WorldWide Drilling Resource®

A Million Barrels of Fun in West Texas Compiled by Bonnie Love, Editor, WorldWide Drilling Resource ® If you are ever traveling through West Texas, there is a unique museum in the heart of the Permian Basin you may want to visit - the Million Barrel Museum. It may be hard to imagine today, but the Permian Basin was once considered a petroleum grave- yard. That is, until the 1920s when exploration companies started drilling more successful wells.  The area witnessed great oil discoveries. However, with no pipelines or tanks to get the oil to a refinery, operators had to come up with a solution. The Roxana Petroleum company (which would later become part of Shell Oil) decided to build a giant concrete reservoir. Dubbed the Million Barrel Reservoir, engineers actually designed it to hold five million barrels of oil. Unfortunately, when the company injected a million barrels of oil into the tank for the first time, the reservoir leaked. The weight bearing down on the concrete amounted to four hundred million pounds of pressure, something the engineers must not have considered. The tank covered eight acres of land measuring 620 feet long by 510 feet wide with concrete walls 30 feet tall, sloped at a 45 degree angle. The tank leaked from too many places and the company couldn’t seal it properly. In hindsight, the decision to pour the concrete in sections, leaving a lot of seams, probably wasn’t the best idea. Even though the tank had a domed, California redwood roof, oil also evapo- rated out of the tank. The oil loss happened slowly, so the tank held the oil until it was shipped to Oklahoma for refining. Once the oil was pumped out, the tank was dismantled. Empty and abandoned, the people in the area used the tank for parades, square dancing, and other community events. Then in 1954, Wayne and Amalie Long purchased the concrete reservoir thinking they could convert the tank into a water park. The couple drilled six wells nearby, and began pumping in the water. They even built a boat ramp from the opening engineers had made to remove the interior pillars and the roof. The cou- ple called their attraction Melody Park. It opened October 5, 1958, the man-made lake attracted swimmers, boaters, and an- glers; even a professional ski team from Austin came to put on an exhibition. Unfortunately, water weighs twice as much as oil, so the tank didn’t do any better holding water. Leaks caused the lake to disappear as Wayne tried desperately to find and seal the source of the leaks. In the end, Melody Park essentially closed the day after it opened. Abandoned once again, the site became a graffiti-peppered community landmark for nearly three decades. Wayne passed away in 1980. Six years later, Amalie would donate the structure, along with more than 14 acres of land surrounding it, to the Ward County Historical Commission in his honor. With the help of local teachers and historians, con- struction of the Million Barrel Museum began in 1986, as part of Ward County’s 150th anniversary celebration. The museum opened with much fanfare on May 30, 1987. Today, the museum grounds include a potpourri of historical items from farming equipment; railroad memorabilia; and an eclipse windmill; to Coca-Cola products; old school buildings with antiques; as well as oilfield artifacts from the area. Also includ- ed on the grounds is the Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum which has a great collection of World War II memorabilia. One segment of the tank is home to the Meadows Amphitheater, a 400-seat venue complete with a stage for concerts. It even has a roof similar to the tank’s original roof. The tank continues to host class reunions; craft shows; and other community events, the most popular being a fajita cook-off and tejano dance held in May, which attracts more than 5000 people. On the first weekend of December, the Million Barrel Museum hosts a Christmas lighting com- plete with holiday activities.  So, if you are ever driving down I-20, about 35 miles west of Odessa, Texas, stop by Monahans’ Million Barrel Museum, ad- mission is free. Editor’s Note: In between our print issues, the WWDR Team prepares an electronic newsletter called E-News Flash . Based on readership, this was the most popular E-News Flash article of the month. Get in on the action and subscribe today at: 15 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® FEBRUARY 2020 G&O Arial view of the Million Barrel Tank courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.