This Week in Petroleum History – December 31 to January 6
December 31, 1954 - Ohio Company sets Depth Record in California
As drilling technology continues to advance, a new record depth of 21,482 feet is reached by an Ohio Oil Company exploratory well about 17 miles southwest of Bakersfield, Kern County, California, in the San Joaquin Valley.
The Ohio Oil Company (today’s Marathon Oil Corporation) sets a world-record with its No. 1 KCL-A-72-4. The well is a dry hole.
Deep-drilling technologies will advance in coming decades. In 1974 – after 504 days of drilling – the No. 1 Bertha Rogers reaches total depth of 31,441 feet in Oklahoma’s Anadarko basin. The well hits molten sulfur and is abandoned.
January 2, 1866 – Early Rotary Drilling Patent
An “Improvement in Rock Drills” patent is filed that for the first time includes the basic elements of modern rotary rigs and notes that its “peculiar construction is particularly adapted for boring deep wells.”
Peter Sweeney of New York City is granted a patent (no. 51,902), which describes the basic elements of rotary rigs and improves upon an 1844 British patent by Robert Beart.
Sweeney’s patent includes a roller bit with replaceable cutting wheels such “that by giving the head a rapid rotary motion the wheels cut into the ground or rock and a clean hole is produced.”
The drill-rod is hollow and connects with a hose through which “a current of steam or water can be introduced in such a manner that the discharge of the dirt and dust from the bottom of the hole is facilitated,” it further specifies.
Better than cable-tool technology, which raises and drops a heavy chisel-like bit, Sweeney claims his drilling apparatus may be used with advantage for making holes in rock, “in a horizontal, oblique, or vertical direction.”
Drilling operations can be continued without interruption, he adds, “with the exception of the time required for adding new sections to the drill rod as the depth of the hole increases. The dirt is discharged during the operation of boring and a clean hole is obtained into which the tubing can be introduced without difficulty.”
Perhaps even foreseeing the offshore exploration industry, Sweeney’s 1866 patent concludes with a note that “the apparatus can also be used with advantage for submarine operations.”
Oil patch drillers will improve upon Sweeney’s idea. A device is fitted to the rotary table that clamps around the drill pipe and turns. As this “kelly bushing” rotates, the pipe rotates – and with it the bit down hole. The torque of the rotary table is transmitted to the drill stem.
Thirty-five years after Sweeney’s patent, rotary drilling will revolutionize the petroleum industry when a 1901 discovery by Capt. Anthony Lucas launches a drilling boom at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas.
Learn more at “Making Hole – Drilling Technology.”
January 2, 1882 – Rockefeller organizes the Standard Oil Trust
John D. Rockefeller continues his control over the domestic petroleum industry by reorganizing his assets into the Standard Oil Trust.
With Standard Oil Company exercising control of America’s petroleum industry though 40 producing, refining, and marketing affiliates in several states, Rockefeller reorganizes assets into the new trust, which controls 14,000 miles of underground pipelines – and all of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s petroleum tank cars.
Samuel Dodd, a Standard Oil attorney, develops a structure by which stockholders in subordinate companies transfer their stock to nine trustees in exchange for participation in the trust’s aggregate earnings.
Since the trustees elect directors of the component companies, the Standard Oil Trust is an effective monopoly.
Following enactment of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in July 1890, an Ohio Supreme Court decision orders the trust to be dissolved in 1894.
With further legal maneuvering, the trust continues to operate from its headquarters in New York until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling finally breaks it up in 1911.
January 2, 1932 – Union Oil Company introduces “76″ Brand
The Union Oil Company “76″ brand is born with gas stations in western states. The orange circle with blue type logo is adopted in the 1940s.
The iconic spinning orb will debut at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, Washington – proving so popular that millions of smaller versions are given away for car antennas over the next decade.
Today, the California Oil Museum in Santa Paula is in the original Union Oil 1890 headquarters.
The Union 76 brand was sold to Tosco Corporation in 1997. Phillips Petroleum Company acquired Tosco in 2001 and merged with to Conoco to become ConocoPhillips a year later.
January 5, 1911 – Steamship burns Oil, sets Record
Three years before the Panama Canal is completed – and after a record breaking voyage of 54 days around Cape Horn – the new, fuel oil burning steamship S.S. Honolulan completes a 14,000-mile voyage from Baltimore, Maryland, to Seattle, Washington.
The passenger liner consumes 12,000 barrels of fuel-oil, arriving with 2,000 barrels to spare. For each mile of the voyage, the Honolulan burns 36 gallons of fuel oil.
Although only three of the vessel’s four boilers are used, the ship still cruises at speeds of up to 13 knots – almost 15 mph. See also “Petroleum and Sea Power.”
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