RANGELY I An iconic Rangely landmark has a new home.
A replica of the Raven A-1 pumping unit, the first “wildcat” deep well in the Rangely Weber Sand Unit drilled by the California Oil Co. in 1931, was moved from the wellhead site to the Rangely Museum on April 10.
The Chevron Corp. closed the commemorative site west of Rangely more than a year ago with officials stating that access by the public was difficult because of the surrounding oil field.
Chevron initially offered the pump jack and gazebo with interpretative information to the Town of Rangely. Town Manager Peter Brixius said town officials considered a relocation to Hefley Park along with the Western Rio Blanco Metropolitan (WRBM) Recreation and Park District. When that fell through, the museum coordinated with the town to establish an outdoor exhibit location within its fenced grounds, Museum Director Brenda Hopson said.
Although interest in Rangely oil is recorded as early as 1891 and oil companies drilled shallow wells in the Rangely Weber Sand Unit early in the 20th Century, the Raven discovery well set the stage for a massive oil boom a decade after its completion.
The California Oil Co.’s drilling the Raven A-1 test well, which began in 1931 and concluded in 1933, confirmed what geologist A.C. McLaughlin knew the moment he had observed the anticline formation from Mellen Hill nearly a quarter-century before: that the Weber sandstone more than a mile beneath the surface was saturated with oil.
By 1933, the 6,335-foot well was producing 230 barrels of oil per day, but a White River Crier article by Ken Bailey II in Fall 2005 noted that “Rangely’s remote location and a lackluster marked (sic) for the product led to the well being capped until World War II demand made it worthwhile to develop it.”
World War II brought greater demand for oil to fuel the war effort, and on Sept. 21, 1943, the California Co. put Raven No. 1 back into production. By 1949, the oil boom was in full swing as 478 wells drew oil to the surface from deep below ground.
In 1957, the field was unitized when Chevron took over management and operation of the Rangely Weber Sand Unit, and, by 1958, the oil field had reached its peak production of 82,000 barrels per day.
“It’s hard to overestimate the significance of Raven No. 1 and this entire field to the town of Rangely,” said Chevron Operations Supervisor Luke Allred, who has lived in Rangely since his birth. “Oil production and all the related services have been a big part of this community’s livelihood. This field shows the power of constantly changing technology to keep the oil flowing and helping to meet our country’s energy needs.”
Chevron Artificial Lift Corrosion representative Robert Lopez said that servicing company Weatherford’s deconstructing the 23,000-pound pump jack for transfer down Rangely’s Main Street, then rebuilding it at the museum site in several hours, was no different from everyday jobs in the field.
“It’s something we do every day, but we don’t take it for granted because something could still go wrong,” he said. “Every time we move something, it’s a new job. You have to take all the precautions.”
Production specialist Frank Tolley said the replica unit is small compared to some pumps in the field whose gear boxes alone can weigh in at 45,000 pounds or more. The original pumping unit was probably substantially larger than the replica.
The pump exhibit is part of a growing segment of the museum’s history about the Rangely Weber Sand Unit and the oil and gas industry’s cultural, environmental and economic impacts on the area over the last 70 years.