This Week in Petroleum History, June 6 – 12
June 6, 1944 – Secret Operations fuel WWII Victory
The D-Day invasion begins along 50 miles of fortified French coastline in Normandy. The logistics of supplying the beaches include two top-secret engineering triumphs: construction of artificial harbors followed by the laying pipelines across the English Channel.
Codenamed Mulberrys and using a design similar to today’s jack-up offshore rigs, the artificial harbors use barges with four retractable pylons to provide platforms to support floating causeways that extend to the beaches.
To fuel the advance into Nazi Germany, Operation PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) will engineer pipelines wound onto giant floating “conundrums” designed to spool off when towed. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower acknowledges the significance of this oil pipeline engineering feat when he says, “Second in daring only to the Mulberry Harbours, was PLUTO.” Read more in PLUTO, Secret Pipelines of WW II.
June 6, 1967 – First Oil Embargo attempt
One day after the “Six-Day War” begins in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Algeria pledge to stop supplying oil to nations friendly to Israel – the United States, Great Britain, and West Germany. A lack of uniformity in enforcing the embargo and increased U.S. production ends the embargo after just two months. A more disruptive embargo takes place in 1973.
June 6, 1976 – Oilman J. Paul Getty dies
With a fortune as high as $4 billion, J. Paul Getty dies at 83 at his country estate near London.
Getty, born into his father’s oil wealth from the Oil Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma, made his first million in oil leasing by the time he was 23. “I started in September 1914, to buy leases in the so-called red-beds area of Oklahoma,” Getty is quoted in the New York Times.
“The surface was red dirt and it was considered impossible there was any oil there,” he added. “My father and I did not agree and we got many leases for very little money which later turned out to be rich leases.”
After World War II and contrary to conventional wisdom, Getty had bought oil rights in Saudi Arabia before becoming the richest man in the world. He established the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and left over $661 million of his estate to the museum.
June 9, 1894 – Water Well launches Texas Oil Industry
The first major oilfield in Texas is discovered on 12th Street in Corsicana by a contractor hired by the city to drill a water well.
Although the 1894 well will eventually attract thousands and bring great prosperity, the city pays the contractor only half his $1,000 fee. His contract was for drilling a water well. Drilled with cable-tools, the well produces just 2.5 barrels a day from 1,035 feet deep, but nevertheless launches the Lone Star State’s first exploration and production boom.
By 1898 there are 287 producing wells in Corsicana, which becomes a center for technological innovation. One company begins manufacturing its newly patented rotary drilling machine. A “Corsicana rig” will drill the 1901 discovery well at Spindletop. Corsicana today hosts an annual Derrick Days and chilli cook-off. It is home to Wolf Brand Chili, established there in 1895 during the oil boom. Read more in First Texas Oil Boom.
June 11, 1816 – Manufactured Gas lights Baltimore Museum
To impress Baltimore civic leaders, Rembrandt Peale illuminates a room in his Holliday Street Museum by burning manufactured gas, an illuminant distilled from coal, tar or wood. His 1816 display dazzles museum patrons with a “ring beset with gems of light.”
Within a week, the Baltimore city council approves Peale’s plan to light the city’s main streets. Peale and a group of investors found the Gas Light Company of Baltimore. “So was born the first gas company in the New World,” proclaims an historian at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company.
“In 1816, the building became the fist public building in America to use gas lighting,” adds the Maryland Historical Trust. In 1855, the gas company completes a new manufacturing plant to distill gas from coal, an improvement over the former use of tar or wood. Learn more in Manufactured Gas for Lamps.
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 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.
Listen online to “Remember When Wednesdays” on the weekday morning radio program, Exploring Energy, 9 a.m – 10 a.m., Eastern Time. On last Wednesday of each month AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells calls in to discuss petroleum history. Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. © This Week in Petroleum History, AOGHS 2016.