This Week Oct. 15 to Oct. 21
October 16, 1865 – Pennsylvanian constructs First Oil Pipeline
Pipelines (and the technology to lay them) will revolutionize petroleum transportation in the early oil patch.
In Venango County, Pennsylvania, Samuel Van Syckel’s Oil Transportation Association puts into service a two-inch iron line linking the Frazier well to the Miller Farm Oil Creek Railroad Station – about five miles away.
With 15-foot welded joints and three 10-horsepower Reed and Cogswell steam pumps, the pipeline transports 80 barrels of oil per hour – the equivalent of 300 teamster wagons working for ten hours.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Tubing Company is laying a seven-mile, six-inch pipeline from Pithole Creek to the Island Well. With their livelihoods threatened, teamsters sabotage the pipelines, until armed guards intervene.
“The day that the Van Syckel pipe-line began to run oil a revolution began in the business. After the Drake well it is the most important event in the history of the Oil Regions,” notes Ida Tarbell in her History of the Standard Oil Company.
October 16, 1931 – Natural Gas Pipeline sets Record
At four o’clock in the afternoon, America’s first long-distance, high-pressure, large-diameter natural gas pipeline goes into service, linking Texas panhandle fields to consumers in Chicago.
A. O. Smith Corporation developed the technology of thin-walled longitudinal pipe and Continental Construction Corporation built the 980-mile long bolted flange pipeline for the Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America.
The $75 million project consumes 209,000 tons of A. O. Smith’s specially fabricated 24-inch diameter steel pipe (6,500 freight car loads) and requires 2,600 separate right of way leases. Texoma Natural Gas Company provides the gas and Chicago’s Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company provides the market.
Today, the Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America operates an interstate system with approximately 9,800 miles of pipeline.
October 17, 1917 – “Roaring Ranger” Oil Discovery fuels WWI Victory
The J. H. McCleskey No. 1 well strikes oil at 3,432 feet, about a mile south of Ranger, Texas. Wildcatters had pursued oil with little success in Eastland County since 1904.
Texas and Pacific Coal Company Vice President William Knox Gordon and his driller Frank Champion bring in the well, which produces 1,600 barrels a day of high gravity oil. The discovery launches the Ranger oil field boom. Within 20 months the company’s stock value goes from $30 a share to $1,250 a share.
The formerly quiet Eastland County farming communities fill with oilmen and entrepreneurs as oil sells for $2.60 a barrel – and many “Roaring Ranger” wells flow at 10,000 barrels a day.
Ranger’s population alone grows to more than 25,000 and its four banks hold $5 million in deposits.
Ranger oilfield production is essential to America’s victory in World War I, although the high production drops reservoir pressure and depletes the field. When the armistice is signed in November 1918, a member of the British War Cabinet declares, “the Allied cause floated to victory upon a wave of oil.”
The historic McCleskey No. 1 well is plugged on May 18, 1920. Learn more at the Eastland County Museum and Historical Society – and read learn how an “Oil Boom brings First Hilton Hotel.”
October 17, 1918 – Gasoline Shortage brings Wartime “Gasless Sundays”
After seven voluntary “Gasless Sundays” observed east of the Mississippi River to support the World War I effort, the U.S. Fuel Administration ends the initiative, having saved an estimated one-million gallons of gasoline.
Because of depleted East Coast reserves, producers are forbidden to make deliveries of gasoline to any customer until all orders to the Army, Navy, and Allies are delivered. Other World War I home front conservation measures include Meatless Thursdays, Heatless Mondays, Lightless Nights, and Victory Gardens. The “war to end all wars” ends three weeks later on November 11, 1918.
October 17, 1973 – OPEC declares Oil Embargo
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) implements what it calls “oil diplomacy” – it prohibits any nation that had supported Israel in its “Yom Kippur War” with Egypt, Syria and Jordan from buying any of the oil it sells.
“The ensuing energy crisis marked the end of the era of cheap gasoline and caused the share value of the New York Stock Exchange to drop by $97 billion. This, in turn, ushered in one of the worst recessions the United States had ever seen.”
Even before the OPEC embargo, an American oil crisis was on the horizon because of low domestic reserves, the site adds. “The United States was importing about 27 percent of the crude petroleum it needed every year; and gasoline prices were rising. The 1973 war with Israel made things even worse.”
Although the United States is the third largest crude oil producer, about half of the petroleum it uses is imported. During 2010, America imported about 49 percent of the petroleum it consumed - including crude oil and refined petroleum products, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. About half of the imports came from the Western Hemisphere. The nation’s dependence on foreign petroleum has declined since peaking in 2005.
October 18, 2008 – Derrick dedicated in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Discovery 1 Park
A re-enactment of the dramatic moment that changed Oklahoma history highlights the dedication ceremony at Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville – site of a renovated Nellie Johnstone No. 1, Oklahoma’s first commercial oil well.
Events include local roughneck reenactors bringing in the 84-foot derrick’s oil well with a water gusher. A similar cable-tool drilling rig thrilled spectators in on March 25, 1897, when Jenny Cass, stepdaughter of Bartlesville co-founder George W. Keeler, was given the honor of “shooting” Oklahoma’s first oil well.
The 1948 presentation of the well to the city of Bartlesville appropriately noted, Like the rush for Oklahoma land, the discovery of oil attracted both men and capital from far and near, these pioneers in petroleum development were as rugged and self-sufficient as those who settled the land …Oklahoma’s two greatest industries, agriculture and petroleum, have developed largely hand in hand, and back of both developments are the pioneers, men of restless energy and unbounded faith.
In 2007 – the centennial of Oklahoma’s statehood – ConocoPhillips opened two petroleum museums, one in Bartlesville, the other in Ponca City. Phillips Petroleum merged with Conoco in 2002.
The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum is located in Bartlesville, where Phillips was incorporated in 1917. The Conoco Museum in Ponca City includes exhibits and artifacts from that company – founded in 1875 as Continental Oil in Utah – and merged with Oklahoma’s Marland Oil Company in 1929.
The Bartlesville park’s first replica derrick was erected on the original site in 1948, but removed in 1962, according to the Bartlesville Area History Museum. A second replica was erected on March 5, 1964.
In attendance at the 1964 dedication was W.W. Keeler, grandson of George Keeler and Nellie Johnstone Cannon, daughter of William Johnstone and namesake of the original well. — See “Discovering Oklahoma Oil.”
October 20, 1861 – Pennsylvania Oil Boom
Just after midnight, William Phillips – a salt well driller from the Pittsburgh area – brings in his second well on the Tarr farm of Oil Creek, Pennsylvania. It produces an astounding 4,000 barrels per day from only 480 feet.
This early well taps into the Venango Third Sand’s highly pressurized oil, which flows into Oil Creek several days before being controlled. As new “oilmen” like Phillips develop production skills and technologies, pits are dug and wooden tanks assembled to accommodate the Tarr farm’s oil. For a time, overproduction drives U.S. oil prices to 10 cents a barrel.
The Phillips No. 2 well produces until 1871 and yields more than 950,000 barrels of oil, a record that stands for 27 years. Visit the Drake Well Museum in Titusville.
October 20, 1949 - Rare Well in Maryland
The first commercially successful natural gas well in Maryland is drilled by the Cumberland Allegheny Gas Company in the town of Mountain Lake Park, Garrett County – the westernmost county in the state. The Elmer N. Beachy well produces almost 500 Mcf of natural gas a day.
The wildcat discovery prompts a rush of competing companies and indiscriminate, high-density drilling (an average of nine wells per acre), which depletes the field. Twenty of 29 wells drilled within the town produce natural gas, but overall production from the field (7.5 miles by .75 miles) is minimal.
By 1962 the site becomes part of a storage area for the Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation. No oil has yet been found in Maryland.
October 21, 1921 – First Natural Gas Well in New Mexico
New Mexico’s natural gas industry is launched with the newly formed Aztec Oil Syndicate’s State No. 1 well about 15 miles northeast of Farmington in San Juan County.
The well produces 10 million cubic feet of natural gas daily and the crew uses a trimmed tree trunk with a two-inch pipe and shut-off valve to control the well until a proper wellhead can be shipped in from Colorado.
By Christmas, a pipeline reaches two miles into the town of Aztec where citizens enjoy New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service. Within a year, natural gas can be purchased in Aztec at the flat rate of $2 a month for a heater and $2.25 for a stove.
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