Salt domes were unheard of until 1901. It wasn’t until a few people drilled an exploratory well on Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas that the first salt dome was discovered.
What they didn’t know, however, was a pressurized oil reservoir below was about to blow their drilling tools straight out of the earth.
They discovered the world’s first salt dome.
After the oil stopped shooting out of the earth, the new well rendered 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day. This sent ripple effects throughout the industry, inspiring many others to drill on similar structures in the Gulf Coast area. Ever since that fateful day, geologists have wanted to learn more about these salt domes.
Spindletop Hill was a low hill that had sulfur springs and natural gas seeps emanating from the top. The oil reservoir itself was located just 1000 feet below the surface, and since it was pressurized it blew everything the workers had right out of the earth.
It was a literal and figurative explosion in the industry.
In a nutshell, salt domes are columns that rise upwards into overlying sediments. When they do this, they can snare oil and gas in what’s known as a structural trap.
Geologists had no idea these existed. It kind of makes you wonder whether new unknown natural structures will be found in the future that can yield significant amounts of oil. Only time will tell.