By Robert O. Anderson
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This mud pit is a holding place for the drilling fluid and is sealed from the ground under it to prevent seepage into any water table. Sometimes the mud pit is a large tank set on the ground. Occasionally, there is another pit, the sump, to hold water, or perhaps the crew drills a water well to service the site if water cannot be piped in. Close by the well bore is another hole, called the "rathole," used to store the kelly (see below). Sometimes a "mousehole" is used to hold lengths of drill pipe awaiting hookup.
A 15,000-foot string weighs 200 tons, and the topmost joint must support it all, with some flotation help from the drilling fluid. Indeed, deep drilling had to await the development of steels that could bear such loads. Each time the rig drills down a kelly, the crew must add another joint of drill pipe. Fast-drilling formations keep the crew busy as it makes several changes an hour. In very hard strata, it may not make a kelly a day. Eventually, of course, the bit has to be changed. That means a complete round trip.
A contemporary writer explained: "Divine Providence orders that what is not needed is not known,.. " Drake is credited with bringing in the first well specifically drilled to find oil, though there is controversy over that, too. Canada claims the honor for J. H. Williams, a Hamilton, Ontario, resident of Scottish birth, who is reputed to have mined, refined, and marketed his oil, in perhaps the world's first integrated petroleum operation, before Drake spudded his Titusville well. Factors that benefit and plague the oil industry to the present day prevailed in microcosm in Titusville in 1859.