This Week Sept. 10 to Sept. 16
September 11, 1866 – Turning Kerosene into a “Vacuum Harness Oil”
Carpenter and part-time inventor Matthew P. Ewing patents a method of distilling kerosene in a vacuum to produce lubricants.
Three weeks later, with partner Hiram Bond Everest, he founds Vacuum Oil Company in Rochester, New York. Their first product is “Ewing’s Patent Vacuum Oil,” extolled for its virtues as a leather conditioner and preserver.
Ewing leaves the partnership, but Everest continues to develop his unique vacuum-produced lubricants such as a Vacuum Harness Oil – which he initially distributes in square containers previously used for canned oysters.
The company prospers with the production of heavy lubricating oils. In 1880, Everest sells 75 percent of Vacuum Oil to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil for $200,000. More than half a century later, the company will become the Socony Mobil Oil Company (see “Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark”).
September 12, 1866 – Oil first discovered in Texas
The Texas petroleum industry is born 13 miles east of Nacogdoches when Lyne Taliaferro Barret and his Melrose Petroleum Oil Company bring in the state’s first commercial oil well.
The Confederate veteran’s No. 1 Isaac C. Skillern well — drilled in an area known as Oil Springs — finds the newly prized resource at a depth of 106 feet. His well yields a modest ten barrels per day, but limited access to markets soon leads to the company’s failure.
Barret’s failed project lays dormant for nearly two decades — until new wildcat drilling companies find oil nearby. The Nacogdoches field remains the first and oldest field in Texas and as late as 1941 still recorded production of eight barrels a day from 40 wells. Some of the field’s wells produced into the 1950s.
Interestingly, instead of using traditional cable-tool percussion drilling, Lyne Taliaferro Barret uses an auger fastened to a pipe and rotated by a steam-driven cogwheel — the basic principle of rotary drilling that has been used ever since. 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 announces it will build the Territory of Hawaii’s first oil refinery, eight miles west of Pearl Harbor.
According to a 1959 Popular Mechanics article, Standard originally planned to import oil from the Middle East “by means of an unusual undersea submarine cable.”
Today, the plant is a modern 54,000 barrel per day refinery owned by Chevron, which in March 2010 determined that despite low utilization rates and poor refining margins, the 200-employee refinery would remain open. Hawaii’s one other refinery is nearby — Tesoro Corporation’s 95,000-barrels-per-day facility.
September 13, 1975 – President Ford dedicates Petroleum Museum
President Gerald R. Ford addresses 400 guests at the dedication ceremony of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library and Hall of Fame in Midland, Texas.
After touring the new museum, the president is presented with a bronze sculpture by artist Lester Fox entitled “Dressing the Bit” by Chairman of the Board of Executors of the Museum Emil G. Rassman.
The museum’s wings today include extensive geological, technical and cultural exhibits – and a rare collection of historic Chaparral racing cars, notes Director Kathy Shannon.
“Every visit to The Petroleum Museum is an opportunity to experience the fun side of science firsthand,” Shannon says. “Our spectacular exhibit wings offer remarkable insight into the scientific and technological world around us, from the age when dinosaurs roamed the Permian Basin to the wild oil boom in West Texas!”
In early 2011, Chevron celebrated the production of five billion barrels of Permian Basin oil in West Texas — and company officials announced a donation of $1 million, evenly divided between Christmas in Action of Odessa and Midland’s Permian Basin Petroleum Museum.
September 14, 1929 – Permian Basin’s Yates Well sets Record
In Pecos County, a West Texas oil well comes in at a depth of 1,070 feet — and becomes the most productive well in the petroleum industry’s history. The Yates 30-A well produces a record 8,528 barrels of oil per hour — an astounding 204,672 barrels per day.
The historic Permian Basin well is located just a few hundred yards from the discovery well for the historic Yates Field — the Ira G. Yates 1-A well. It is operated by Transcontinental Oil and the Mid-Kansas Oil and Gas Company (then a subsidiary of Ohio Oil, now Marathon). Production from the Yates oilfield peaks in 1929 at more than 41 million barrels of oil.
The field, which produced its billionth barrel of oil in 1985, is still supplying Texas refineries.
“The Yates Field, among the largest ever found in the United States, has been in continuous production for 85 years and has been exploited by a list of oil companies, some of them no longer in existence — but scientists believe that massive amounts of oil still remain stranded in the rocks” notes a June 2011 article, “Geriatric oil field is coaxed along.”
September 14, 1871 – President Grant visits Oil City, Pennsylvania
During a tour of the booming oil regions of northwestern Pennsylvania, President Ulysses S. Grant visits Titusville, Petroleum Center and Oil City — the “valley that changed the world” with America’s first commercial oil discovery in August 1859.
September 14, 1960 – OPEC founded in Baghdad
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is created at the Baghdad Conference by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The five founding members are later joined by nine others. Headquarters is 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 begins
Drilling for the newly formed Eaton Mining & Gas Company in Indiana, Civil War veteran Almeron Crannel hits a strong flow of natural gas at 922 feet.
With a two-inch pipe extended 18 feet above the derrick, the flow of natural gas produces a huge flame, reportedly visible in Muncie ten miles away. The well helps reveal a 5,120-square-mile oil and natural gas field.
The “Trenton Field” as it would become known, spreads over 17 Indiana counties. It is the largest natural gas field known in the world at the time. Within three years, more than 200 companies in Indiana are exploring, drilling, distributing, and selling natural gas from more than 380 producing wells.
The Indianapolis News reports, “It’s a poor town that can’t muster enough money for a gas well.” For a while, natural gas is so plentiful that customers are charged by the month or year rather than for a metered amount of gas.
Read more in “Indiana Natural Gas Boom.”
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