The Anadarko Basin, extending more than 50,000 square miles across west-central Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, includes some of the most prolific natural gas reserves in the United State.
The Deep Anadarko Basin of Western Oklahoma is one of the most prolific gas provinces of North America. Wells drilled there have been among the world’s deepest.
By the 1960s, a few companies began risking millions of dollars and pushing rotary rig drilling technology to reach beyond the 13,000-foot level in what geologists called “the deep gas play.”
Although many disagreed, some experts believed that immense natural gas reserves resided even deeper, three miles or more. Hefner and other independent producers formed GHK (Glover-Hefner-Kennedy) Company, Oklahoma City, to drill expensive, ultradeep wells in the Anadarko Basin.
The first GHK deep well attempt began in 1967, and it took two years to reach what at the time was a record depth, 24,473 feet. The well found large natural gas reserves but sale of the gas could not cover the high cost of drilling so deeply.
In 1972, the Baden No. 1 well near Elk City, Oklahoma, set a new world-record depth of 30,050 feet.
Using a Loffland Brothers Rig 32, the largest land rig in the world at the time, GHK and partner Lone Star Producing Company began drilling the Bertha Rogers No. 1 exploration well in Washita County, Oklahoma in October 1972. The average penetration rate was 60 ft a day.
Fourteen-inch-wide casing weighing in excess of 106 pounds per foot was cemented in the well at 14,198 feet. The well’s 1.5 million pounds of casing was the heaviest ever handled by any drilling rig in U.S. petroleum industry history.
Following 16 months of drilling, the rotary rig drill stem sheared from the stem, causing more than 4,100 feet of pipe to become stuck. When it was thought that all would become lost on this record-breaking rig, GHK contacted a Houston fishing company to perform the rescue, The pipe sections and drill bit from 30,019 feet deep were successfully retrieved.
On April 13, 1974, Bertha Rogers No. 1 reached a total depth of 31,441 feet where it encountered liquid sulfur. Lone Star Producing Company later estimated bottom hole pressure and temperature of 24,850 pounds per square inch and 475 degrees Fahrenheit respectively. It was the world’s deepest well ever drilled.
Drilling strained the Bertha Rogers rig’s equipment to the limit. Because of dangerous downhole conditions, including corrosive pockets of hydrogen sulfide, the historic well had to be completed at a shallower depth.
The well was plugged back and completed in the Granite Wash from 11,000 to 13,200 feet as a natural gas producer.
According to publicly available well records from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the Bertha Rogers hole ceased production of natural gas in July 1997 and has since been plugged and abandoned.
The Bertha Rogers No. 1 held the record for deepest well in America for 30 years, before being overtaken on June 6, 1979 by the Kola Superdeep Borehole drilled by the USSR.
(Source: MarineLink/AOGHS/Wikipedia/Visit Elk City/Oges – Image: AOGHS)