Oil Field Engine News

Oil Derricks and Oil Field Engines

| May/June 2002

  • Old cut of an oil derrick
    An old cut of an oil derrick showing the general details and layout of the rig.
  • Oil field engines

  • Old cut of an oil derrick
  • Oil field engines

When I'm exhibiting engines people often ask me, 'what are these used for?' or 'what did they do?' My standard response is to get out my copy of an old South Pennsylvania (now Pennzoil) Oil Co. blueprint of a standard rig oil derrick and explain how these engines were just a small part of a much bigger machine.

Oil field engines were normally either in a pumping station or on a drilling rig derrick, and this issue we'll take a quick look at a standard rig oil derrick, as shown in the illustration below.

I have cropped this cut down to the portion showing the engine house (on the left), the belt house (the portion with the angled roof) and the derrick floor, which is situated over the well itself. This illustration also shows the band wheel the engine is belted to, which in turn operates a pitman for the walking beam to pump the well.

The engine would also have been used to power the equipment on the derrick floor for drilling and bailing out the well, with cables over the tower to lift pipe and bailers. There would have been a wire or cable, called the telegraph cable, stretched from the well head to the engine for controlling engine speed.

This illustration also shows a detail of the clutch mechanism on the engine, which also would have been connected for remote operation from the derrick floor.

I don't have much personal experience with oil derrick operations. The only one I have visited is at Sistersville, W. Va., near where the West Virginia Oil and Gas Festival is held, an excellent oil field engine show, by the way.