16 December 2008

Olinda Oil Field History: Other 1920s Sources

Although not nearly as detailed as the other references that have been highlighted in recent posts on this blog, there are three other 192os era sources of information about the Olinda oil field that I know of that add to the stock of historical material.

One is Petroleum Resources of California, a bulletin issued by the California State Mining Bureau in 1921. Because it is a general survey of the entire state, descriptions of specific fields are, by necessity, quite brief. There is a paragraph devoted to the "Whittier, Brea Canyon, and Olinda Fields." Author Lawrence Vander Leck wrote that "The method of accumulation and origin of the oil is practically the same in all of these fields" in terms of the type of shale and sandstone formations which characterize the geological basis for the region. Notably, Vander Leck offered that "all of these fields have passed the flush day of their production and their limits are practically set." This can be contrasted with the 1964 federal report highlighted in a post yesterday, which stated that, from 1918-1928, production was low in the Olinda and surrounding fields. After 1928, however, there was an improvement in technology that allowed for deeper drilling and the tapping into pools of crude at these lower levels. In the 1921 report, it was observed that "In March 1921, the total proven acreage in this region was . . . 2073 [acres] in the Brea Canyon-Olinda district [note the combination of the two previously separate fields, a point also raised in the 1964 report]." Moreover, in December 1920 "the total daily average production in the Brea Canyon-Olinda district was 17,756 barrels of oil. The average number of producing wells was 372, with an average daily yield per well of 47 barrels of oil and 10 of water."

Another source is a report called American Petroleum: Supply and Demand, published in 1925 for the American Petroleum Institute by a committee of eleven men selected from its Board of Directors. Notably, the Institute was created six years before as an outgrowth of a National Petroleum War Service Committee, dealing with the use of petroleum for the World War I deployment by the United States. There are two brief references to "Brea-Olinda," the first coming in a section titled "Future Promise in California" and reading "production is obtained at Brea-Olinda from a fault-contact structure, rather than a closed fold. The sustained production and large undrilled reserves make this field of importance. Geologic correlations suggest possible deeper productive horizons which, if proven, will add large reserves." This is an interesting counterpoint to Vander Leck's 1921 contention that the heyday of Brea Canyon/Olinda had passed and to the 1964 report's recap that, after 1928, matters changed greatly in the area. Indeed, the 1925 report seems to anticipate what did happen by 1930, which was the change in drilling technology that allowed for deeper drilling. It is also worth repeating the uniqueness of Olinda, in particular, with respect to its condition as a fault contact zone, specifically the location of oil pools along the Whittier Fault. The second reference comes from quoting the December 1923 issue of Standard Oil Bulletin, a monthly publication issued to stockholders in the Standard Oil of California company, a giant in the oil business. Here, it was stated, as part of a discussion on the importance of rapid drilling and an equally fast period of recovering crude, that Brea-Olinda was yielding just under 100,000 barrels per acre. The significance here was the fast drilling would mitigate the loss of crude through drainage.

Finally, in 1930, a geology professor from the University of Wichita in Kansas, Walter Ver Wiebe, published Oil Fields in the United States, which included a short description of Olinda: "In 1897, Olinda and Fullerton . . . were discovered and reached their peak of production about 17 years later." In discussing geological structure, it was noted by Ver Wiebe that all Los Angeles basin fields were located in domes or anticlines, except the Los Angeles City, Whittier, and Brea-Olinda fields, in which "faulting has played a large part in trapping the oil." The Whittier fault, of course, ran through both of the latter fields, although Ver Wiebe stated that "in the Brea-Olinda pool the long Puente [meaning Whittier] fault, and some minor associated faults, seem to have exercised a controlling influence in trapping the oil as it migrated up the dip from southwest to northeast." Ver Wiebe also provided a table of data, in which the Olinda field [elsewhere described as Brea-Olinda] had a productive area of 1,500 acres, the seventh largest listed in the Los Angeles basin, with a degree of gravity falling about in the middle of the range. Total production of barrels as of 31 January 1930 was, combined with the Fullerton field, over 133,000,000, making these two fields the fourth most productive on the list, after Long Beach (386 million), Santa Fe Springs (267 million), and Huntington Beach (164 million).

There is one other report I have to locate, which is an 1897 California state report that might be the first published source on the then-new Olinda field.

The maps above come from the period 1900-1964 and show details of the Olinda field.

Sources: Petroleum Resources of California, Bulletin 89, Lawrence Vander Leck (San Francisco: California State Mining Bureau,) 1921.

American Petroleum: Supply and Demand (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.,) 1925.

Oil Fields in the United States, Walter A. Ver Wiebe (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.,) 1930.

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