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LGS Luncheon – May 2017


Myron Kinley and the ‘Torch of Moreni’

Jeff Spencer & Marius Furcuta

Myron M. Kinley (1898-1978) has been called the first, the dean, the grandfather, and the original pioneer oil well firefighter. He and his father Karl are often credited with being the first to use explosives to extinguish an oil well fire (1913). Myron formed the M.M. Kinley Company in 1923, specializing in controlling well blowouts and extinguishing well fires. During Kinley’s long career he fought hundreds of oil well fires throughout the world.

On May 28, 1929, after drilling to a depth of 1453 meters, the No. 160 Romano-Americana well in Moreni, Romania blowout and caught fire. The derrick was destroyed and the 100 m high flames could be seen in the city of Ploiesti over 50 km away. Attempts to extinguish the well were unsuccessful and the well burned for over two years. More than one hundred workers were injured and fourteen died. By the spring of 1931, the ‘Torch of Moreni’ had created a crater 76 meters wide and 20 meters deep. Newspapers covered the attempts to extinguish the fire and many of the photographs of the fire were used to create postcards.

Kinley first visited the No. 160 well in 1930, but was unable to convince the operators to allow him to try his firefighting methods. It took a second visit, a year later, before he was hired by the Romano-Americana Company, an affiliate of Standard Oil. A three-man crew consisting of Americans Kinley and Grady Chupp and Romanian Costeca Luper battled the fire for three months. The fire was finally extinguished and Kinley was paid his $50,000 fee and he returned to the United States. American newspapers recounted his exploits and praised his heroism. Eighty-five years later, oil production facilities and producing wells surround the crater and patches of carbonized ground attest to the intensity of the ‘Torch of Moreni’.




Jeff is a geologist with Amromco Energy in Houston, Texas working Romania. He received a BS in Geology from the University of Cincinnati and a MS in Earth Sciences from the University of New Orleans. Before joining Amromco, he worked primarily the onshore Gulf Coast and state waters with Midstates Petroleum Company (2010-2013), Black Pool Energy (2005-2010), Osprey Petroleum (2000-2005), Unocal (1998-2000), and Amoco Production Company (1981-1998). He has authored or co-authored more than 30 oil field history papers. He is co-author of the book Ohio Oil and Gas (2008) and he authored Texas Oil and Gas (2013); both books on oilfield history through photographs and postcards. Jeff is a Charter Member of the Petroleum History Institute and currently serves as the president. Jeff is also the Historian for the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies. He writes a petroleum history blog with emphasis on petroleum ephemera:

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