Notes Of A Recent Visit To Some Of The Petroleum-Producing Territories Of The United States And Canada

By Boverton Redwood, F.I.C., F.C.S.

When I visited Canada in 1877-78, the refining of petroleum was principally conducted in the city of London, Ontario. At the present time Petrolia, Ontario, is the chief seat of the industry, and it was accordingly to this city that we made our way. Here we were treated with the greatest kindness and hospitality by Mr. John D. Noble, vice-president of the Petrolia Crude Oil and Tanking Co., and his brother, Mr. R. D'Oyley Noble, and were enabled in the short time at our disposal to visit typical portions of the producing territory and some of the principal refineries.

The development of the Canadian petroleum industry may be said to date from 1857, when a well dug for water was found to yield a considerable quantity of petroleum; but long previously, indeed from the time of the earliest settlements in the county of Lamberton, in the western part of the province of Ontario, petroleum was known to exist in Canada. In 1862 productive flowing wells were drilled at Oil Springs, but these wells, which were comparatively shallow, quickly became exhausted, and the territory was deserted on the discovery in 1865 of oil at Petrolia, seven miles to the northward, and about 16 miles southwest of the outlet of Lake Huron. Recently the Oil Springs wells have been drilled deeper, and are now producing 10,000 to 12,000 barrels (of 42 American gallons) per month. Petroleum has also been found at Bothwell, 35 miles from Oil Springs, but this district has ceased to yield. Quite recently a new territory has been discovered at Euphemia, 17 miles from Bothwell, where, at the time of our visit, there were four wells producing collectively 70 barrels per day.

This territory is by some regarded as part of the Bothwell field.

The present producing oil belt extends from Petrolia in a northwesterly direction, to the township of Sarnia, and in a southeasterly direction to Oil Springs, but in the latter direction there is a break of about four and a quarter miles, commencing at a point about two miles from Petrolia. At Oil Springs there appears to be a pool about two miles square. The extension of the belt then continues in the same direction, with another break of about nine miles, to the new oil field of Euphemia, the average width of the oil belt being about two miles. In all, about 15,000 wells are believed to have been drilled in the Canadian oil fields, and of these about 2,500 are now producing, the average yield being about three quarters of a barrel per well per day. The aggregate production is probably about 700,000 barrels per annum, the greater part of which is obtained in the Petrolia district, and the stocks were at the time of our visit stated to amount to from 400,000 to 450,000 barrels.

In the Canadian oil fields the drilling contractor usually employs his own derrick, engine, boiler, and tools, furnishes wood and water, cases the well, and fixes the pump; the well owner providing the casing and pump, and subsequently erecting the permanent derrick.

The wells in the Oil Springs field were formerly from 200 ft. to 300 ft. in depth, but the oil stratum then worked became waterlogged, and the wells are now sunk to a depth of about 375 ft., and are cased to a depth of about 275 ft. to shut off the water. The contract price for drilling a 4⅝ in. hole to a depth of about 375 ft. under the conditions mentioned is 150 dols. (£30), and the time occupied in drilling is usually about a week when the work is continued night and day. The wells in the Petrolia field have a depth of 480 ft., the contract price, including the cost of 100 ft. of wooden conductor, being 175 dols. (£35), and the time occupied in drilling being from six to twelve days. Pole tools are used in drilling, the poles being of white ash, 37 ft. in length. The derrick is about 48 ft. in height. An auger some 4 ft. in length, and about a foot in diameter, is used to bore through the earth to the bed rock, the auger being rotated by horse power.

The drilling tools commonly consist of a bit, 2½ ft. in length by 4⅝ in. in diameter, weighing about 60 lb.; a sinker bar, into which the bit is screwed, 30 ft. in length by 3 in. in diameter, weighing about 1,040 lb.; and the jars, inserted between the sinker bar and the poles about 6 ft. in length, and weighing 150 lb. The tools are suspended by a chain, which passes three times round the end of the walking beam and thence to the windlass, with ratchet wheel fixed on the walking beam, by means of which the tools are gradually lowered as the drilling proceeds. The cable is thus only employed in raising the tools from the well and lowering them into it.

The sand pump or bailer is frequently as much as 37 ft. in length, and is about 4 in. in diameter. The casing (4⅝ in diameter) costs about 45 cents (1s. 10½d.) per foot, and the 1¼ in. pump, with piping, costs from 65 dols. (£13) to 85 dols. (£17), according to the length of pipe required. An ordinary square frame derrick costs, with mud sill, from 22 dols. (£4 8s.) to 27 dols. (£5 8s.), and the walking beam about 8 dols. (£1 12s.) In many cases, however, a three-pole derrick, which can be erected at an expense of about 10 dols. (£2), is employed. A 100 barrel wooden tank costs, erected, 50 dols. (£10).