04 February 2012

The "Salamanders"

This is the story of the heroes in the fight for oil ,the men who toil that the world may have its petrol and its oil and kerosene. It is a story of hard ship and daring, of victory and defeat, of labor and death.Drilling for oil means months of monotonous work before the bed of oil is reached. This bed is a sort of sponge mingled strata of sand and porous rock, saturated with oil and gas. Its thickness is from 50 meters, which will give the average small oil well, to sometimes as much as a kilometer, for the greatest wells. When this sponge is pierced by the drill, the gas an accumulation over thousands of years escapes and drives the oil up through the casing of the drill. Sometimes this outlet of gas comes with terrific force, so that the oil shoots out in a swift gusher,throwing the drill, the casing, and perhaps even the derricks hundreds of meters away.To fight these fires specialists risk their lives for a high price in the event of success. Such men whose occupation is putting out oil fires are known as "salamanders" and very few of them live to be old men. Clad in asbestos suits, they venture into the fire zone, armed with bombs loaded with nitro glycerine, and cause an explosion near the point where the escaping gas has been ignited, so that the consequent inrush of air isolates the flame from the gas and puts out the fire. It only needs a piece of flint to strike the metal construction of the drilling apparatus, and sparks ignite the gas, sending a well up in flames that may not be subdued for months, years even. The drilled Well 160 RA in Moreni, Roumania, burnt for two years, as if fanned by some huge underground bellows, before American specialists finally succeeded in diverting the gas pressure and stopping the flames by the use of explosives. Not only is it at the oil wells that the menace of fire is always present. Tankers are treacherous, too. Elaborately protected as they are against fire and explosion, they have often gone up in flames. The men who serve on oil tankers are others in the legion of the oil armies who lead monotonous, but hazardous lives. Unsung heroes all men on tankers, nitroglycerine lorry drivers, "salamanders," they take their jobs out of necessity or adventure, and the world gets its oil. Few people know of them; few care and the battle for oil goes on. unchecked by death and disaster, always extending its front, always pushing on to greater victories.

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