This Week Feb. 6 to Feb. 12
February 8, 1836 – Natural Gas lights Philadelphia
Forty-six natural gas lights along Philadelphia’s Second Street are lit for the first time by employees of the newly formed Gas Works — the first municipally owned natural gas distribution company.
Today there are more than 900 public natural gas systems; the Philadelphia Gas Works is the largest. There are more than 70 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the United States. America’s first commercial gas lighting company, the Gas Light Company of Baltimore, Maryland (now Baltimore Gas and Electric Company), incorporated in 1817. It distributed gas manufactured from tar and later coal.
Learn more about the early natural gas industry in “Indiana Natural Gas Boom.”
February 10, 1910 – California’s Buena Vista Oilfield
The Buena Vista field is discovered in Kern County, California, by Honolulu Oil Corporation. The well is originally known as “Honolulu’s great gasser” until drilled deeper into oil-producing sands.
Oil production averages between 3,000 barrels and 4,000 barrels per day. As the U.S. Navy converts its vessels from coal to oil, the Buena Vista field will become Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 2 in 1912. Steam injection operations help produce much of the “heavy” (high viscosity) oil in California, the nation’s third largest producing state.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, 2008 production from federal lands in California totaled more than 20.8 million barrels of oil and 5.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas, yielding more than $169 million in oil and $5.35 million in gas royalties to the federal Treasury.
February 10, 1917 – Geologists organize an Association of Professionals
Demand for oil is worldwide — but the science for finding it obscure — when the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) organizes as the Southwestern Association of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa, Oklahoma. About 90 geologists meet at Henry Kendall College, now Tulsa University, and form an association “to which only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.”
The new association’s mission is “to promote the science of geology, especially as it relates to petroleum and natural gas; to promote the technology of petroleum and natural gas and to encourage improvements in the methods of exploring for and exploiting these substances; to foster the spirit of scientific research among its members; to disseminate facts relating to the geology and technology of petroleum and natural gas.”
The association adopts its present name a year later and soon begins publishing a bimonthly journal. AAPG’s peer-reviewed Bulletin includes papers written by leading geologists of the day. With a subscription price of five dollars, the journal is distributed to members, university libraries, and other industry professionals.
By 1920, one petroleum trade magazine notes that the “Association Grows in Membership and Influence; Combats the Fakers.” An article praises AAPG professionalism and warns of “the large number of unscrupulous and inadequately prepared men who are attempting to do geological work.”
Similarly, the Oil Trade Journal praises AAPG for its efforts “to censor the great mass of inadequately prepared and sometimes unscrupulous reports on geological problems, which are wholly misleading to the industry.”
Perhaps the best known such fabrication is related to the men behind the 1930 East Texas oilfield discovery — a report entitled ”Geological, Topographical And Petroliferous Survey, Portion of Rusk County, Texas, Made for C.M. Joiner by A.D. Lloyd, Geologist And Petroleum Engineer.” Using very scientific terminology, A. D. Lloyd’s document describes Rusk County geology — its anticlines, faults, and a salt dome — all features associated with substantial oil deposits…and all completely fictitious. The fabrications nevertheless attract investors, allowing Joiner and Lloyd to drill a well that will uncover a massive oilfield.
Equally imaginary is “Doc” Lloyd’s earlier descriptions of the “Yegua and Cook Mountain formations” and the thousands of seismographic registrations he ostensibly recorded. Lloyd, a former patent medicine salesman, and other self-proclaimed geologists will risk public exposure since such geological flim-flam is the antithesis of AAPG’s professional ethic.
By 1953 the AAPG membership has grown to more than 10,000 and a permanent headquarters building opens Tulsa. Today, the association is the world’s largest professional geological society with more than 31,000 members in 116 countries. It still embraces a code that assures “the integrity, business ethics, personal honor, and professional conduct” of its membership.
Learn more about “Doc” Lloyd in “H.L. Hunt and the East Texas Oilfield.”
Join the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. AOGHS is a 501(c)-3 nonprofit program dedicated to preserving the history of U.S. petroleum exploration by providing advocacy for museums and other organizations that work to preserve that history.
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