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BARRETT, MARY L., Dept. of Geology and Geography, Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport, LA

Abstract: Massive U. S. Crude Oil Losses, 1901-1933: Examples from Caddo-Pine Island and Smackover Fields

Massive overproduction events coupled with "rule of capture" law and technical limitations resulted in early U.S. 20th-century crude oil losses unprecedented in modern history. Large losses occurred due to earthen storage leakage and failure, evaporation, discarded emulsions, fires and well blowouts. Oil and associated saltwater losses remained as long-term influences on ecosystem recovery. Documentation of historic field development, including oil and water losses, is used as the basis for field observations and imagery study of landscape alteration. Historic oil spill analysis must take into account associated saltwater losses, as saltwater damage dominates old field landscapes.

Caddo-Pine Island Field, LA, and Smackover Field, AR, share similar landscapes and climates yet vary some in their oilfield waste histories. Caddo-Pine Island Field's largest single oil loss occurred over nine months (December 1918-August 1919) during heavy oil overproduction in the Pine Island district. A minimum of three million barrels of oil was lost. Smackover Field held eighteen million barrels of heavy oil in earthen storage by 1925; recovery of the last eight million barrels was not completed until 1933. Up to twenty-five million barrels of oil were lost in the field's first twelve years of production.

The most pronounced landscape patterns are those dominated by major saltwater spillage--most obvious is the extensive erosion and redeposition in drainage areas, very slow vegetative recovery, and major vegetative change with recovery. Areas of primarily oil loss are less obvious, as landscape damage is much less severe. Remnant asphaltic deposits are present in areas of largest heavy oil loss. 

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90924©1999 GCAGS Annual Meeting Lafayette, Louisiana