This Week Nov. 12 to Nov. 18
November 12, 1899 – Newspaper features Mrs. Alford’s Dynamite Factory
The New York World profiles Mrs. Byron Alford – the “Only Woman in the World who Owns and Operates a Dynamite Factory.”
Alford’s dangerous business operates on five acres outside of Bradford, Pennsylvania, with a daily production of 3,000 pounds of “nitro-glycerine” and 6,000 pounds of dynamite. Local drillers need the explosives for “shooting” wells to boost production. Mrs. Alford manufactures it for them in 12 unpainted wood buildings.
Brick buildings would have been prettier, Alford notes in the newspaper article, but it would cost more to replace them and, “the owner of a nitroglycerine factory never knows beforehand when it is going to blow up or afterward why it did blow up…there is never anyone to explain how it happened.”
Alford first entered the business in 1884 with her husband. When Mr. Alford’s health began failing 10 years later, she took over. “It is an odd business for a woman to be in,” she says, “but I know no reason why a woman who understands it cannot manage it as well as a man.”
Despite the hazards, Alford prospers for many years. She dies of natural causes in 1924 at age 77. Today, new technologies for producing natural gas from the Marcellus Shale have brought renewed prosperity to Bradford – and much of western Pennsylvania.
Visit the Penn-Brad Historical Oil Park and Museum and learn about America’s “first billion dollar oil field.”
November 12, 1916 – Forest Oil Company formed
Forest Oil Company incorporates and begins operations in the Bradford oil field of northwestern Pennsylvania. It adopts a distinctive “yellow dog” lamp with two wicks logo.
The company adopts a new technology: water-flooding (injecting water into oil-bearing formations) to stimulate production from wells considered depleted. Forest’s production increases from 38 barrels per day in 1916 to more than 10,000 barrels by the late 1920s.
In 1924, Forest Oil consolidates with the January Oil Company, Brown Seal Oil, Andrews Petroleum and Boyd Oil to form the Forest Oil Corp., today headquartered in Denver. Read more in “Yellow Dog – Oil Field Lantern.”
November 13, 1925 – Spindletop booms Again
More than two decades after its first oil boom, Spindletop, Texas, experiences a second boom when the Yount-Lee Oil Company strikes a 5,000-barrel-a-day well south of the 1901 “Lucas Gusher,” according to the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in Beaumont.
“Yount believed that there was much more oil at Spindletop, if flank wells could be drilled deep enough. He was right, and the McFaddin No. 2 began to produce oil at 2,518 feet on November 13, 1925,” notes the museum website.
That evening, Magnolia’s radio station announced the discovery, and the second Spindletop boom began. Although “the Hill” was once again ringed with wells, the wild atmosphere that had characterized the first boom was not repeated.
November 14, 1947 – First Offshore Oil Well Out of Sight of Land
The modern offshore oil and natural gas industry begins when an exploratory well strikes oil in the Gulf of Mexico – the first successful offshore oil well out of sight of land.
The company of Brown & Root builds this freestanding platform 10 miles from shore for Kerr-McGee Oil Industries and partners Phillips Petroleum and Stanolind. Brown & Root has learned from a previous offshore experience. In 1938, the company constructed a 320-foot by 180-foot freestanding wooden deck in 14 feet of water about a mile offshore.
The latest freestanding offshore platform, called “Kermac 16,” has a loading factor of 2,000 pounds per square foot that can withstand winds as high as 125 miles per hour – despite not having supporting guide wires.
Brown & Root builds the platform at a time when no equipment specifically designed for offshore drilling yet exists.
With $450,000 invested, Kerr-McGee brings in the well as a 40-barrel-per-hour producer in about 18 feet of water off Louisiana’s gradually sloping Gulf of Mexico coast.
Kerr-McGee purchases World War II surplus utility freighters and materials to provide supplies, equipment, and crew quarters for the drilling site at Ship Shoal Block 32.
Sixteen 24-inch pilings sunk 104 feet into the ocean floor secure the 2,700 square foot wooden deck – which successfully withstands the biggest Category 5 hurricane of the 1947 season a week after spudding (the start of drilling).
“Kermac 16″ produces 1.4 million barrels of oil and 307 million cubic feet of natural gas before being shut down in 1984. Learn more about U.S. offshore pioneers and technology in “Offshore Oil History” and “Deep Sea Roughnecks.”
November 15, 1906 – Justice Department seeks Standard Oil breakup
Under Sherman Anti-Trust Act provisions, the U.S. Attorney General files suit to compel dissolution of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey – and its subsidiaries. An 1892 court decision had previously ordered the Standard Oil Trust to be dissolved, but Standard Oil reorganized and continued to operate from headquarters in New York and later New Jersey.
The Justice Department will win this new suit, but John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirms the lower court’s decision on May 15, 1911, noting, “the combination and conspiracy in restraint of trade and its continued execution…monopolize a part of interstate and international commerce.”
November 17, 1949 – Geological Survey begins Petroleum Survey
The U.S. Geological Survey embarks on a massive geological study of the United States. More than 70 geologists engage in intensive investigations covering 22 states and Alaska. Their mission is to define areas favorable for oil and natural gas exploration.
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