This Week June 11 to June 17
June 11, 1929 – Independent Producers organize
Wirt Franklin of Ardmore, Oklahoma, speaks on behalf of America’s independent producers at President Herbert Hoover’s Oil Conservation Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Franklin opposes any commission that could restrict domestic production – and allow an increase in importing foreign oil. “If this condition should be brought about,” proclaims Franklin, “it would mean the annihilation and destruction of the small producer of crude oil.”
Franklin will establish a new organization based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to defend the interests of small U.S. producing companies – the Independent Petroleum Association of America, which today represents companies that drill 90 percent of domestic oil and natural gas wells, producing 68 percent of U.S. oil and 82 percent of its natural gas.
June 13, 1917 - Phillips Petroleum founded in Bartlesville, Oklahoma
Phillips Petroleum Company is founded in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, during the early months of World War I – when the price of oil climbs above $1 per barrel.
Brothers Frank and L. E. (Lee Eldas) Phillips consolidate their Anchor Oil & Gas Company and Lewcinda Oil Company holdings into the new company, which begins operating with assets of $3 million, 27 employees, and oil and natural gas leases throughout Oklahoma and Kansas.
Assets grow to $103 million by 1924 as Phillips Petroleum becomes the nation’s principal supplier of natural gas liquids. In the coming years the company drills the deepest wells onshore and among the farthest wells offshore – while also making petrochemical advances.
Marlex, a revolutionary polypropylene plastic, is developed by Phillips chemists initially researching gasoline additives. In 1998, the company is awarded its 15,000th patent.
The company’s advances in aviation fuel will play a vital role in World War II. Phillips 66 gasoline will become a popular advertising brand. In 2002, Phillips Petroleum merges with Conoco to become today’s ConocoPhillips. Learn more petroleum history by visiting the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville.
June 13, 1928 – Historic Oilfield discovery made in New Mexico
The most important single discovery of oil in New Mexico history is made with the discovery of the Hobbs oilfield. Drilling of the Midwest State No. 1 well – spudded in late 1927 using a standard cable-tool rig – “strikes pay” for the Midwest Refining Company.
Completed in April 1929 at 4,220 feet, the well reveals the giant Hobbs field, later cited by the New Mexico Bureau of Mines & Mineral Resources as “the most important single discovery of oil in New Mexico’s history.” The well had been a cable-tool rig drilling challenge from the start. Disaster struck at 1,500 feet when exhaust from a Franklin 85 engine ignited the engine house. Fire quickly consumed the wooden derrick.
“Men with less vision would have given up, but not the drillers of Midwest,” notes Paige W. Christiansen in The Story of Oil in New Mexico. “A steel derrick from Amarillo, Texas, was set in place, the engine was rebuilt by local mechanics, and the cable tools were ‘fished’ from the hole.”
Spectacular production from the Hobbs oilfield draws crowds of investors and encouraged further exploration, quickly transforming Hobbs from “sand, mesquite, bear grass and jack rabbits” to the fastest growing town in the United States, according to the 1930 census. Humble Oil of Texas would be the first to drill in the field with a then emerging technology: the rotary rig.
“New Mexico has been a major producer of oil and natural gas since hydrocarbons were first discovered in the state during the early 1920s,” notes the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. “In 2000, New Mexico produced more than 68 million barrels of oil, 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 119 billion cubic feet of naturally occurring carbon dioxide for a total value of $8.2 billion.”
The Library of Congress American Memory collection includes photographs of Hobbs taken by Russell Lee and others for the Farm Security Administration.
“Although Lee visited Hobbs a dozen years after its first major oil strike, these photographs are the most complete visual record available of this early New Mexico oil boom town,” explains the website of U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.
Bingaman’s website also notes: “Visit the very complete website of the American Oil and Gas Historical Society at www.aoghs.org for a portal to a number of important historical and contemporary topics. Click on ‘Museum Links’ to go to a list of petroleum museums in America. Under New Mexico, you will find information about the exhibit “From Dinosaurs to Drill Bits” at the Farmington Museum.”
June 14, 1865 – First Edition of Titusville Newspaper
Pennsylvania’s oil region gets its first daily newspaper when brothers William and Henry Bloss publish the their four-page broadsheet, the Titusville Morning Herald. Initial circulation is 300.
A brief entry in the first edition — under “Oil News” — reports a lucrative payoff to investors from the 500-barrel-a-day Homestead well. It includes an historic note: “John Wilkes Booth purchased one-thirteenth interest in the territory in August 1864. The price of the entire interest was then $15,000…We are credibly informed that this Homestead well in which Booth was interested was destroyed by fire on the day he assassinated President Lincoln.”
June 14, 1938 – Federal Government regulates Natural Gas
The federal government assumes regulatory control of the natural gas industry for the first time. Although the Natural Gas Act of 1938 does not apply to the production, gathering or local distribution of natural gas, it seeks to establish “just and reasonable rates” for pipeline companies’ transmission or sale of natural gas in interstate commerce.
The passage of the act is the first instance of direct federal regulation of the natural gas industry, according to the Energy Information Administration, which notes the act was prompted by “concern about the exercise of market power by interstate pipeline companies.”
Regulatory functions are assigned to the Federal Power Commission (established in 1920), which will become the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 1977.
June 15, 1954 – Mr. Charlie raises Offshore Rig Technology
The new, state-of-the-art offshore drilling rig, Mr. Charlie, leaves its shipyard and goes to work for Shell Oil Company in a new field in East Bay, near the mouth of the Mississippi River.
A. J. LaBorde, a marine superintendent for Kerr-McGee in Morgan City, Louisiana, had proposed building the moveable, submersible drilling barge. When his company declined, LaBorde formed the Ocean Drilling & Exploration Company. The new company contracted with J. Ray McDermott Company to build Mr. Charlie.
The drilling rig’s column-stabilized rig design will revolutionize the offshore industry; it now resides at the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition in Morgan City.
June 17, 1816 – Baltimore starts First Gas Utility Company
America’s first gas utility company is established when the Baltimore city council approves the Gas Light Company of Baltimore’s plan to light streets and homes with manufactured gas. The company’s founders include famed George Washington portraitist Rembrandt Peale, who illuminates a room in his Holliday Street museum — now the Peale Museum — with a “magic ring” of 100 burners.
Citizens are dazzled by the technology and Peale’s company lays pipelines and builds street lights — but shows no profit for seven years. His Gas Light Company of Baltimore perseveres…and is in business today as the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company.
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