This Week Feb. 20 to Feb. 26
February 20, 1959 – First LNG Tanker arrives in England
After a three-week voyage, the Methane Pioneer – the world’s first liquefied natural gas tanker – arrives at the world’s first LNG terminal at Canvey Island, England, from Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The vessel, a converted World War II liberty freighter, contains five, 7,000-barrel aluminum tanks supported by balsa wood and insulated with plywood and urethane, according to the Center for Energy Economics (CEE).
“This event demonstrated that large quantities of liquefied natural gas could be transported safely across the ocean,” notes CEE, a research arm of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas.
The 340-foot Methane Pioneer, owned by the Comstock Liquid Methane Corporation, refrigerates its cargo to minus 285 degrees Fahrenheit. When vaporized, the LNG expands by the ratio of 600 to one.
“German engineer Karl Von Linde built the first practical compressor refrigeration machine in Munich in 1873,” CEE explains. “The first LNG plant was built in West Virginia in 1912 and began operation in 1917. The first commercial liquefaction plant was built in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1941.”
February 20, 1993 — Oil Pipe Saxophone debuts in Houston
Petroleum pipelines become art when Texas artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade debuts his landmark saxophone sculpture at Houston’s Billy Blues Bar & Grill on Richmond Avenue.
Wade has transformed two 48-inch steel oilfield pipes into the free-standing sculpture and a supporting pylon sunk 25 feet deep. A Volkswagen, beer kegs, and assorted parts complete his 60-foot-tall blue creation.
When controversy ensues, the Houston city council deems the saxophone to be art – and not subject to signage ordinances.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram describes Wade as a “connoisseur of Southwestern kitsch.”
February 21, 1887 – New Refinery Process “sweetens” Ohio Oil
Herman Frasch – a former Standard Oil Company chemist – applies to patent his process for eliminating sulfur from “skunk-bearing oils.” Earlier discoveries near Lima, Ohio, have produced vast quantities of a thick, sulfurous oil of little practical value.
Seeing an opportunity overlooked by others, John D. Rockefeller has accumulated a 40 million barrel stockpile of the cheap, sour Lima oil. His Standard Oil company rehires Frasch – and buys his remarkable patent.
With Frasch’s copper-oxide refining process used to “sweeten” the Lima oil, the odorless result multiplies its value, adding substantially to the Rockefeller fortune.
February 22, 1898 – Painter will create Petroleum Industry Murals
Born in Memphis, Missouri, Alexandre Hogue will become known for his paintings of southwestern scenes during the Great Depression — including murals of the 1930s Texas petroleum industry.
Hogue grows up in Denton, Texas, and works as an illustrator for the Dallas Morning News before traveling to New York, where he works in advertising and spends time in museums and galleries, notes the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA).
When President Franklin Roosevelt creates public relief projects, Hogue and other artists are commissioned to paint American history on the walls of public buildings. Hogue soon produces murals in Dallas, Houston – and the post office in Graham, Texas. Hogue’s popular “Dust Bowl” collection is featured in Life magazine in 1937.
“His ideas are expressed mainly in landscape paintings but they can also be traced through abstract and even nonobjective works later in his career,” notes TSHA.
Hogue associates with other Dallas-area artists – Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, Everett Spruce and others who become known as the Dallas Nine.
Bywaters will exhibit “Oil Field Girls” and “Roughnecks” on June 1, 1940, in San Francisco.
Hogue’s 1939 “Oil Fields of Graham,” oil on canvas, remains on display in the North Texas oil patch community – where early post offices moved around a lot. “Each new administration would choose its own place for a post office, renting the building from some individual party,” explains historian Nancy Lorance, who adds that in 1936 a U.S. Postal Service building was completed in the town square.”Although the Dallas Nine ceased to operate as a group after its members scattered to pursue careers throughout the state and beyond, artists from that circle continued to do meaningful work and exerted a powerful influence over a new generation of artists,” TSHA concludes.
According to Lorance, Hogue’s “Oil Fields of Graham,” which originally adorned the lobby’s east wall, depicts Colonel E.S. Graham on the left, standing in front of Standpipe Mountain, two laborers working on a pipe line, and two men in street clothes examining blueprints.
“Also in the picture are a large piece of machinery, some oil field boilers, and a truck,” Lorance adds. “This meaningful picture of Graham deteriorated as the years passed and when the post office was repainted the mural was covered.”
Fortunately, in 1993 the Graham Post Office moves to a new site – and the building is purchased by the city.
Today, the Old Post Office Museum & Art Center educates the public – and preserves the restored Hogue mural, which technically is still on loan from the U.S. Postal Service.
A January 2012 article in the Graham Leader interviews a petroleum geologist – the son of a local oilman who was a good friend of Hogue in the Depression era.
“The artist wanted someone to take him on a drilling location so he could create realistic, detailed oil field scenes,” explains Rob Roark.
“Dad told him how to design oil derricks,” he says. To show his appreciation, Hogue gave the elder Roark artwork. “Hogue wrote on the art titled, ‘Oilman’s Christmas Tree’ – If you and Mrs. Roark don’t like this one, we can exchange it for another print when you are in Dallas.”
Editor’s note - On June 28, 1967, a 13-foot by 56-foot mural “Panorama of Petroleum” by Oklahoma artist Delbert Jackson greeted visitors at the opening of the Smithsonian Institution “Hall of Petroleum” in Washington, D.C. Today, the giant mural is a permanent exhibit at Tulsa International Airport.
February 22, 1923 – First Carbon Black Factory in Texas
Texas grants its first permit for a carbon black factory to J.W. Hassel & Associates in Stephens County. It has been discovered that carbon black dramatically increases the durability of rubber used in tires.
Modern carbon black products are descendants of early “lamp blacks” first produced by the Chinese over 3,500 years ago, according to the International Carbon Black Association (ICBA). Carbon black, which looks like soot, is produced by controlled combustion of petroleum products, both oil and natural gas.
“Its physical appearance is that of a black, finely divided pellet or powder,” ICBA explains. “Its use in tires, rubber and plastic products, printing inks and coatings is related to properties of specific surface area, particle size and structure, conductivity and color. Approximately 90 percent of carbon black is used in rubber applications.”
As the automobile industry grows, so does demand for tires and for carbon black.
By 1931, Texas produces more than 200 million pounds of carbon black annually from just 31 plants – 75 percent of America’s total at the time. Today, most of America’s carbon black is still produced in Texas and Louisiana. Current worldwide production is about 18 billion pounds every year.
In 1910, the B.F. Goodrich Company discovers that adding carbon black to the vulcanizing process dramatically improves strength and durability. Its use in tires creates an immense market – initially consuming one pound of carbon black for each two pounds of rubber.
February 23, 1942 – Imperial Japanese Sub shells California Refinery
At 7:15 p.m., Commander Nishino Kozo of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s submarine I-17 begins firing armor-piercing shells at the Bankline Oil Company refinery in Ellwood City, California. The shelling continues for 20 minutes before I-17 escapes into the darkness. Damage is minimal – but the incident creates invasion hysteria along the West Coast.
A 1982 Parade magazine article suggests that Nishino targeted the Bankline Refinery because of a prewar affront. While serving as captain of an oil tanker docked near the refinery – and being given a courtesy tour of the facilities – Nishino reportedly slipped and fell into a cactus, prompting laughter from his hosts. The Parade article claims he gets his revenge by shelling the refinery.
February 25, 1897 – “Golden Rule” Jones elected in Ohio
On a progressive Republican ticket, oilfield equipment supplier Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones is elected mayor of Toledo, Ohio.
Jones – a 40-year veteran of oilfields in Pithole, Petrolia and Oil City, Pennsylvania – first earns his nickname in 1894 when he posts the biblical admonition at his newly formed Acme Sucker Rod Company. Jones introduces better wages, paid vacations and five-percent bonuses.
The Acme Sucker Rod Company president will become a leading advocate of eight-hour workdays. Above his factory entrance he posts: Every Man who is WILLING to work, Has a Right to Live. Divide the Day and Give Him a Chance. ”Golden Rule” Jones is elected mayor three more times and serves until dying on the job in 1904.
February 25, 1919 – Oregon enacts First State Tax on Gasoline
A state taxes gasoline for the first time. Oil is selling for about $2 per barrel when Oregon enacts the one-cent gasoline tax to be used for road construction and maintenance. Less than two months later, Colorado and New Mexico have followed Oregon’s example. By 1929, every state has added a tax of up to three cents per gallon.
Faced with $2.1 billion federal deficit and declining revenue, President Herbert Hoover will add another one-cent per gallon federal excise tax in 1932.
State taxes now vary from less than 10 cents per gallon to about 70 cents. Consumers pay an additional 18.4 cents for a federal excise tax (unchanged since October 1997), which mainly supports a highway trust fund.
February 25, 1926 – Wyatt Earp’s Petroleum Investment pays off
Wyatt Earp’s oil well investment north of Bakersfield, California, pays off with a 150-barrel-a-day producer.
In his later years, long after his famous 1881 gunfiight in Tombstone, Arizona, the former lawman has invested in the Kern River and Kern Front oilfields. At age 75 – as Earp begins focusing on his biography and movie ambitions – he turns management of his oilfield properties over to “Hattie” Lehnhardt, sister to his wife Josie.
Disappointing results will later prompt Josie to write a family friend, “I was in hopes they would bring in a two or three hundred barrel well. But I must be satisfied as it could have been a duster, too.”
February 26, 1960 – First “Deep” Offshore Lease Sale
The Bureau of Land Management of the Department of the Interior offers 1.17 million acres for lease offshore Louisiana and 437,000 acres offshore Texas and receives $285 million in bids, more than double the amount of any previous sale. These leases open oil and natural gas exploration to what is then considered “deepwater.”
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