This Week March 12 to March 18
March 12, 1912 – Oklahoma’s “King of the Wildcatters”
Thomas “Dry Hole” Slick brings in the Wheeler No. 1 well about 12 miles east of Cushing, Oklahoma – the discovery well for the prolific Drumright-Cushing oilfield. The well produces for the next 35 years. At its peak, the oilfield will produce 330,000 barrels of oil a day.
Knowing that oilmen and speculators will descend on Cushing when the word gets out, Slick posts guards at his well – and takes other measures to protect his investment. How he does so is best described by a frustrated competing lease man:
I got a call yesterday at the hotel in Cushing from a friend who said they had struck oil out there. A friend of his was listening in on the party line and heard the driller call Tom Slick at the farm where he’s been boarding and said they’d hit.
Well, I rushed down to the livery stable to get a rig to go out and do some leasing and damned if Slick hadn’t already been there and hired every rig. Not only there, but every other stable in town…Some other scouts had already gotten the wagons on the first farms I hit. Soon as I got one I beat it back to town to pick up a notary public to carry along with me to get leases – and damned if Slick hadn’t hired every notary in town, too.
After his success in Cushing, Slick begins an incredible 18-year streak of drilling successful wells. By 1930 in the Oklahoma City field alone, he drills 45 wells with the capacity to produce 200,000 barrels of oil daily. “Dry Hole Slick” becomes known as “King of the Wildcatters.”
From 1901 through 2002, “a staggering 14.5 billion barrels of oil and condensate (natural gas liquids) and 90 trillion cubic feet of natural gas” have been produced in the state, notes the Oklahoma Geological Survey.
More than 470,400 oil and natural gas wells have been drilled since the first discovery well near Bartlesville on April 15, 1879.
Tom Slick is among those honored at the Conoco Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.
March 12, 1968 – Prudhoe Bay Discovery Well
Two hundred and fifty miles north of the Arctic Circle, Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oilfield is discovered by Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) and Exxon.
Production on about 1.5 million barrels per day from the 25-billion-barrel oilfield will not begin until June 20, 1977, when the 789-mile-long Trans-Alaska Pipeline is completed. For more than three decades Alaskan North Slope oilfields will produce about 20 percent of the domestic oil used in the United States.
At more than 213,000 acres, the Prudhoe Bay field remains the largest oilfield in North America, surpassing the 140,000 acre East Texas oilfield discovered in 1930.
March 13, 1974 – OPEC Lifts Embargo
A five-month oil embargo against the United States is lifted by Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel formed in 1960.
The embargo – imposed in response to America supplying the Israeli military during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War – is lifted after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiates an Israeli troop withdrawal from parts of the Sinai.
The crisis created gasoline shortages. President Richard Nixon proposed and Congress approved voluntary rationing – and a ban of gasoline sales on Sundays. America had been self-sufficient in energy as recently as 1950.
March 14, 1909 – California’s Lake View Gusher
The Lake View well near Maricopa in California’s Midway-Sunset oilfield blows in at dawn — and flows until September 1911.
“The San Joaquin Valley has had many gushers, starting with the Shamrock gusher in 1896 and continuing with the spectacular Midway Gusher in 1909,” notes “The Lakeview Gusher” by San Joaquin Geology Service. “But none of these wells came close to rivaling the Lakeview No. 1 which flowed, uncapped and untamed, at 18,000 barrels a day for 18 months in 1910 and 1911.”
Oil flows from the well as and hundreds of men work night and day to control it. The Lakeview No. 1 discovery, which becomes America’s most famous gusher, is brought under control in October 1910 by a massive embankment built around the well.
“When this embankment reached a height of twenty feet, it created an oil pool over the crater that was deep enough to reduce the oil flow from an rushing column to a gurgling spout,” the Geology Service explains.
The famous well dies out when the bottom of the crater caves in September 1911. Although Lakeview No. 1 produces 9.4 million barrels during the 544 days it flowed, more than half evaporates or seeps back into the ground. Invention of the blowout preventer in 1922 will greatly reduce catastrophic oilfield gushers. See the article, “Ending Oil Gushers – BOP.”
March 15, 1946 – TIPRO founded
The Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) is founded “to preserve the ability to explore and produce oil and natural gas and to promote the general welfare of its members.”
March 16, 1911 – A High-Flying Petroleum Trademark
Once among the most recognized corporate symbols in American history, the Pegasus logo is trademarked by a petroleum company.
The winged-horse icon begins its journey when a Vacuum Oil Company subsidiary receives the trademark in Cape Town, South Africa. Based in Rochester, New York, Vacuum Oil has built a successful petroleum lubricants business around a 1869 patent of its founder (Hiram Everest) long before gasoline is a branded product.
Vacuum Oil produces the earliest petroleum-based lubricants for horse-drawn carriages and steam engines. Although a stylized red gargoyle advertises the company’s products in the early 20th century, the Pegasus trademark will prove to be a far more enduring image. In Greek mythology, Pegasus – a winged horse – carried thunderbolts for Zeus.
By 1931 growth of the automobile industry expanded the Vacuum Oil product lineup to include Pegasus Spirits and Mobilgas – later simplified to Mobil. When Standard Oil of New York and Vacuum Oil combine to form Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, the new company adopts the familiar winged trademark, as does an affiliate, Magnolia Petroleum.
In 1934, a giant neon Pegasus begins rotating atop Magnolia’s Dallas, Texas, headquarters. It has taken one year to build the rotating 35-foot by 40-foot sign on a building that when it opened in 1922 was the tallest west of the Mississippi River. Next door are the luxurious Adolphus and Baker hotels.
Two red neon horses, one on each side, first glow to welcome the American Petroleum Institute’s first annual meeting to be held in Dallas. For decades afterward they slowly rotate above the growing city as corporate consolidations and mergers bring change to Socony-Vacuum ownership. In 1955 the name of the company changes to Socony Mobil Oil, simplified to Mobil Oil a decade later.
From these beginnings, the Pegasus logo of Mobil – which in 1999 merges with Exxon to become ExxonMobil – becomes the simple, stylized lettering at today’s service stations. An 11-foot Pegasus is exhibited at the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture.
Mobil leaves the Magnolia building in 1977 and donates the bright (but not longer rotating) sign to the city of Dallas. Twenty years later, when the lights finally go out – “Project Pegasus” is born to save the petroleum industry icon. Read more in “Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.”
March 17, 1890 – Birth of Sun Oil Company of Ohio
The Peoples Natural Gas Company, founded four years earlier by Joseph Newton Pew and Edward Emerson to provide natural gas to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, expands to become the Sun Oil Company of Ohio.
The company acquires promising leases near Findlay and enters the business of “producing petroleum, rock and carbon oil; transporting and storing same; refining, purifying, manufacturing such oil and its various products.”
Sunoco – among the largest U.S. independent refiners – in 2004 began a long-term commitment to be the official fuel of NASCAR.
March 17, 1949 – First Application of Hydraulic Fracturing
A team of petroleum production experts converges on an oil well about 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma — to perform the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing.
Later the same day, Halliburton and Stanolind company personnel successfully fracture another well near Holliday, Texas. The technique had been developed and patented by Stanolind (later known as Pan American Oil Company) and an exclusive license issued to Halliburton to perform the process. In 1953, the license was extended to all qualified service companies.
According to a Halliburton service company spokesman, “Since that fateful day in 1949, hydraulic fracturing has done more to increase recoverable reserves than any other technique, and Halliburton has led the industry in developing and applying fracturing technology.
In the more than 60 years following those first treatments, more than two million frac treatments have been pumped with no documented case of any treatment polluting an aquifer — not one.”
An experimental well, fractured two years earlier in Hugoton, Kansas, had proven the possibility of increased productivity. Two decades earlier, on March 1, 1921, Erle P. Halliburton (1892-1957), a native of Duncan, patents a remarkable “Method and Means for Cementing Oil Wells.” It improves oil production while protecting the environment.
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