This Week in Petroleum History, September 12 to September 18
September 12, 1866 – First Oil Discovery in Texas
The Texas petroleum industry was born a few miles east of Nacogdoches when Lyne Taliaferro Barret and his Melrose Petroleum Oil Company completed the Lone Star State’s first commercial oil well.
The Confederate Army veteran’s No. 1 Isaac C. Skillern well – drilled in an area known as Oil Springs – found the newly prized resource at a depth of 106 feet. Barret’s well yielded a modest ten barrels per day; limited access to markets soon led to the company’s failure. The seemingly failed project laid dormant for nearly two decades – until other exploration companies found oil nearby.
The Nacogdoches field remained the oldest field in Texas for many decades. As late as 1941 it still recorded production of eight barrels a day from 40 wells. Some of the field’s wells produced well into the 1950s. Read more in First Lone Star Discovery – and visit Nacogdoches, “the oldest town in Texas.”
September 13, 1957 – First Hawaiian Refinery
Standard Oil of California announced it would build the Territory of Hawaii’s first oil refinery, eight miles west of Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. According to a 1959 Popular Mechanics article, Standard originally had planned to import oil from the Middle East “by means of an unusual undersea submarine cable.”
Chevron USA, owner of the modern 54,000-barrel-per-day refinery, in April 2016 announced it would sell the facility and other associated Hawaiian downstream assets to Island Energy Services LLC.
September 13, 1975 – President Ford dedicates Petroleum Museum
President Gerald R. Ford addressed 400 guests at the 1975 dedication ceremony of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library and Hall of Fame in Midland, Texas.
After touring the new museum, the president was presented with a bronze sculpture by artist Lester Fox called “Dressing the Bit.” The presentation was made by Chairman Emil Rassman.
The museum, established by 500 community leaders under the leadership of George Abell, today includes extensive geological, technical and cultural exhibits – and a rare collection of historic Chaparral racing cars, notes Director Kathy Shannon.
September 14, 1871 – President Grant visits Oil City
During a tour of the booming oil region of northwestern Pennsylvania, President Ulysses S. Grant visited Titusville, Petroleum Center and Oil City in the “valley that changed the world” following its August 1859 first U.S. commercial oil discovery. Grant ordered Pennsylvania Avenue paved with asphalt in 1875.
September 14, 1929 – West Texas Well will set Record
A West Texas well struck oil at a depth of 1,070 feet and produced an astounding 204,672 barrels of oil a day- the most productive well ever drilled up until that time. The Yates 30-A well initially produced 8,528 barrels of oil per hour.
The well in southeastern Pecos County was just a few hundred yards from the 1926 discovery well of the Yates field, the Ira G. Yates 1-A. First discovered in 1920, the Permian Basin’s huge size had been revealed in 1923 by the Santa Rita No. 1 well.
The latest well, operated by Transcontinental Oil and the Mid-Kansas Oil and Gas Company (then a subsidiary of Ohio Oil, now Marathon Oil) brought prosperity to Midland, Odessa and communities like Iraan (see Alley Oop’s Oil Roots). In 1985 the Yates field produced its billionth barrel of oil.
September 14, 1960 – OPEC founded in Baghdad
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created at the Baghdad Conference by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
The five founding members were later joined by nine others. Headquarters was in Geneva, Switzerland, prior to moving to Vienna, Austria, in September 1965.
OPEC’s objective “is to coordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.”
September 15, 1886 – Indiana Natural Gas Boom brings Prosperity
The late 1880s discoveries of a new energy resource near the communities of Eaton and Portland ignited Indiana’s historic gas boom, which dramatically changed the state’s economy. It became known as the Indiana Natural Gas Boom.
Drilling for the newly formed Eaton Mining & Gas Company in Indiana, Civil War veteran Almeron Crannel found natural gas at 920 feet deep. With a two-inch pipe extended 18 feet above the derrick, the ignited gas flow produced a huge flame reportedly visible in Muncie 10 miles away. The well helped reveal a 5,120-square-mile oil and natural gas field.
The giant Trenton field as it would become known, spread over 17 Indiana counties. It was the largest natural gas field known in the world at the time. Within three years, more than 200 companies in Indiana were exploring, drilling, distributing and selling natural gas from more than 380 producing wells. Andrew Carnegie proclaimed natural gas used for making steel was replacing 10,000 tons of coal every day.
September 18, 1948 – Oil discovered in Utah
J.L. “Mike” Dougan, president of the small independent Equity Oil Company, completed the state’s first commercial well in the Uinta Basin.
Dougan beat out larger and better financed competitors, including Standard Oil of California, Pure Oil, Continental, and Union Oil.
Dougan’s discovery launched a deep-drilling boom in Utah.
Unlike the earlier attempts, Dougan drilled beyond the typical depth of 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet. His Ashley Valley No. 1 well, ten miles southeast of Vernal, produced 300 barrels a day from 4,152 feet.
By the end of 1948, eight more wells were drilled and development of the field followed. Production averaged just less than a million barrels a year from the approximately 30 wells in the field. Exploration companies began drilling 5,000 feet to 8,000 feet and even deeper into the Uinta Basin.
Today, Uinta Basin coalbed methane is considered one of the major producing areas in the nation. The basin is estimated to have up to 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in a region covering about 15,000 square miles. Learn more in First Utah Oil Well.
Listen online to “Remember When Wednesdays” on the weekday morning radio program, Exploring Energy, 9 a.m – 10 a.m., eastern time. Bruce Wells calls in on the last Wednesday of every month. Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. © AOGHS, This Week in Petroleum History.