The Oil Industry in Arkansas
The oil industry in Arkansas exploded onto the state’s economic scene in the early 1920s, and local production expanded into an international business soon thereafter. Since 1920, more than 2 billion barrels of oil have been produced in Arkansas.
At least 10 counties in Arkansas currently produce crude oil, all of which are located in the southern part of the state: Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Columbia, Hempstead, Lafayette, Miller, Nevada, Ouachita, and Union. Historically, most of this production has occurred in Union, Lafayette, Columbia, and Ouachita counties. These 4 counties have been responsible for over 85% percent of the oil produced in Arkansas.
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A Brief History of Oil Production in Arkansas
Evidence of oil deposits in Arkansas existed well before the oil boom of the 1920s. William Brown’s Union Coal Company built an oil refinery in Union County to distill crude from lignite coal in 1860. Similar techniques were used to produce modest amounts of oil from lignite at a coal mine in Ouachita County later that same decade. However, these efforts were relatively small-scale and ended years later due to a lack of profits.
At the peak of the Arkansas Oil Boom in 1925, some 3,483 wells produced 73 million barrels of oil in 1 year. So much crude was produced that trains were unable to transport all of it to refineries.
In the early 1920s, wells often ran at full capacity, which led to many of the wells running dry within 5 years. The Arkansas Conservation Commission issued recommendations to producers to prevent such waste and filed lawsuits to extend the productive efficiency of the oil fields.
Although current oil production has slowed considerably since the boom of the 1920s, the industry continues to have a strong economic and cultural influence in Arkansas. Some communities, such as Standard-Umpstead in Ouachita County, were initially founded specifically to support oil exploration. The Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources was established to commemorate the oil boom of 1925 and its impact on the state. In 2000, the annual value of Arkansas’s total mining production topped $1 billion. Oil companies still rank among the leading employers in the state.
Why is Oil Field Work So Dangerous?
Oil field work has always been dangerous. A range of hazards makes employees in this line of work considerably more prone to accident, injury, and death than workers in other industries. According to the American Public Media site Marketplace, the dangers of oilfield jobs are increasing:
“New numbers out this week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the overall rate of fatal work injuries last year was about three out of every 100,000 full-time workers. But for workers in the oil and gas industry, who work long hours with a lot of dangerous equipment, it was more than five times higher.”
As you can see, working with heavy equipment is one of the most prominent dangers of working in an oilfield. Large vehicles and machinery, especially when operated by workers who are overly fatigued or trying to work too fast, can easily become mechanisms of injury or death. If heavy machinery is not routinely inspected or serviced, accidents are even more likely. In many cases, the employer or worker being negligent is not the one injured in these types of accidents.
Compounding these risks is the fact that many companies are involved in the assembly or disassembly of heavy equipment on the job site. If they don’t follow all instructions or regulations to the letter, steps may be missed and dangerous situations leading to serious injuries or death may arise.
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10 States with the Most Dangerous Oil Fields
Massive economic booms do not come without a cost, as the dangers of working in the oil and gas exploration industry injure and kill many workers each year in the United States.
Researchers have recently compiled data from various agencies to determine which states have the most dangerous oil fields. They determined that, while the national fatality rate for oil field workers is about 27 deaths per every 100,000 workers, North Dakota had oil field worker fatality rates that were nearly triple this national average, making it the most dangerous state for oil field workers.
Following North Dakota to round out the top 10 spots:
- West Virginia, where nearly 40 oil field deaths occur per every 100,000 workers
- New Mexico, where about 38 oil field deaths occur per every 100,000 workers
- Oklahoma, where roughly 33 oil field deaths occur per every 100,000 workers
- Texas, where nearly 30 oil field deaths occur per every 100,000 workers
- Arkansas, where about 25 oil field deaths occur per every 100,000 workers
- Louisiana, where about 15 oil field deaths occur per every 100,000 workers
- Colorado, where about 15 oil field deaths occur per every 100,000 workers
- Pennsylvania, where more than 10 oil field deaths occur per every 100,000 workers
- Wyoming, where just under 10 oil field deaths occur per every 100,000 workers
Arkansas Man Killed in Drilling Site Fall
A 29-year-old man from Arkansas died in June 2013 after falling from a platform on a drilling site in Columbia County, according to KSLA News 12 .
The site is owned by Albermarle, a specialty chemical company in Magnolia that produces bromine. Plant manager Steven Miller confirmed that Derek "Bundy" Smith was working on a 60-foot platform on a workover rig at the site, about 20 miles east of the Albermarle plant when he fell and was fatally injured.
Miller says Smith was an employee of Reliance Well Services, a hydraulic fracturing contractor working for Albermarle on the site. Another Reliance contract employee was also injured, Miller said.
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Get a Free Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Arkansas Oil Field Accident and Injury Lawyers
The personal injury lawyers at Schmidt & Clark, LLP have experience dealing with the rights of American oilfield workers, and we are one of the only firms willing to handle oilfield workplace accidents in Arkansas and throughout the entire United States.
Again, if you or a loved one has been seriously injured in an oilfield accident, you should contact our oil field accident lawyers immediately by using the form below or calling our law firm toll-free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600 to schedule a free case review and legal options.
Clients may be able to recover fair compensation for medical expenses from an oil company in a lawsuit and a personal injury lawyer can help.