery is featured in newsreels and on radio, according to “Oklahoma Journeys,” an audio program of the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

“At about 6:30 the morning of March 26, 1930, the crew of roughnecks drilling a well on the property of Vincent Sudik paused in their work,” the program begins about the well, which is near I-240 and Bryant Street in present day Oklahoma City.

“The tired drillers had been waiting for daylight to continue their work,” the audio tape notes.

Experts control the well with “a clever ball-shaped contrivance” that lowers a two-ton “overshot” cap.

The program’s narrator Michael Dean notes that after drilling to drilling to 6,471 feet, the roughnecks overlook a dangerous pressure increase in the well.

“The exhausted crew failed to fill the hole with mud,” he explains. “They didn’t know the Wilcox sand formation was permeated with natural gas under high pressure, and within minutes that sand under so much pressure found a release.”

The drilling crew is caught off guard when oil and natural gas suddenly “came roaring out of the hole,” Dean adds.

“Pipe stems were thrown hundreds of feet into the air like so many tooth picks. First there was gas then the flow turned green gold and then black,” he reports. “Oil shot hundreds of feet into the air, and for the next eleven days, the Mary Sudik ran wild.”

“Wild Mary” Daily Updates

On April 6, Floyd Gibbons of NBC Radio – who broadcast regular reports about the well – reports that after two unsuccessful attempts, the well is closed with a two-ton “overshot” cap.

An Associated Press article describes the “clever equipment” required to control the well without sparking a fire – a “double die was screwed into four inches of casing threads…a clever ball-shaped contrivance, called a fantail, was used to affix the double die to the casing.”

The fantail was placed over the well, “and the ‘Wild Mary’s’ pressure, playing through jets in the contrivance, aided in lowering the cap through the blast,” the article explains.

“With the petroleum geyser halted, operators in the field drew sighs of relief,” it concludes. “A stray spark from two clanking pieces of steel and the territory might have become a raging inferno.”

With the well was brought under control and the danger of fire eliminated, drilling continues at a frantic pace elsewhere in Oklahoma City.

However, the prolific, high-pressure of the Wilcox sands formation continued to challenge drillers and the technologies of the day.

An article in the Southwest Missourian newspaper reported:

Oklahoma City, April 7 – A gas well, estimated to be producing at a rate of 75,000,000 cubic feet a day, blew in at the edge of the city today, creating a new fire threat less than 24 hours after the wild No. 1 Mary Sudik gusher, several miles to the south, had been brought under control.

Recognizing the risks of drilling into the Wilcox sand, Oklahoma City passes additional ordinances for safety and well spacing in the city.

Although the first ram-type blowout preventer had been patented by James Abercrombie in 1926, many high-pressure Texas and Oklahoma oilfields would take time to tame.

The Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City includes the Devon Energy Oil and Gas Park.

In December 1933, Abercrombie patented an improved blowout preventer (patent No. 1,834,922), that set a new standard for safe drilling during the Oklahoma City oilfield boom. Read more in “Ending Oil Gushers – BOP.”

Visitors today  can see the valve that split in half and view newsreel film of the Wild Mary Sudik in the oil and gas and natural resources on exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center.

There also is the Devon Energy Oil and Gas Park with drilling and production equipment at the center, located on N.E. 23rd Street just east of the state capitol.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.

 

Making-Hole-cable-tool-man-AOGHSA good cable-tool man is just about the most highly skilled worker you’ll find. Besides having a feel for the job, knowing what’s going on thousands of feet under the ground just from the movement of the cable, he’s got to be something of a carpenter, a steam-fitter, an electrician, and a damned good mechanic. A cable tool driller knows more knots and splices than any six sailors you can find. – From a 1939 interview in “Voices from the Oilfield” by Paul Lambert and Kenny Franks.

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The Chinese drilled with bamboo spring poles as early as 450 A.D.

Drilling or “making hole” began long before oil or natural gas were anything more than flammable curiosities found seeping from the ground.

For centuries, digging by hand or shovel was the best technologies that existed to pry into the earth’s secrets. Oil seeps provided a balm for injuries. Natural gas seeps – when ignited – created folklore and places called “burning springs.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

Travelers on U.S. 62 four miles south of the Allegheny River Bridge at Tidioute, Pennsylvania, discover this Warren County roadside marker erected in July 1959.

Few remember the names of those who come in second – they often are relegated to the “also rans,” no matter how close to the finish. Petroleum history is the same.

Second-place finishers most often dwell in the fine print of history. Consider America’s first oil well.

Edwin L. Drake drilled his famous well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859. As a result, the Drake Well Museum today draws thousands of visitors each year. The discovery’s 2009 sesquicentennial was commemorated in the “valley that changed the world.”

August 27, 1859, marks the date of America’s first oil well. But August 31 – just four days later – is ignored. It was on that day that a second oil well was drilled by a young man named John Livingston Grandin.

A few days after “Drake’s Folly” at Titusville surprised everybody by producing barrels of oil from a depth of 69.5 feet, the news arrived in Tidioute’s General Store, 20 miles away.

Each barrel was said to be selling for 75 cents and 23-year-old John Grandin, the owner’s son and an aspiring entrepreneur, saw an opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

 

The exploration history of the U.S. offshore oil and natural gas industry began in the Pacific Ocean more than 100 years ago. As recently as 1947 no company had ever risked drilling beyond the sight of land.

America’s offshore petroleum industry began in the late 19th century in Pacific Ocean with drilling and production piers at Summerland, California. Drilling platforms also appreared on lakes in Ohio and Lousiana. By the 1940s, technology was taking wells far into the Gulf of Mexico.

America’s offshore petroleum industry began in the late 19th century in Pacific Ocean with drilling and production piers at Summerland, California. Drilling platforms also appreared on lakes in Ohio and Louisiana. By the 1940s, technology was taking wells far into the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1896, as enterprising businessmen pursued California’s prolific Summerland oilfield all the way to the beach, the lure of offshore production enticed Henry L. Williams and his associates to build a pier 300 feet out into the Pacific – and mount a standard cable-tool rig on it. Read the rest of this entry »

 

By 1920, Tulsa is home to 400 petroleum companies, two daily newspapers, seven banks, four telegraph companies – and more than 10,000 telephones.

On a chilly fall morning in 1905 – two years before Oklahoma becomes a state – oil is discovered on the Glenn farm south of Tulsa.

Soon, there are hundreds of wells producing so much oil that the land is called the “‘Glenn Pool,” now the Tulsa suburb Glenpool.

This November 22 discovery well will help make Tulsa the “Oil Capital of the World.”

With daily production soon exceeding 120,000 barrels, Glenn Pool exceeds Tulsa County’s earlier “Red Fork Gusher” – and the giant Spindletop discovery near Beaumont, Texas, four years earlier. Read the rest of this entry »