This Week Sept. 17 to Sept. 24
September 18, 1948 – Oil found in Utah
After searching for oil in Utah for more than 25 years, J. L. “Mike” Dougan, president of the small independent Equity Oil Company, brings in the state’s first commercial well in the Uinta Basin — beating out larger competitors Standard Oil of California, Pure Oil, Continental, Gulf, and Union Oil. The discovery launches a drilling boom.
The Ashley Valley No. 1 well, ten miles southeast of Vernal, comes in at 300 barrels a day from 4,152 feet. By the end of 1948, eight more wells are drilled and development of the field follows.
Production averages just less than a million barrels a year from the approximately 30 wells in the field. The Ashley Valley is the state’s largest producing oilfield until 1957. More discoveries follow as wells are drilled deeper.
Signs of oil had been noted as early as 1850 near Rozel Point on the northern shore of Great Salt Lake, notes the Utah Geological Survey:
“Although some oil was produced beginning in 1904 at the Rozel oil seep, and a few years later at the Virgin River field and at Mexican Hat, large-scale commercial oil development did not begin until the late 1940s and early 1950s in the Uinta and Paradox Basins.
Shortly thereafter, Utah was one of the top 15 oil producing states – a position it has held since. The value of extracted crude oil in Utah for 2008 was more than $1.9 billion.”
September 21, 1901 – First Oil Discovery in Louisiana
Oil is officially discovered in Louisiana when W. Scott Heywood – already successful thanks to discoveries at Spindletop Hill in Texas earlier in the year – brings in a 7,000-barrel-a-day well.
The discovery is on the Jules Clements farm six miles northeast of Jennings.
Although the Jules Clements No. 1 is on only a 1/32 of an acre lease, it marks the state’s first commercial oil production and opens the prolific Jennings Field, which Heywood develops by securing leases, building pipelines and storage tanks, and contracting buyers.
Heywood’s discovery finds oil at 1,700 feet — after some discouraged investors have sold their stock when drilling reached 1,000 feet. By 1,500 feet, stock in the Jennings Oil Company sells for as little as 25 cents per share. Patient investors are rewarded at 1,700 feet. The oilfield reaches peak production of more than nine million barrels in 1906.
Editor’s Note — A retired professor recently challenged the date of Louisiana’s first commercial oil well. Thomas Watson, PhD., “has uncovered evidence that the first producing oil well in Louisiana was at the Sulphur Mines in 1886,” notes a September 16 article in the Sulphur Daily News. “This information could alter the history of oil production in Louisiana.”
September 23, 1918 – Birth of Wood River Refinery
North of St. Louis on the Mississippi River, Roxana Petroleum Company’s Wood River (Illinois) Refinery comes online. The refinery processes more than two million barrels of Oklahoma oil in its first year of operation.
Roxana Petroleum Company is the 1912 creation of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which also founded the American Gasoline Company in Seattle to distribute gasoline on the West Coast. Roxana is established in Oklahoma to locate and produce the oil to be refined at Wood River.
Today, the Wood River Refinery is owned by ConocoPhillips and is the company’s largest. It processes 300,000 barrels of oil daily into more than nine million gallons of gasoline/fuel and 42,000 barrels of asphalt during peak season. Visit the Wood River Refinery Historical Museum.
September 24, 1943 – Natural Gas Pipeline will link Texas to Appalachia
As natural gas shortages threaten World War II industrial production in northern Appalachia, the Federal Power Commission issues a “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” authorizing construction of a pipeline to link Texas natural gas fields to Appalachia by the winter of 1944.
A subsidiary of the Chicago Corporation, Tennessee Gas and Transmission Company, builds the 1,265-mile pipeline through seven states, negotiating right-of-way with more than 12,000 individual landowners in 70 counties.
After the pipeline finishes ahead of schedule and under budget, the company prospers. Tenneco Corporation is created in 1960 to manage a growing complement of company subsidiaries. In 1966 Tenneco assumes control of Tennessee Gas assets.
On September 24, 1951 — Well Perforation Patent uses Bazooka Technology
Swiss Army veteran and chemical engineer Henry Mohaupt applies to patent his “Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun” — bringing World War II anti-tank technology into the oil patch and down the borehole.
Mohaupt had been in charge of a secret U.S. Army Ordnance Department 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 the 60 millimeter rocket grenade. The new weapon was used in the Army’s M1A1 Rocket Launcher – the GI’s greatly appreciated bazooka.
After the war, the industrial potential of these shaped charges prompted Well Explosives Company of Fort Worth, Texas, to employ Mohaupt in their effort to develop systems for safely perforating cement casing and pipe to facilitate flow from oil-bearing strata. Mohaupt’s 1951 patent submission is just one of many that will follow as the demands of ever higher wellbore pressures and other challengers continue to prompt innovation.
In 1957, Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company purchases Welex Jet Services, formerly Well Explosives Company — read more in “Downhole Bazooka.”
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