Lightening Strike; 1913
Potrero del Llanos No. 4; late summer 1913
Regardless of the era, for an operator the oil business often feels like being shot at and missed, shit on and hit. Problems never end.
After months of arduous work to regain control of this well in the great, Golden Lane of Mexico and get it placed on diverter, the ensuing effort to get it hooked up to a pipeline proved every difficult. The well head assembly and production manifold were as large as possible to accommodate flow rates estimated to be upwards to 50,000 BOPD but still caused back pressure problems that led to the production casing to want to come out of the ground. The well had to be shut in several times and eventually the well broached the casing seat, again, and began flowing out a fissure in a nearby river bed. Again. It put put tens of thousands of barrels of oil in the river that had to be picked up by barge and floated away.
Just before a larger production manifold was installed, a late summer hurricane hit northern Mexico and caused thunderstorms in the area. Lightening from one of those storms hit the riverbed near the blowout flow and set the river on fire, then the flow itself.
Many people incorrectly believe this is a photograph of the No. 4 well on fire. Its not. It is uncontrolled blowout flow coming up to the surface several hundred feet from the well. The well itself was protected from this fire with massive earthen berms and once the pipeline connections were finalized the well was put back on line, the flow diminished and the fire was put out with steam boilers.
Read more about this unbelievable well, without question the biggest well in world history, on Oily Stuff Blog, here. The article is called, The Jefe, for a reason.