This Week in Petroleum History, September 19 to September 25
September 21, 1901 – First Louisiana Oil Well
Just nine months after the January 1901 “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop, Texas, another historic oilfield was revealed 90 miles east in Louisiana.
W. Scott Heywood – already successful thanks to wells drilled at Spindletop Hill – completed a 7,000-barrel-a-day well on the Jules Clements farm six miles northeast of Jennings. Drilled in a rice field, the Jules Clements No. 1 found oil at 1,700 feet, leading to the state’s first commercial oil production.
According to the Jennings Daily News, “The well flowed sand and oil for seven hours and covered Clement’s rice field with a lake of oil and sand, ruining several acres of rice.”
The discovery opened the prolific Jennings field, which Heywood developed by securing leases and building pipelines and storage tanks. As the Jennings oilfield reached peak production of more than nine million barrels in 1906, oil discoveries in northern Louisiana continued to expand the state’s new petroleum industry. Read more in First Louisiana Oil Well.
September 23, 1918 – Start of Wood River Refinery
Roxana Petroleum Company’s new Wood River (Illinois) facility began refining crude oil in 1918. The refinery processed more than two million barrels of Oklahoma petroleum in its first year of operation.
Roxana Petroleum Company was the 1912 creation of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which founded the American Gasoline Company in Seattle to distribute gasoline on the West Coast. Roxana Petroleum was established in Oklahoma to locate and produce the state’s high quality oil to be refined at the Wood River plant.
Today the largest refinery owned by ConocoPhillips, Wood River processes 300,000 barrels of oil a day. Visit the Wood River Refinery History Museum.
September 23, 1933 – Standard Oil of California Geologists visit Saudi Arabia
Invited by Saudi Arabian King Abdel Aziz, geologists from Standard Oil Company of California (later Chevron) arrived at the Port of Jubail in the Persian Gulf. Searching the desert for petroleum and “kindred bituminous matter,” they discovered a giant oilfield. The partnership between Saudi Arabia and Standard Oil became known as the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco), later joined by Texaco and other major U.S. companies.
September 24, 1951 – Perforating Wells with Bazooka Technology
Call it a “downhole bazooka.” In 1951, war veteran Henry Mohaupt applied to patent his “Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun.” He brought a key World War II anti-tank technology to the petroleum industry.
Mohaupt had been in charge of a secret U.S. Army program to develop an anti-tank weapon. His idea of using a conically hollowed out explosive charge to direct and focus detonation energy ultimately produced a rocket grenade used in the bazooka.
After the war, the potential of these downhole rocket grenades to facilitate flow from oil-bearing strata was recognized by the Well Explosives Company of Fort Worth, Texas. The company employed Mohaupt to develop new technologies for safely perforating cement casing and pipe. Learn more in Downhole Bazooka.
September 25, 1922 – First New Mexico Oil Well
New Mexico’s first commercial oil well was drilled on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Shiprock by the Midwest Refining Company.
The Hogback No. 1 well produced 375 barrels of oil per day. Following the 1922 discovery, Midwest drilled eleven additional wells to establish the Hogback oilfield as a major producer of the San Juan Basin. Two years later, a pipeline to Farmington was completed and oil shipped by rail to Salt Lake City, Utah, for refining.
Production from the New Mexico oilfield encouraged further exploration, which led to discoveries in 1928 that brought prosperity to Lea County and the town of Hobbs. Learn more in New Mexico Oil Discovery.
Listen online to “Remember When Wednesdays” on the weekday morning radio program Exploring Energy, 9 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Bruce Wells calls in on the last Wednesday of every month. Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society today with a tax-deductible donation. © This Week in Petroleum History, AOGHS 2016.