Travel to U.S.: West: Pioneer Oil Fields of the San Joaquin Valley
Kern County has been a major oil producer since 1900. The technology of production and the oilfield landscape, however, have changed with the introduction of steam injection.
Redwood derricks, photographed in the late 1960s. They're all gone now, replaced by mobile rigs. While they lasted--and they were scarce even in the 1960s--they indicated property lines, because oilmen put these rigs flush against their neighbor's land. That way, you could capture a bit of your neighbor's oil. The favor was usually returned, so two lines of derricks would march along the boundary.
Not a fun ladder to climb, but some oilmen much preferred these structures to steel ones, which gave little warning when overloaded. The redwood derricks groaned and before collapsing went from a square to a diamond shape. You had time to get down.
A view from the bottom up.
A transitional form, especially common in the 1930s. Steel replaced redwood, only to be replaced by portable masts, trucked in when needed.
For many years, both derricks and pumps survived as companions. Then, for a period, the old pumps survived minus the derricks. Even the old pumps like this redwood one are gone now.
The raising and lowering of pre-rotary cable tools--and, after the well was completed, the raising and lowering of the pump string--was handled by a redwood walking beam, driven originally by oil-fired boilers but later by electricity. The 6 by 6 beam standing vertically near the well is a headache post, designed to spare the driller a good braining if he was standing near the well when the crank apparatus failed.
Close up of the motor-driven drive chain and balance wheel. The speed of rotation was slow, even dignified.
More redwood--this time for bullwheels, the giant spools on which drilling cable was wound in the days of cable-tool drilling. It was really a form of percussion drilling, with tools raised and lowered to break rock at the bottom of the hole.
A "power:" a central motor driving a dozen wells by cables radiating in all directions. Located in the Kern River field, east of Bakersfield, this was just about the last "power" operating in the county at the time the photo was taken in the late 60s.
Many collection lines in the Kern River field converged and discharged their oil into an open flume, seen in the background.
Quite a sight.
The same flume, carried on a long trestle.
The actual bore of the Lakeview Gusher, over on Kern County's West Side. By some accounts, the Lakeview was the most prolific gusher of all.
Part of its oil was captured by a dike hastily thrown up around the well. A part of that dike was later removed.
Part of the oil was conveyed to this hastily erected reservoir.
Even in the 1960s, there were places like McKittrick, where oil made creeks run black.
Late in the 60s, secondary recovery techniques were introduced to Kern County. Thousands of pumps went to work extracting heavy oil made less viscous by downhole pumping of hot steam.
Steam generators and distribution lines.
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