How Romanian Oil Wells Were Destroyed

Ploesti Zerstörte Petroleum-Tanks 1915
A dramatic story of how the romanian oil wells were destroyed was related by Mr. Watson Rutherford, the meeting of the Romanian Consolidated Oilfields, Ltd. He also made the welcome disclosure that despite the feverish exertion of german engineers, the enemy had not yet found,a,means for the outlet and exportation of the oil. The romanian outlook for centuries to come was one of the most assured, said Mr. Rutherford. The destruction of the petroleum works was so complete that in spite of the feverish exertions of the german engineers, little petroleum had been taken out, and that could not be successfully used until means were found for refining and storing it. Only 50,000 russians and those a month late came to the aid of the romanians instead "of the promised 200,000” this was due to the bureaucratic corruption of the russian government of that date. Sir J. Norton, Griffith's mission, to destroy the oilfields was an inspiration of intelligence.
Rumänien - Brand Expolsion bei Ploesti 1917
Hundreds of thousands of tons, worth millions of pounds, and priceless to the enemy, were destroyed under the very nose of the german troops, and within a few hours of their patrols in more than one case within a few minutes. The means of getting petroleum and using it were also destroyed. The wells were smashed up beyond hope of being worked. Derricks and refineries were burnt and blown up, machinery was smashed to atoms, pipelines were cut, tanks exploded and buildings knocked down. Their claim against the british government amounted to £1,270,724. Mr. Rutherford's description of the destruction was supplemented by a report which stated that the romanian official plan of destruction would not have prevented tho germans from reopening the wells, and colonel Norton Griffiths complained that he was getting no practical help from the authorities. The risk of volunteers to wreck the wells being shot if not in uniform, should the enemy capture them, caused colonel Norton Griffiths to give temporary commissions in the british army to three of the company's officials. These had since been decorated, captain Masterson with the D.S.O, and lieutenants Hayward and Simpson with the M.C. .When 40,000 tons of oil were burned at Moreni the conflagration "formed a black pall overhead, and it was almost as dark as night, the only light being a lurid glow from the burning oil through the fog of smoke" .The wells had also caught fire and the whole field was blazing. At the Astras works the party were cautioned that the power house was full of gas, and might explode at any moment. Colonel Norton Griffiths would not hear of the word "danger" and took a lighted fuse of hay, entered the building, and set fire to the oil, which had been pumped into the basement. The gas at that time was so strong as to asphyxiate anyone after a few minutes.It was a miracle that no one was killed. Colonel Norton Griffiths was only slightly burned. Included among the tanks tired was tho largest one in Europe. It collapsed quietly.
Retrieval of Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 14495, 5 January 1918, Page 9

Oil wells on fire

During the years 1910 and 1914 a big number of oil wells from Moreni oilfield were ignited.
Oil well number 3 Concordia ignited at Moreni,Romania in 1910.

Evening Post, Volume LXXXIII, Issue 119, 20 May 1912, Page 7
Tragic oil fire.Petroleum well No. 8 at Bana Moreni, belonging to the Roumanian Consolidated Oilfields, Limited, caught fire, and the outbreak extended to the neighboring wells belonging to the same company. They were all burnt down. Seven persons connected with the management of the company, including Mr Harold Manderson, an engineer, and brother of the well-known petroleum expert of that name, were severely burned and are in a dying condition. A large number of others were severely injured. The loss to the companv is heavy.
Lewiston Evening Journal - Nov 4, 1913
A loss estimated at $5,000,000 has been caused by fires which are spreading from one oil well to another in the petroleum district of Moreni.The fires started with explosion of a large well,and spread thru the whole valley and along the hillsides,which were soona mass of flames.over 25 wells were alight,all burning furiously.
For nearly 24 hours recently a great fire raged in the Moreni (Roumania) oil fields, doing damage to the extent of over £2 000,000 .A well caught fire one evening, as the result of an explosion. The fire spread to the neighboring wells, until 25 had caught, and the whole valley and the slopes of the hills became a sea of flames. The work of extinguishing the outbreak was exceedingly difficult,as most of the burning wells were in eruption, and it was not until the following night that the fire was got under. Nineteen wells were completely destroyed-ten belonging ,to the Romano-Americana, seven to the Astra-Romana, and two to the Colombia. The production of the Moreni district represents 60 per cent, of the total roumanian production.
New York Times July,31,1914,Friday.

Moreni(Romania)oilfields in 1911

The statutory meeting of the Moreni(Roumania), Oilfields Ltd. was held at City House, 48, Cannonstreet, E. C, Mr. Richard Barnett (the chairman) presiding. The chairman said that, the prospectus anticipations were being amply justified, for that company was already a producing ”company”, and selling its oil at a satisfactory profit. The shareholders would see from the statutory report that 90,000 ordinary shares of £1 each and 50,000 deferred shares of 1s each had been allotted fully paid, being the agreed purchase consideration for the properties. Preliminary expenses were covered by the proceeds of 70,000 deferred shares of £1 had been offered for subscription in order to provide an initial working capital. Notwithstanding the dullness of the markets in mid-July, the issue was over-subscribed.The valuable properties at Moreni and Filipesti de Padure, with wells under construction , machinery, .and 1 other assets as a going concern, had been acquired without any cash payment, and on Sept 8, within two months after the issue of the prospectus, and at a time when only £2,000 of the working capital had been remitted to Roumania, oil had been struck in well No.4, at a depth of 83ft. The production steadily increased from thirty tons to 100 tons a day. The oil was rich in benzine, and had a specific gravity of only 8.15. It commanded a ready sale, and within a fortnight of commencing operations 600 tons had been sold at a satisfactory figure and delivertd to the purchasers. On Oct 16 there was strong eruptions, the output of oil reaching 200 tons. On the 17th inst, when the wall was flowing at the rate of 1,000 .tons a day it took fire, and the flames were not extinguished until the night of the 19th. Twentyfour hours later they broke out afresh but the fire was soon got under, and according to a letter receivsd that morning from Mr. Alfred Rutherford, one of their directors, on the spot, "No. 4 well is still flowing merrily; Moreni has never before seen anything like this well, and they all think that she is a fortune in herself.The directors believed in seeing things themselves, and had, he thought, established a record by hold ing a, full board meeting on the field of operations 1,800 miles from London, between, the date of the,prospectus and that of the statutory meet ing. The directors had come back from their latest visit more than ever impressed with the future of roumanian oil, with the value of the companies properties at Moreni and Filipesti de Padure, and with the capacity and integrity of those to whom the local administration of its affairs had been entrusted.

Retrieval of Grey River Argus 14 December 1911.

The largest oil fire in european history

Oil eruptions at well nr.160 RA,Moreni,Romania,1929.
May 29, 1930,Thursday -One Killed In Rumanian Oil Blast.
July 23, 1929,Tuesday -RUMANIAN OIL FIRE WORSE.After Nearly Two Months Fighters Are Driven Further Away.A Moreni dispatch today said the fire over oil wells of the Rumano-American Company, a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, is growing in intensity so that firemen are forced daily to work from increasing distances.
July 31,1929,Wednesday-GAS WELL EXPLODES, KILLS 2;Three Others Are Badly Burned in Blast in Rumania.Two men were killed and three terribly injured by an explosion of natural gas at the Romanian-American Petroleum company's well at Moreni which has been burning nearly three weeks.
August 4, 1929,Sunday -ROMANIAN WELL BURNS ON;Tunnel,dug to undermine fire, ineffective,experts baffled.
August 6,1929,Thursday-STANDARD OIL WELL BURNS IN RUMANIA; Mob Attempts to Kill an American Driller, Trying to Stop Fire. FLAMES DEFY ARTILLERY Outbreak at Other Wells Causes Panic in Moreni-Loss May Be $1,500,000.The heroic efforts of American engineers in
fighting the largest oil fire in European history, against odds imposed by nature and human meanness.
August 17,1929,Saturday-16 HURT IN OXYGEN BLAST.; Pipes Burst Under Heat From Burning Rumanian Oil Well.
September 3, 1929,Tuesday-Rumania Fines Oil Company For Negligence in Wells Fire.
September 22,1929,Sunday-OIL WELL TRANSFORMED INTO A FLAMING TORCH; Surrounding Rumanian Property Threatened by Blaze Which Has Burned Over 100 Days.For more than a hundred days "the torch of Moreni," a burning geyser of, oil, has, illuminated the countryside, even to the capital, sixty miles away from "Well 160, Moreni-Standard." All efforts to extingulsh the flames have been in vain so far.

A chronicle of articles publicate in The New York Times.

Gushing Fire at Moreni in 1925

”Bill Cannon, Standard Oil Co. driller, had ignited through friction the deepest oil well at Moreni, Romania.Cannon immediately ordered all the men to leave the danger zone.As he himself fled from the roaring flames, an angry romanian crowd attacked him for causing the fire, now rapidly spreading.Cannon's revolver, however, cowed them.Thirty miles away, a group of americans saw the vast columns of fire and smoke ascending to the heavens.In fast automobiles they dashed to the scene.One Dunlap, superintendent of the area, realized that nothing could be done except to localize the conflagration.The usual method of putting out a blazing oil gusher by steam pressure could not be used, because the nearest boilers were several miles away.Eventually, the authorities at Bucharest, the capital, were induced to send a battery of artillery to bombard the well, with the object of closing it up.Romanian gunners bombarded it for half a day and all they succeeded in doing was to spread the fire.At this point, several romanians and germans offered to sell for $3,500 to superintendent Dunlap a sure scheme to extinguish the fire.Their proposal was looked into, rejected.

The next scheme tried was digging a tunnel up to the wall with the idea of dynamiting it.The project was stopped by irate romanians who demanded huge payments for permission to use their property as a right of way.The burning well is about a mile deep and has a pressure of about 50 atmospheres.The damage may amount to $1,500,000.The fire was visible for 45 miles” Retrieval of Time Magazine Aug 17 , 1925.

The Bucharest correspondent of the "Daily Express" states that experts have extinguished the Moreni oil well fire after 50 days work. The damage is estimated at £250,000. Many unsuccessful attempts were made, including drawing a huge bell over the mouth of the well by chains, which the heat melted. Finally a tunnel 100ft. long was excavated to and perforated the bore, causing the extinction of the flames.Retrival of The Brisbane Courier Friday 25 September 1925.

Oil from the earth's surface

Oil impregnated core anticlinal,salt form,Miocene at Glodeni.

Telega,sandstone with oil exuding.
Tintea,oil and salt spring.

Photos taken in 1926 by Albert Heim.