This Week Feb. 13 to Feb. 19
February 13, 1924 – Forest Oil incorporates
A corporate logo with a lantern burning two wicks? An oil company originally founded in 1916 consolidates with four other independent petroleum companies — the January Oil, Brown Seal Oil, Andrews Petroleum and Boyd Oil — to form the Forest Oil Corporation, an early leader in secondary recovery technology.
Originally based in Bradford, Pennsylvania – site of the “first billion dollar oil field” in the United States – the Forest Oil logo features the lantern often seen on early wooden derricks. Some believe the lantern’s name, “yellow dog,” comes from the two burning wicks resembling a dog’s glowing eyes at night.
Today headquartered in Denver, Forest Oil (publicly held since 1969) and its subsidiaries engage in petroleum exploration, production and marketing, with principal reserves and producing properties in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Visit the Penn-Brad Historical Oil Park and Museum near Bradford, Pennsylvania — where a modern natural gas shale boom has renewed the historic oil patch economy.
February 13, 1977 – Texas Ranger “El Lobo Solo” dies
Texas Ranger Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas dies in Dallas at the age of 85. During much of the 1920s, Ranger Gonzaullas enforced the law in booming oilfield towns and along the Mexican border.
By 1930 — the year the massive East Texas oilfield is discovered near Kilgore — Gonzaullas already is known as “El Lobo Solo,” the Lone Wolf. “He was a soft-spoken man and his trigger finger was slightly bent,” famed oilman Watson W. Wise characterizes the lawman in a 1985 interview.
Gonzaullas is credited with bringing order to the town of Kilgore, once known as “the most lawless town in Texas.” He said at the time, “Crime may expect no quarter in Kilgore. Gambling houses, slot machines, whiskey rings and dope peddlers might as well save the trouble of opening, because they will not be tolerated in any degree.”
February 17, 1902 – Lufkin Industries founded in East Texas
In Lufkin, Texas, the Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company is founded as a repair shop for railroad and sawmill machinery.
When the timber supplies in East Texas begin to dwindle and the sawmill business declines, the Lufkin Foundry & Machine Company discovers new opportunities in the newly burgeoning oilfields. As more petroleum discoveries are made, the company prospers.
Inventor Walter C. Trout will be working for Lufkin in 1925 when he sketches out his idea for what will become an icon of oilfield success known by many names — nodding donkey, grasshopper, horse-head, thirsty bird, and pump jack, among others. Before the end of the year, a prototype is installed on a Humble Oil Company well near Hull, Texas.
“The well was perfectly balanced, but even with this result, it was such a funny looking, odd thing that it was subject to ridicule and criticism, and it took a long time, nearly a year, before we could convince many the idea was a good one,” Trout explains.
Since Trout’s invention — the now familiar counterbalanced oilfield pumping unit — the Lufkin company has sold more than 200,000 units. Basics of the technology remain the dominant way to lift oil from reservoirs. Key to pumping the oil to the surface, an engine (often set to run on a timer) turns gears that move a counter weight that connects to a walking beam, which moves the sucker rod to draw oil from the well.
Today’s Lufkin Industries, the largest employer in Lufkin, designs and manufactures oilfield equipment and power transmission products. The company also operates a foundry producing up to 300 tons a day of castings for machine tools.
With a population approaching 40,000, Lufkin — once known for its extensive lumber industry — now has developed a growing tourism and convention economy, thanks to its proximity to Sam Rayburn Reservoir and the Davy Crockett National Forest.
Read more about the evolution of ways for getting oil out of the ground in “All Pumped Up — Production Technology.“
February 17, 1944 – Oil discovered in Alabama
Alabama’s first oilfield is discovered in Choctaw County when Texas oilman H.L. Hunt drills the No. 1 Jackson well — and discovers the Gilbertown oilfield. Prior to finding this oilfield, an incredible 350 noncommercial wells have been drilled in Alabama.
“Traces of petroleum, in the form of natural gas were first discovered in Alabama in Morgan and Blount counties in the late 1880s, and by 1902, natural gas was being supplied to the cities of Huntsville and Hazel Green,” notes one historian. “In 1909, a small discovery by Eureka Oil and Gas at Fayette fueled that city’s streetlights for a time, but no natural gas was recovered anywhere in the state for several decades afterward.”
Hunt drilled in Choctaw County and discovered the Gilbertown oilfield in the Eutaw Sand at a depth of 3,700 feet, explains Alan Cockrell in an article for the Encyclopedia of Alabama. The field produces 15 million barrels of oil, “not a lot by modern standards but enough to make ‘oil fever’ spread rapidly.”
However, the search for another oilfield will lead to 11 years of “dry holes,” Cockrell notes. The 1955 oil discovery at Citronelle, a town above a geologic salt dome, finally launches a new drilling boom; five new Alabama oilfields are discovered by 1967.
In 1981, Mobil Oil Company drills Alabama’s first successful offshore natural gas well in Mobile Bay.
Oil and natural gas are still being found in Alabama, especially in the western part of the state,” Cockrell concludes. “Geologists believe new opportunities exist in the hard shales of the deep Black Warrior Basin beneath Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties and in the thick fractured shales of St. Clair and neighboring counties.” The Choctaw County Historical Museum in Gilbertown features bottles of oil from Alabama’s 1944 first oil well.
February 19, 1889 – Ohio acts to conserve Natural Gas
The Ohio House of Representatives enacts the state’s first petroleum conservation measure. House Resolution 813 is “an Act to prevent the wasting of Natural Gas and to Provide for the plugging of all abandoned wells.”
The state’s first commercial petroleum production begins in 1860 in Macksburg, Washington County, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. As of 2010, more than 275,700 wells have been drilled — yielding more than 1.1 billion barrels of oil and more than 8.52 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
“Ohio remains a leading producer of oil and gas, ranking in the top half of all producing states in the nation,” the agency notes, adding that modern production technologies are bringing success in eastern Ohio – the Marcellus and Utica shales. In 2010, the state’s deepest well reaches a depth of 13,727 feet in Belmont County — more than 5,000 feet deeper than the previous drilling record.
Ohio also claims the first oil discovery from a drilled well, according to the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program. “In 1814, two men drilled 475 feet in search of salt in Olive Township of Noble County. They cursed when a black liquid oozed into the pit,” explains Executive Director Rhonda Reda.
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