Flaming oil torch

For more than 850 days '' the torch of Moreni," a burning geyser of oil, has illuminated the countryside, even to the capital, 100 Km away from "Well 16O, Moreni-Standard". All efforts to extinguish the flames have been in vain and thousands of dollars worth of oil and gas has being consumed , many lives have been lost, and there remains the danger of the fire spreading to hundreds of nearby wells.......
Flaming oil torch seen from the Bana hill.

Moreni,1929 - a small village in the heart of the romanian oil district, which yearly produces 4,282,377 tons of crude petroleum, one-sixth of the world's output. After years of surface exploitation, the large companies, including the Standard, the Romano-American, and the Dutch Shell, began extensive subterranean digging, and it was from well 16O RA, now a roaring pillar of flames and smoke, that the Standard had anticipated a huge supply . The digging had been completed, pumps and pipes had been laid and everything was prepared for the first gush from a depth of 1453 metres. Everything went well, albeit the initial burst was so terrific that the villagers and engineers, although used to happenings of this kind, were anxious. The pressure, was 200 atmospheres, and the first shock carried light, machinery and structural scaffolding hundreds of metres into the air to be scattered as so much debris. Five minutes later workmen and engineers ran in all directions. The pillar of gas and oil had become one of fire and smoke, so forbidding that it was futile to attempt to get anywhere near it.
The steel and wooden towers of six near-by wells ignited almost instantly, and were consumed or transformed into writhing metal skeletons. While the red, black, and yellow torch of Moreni is
seen day and night within a radius of many miles, 10,000,000 tonnes of oil have been destroyed since the well caught fire. All methods of extinguishing the blaze have proved useless. First an attempt was made too put out the fire, by means of a huge iron bell weighing many tons, but this was blown into the air and shattered and torn as if it had been a paper hat. The next step was to tunnel, in order that the gas and oil path might be diverted to a new course. The first tunnel was blown in, and four workmen were killed.
A second tunnel was likewise blown in and three more workers were killed. For the third time engineers directed the work of digging a tunnel 100 metres away from the burning well and some 80 metres deep to divert the underground gases before they can be ignited, and thus not only save the well itself, but practically the entire district. All sorts of fantastic plans have been received from individuals who declare they know how to extinguish the fire. They suggest pumping vinegar, throwing asphyxiating bombs, and employing many sorts of intricate machinery to save the well. The danger was, however, that should the fire be put out, the entire valley would become a charged bomb, which might explode at any time and entirely annihilate the valley. One hope remains for some engineer : to devise a means for cutting the "main" and thus arresting the flow of gas .......

Oil refinery in Ploiesti in the early 20th century

1.AQUILA FRANCO ROMANA - This french-owned refinery was constructed in the year 1907-08,and was capable of an output of 600 tons per day.It was of modern construction and endowed with all the auxiliary plant,such as rectifiers,agitators and refiners,equal to its working capacity.
2.ASTRA ROMANA - Originally a small refinery in the suburbs of Ploiesti,since taken over by dutch owners.In 1905 the plant was practically rebuilt,and it was enlarged from a working capacity of 100 to that of 1,000 tons per day. The owning company was an " offshoot " of the Royal Dutch and Shell Trading and Transport company.The refinery, was situated immediately behind the Ploiesti station,and along side the Orion,Lumina and Norris refineries.
3.ORION - This refinery,which was burnt with the Astra in 1916 was Dutch owned. Capable of working 600 tons of crude oil per day.In addition to the ordinary refining plant it possessed valuable lubricating oil works and large storage tanks.
4.LUMINA - A small refinery, also included in the large Astra destruction, with a working capacity of 80 tons per day.
5.NORRIS - A small refinery having a working capacity of 90 tons per day."Baneasa" Refinery Company bought it from its previous german owners shortly before Romania entered the first war.
6.PREDINGER - This refinery,originally belonging to a native,changed hands several times up to the year 1911,when it came under french control.It was enlarged from time to time,and was capable of an output of 120 tons per day.
7.STANDARD - This refinery was ostensibly bought in 1912 by a british company.The refinery was equipped for working 300 tons of crude oil per day,and had large storage tanks.An important lubricating oilplant was installed.
8.MITRANY - This refinery,situated on the eastern boundary of the town,was increased to a daily working capacity of 50 tons per day in 1915.Generally,the plant was old and worked by the owner for all it was worth,without renewing any parts.
9.ROUMANIAN CONSOLIDATED OILFIELDS,LIMITED - This was an old refinery having a working capacity of 25 tons per day.
10.ANGLO-CONTINENTAL - This was a new refinery,built in 1913/14,and had a working capacity of 100 tons per day and storage for 6,000 tons.
11.VEGA - This german-owned modern refinery,situated on the northern boundary of Ploiesti,had a working capacity of 1,000 tons per day,and was well designed and equipped for making the best lubricating and other special kinds of oil.The refinery and tanks covered about 40 acres.
12.ROMANO-AMERICANA - This was the largest refining plant and storage station in or around Ploiesti.In the construction of these works great care had been taken to provide against fires spreading from one reservoir to another,or to the distilling machinery.For complete destruction during the Romanian army's withdrawal in 1916 some dams, closing in the east end of the refinery,were filled with residues and fired.One hundred reservoirs were fired individually,and,finally,the installations were fired and each vessel and boiler exploded.The spectacular sight was remarkable and the heavy volumes of smoke,which stretched for some 100 kilometres or more, must have considerably inconvenienced the enemy who was then on the outskirts of the town on the windward side.The quantity of oil destroyed was 120,000 tons.
13.FRATIA - This refinery was situated in the town itself.

The destruction of Moreni oil field in 1916.

MORENI .This field was the largest producing one in Roumania, covering an area of about two thousand acres. It has been developed on modern lines and was equipped with first class plant machinery and well designed workshops. Here was encountered flowing wells highly charged with gas, so much so that the ordinary workman trembles at the idea of even a match being lit anywhere in the field.
Oil wells destroyed.
The development here commenced in.the year 1904, on the right bank of the River Cricov, at the places known as Stavropoleos and Tuicani, where excellent results were obtained . Wells at the shallow depth of 250 metres yielded 200 tons daily by bailing.At 430 metres larger sources were encountered and flowing wells were brought in,yielding from 300 to 700 tons daily . At 600 metres an even more prolific sand was struck and one particular, well known as the
" Colombia," produced from this spurce 400,000 tons . A large number of other wells produced over 100,000 tons, and were still producing from the 600 metre sand when they were destroyed during the Romanian army's withdrawal in 1916 . Deeper sources were also reached at 800 metres and these were in the course of development in 1917 . Difficulty was anticipated in rendering useless flowing wells . One of the strongest flowing wells, belonging to the Romano-Americana Company. at Moreni. was so completely plugged that the flowing oil burst up between the casing and appeared oozing through the earths surface at various points surrounding the wellhead where it was ignited . It is believed that the oil will, block itself and cease from this ooze. In 1910 the eastern side of the River Cricov, which intersects the oilfield, was also developed and rich oilsands were met with at 300 metres yielding from 20 to 30,000 tons: of oil per well . This source became exhausted and, in 1913, a new sand was discovered at 760 metres yielding a flowing production of from 300 to 600 tons per day . The Moreni field consisted in 1916 of 112 producing wells and 72 drilling, wells with a daily production of 1,650 tons owned by 19 companies and private owners . Since Roumanian entry into the war, however, the production fell considerably owing to lack of material and labour . On the morning of te 28th November 1916,two masses of floating oil caught fire on the river (each about 600 yards in length) and were drifting down towards the two main wooden bridges over the Cricov river, on which the army relied for the passage of their men and guns from Dambovita to Prahova . The 29th of November was spent in completing the preparations for firing Moreni . Large gangs of men were employed with sledge hammers and other tools demolishing every conceivable piece of machinery, and even the breakable spares in the central stores. The wells were again visited and further plugging was carried on . On the evening of the 30th November it was obvious that the Roumanian Government Cornmission were still bent on blocking tactics and intended to postpone the actual firing,and it was here that the small British staff commence the firing of the derricks and their adjoining machine houses.
The destruction of Moreni oilfield.
The greater work of firing the oil reservoirs, store houses, power plants, workshops,gas and water installations, casting furnaces, and other plant necessary to a big industry commenced the next day. Several large explosions which resulted left the field clear of the native human element . The trails of straw saturated with oil and laid for the purpose of communicating fires were found to have been rendered ineffective through a heavy storm . It was here that the greatest fire risks were encountered . The quantity of oil burnt in this district was 42,000 tons.

The destruction of oil refineries in Targoviste

The following refineries were destroyed,at Targoviste, during the Romanian army's withdrawal in 1916:
1.ROUMANIAN CONSOLIDATED OILFIELDS, LIMITED . This refinery had a working capacity of 350 tons of crude oil per day. Storage capacity 35,000 tons, distributed over an area of 14 acres. It contained a battery, of 6 stills, with ephlegmators and preheaters, refining and rectifying plant,electric light installation, boiler plant, workshops and stores, stocks in reservoirs,when fired, 18,000 tons.This refinery was situated in the immediate vicinity of the railway station.
2.HAIMAN . A small, old refinery enlarged to a working capacity of 35 tons per day. Storage capacity, 3,500 tons, distributed over an area about 1 1/2, acres. Contained 3 stills, refining and small rectifying plant. Stocks in reservoirs when fired, 2,000 tons.A large dam was built outside the refinery and a trench cut to the storage tanks, which were inside the refinery. The valves of the reservoirs were then opened and the oil fired which wrecked both reservoirs and refinery, as well as firing the surrounding installations. It was here that the first work of the Roumanian Commission was seen to consist of an uphill gradient resulting in the flooding of the refinery. This was most suitable to us,as it was intended to carry the oil away in the opposite direction and so avoid wreckage of the refinery.
3.GRIGORESCU. A small refinery enlarged to a working capacity of 60 tons per day. Storage capacity, 4,000 tons, distributed over an area of about 2 ½ acres. Contained stills, refining and rectifying plant, all fairly old. Stocks in reservoirs when fired,1,300 tons.The refinery,was situated immediately on the left,bank of the River Ialomita. The authorities feared the, escape of oil down the river,and a special dam had to be built round the refinery before it was fired.Bitches were carried into the workshops and pump-houses, to convey oil for fiting purposes, after pumps and all machinery had been smashed with sledge hammers. The oil was then fired and the reservoirs exploded, firing the adjoining buildings.
4. AURORA . A very old and obsolete refinery, originally owned by a, Dutch concern but in 1916 controlled by the German Steaua Romana group. Working capacity,100 tons per day. Storage capacity,5,000 tons.It was equipped with a small lubricating plant, but all the machinery was old and the buildings in a state of ruin. The refinery contained stocks of 2,780 tons, of which 780 tons were lubricating oils. In view of avoiding the possibility of exaggerated claims for compensation it was decided not to fire, but to run off the oil, allowing it to percolate into the ground, and wrecking machinery of any value.All these fires lasted several days, the smoke hung heavily over the town and te flames, which at times rose to great heights, illuminated the neighbouring districts, thus allowing the enemy for the first time to become aware of our work.

Moreni oil field - old photos and postcards

A Romanian welth-oil wells at Moreni(interwar period).
Oil wells in the district Stavropoleos from Moreni.
Pascov Valley oil wells(original photo from Mr.Daniel Paun-Moreni).
Oil well with wooden towers in Moreni,Romania.
Too see more click here...Oil wells at Pietris.
Pascov oilfieds.
Astra Romana Workshops-Moreni,Prahova
Oil wells on Tuicani Plateau.
The oil well in the middle of Moreni.
Section two of the oil company Astra-Pascov,Schela Mare. Schela Mare(Pietris) oil wells,Moreni,Romania. Cricov.Creditul Minier.Moreni Prahova (from Tuicani to Bana hill). Overview of Moreni oilfield.
Oil deposit(The old ”Regatul Roman”)
Moreni(A.I.Cuza street).

Moreni,Pascov-view from the south to nord.

Astra Oil Company Workshops from the Moreni-interwar.
Workshops and steam batteries of the Romanian-American Society.
Moreni,Prahova - drilling for oil.

Moreni-flaming petroleum field

Roumanie,Moreni-puits de petrole en feu
Great disaster at an oil well in Moreni,Romania.
On Tuicani Plateau- 160RA(Romano-Americana) in flames.
Oil wells in flames on Tuicani Plateau,Moreni,Romania.
Romanian oil well explosion.