This Week in Petroleum History, April 17 – 23
April 17, 1919 – More Oilfields found in North Texas
Another drilling boom was launched in Wichita County, Texas, when the Bob Waggoner No. 1 well began producing 4,800 barrels of oil a day.
One year earlier, a wildcat well on S.L. Fowler’s farm had brought a stampede of exploration companies to the Red River border with Oklahoma. The county, which includes Wichita Falls, had been producing oil as early as 1912. Many newly formed ventures would not survive the growing competition (Texas Production Company, for one example).
The Waggoner well was the latest in what became known as the Northwest Extension Oilfield, comprising about 27 square miles of the horse ranch of S. Burk Burnett. This and previous North Texas drilling booms inspired “Boom Town” a popular 1940 movie starring former Oklahoma roughneck Clark Gable.
April 18, 1939 – Inventor patents Perforating Technology
Ira McCullough of Los Angeles patented a multiple bullet-shot casing perforator and mechanical firing system. He explained the object of his invention was “to provide a device for perforating casing after it has been installed in a well in which projectiles or perforating elements are shot through the casing and into the formation.”
This innovation of simultaneous firing at several levels in the borehole greatly enhanced the flow of oil. For safety, McCullough’s device included a “disconnectable means” that once the charges were lowered into the borehole rendered percussion inoperative as “a safeguard against accidental or inadvertent operation.”
In 1951 another inventor, Henry Mohaupt, used World War II anti-tank technology to create a conically hollowed-out explosive for perforating wells. Learn more in Downhole Bazooka.
April 19, 1892 – First U.S. Gasoline Powered Auto
American inventors Charles and Frank Duryea on April 19, 1892, test drove a gasoline powered automobile built in their Springfield, Massachusetts, workshop. Considered the first automobile regularly made for sale in the United States, the model would be produced – a total of 13 – by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company. Other manufacturers soon followed the Duryea example.
In March 1896, the Duryea brothers sold their first automobile – the Duryea motor wagon. It was reported two months later that in New York City a motorist driving a Duryea hit a bicyclist – the nation’s first recorded automobile traffic accident.
By the time of the first U.S. automobile show in November 1900 at Madison Square Garden, of the 4,200 automobiles sold in the United States, gasoline powers less than 1,000.
April 20, 1875 – New Technology links Well Pumping
Pumping multiple wells with a single steam engine boosted efficiency in early oilfields when Albert Nickerson and Levi Streeter of Venango County, Pennsylvania, patented their “Improvement In Means For Pumping Wells” on April 20, 1875. The new technology used a system of linked and balanced walking beams to pump the oil wells.
“By an examination of the drawing it will be seen that the walking-beam to well No. l is lifting or raising fluid from the well. Well No. 3 is also lifting, while at the same time wells 2 and 4 are moving in an opposite direction, or plunging, and vice versa,” the inventors noted in their patent (no.162,406).
Their system was the forerunner of rod-line (or jerk line) systems that operated long into the 20th century and used wooden or iron rods instead of rope and pulleys. Learn more in All Pumped Up – Oilfield Techology.
April 20, 1892 – Los Angeles Oilfield brings California Boom
The giant Los Angeles oilfield was discovered when a struggling prospector, Edward L. Doheny, and his mining partner Charles A. Canfield drilled into the tar seeps between Beverly Boulevard and Colton Avenue.
The April 20, 1892, discovery well – near present-day Dodger Stadium – set off California’s first oil boom by producing about 45 barrels a day.
Within two years, 80 wells were producing oil and by 1897 more than 500 wells were pumping. By 1895, the Los Angeles City field produced about 750,000 barrels, more than half of the 1.2 million barrels produced in the entire state of California. In 1925, California supplied half of the world’s oil. Learn more in Discovering Los Angeles Oilfields.
April 20, 2010 – Offshore Accident kills 11, creates Major Oil Spill
In September 2009, the Deepwater Horizon had drilled the deepest well in history at 35,050 feet vertical depth in 4,130 feet of water.
At a new site, the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo Prospect, at about 10 p.m. on April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred aboard the rig, which was completing a well 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. Of the 126 men and women on board, 11 were killed and 17 injured. Destroyed by the explosion and fire, the semi-submersible rig sank.
Uncontrolled oil production from the destroyed BP well caused a massive oil spill until capped in mid-July. Among others, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (known as the Minerals Management Service until June 2010) and the U.S. Coast Guard investigated. A report on the accident was issued in January 2011 by National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
April 22, 1920 – Natural Gas Well leads Arkansas Discoveries
The first natural gas well in southern Arkansas was completed on April 22, 1920, two and a half miles southeast of El Dorado.
Drilled to almost 2,250 feet, the discovery well produced up to 60 million cubic feet of natural gas a day – and showed signs of oil from the Nacatoch sands. Just a few days earlier, another well had not produced any commercial quantities of oil.
The first Arkansas oil wells arrived in 1921 after the Busey-Armstrong No. 1 launched the state’s petroleum industry. The Smackover oilfield was found in 1922.
April 22, 1926 – Lease Auctioneer and Indian Chief Statue dedicated
A statue commemorating the friendship between Colonel E.E. Walters and Osage Indian Chief Bacon Rind was dedicated in the chief’s hometown of Skedee, Oklahoma.
Beginning in 1912, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth Walters (his real name) and the popular chief of the Osage Nation raised millions of dollars from mineral lease sales.
Auctions had taken place beneath an elm tree at the Tribal Council House in nearby Pawhuska – with crowds gathering to witness bidding from men like Frank Phillips, E.W. Marland and William Skelly. Learn more in the Million Dollar Auctioneer.
Editor’s Note: Attention museum directors, curators and archivists, AOGHS has been asked to find a home to preserve the 16mm film “Oil and Men,” a newsreel about the Standard Oil Company (Indiana) produced in 1947 as part of The March of Time corporate film series. If interested, please email email@example.com.
Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells calls in on the last Wednesday of each month. AOGHS welcomes sponsors to help maintain this website and preserve U.S. petroleum heritage. Please support our energy education mission with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships. © 2017 Bruce A. Wells.