110 years of the Dossor field
On April 29, it was 110 years since a powerful gush of oil was produced from well No. 3 at the Dossor field, from a depth of 225-226 meters of Middle Jurassic sediments.
This event was preceded by almost two hundred years of research on the territory of present-day Kazakhstan, which began intensively after the annexation of the Kazakh lands to the Russian Empire in 1731. During this period, government decrees included researchers among the participants of military expeditions to Central Asia, who were assigned the task of studying the territories along the route of the campaigns, with the preparation of detailed reports on minerals. The researchers described that the main occupation of the Kazakhs of that time was nomadic or pasture cattle breeding.
Technologist D. Kirpichnikov in 1874 in the "Description of salt lakes located near the mouth of the Emba River and oil fields to the north-eastern shore of the Caspian Sea" described the area of Karashungul as follows «…This place is called aulie by the Kyrgyz, a holy place, as a result of which a large number of graveyards are located near the lake. The local population uses the oil flowing from the southern shore as medicine for livestock. It is smeared on cattle when skin diseases appear. For oil production, the Kyrgyz have dug several pits, in which oil accumulates. Over one day, about one bucket of oil accumulates in these pits, which floats in an oily layer above the water that protrudes into the same pits."
The result of numerous expeditions was the appearance of enterprising people in the area in 1892, who made the first applications for oil exploration on Dossor and then, in 1894, on Karashungul. On November 13, 1899, in the area of Karashungul, the first gush of oil on the Kazakh land was obtained. But the oil-bearing Ural-Emba district attracted global attention after the discovery of Dossor. The historic well No. 3 gushed for 30 hours and yielded 16,700 poods of oil. Its quality in chemical composition was superior to that produced in Baku.
The application rush began. Petitions for the issuance of application certificates for exploration within the Guryevsky, Temirsky, and Lbishchensky districts of the Ural region started to arrive in abundance in the Samara-Ural Department of Agriculture. If in 1911 only 121 certificates were sold, in 1912 already 1,788 and 2,564 in 1913. As a result of the vigorous application activity, application confusion began in the area, which necessitated the creation of a whole staff of government surveyors with a mining engineer at the head.
From this moment, a new period of exploration work in the trans-Ural steppes begins. Drilling operations after 1911 began to be carried out at a more intensive pace, with the greatest attention being paid to Dossor, which in 1913 had already yielded 117.6 thous. tons of oil.
On April 10, 1912, a state act created the Emba oil-producing and trading joint-stock company. On May 12 of the same year, the first general meeting of shareholders is held in St. Petersburg, where the company's management is created. From this day, the oil and trade joint-stock company officially begins to work. During this period, the London Stock Exchange issues shares designated to stimulate oil production in Kazakhstan's production fields.
A few years after discovering the Dossor oil field (1911), in 1915, the Makat field, discovered by Nobel company, produces the first oil. The latter event led to the fact that at the turn of 1914-1915, oil production at these two fields for the first time exceeds 200,000 tons.
Dossor after the Civil War
The revolution and the ensuing civil war slowed the development of the Emba oil fields. Realizing the importance of oil for the new state's economy, the army fought fierce battles to capture the estuaries of the Urals and the Emba. It was necessary to restore production in the oil fields, which were destroyed and partially burned, in the most challenging conditions of shortage of food, freshwater, and qualified specialists. The epidemic was rampant in the fields, which resulted in a substantial turnover among the working staff.
Reuven Friedman, the first Head of Emba, the Chairman of the Oil Fields Department of the Ural-Emba district, had to solve a whole complex of difficult tasks during these years – to restore the fields, build infrastructure, provide production with transport and fodder for horses, and solve the problems of everyday life of oil workers. From the report letter of the first Head of Emba, the Supervisor of the Ural-Emba district oilfields, Friedman, to the management in August 1920 (stylistics and spelling are preserved):
"...The Dossor field is located 120 versts from Guryev. To Dossor, cargo is delivered along a dirt track on trucks, horses, and camels, water is prepared partly by the accumulation of snow in glaciers, partly by desalination of seawater received from the sea through an oil pipeline, and partly by delivery from wells located 30 versts from the field....
...By my arrival, the Department did not have a single truck, not a single car, for lack of fodder, the cattle were sent off far into the steppe, and it is already impossible to keep them in the city because of horseflies and mosquitoes. Almost all the automobile property of the former oil companies was looted, there was only one military cargo squadron in the town, which from mid-May, on my order, began to serve the fields… At present, the maximum monthly carrying capacity of the cargo squadron is 1,000 poods, and the maintenance of the squadron costs the Department almost 200,000 rubles per month. As a result, the commercial food supplies have already been consumed, and from time to time, the workers have to starve for the inability to bring enough bread.
...During the whole summer, nothing is given to the workers except bread, and before my arrival, they were given 18 pounds a month...With my arrival, I ordered them to set up a Red Army ration, however, due to the lack of bread in the city, only 25 pounds had to be given out…Poor nutrition, lack of greens, sugar, and fat affects the health of workers very hard, scurvy is rampant, anemia, general malaise, on this basis, a lot of sick days, constantly the control commission of doctors releases someone from work or transfers to other climatic conditions…
...In the absence of some specialties, it is impossible to repair apartments in the fields, there is no glass for windows, no stoves, no cast-iron boxes for oil heating, no bricks, no water barrels, and no material for the production of these barrels. There are no drilling parties, there are no metal turners – in short, there is nothing to do the job...»
There was not a single issue that did not require the attention of the first Head R. Friedman.
"...I ask for your request, comrade Friedman, to transfer the Dossor Soviet Hospital under control of the Oil Department, and I attach a list of estimates. With the start of regular work in the fields and the influx of new workers, it is desirable to increase the staff of doctors, add a dentist and one epidemic paramedic," the Head of the Dossor Soviet Hospital, doctor Zabrodin, wrote in a letter in August 1920.
In conditions where there was a shortage of workers in the fields, young teenagers were involved in the work, who were not allowed to work more than 4 hours, and the hours worked were counted as full-time.
Oil Emba increases production
Despite the difficulties of these years, on 18.07.1919, the STC Presidium for the Oil Industry approved the Makat-Dossor oil pipeline project.
In 1920, for the industrial development of oil fields, the Ural-Emba district Oil Fields Department was created. In the same year, an operational drilling program is planned, within the framework of which it is planned to drill four meridian wells at the Dossor field.
Oil production at Dossor in 1920 from January to September increases six times – from 59,987 to 327,628 poods. If in the first months of 1920 the entire oil production volume was provided by oil free flow, by September, most of it is produced using compressors and borehole pumps.
In 1922, the Embaneft Trust was established to develop the Dossor and Makat fields. The production program for the fields of the Embaneft Trust for 1927-1928 provided for the gross production of the Dossor field of 199,599 tons, Makata – 77,870 tons, for the entire area, including gas production. As part of the deep-hole exploration drilling, it was planned to drill 40 wells, of which 21 were in new areas and 19 were in production areas.
From the theses to the report on the Embaneft Trust at the industrial meeting on the deployment of large-scale industry in Kazakhstan: "Emba oil differs from oils in its special oily qualities. Professor Gurvich once noted these special properties of oils in their oil fractions: low specific gravity and high flash at the same viscosity. Properties that bring Emba products closer to Pennsylvania products....The development of exploration activities in the Ural-Emba region should be given the highest priority, and the Embaneft Trust should be given the opportunity to purchase all the necessary technical equipment abroad to achieve the highest productivity at the lowest cost."
In the second half of the 20s, rotary drilling was used at Emba, which contributed to the development of drilling operations and the growth of the depth of wells, the rate uncovering, and exploration of oil deposits.
The deepest well in Europe
Emba oil workers were the first in the USSR and Europe to master ultra-deep drilling at Dossor and Makat at that time – up to 2500-2800 m. The deepest well No. 304 at 2,800 meters was drilled in Dossor in 1932.
"The 304th drilling rig surpasses all the drilled wells in Europe in terms of its achieved depths, in addition, the drilling rig has solely technical importance for the Emba fields," follows from a letter from the Central Technical Department to the drilling office in Emba on December 9, 1932.
In the Bolshaya Emba corporate newspaper No. 120 dated December 5, 1932, an order was published for the Embaneft Trust, in which, in addition to problematic issues on the well, a list of measures to increase motivation for drillers of the 304th drilling rig was published, providing for a revision of the remuneration system in the direction of doubling the calculated coefficient for the entire batch, increasing food rations, issuing textiles, issuing sheepskin coats, boots, felt boots, gloves, underwear, and hats. Also, the Head of the Dossor field was obliged to allocate apartments, etc., for more needy workers of the drilling rig.
Only such measures at that time could stop the turnover of qualified personnel from drilling rigs, especially in the summer months, when infections were rampant in the fields. Despite these difficulties, in 1932, Emba drillers, in addition to the 304th, drilled well No. 307 to 962 meters in 92 days, discovered the powerful Koschagyl field, received an influx of light oil in the southern Iskin, uncovered the oil sands at Bis-Bulyuk, built drilling rigs without nails (on bolts), and without sufficient lumber, achieved a reduction in emergency drilling operations in relation to the total drilling time, and achieved many other impressive results.
"Road of Life" for oil workers
One of the biggest problems of Embaneft in 20-30s was the water supply of oil fields. The nearest distance from Dossor to the Ural River was 85 versts (1 verst is 1.0668 km), and the closest water wells were at a distance of 40 versts from Dossor. These wells of small depth did not serve for long because with the prolonged operation they gave salt water and could not be regarded as sources of water supply. Alternative natural water sources were atmospheric precipitation collected in constructed reservoirs from barrier dams and in winter in equipped ice cellars. The quality of the water was doubtful, of course, but still better than in the wells.
The summer of 1924 turned out to be hot and dry, all artificial reservoirs dried up, and the population of the fields – oil workers and their family members – had to drink salt well water, also issued limited, one bucket per day for each family member. Throughout the summer of 1924, until the frosts of 1925, water was delivered to the fields by four tank trucks of 150 buckets, two trips a day, and a camel train of 75 barrels of 30 buckets, one trip in two days. Moreover, the water supply was disrupted at the slightest damage to the road, as a result of which the fields were in a critical situation, under the threat of stopping oil production.
The Head of Embaneft at the time, Vladimir Korobovkin, who pushed the issue of building a narrow-gauge railway between Dossor and Guryev, convinced Moscow that a positive solution to this issue would radically solve the problem of water supply. In his report to the management, he argued that the unresolved issues such as transport and water supply worsen the living conditions in the fields, increase production cost, and disrupt the proper operation of the fields.
"The Trust has decided to proceed with constructing the railway immediately, as soon as this issue is resolved in a positive sense by the SCNE and State Planning Committee. ...every field worker can go to Guryev cheaply and buy everything he needs. The railway will attract more skilled labor, which is now quite difficult to get due to difficult living conditions," Korobovkin notes.
Work on the construction of the railway began in 1924. On December 19, 1926, temporary traffic on the Guryev-Dossor route was launch. The construction of the Guryev-Dossor railway, which ran through the arid desert, was an epoch in the development of the oil-bearing region and was necessary for further progress deep into the desert to expand exploration and operational work on new areas.
Formation of domestic personnel
If at the first fields the Kazakhs acted as unskilled laborers, watchmen, and deliverers of goods, already in the 20-30s, as part of implementing the program of the indigenization of the workforce started, the picture began to change.
In 1928-1929, out of 371 employees of the Ural-Emba Department, the number of Kazakhs was 112 people, or 30.1%, of 2277 workers, 1041 were Kazakhs or 45.8%.
From the report of the manager of oil fields R. Novosiltsev, deputy S. Sharipov, and the manager of affairs M. Melikov (stylistics and spelling are preserved):
"...mining is the main business for the fields, work here for decades without interruptions, and therefore a Kazakh who has entered, say, drilling or oil production has the opportunity to work here for so long that in the process of work such a Kazakh qualifies. In addition, it is easier for a Kazakh steppe-dweller to enroll on a job for the first time in drilling or oil production. Of the large number of workers who have been in these branches of work, a large number of them remain in this business and willingly go to work. In addition, since drilling and operation of wells equally requires training from both Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs, if they are first assigned to work, it is, of course, preferable to attract Kazakhs from the local population to such work."
Already by the 1940s, the ratio of workers in the fields is changing in favor of representatives of the indigenous nationality. Their professionalism is also growing. According to the summary table of the number of Stakhanovites for the Kazakhstanneftekombinat (formed in 1940 from the Embaneft and Aktyubneft trusts – author's note), for 182 Stakhanovites of the Dossor Department, there were 152 (83.5 %) employees of Kazakh nationality, in Makat – 242 Kazakhs-Stakhanovites (91 % of the total number of Stakhanovites), Iskine – 108 or 97 %, Koschagyl – 127 or 88 %, Baychunas – 213 or 97 %, etc.
To be continued...
Laura Suleimenova, Head of the Public Relations Service of Embamunaigas JSC