September 23, 1918 – Birth of Wood River Refinery in Illinois
North of St. Louis on the Mississippi River, Roxana Petroleum Company’s Wood River (Illinois) Refinery comes online in 1918. The refinery processes more than two million barrels of Oklahoma oil in its first year of operation.
Roxana Petroleum Company is the 1912 creation of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which also founded the American Gasoline Company in Seattle to distribute gasoline on the West Coast. Roxana is established in Oklahoma to locate and produce the oil to be refined at Wood River.
Today, the Wood River Refinery is owned by ConocoPhillips and is the company’s largest, processing 300,000 barrels of oil a day. Visit the Wood River Refinery History Museum.
On September 24, 1951 – Well Perforation Patent uses Bazooka Technology
Call it a “downhole bazooka.” In 1951 war veteran Henry Mohaupt applies to patent his “Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun.” He brings a key World War II anti-tank technology to the petroleum industry.
Mohaupt had been in charge of a secret U.S. Army program to develop an anti-tank weapon. His idea of using a conically hollowed out explosive charge to direct and focus detonation energy ultimately produced a rocket grenade used in the bazooka.
After the war, the potential of these downhole rocket grenades to facilitate flow from oil-bearing strata is recognized by the Well Explosives Company of Fort Worth, Texas.
The company employs Mohaupt to develop new technologies for safely perforating cement casing and pipe. Read more in Downhole Bazooka.
September 25, 1922 – First Oil Discovery in New Mexico
New Mexico’s first commercial oil well is drilled on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Shiprock by the Midwest Refining Company.
Although the Hogback No. 1 well of September 1922 produces a modest 375 barrels per day, New Mexico has since produced more than 5.5 billion barrels of oil. The state today produces more than 80 million barrels from proven reserves of 866 million barrels (2012).
Following the 1922 discovery, Midwest drills eleven additional wells to establish the Hogback oilfield as a major producer of the San Juan Basin. Two years later, a pipeline to Farmington is completed and oil is shipped by rail to Salt Lake City, Utah, for refining. Still more discoveries come in southeastern New Mexico.
A 1928 oil strike will bring prosperity to Lea County and the town of Hobbs, named for James Hobbs, who homesteaded there in 1907. Learn more in New Mexico Oil Discovery.
September 26, 1876 – First Commercial Oil Well in California
Although Charles A. Mentry of California Star Oil Works Company has drilled three wells that showed promise, his first “gusher” arrives with the Pico Well No. 4 well in 1876.
Drilling with a steam-powered cable-tool rig in an area known for its many oil seeps, the California Star Oil Works well reveals the Pico Canyon oilfield north of Los Angeles. It is California’s first commercial well.
The well, which initially produces 25 barrels per day from 370 feet, will lead to construction of the state’s first oil pipeline and first commercially successful oil refinery, which produces kerosene and lubricants. Stills set on brick foundations have a capacity of 150 barrels a day.
Chevron can trace its beginnings to the 1876 Pico Canyon oil discovery and the California Star Oil Works Company. Read more in First California Oil Well.
September 26, 1933 – King Ranch Lease sets Record
Despite the reservations of W. S. Parrish, president of Humble Oil and Refining Company, geologist Wallace E. Pratt convinces the company to lease the million-acre King Ranch in Texas for $127,824 per year (plus a one-eighth royalty on any discovered oil).
At the time, this is the largest oil lease contract ever negotiated in the United States.
Subsequent leases from neighboring ranches will give Humble Oil & Refining Company nearly two million acres of mineral rights between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande River.
By 1947, Humble is operating 390 producing oil wells on the King Ranch lease. Today, ExxonMobil continues to extend the oil and natural gas lease agreement that has been in effect since 1933. Read more in Oil Reigns at King Ranch.
September 26, 1943 – First Sunshine State Oil Discovery
Humble Oil Company brings in Florida’s first commercially successful oil well in 1943 – the Sunniland No. 1 – near a watering stop on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
Humble Oil spends about $1 million drilling to a depth of 11,626 feet to bring in the discovery well, located 12 miles south of Immokalee, near present day Big Cypress Preserve and the city of Naples.
Florida’s oil had eluded hundreds of wildcatters since 1901. By 1939, almost 80 dry holes had been drilled. About this time, Florida legislators – desperate for their state to become an oil producer and benefit from the tax revenue – offer a $50,000 bounty for the first discovery.
The Humble discovery of the Sunniland oilfield sparks a flurry of lease purchases and wildcat wells. By 1954, the field is producing 500,000 barrels per year from eleven wells at average depths of 11,575 feet.
Texas-based Humble Oil accepts the $50,000 prize offered by the Sunshine State, adds $10,000 – and donates the $60,000 equally between the University of Florida and the Florida State College for Women. Humble will later become Exxon, now ExxonMobil. Read more in First Florida Oil Well.
September 27, 1915 – Explosion in Ardmore, Oklahoma
Two years after Healdton oilfield’s 1913 discovery in Oklahoma, a railroad tank car of casing-head gasoline explodes in Ardmore.
The exploring at the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway depot destroys most of downtown Ardmore. Casing-head gasoline, which comes from natural gas wells, at the time was integral to Oklahoma’s petroleum development.
According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, after the disaster the Natural Gasoline Manufacturers Association advocates new regulations governing casing-head gas transportation. The Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway is found responsible for the explosion and pays 1,700 claims totaling $1.25 million.
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