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Oilfield Blowout Photos, Rig Fires and Wild Well Photos  Texas Oilfield Photos

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Old Antique Drilling Rigs and Oilfield Equipment Photos

Here are some photos of old drilling rigs (cable tool type) used from the 1900's to 1940's in West Texas and New Mexico. Some of the photos were taken at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. Others were taken in New Mexico.

Below is a photo of an old cable tool type drilling rig which was powered by either a steam engine, or updated to use an internal combustion engine. Cable tool rigs basically "chiseled" a hole down into the earth using a carbide tipped bit. When the hole got full of enough cuttings, a bailer was lowered into the well to pull them out. This type of rig was also known as a "spudder".  You will still see a few of these in operation even in the U.S. Cable tool rigs work well for large bore water well drilling in very hard rock such as bedrock. In some cases, the impact of the bit actually helps fracture (sort of like a mini frac job), the water bearing formation (such as shale), allowing more water to come out. Perhaps one reason that cable tool rigs were popular for so long in the oil patch, is that  some drillers felt that they drilled better producing oil wells than a rotary rig.  I recently saw one being used to drill an oil well in Mexico a few years ago. They are much slower to drill with vs. a rotary rig, but are not that complicated and cheaper to operate. In places where labor costs are low, such as Africa, you'll still see homemade cable tool rigs drilling water wells. The deepest well ever drilled with a cable tool rig was in New York, at a depth of 12,000 feet!

Antique cable tool drilling rig used in West Texas oilfield

Below, an old oil pumping unit that was used in the Permian basin of West Texas. This one was first powered by a steam, then a natural gas engine. The tin shed housed the engine which drove the old pumpjack.  The dry climate in the Permian basin has preserved a lot of this old antique oilfield equipment. The walking beam on this pumpjack for example, is original oak, nearly 80 years old. It is held up by the "Sampson post", which in this case is part of a pulling unit with the double purpose of servicing the well if sucker rods, etc., needed to be changed or repaired.

Old steam powered oil pumping unit or pumpjack

This is an old pulling unit that I found in Ojo Caliente New Mexico. It was used to service the well drilled next to the hot springs, and reportedly also was used in pullling shallow oil wells in New Mexico. 

Antique water well truck and oilfield pulling unit

Antique water well drilling truck or pulling unit.

See more photos of antique oilfield equipment here: Antique Oilfield Photos

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