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CALIFORNIA'S NEWEST OIL FIELDS
BY H. A. CRAFTS
HE United States have seen some very remarkable developments of oil fields, but none of them have been more remarkable than that of the Kern River fields near Bakersfield, California. Although but five years have elapsed since this development began, the fields are the largest producers in the country to-day. The fields lie about six miles northeast of Bakersfield, and although they cover, as at present developed, only about fifteen square miles, they contain not less than 876 producing wells that are estimated to produce on an average of one hundred barrels of oil daily.
The total product of crude petroleum of the State of California for the year 1903 amounted to 25,000,000 barrels. Of this amount the Kern River fields produced 16,000,ooo barrels, or nearly 66 2-3 per cent of all the oil produced in the State. In fact, the output of oil in these fields has been so enormous that the product has become a drug in the market. Three years ago, the price of oil at wholesale at the wells was one dollar per barrel. To-day the price is twenty cents per barrel, as quoted on the market. And it is said that some sales have been made as low as fourteen cents per barrel. The market has become so overstocked that the oil well men are
discussing the expediency of curtailing the output.
At the same time, strenuous efforts are being made to extend the market. The Kern River oil being almost exclusively a fuel oil, with a heavy asphaltum base, it is the endeavor of those interested to extend its use in the lines of creating heat and of supplanting the use of coal in the creation of motive power with that of oil. The oil has been found extremely well-adapted to the firing of locomotives and of marine engines. One-half of the locomotives now employed on both the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railways. are fired with oil from the Kern River oil fields, and it is only a question of time when oil will entirely supplant the use of coal on those roads. At the same time there are one hundred and more steam craft plying in and out of the Golden Gate whose engines are fed by the same class of fuel. It is said that petroleum at twenty cents per barrel is equivalent to coal at seventy cents per ton, and as coal in California sells from $7 to $14 per ton, the economic advantage of oil over coal is at once apparent.
Oil is also being substituted for coal in the conduct of factories and foundries, in the heating of buildings. The development of the oil fields has stimulate manufacturing