This Week in Petroleum History, February 13 to February 19
February 13, 1924 – Forest Oil adopts Yellow Dog
An independent oil exploration company originally founded in 1916 consolidated with four other independent petroleum companies to form the Forest Oil Corporation – an early developer of secondary recovery technologies.
For its logo, the new company decided to include a popular two-wicked “Yellow Dog” oilfield lantern often seen on derricks. Some people believed the lantern’s name came from the two burning wicks resembling a dog’s glowing eyes at night.
Originally based in Bradford, Pennsylvania – home to the nation’s “first billion dollar oilfield” – Forest Oil developed innovative water-injection methods to keep the Bradford oilfield productive.
February 16, 1935 – Oil States form Compact Commission
The Interstate Oil Compact Commission began in Dallas with the writing of the “Interstate Compact to Preserve Oil and Gas.” The new organization would be headquartered in Oklahoma City following approval by the U.S. Congress in August.
Representatives from Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas agreed to begin implementing a series of provisions to “conserve oil and gas by the prevention of physical waste thereof from any cause.” Oklahoma Gov. Ernest W. Marland – who founded Marland Oil Company in 1921 – was elected the first chairman.
“In 1935, six states took advantage of a constitutional right to ‘compact,’ or agree to work together, to resolve common issues,” notes IOGCC, which added the word gas to its name in 1991. “Faced with unregulated petroleum overproduction and the resulting waste, the states endorsed and Congress ratified a compact to take control of the issues.”
February 17, 1902 – Lufkin Industries founded in East Texas
The Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company was founded in Lufkin, Texas, as a repair shop for railroad and sawmill machinery. When the pine region’s timber supplies began to dwindle, the company discovered new opportunities in the burgeoning oilfields following the historic discovery at Spindletop Hill.
Inventor Walter C. Trout was working for this East Texas company in 1925 when he came up with a new idea for pumping oil. His design would become an oilfield icon known by many names – nodding donkey, grasshopper, horse-head, thirsty bird, and pump jack, among others.
By the end of 1925, a prototype of Trout’s revolutionary pumping unit was installed on a Humble Oil and Refining Company well near Hull, Texas. “The well was perfectly balanced, but even with this result, it was such a funny looking, odd thing that it was subject to ridicule and criticism,” Trout explained.
Thanks to Walter Trout’s invention – the now familiar counterbalanced pumping unit – Lufkin Industries would sell more than 200,000 pump jacks of all sizes. General Electric acquired Lufkin for $3.3 billion in 2013, deciding to close the historic downtown foundry in 2015. Learn about early oilfield production in All Pumped Up – Oilfield Technology.
February 17, 1944 – First Alabama Oil Well
Alabama’s first oilfield was discovered in Choctaw County when Texas oilman H.L. Hunt drilled the No. 1 Jackson well. Hunt’s 1944 wildcat well revealed the Gilbertown oilfield. Prior to this discovery, an astounding 350 dry holes had been drilled in the state.
“Traces of petroleum in the form of natural gas were first discovered in Alabama in Morgan and Blount counties in the late 1880s, and by 1902, natural gas was being supplied to the cities of Huntsville and Hazel Green,” notes one historian, adding:
“In 1909, a small discovery by Eureka Oil and Gas at Fayette fueled that city’s streetlights for a time, but no natural gas was recovered anywhere in the state for several decades afterward.”
Hunt drilled in Choctaw County and discovered the Gilbertown oilfield in the Eutaw Sand at a depth of 3,700 feet, explains Alan Cockrell in Oil and Gas Industry in Alabama.
The field produced 15 million barrels of oil, “not a lot by modern standards but enough to make ‘oil fever’ spread rapidly,” Cockrell notes
However, the search for another oilfield led to another 11 years of dry holes.
The 1955 oil discovery at Citronelle, a town above a geologic salt dome, finally launched a new drilling boom; five new Alabama oilfields were discovered by 1967. Mobil Oil Company drilled Alabama’s first successful offshore natural gas well in 1981.
With modern technologies, geologists now believe opportunities exist “in the hard shales of the deep Black Warrior Basin beneath Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties and in the thick fractured shales of St. Clair and neighboring counties, ” Cockrell concludes.
February 19, 1863 – Inventor tries Oil Pipeline
An early attempt to transport oil from an oilfield to a refinery by pipeline was completed at Oil Creek, Pennsylvania. New Jersey inventor J.L. Hutchings constructed the 2.5-mile pipeline from the Tarr farm near Oil Creek to the Humboldt refinery using a newly patented pump to move the oil through the two-inch diameter iron pipeline. Unfortunately, leaks made the innovative pipeline impractical, according to records at the Drake Well Museum.
February 19, 1889 – Ohio acts to Conserve Natural Gas
The Ohio House of Representatives enacted a conservation measure, “an Act to prevent the wasting of natural gas and to provide for the plugging of all abandoned wells.”
The 1889 law made Ohio one of the earliest states to legislate conservation.
Natural gas discoveries in the 1880s had revealed the Trenton Field extends across Indiana into western Ohio. With what they thought to be an unlimited supply of natural gas, communities competed to attract manufacturing industries by burning “flambeaux” lights (learn more in Indiana Natural Gas Boom).
Ohio’s first commercial petroleum production began in 1860 in Washington County. Today, Ohio is ranked fourth in the total number of wells drilled, according to the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program. Ohio has drilled over 275,000 wells to date, surpassed only by Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
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