Famous Gushers of California



Bellevue Gusher of Lost Hills Field

Lakeview Gusher of Midway-Sunset Field

Other California Gushers



Other California Gushers

Ventura Basin - The first gusher in California was the Adams No. 16, a well in Adams Canyon in the Ventura basin, which spouted over the top in 1888. This well was followed in February, 1892 by the bigger Adams No. 28, which flowed out of control at about 1,500 barrels per day to send torrents of oil down the Santa Clara River and out to sea. Drilled by the Hardison and Stewart Oil Company, a predecessor of the Union Oil Company of California, these two wells demonstrated to the world the huge potential of the California oil fields.

McKittrick - The first truly big gusher in the southern San Joaquin Valley (Kern County) was a Klondike Oil Company well called the Shamrock Gusher, which came in at 1,300 barrels a day in 1896. The Shamrock gusher signaled the end of tar mining operations in Kern County and heralded the rapid ascendancy of the San Joaquin Valley to the most prolific oil province of California.

Coalinga - The Shamrock gusher was followed by a well at Coalinga, in the northern San Joaquin Valley (Fresno County), named the Home Oil Company No. 3. Sometimes called the "Blue Goose" gusher, this well blew out in the Oil City area of the field in 1898 at 700 to 1,000 barrels of oil per day. It was followed in the southernmost part of the field in September, 1909 by the Silvertip No. 1 gusher, which flowed out of control at the phenomenal rate of 10,000 to 20,000 barrels per day.

Santa Maria - The first and biggest of several spectacular gushers in Santa Maria field, on the California coast, was the Union Oil Hartnell No. 1, known to most as "Old Maud", which went over the top in 1904 and flowed 12,000 barrels of oil a day for the next three months. Old Maud blew for two more years and ultimately produced 3 million barrels of oil.

Midway-Sunset - The 1896 success of the Shamrock gusher in the southern San Joaquin was followed in November, 1909 by the Chanslor-Canfield Midway No. 2-6, simply called the Midway Gusher, which blew out near the oil town of Fellows. Flowing at about 2,000 barrels of per day, this well foreshadowed development of Midway-Sunset, a billion-barrel field which today is the largest oil-producing field in the continental United States.

Lakeview - Spectacular as the Midway gusher was, it was dwarfed by Lakeview No. 1, located only 12 miles to the southwest, which started flowing, uncapped and untamed, on the morning of March 15, 1910. The Lakeview gusher initially flowed as much as 125,000 barrels of oil per day, and flowed at 15,000 to 90,000 barrels a day for the next two months. Unequaled in the United States to this day, Lakeview flowed unabated for 18 months and produced an estimated 8.2 million barrels, only half of which was ultimately saved and sold. Click here to learn more about the Lakeview Gusher.

Elk Hills - The greatest gas well in the United States was the Standard Hay No. 7 at Elk Hills, a field known to most these days as the former U.S. Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 1. Foreshadowed by several nearby blowouts, Hay No. 7 blew in and caught fire on July 26, 1919 at a flowing rate of 50 million cubic feet (MMCF) of gas per day. The well created a spectacular pillar of flame that shot high into the air and burned out of control for 26 days until the flame was extinguished with dynamite. Capped at an estimated rate of 140 MMCFD, this great well produced 43 billion cubic feet of gas over the next 7 years.

Los Angeles - Signal Hill field in the Los Angeles basin in the 1920's had many blowouts that erupted into spectacular pillars of flame, visible for miles around. This led to demands for state-enforced safety measures with the result that blow-out prevention equipment became mandatory in 1929 on all wells drilled in California.

Offshore California - Despite blow-out preventers, the fifth well in the offshore Dos Cuadros field blew out in February, 1969 and spilled thousands of barrels of oil into the Santa Barbara channel, fouling beaches and wildlife. This disaster ultimately led to a ban on offshore drilling in California that remains in force today.


click the picture for a better viewLost Hills - The Bellevue Resources Bellevue No. 1 (17-26S-21E), a wildcat well drilled into the subthrust beneath Lost Hills field (see cross-section below) blew out at a depth of 17,657 feet and erupted into flame on the evening of Monday, November 23, 1998. The well burned high-pressure condensate from the Temblor Formation at estimated rates of 40 to 100 million cubic feet (MMCF) of gas per day for 14 days - fueling hopes for the first major San Joaquin basin discovery in over a decade. (Click the picture of the Bellevue blowout on the right for a better view of this wild well.)

Amazingly, no rig personal were hurt when the well "took a kick", erupted into flame within minutes, toppled the rig, and melted the rig, mud log trailer, and everything else on the well site. The flame shot as tall as 300 feet and was visible 40 miles away. Even Boots and Coots Well Control Specialists, despite their experience extinguishing well fires in Kuwait after the Gulf War, couldn't get the wild well under control and put the flame out.

a cross-section from the Bakersfield Californian You can learn more about the Bellevue Gusher by going to the website for
Hilton Petroleum.

Although the well snuffed the fire out by itself on the 16th day when water began flowing with the gas, an uncontrolled mixture of gas, condensate and water continued to flow for another six months. Finally, drillers intercepted the well bore of the blowout at 16,600 feet with a deviated relief well, drilled from several hundred yards away, and "killed" the gusher with 17 lb mud on May 28. The relief well was then redrilled into an adjacent area of the reservoir and completed as a replacement well to evaluate the potential of this deep, high-pressure gas accumulation, which currently is the deepest production in California.

Click here to read about other famous California gushers.

the blowout burns brightly from across the aqueduct


Spindletop - Birth of the Texas Oil Industry

Though not a California well, the Spindletop gusher, which blew out on January 10, 1901 near Beaumont in East Texas, had a great impact on the California oil industry. Spindletop was not the first nor the biggest gusher - the Adams Canyon, Shamrock and Blue Goose gushers of California were earlier and the Lakeview gusher was bigger. However, Spindletop was certainly one of the great gushers of all time, and, most important, it heralded the birth of the Texas oil industry.

Spindletop blew in when Anthony Lucas, a Louisiana mining engineer, drilled a well to 1,020 feet on a lease owned by Texas businessman and amateur geologist Patillo "Bud Higgins". Lucas placed his well on a low hill that he and Higgins thought might be a salt dome, and when the ground began to tremble on that fateful day in January and a great spout of oil exploded into the air, it confirmed their belief that oil accumulated around salt domes. The well produced an astounding 800,000 barrels of oil in just 8 days, but quickly dropped off enough so that by January 19 Lucas and his crew were able to cap it and gain control of it.

By September, there were at least six wells producing from the crest of Spindletop, with many more on the way. The field produced over 17 million barrel of oil in 1902, but production declined rapidly, and dropped to 10,000 barrels/day by the start of 1904. However, oil was found on the flanks of the dome in 1925, which led to another surge in drilling that pushed production to an all time high of 27 million barrels in 1927. Total production from the field in 1985 stood at 153 million barrels.

Please see The Handbook of Texas Online for more info on Spindletop.


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