That's the key to success in the oil well firefighting business
“Get it out fast” is the foremost task in attacking an oil well blowout.
That was the message from the speaker at Saturday's West Kern Oil Museum annual membership dinner held at the Community Center.
Pat Cargol traced the history of oil well firefighting, which has its roots in Taft when Ford Alexander and other local innovators pioneered ways to snuff an out-of-control well fire and then cap it.
“The most used words in our business is get it out fast,” Cargol said as he guided the audience of nearly 200 museum members through a history lesson of well fighting and how his company – Houston-based Wild Well Control – fights blowouts today.
He talked about the pioneers of what became the modern firefighting industry and “the importance they had four our industry today.”
Perhaps the most famous was Red Adair, who was immortalized in a movie starring John Wayne as the gruff-talking hellfighter.
Adair brought his trade to the Westside in the late 1970s to snuff blowouts at Elk Hills and Ten Section south of Panama Lane.
The Elk Hills blowout killed three workers and attracted a horde of national media as Adair plotted the strategy that brought the blowout under control.
With that history as a backdrop, Cargol discussed how his company brought modern technology into the mix to push Wild Well Control to the forefront of the industry.
“We are the world leader,” he said. “We've done more blowouts than anybody. This week we have five blowouts going on.”
Business is booming – literally.
“There are a lot of old wells that are deteriorating,” Cargol said. “The problem is worse in the gulf with all that saltwater.”
Wild West was the leader in repairing offshore rigs damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
His Powerpoint demonstration depicted some of the projects the company uses along with the state-of-the-art equipment.
One of the most important pieces of equipment, he said, are pumps capable of pumping 2,500-6,000 gallons of water a minute.
“We use those not so much to put the fires out but to keep our people alive,” he said. “We use those pumps to spray our own workers to keep them cool.”
The event included a reading of the minutes of last year's annual meeting, a treasurer's report and drawings for prizes.
The membership also elected four people to three-year terms on the museum's board of directors – Dorothy Gardner, Jan McCall, Don Maxwell and Layne Frank.