This Week Sept. 25 to Sept. 30
September 25, 1922 – First Oil Discovery in New Mexico
New Mexico’s first commercial oil well is drilled on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Shiprock by the Midwest Refining Company.
The Hogback No. 1 is a modest producer at 375 barrels per day, but Midwest soon drills eleven additional wells to establish the Hogback oilfield as a major producer of the San Juan Basin.
Two years later, a pipeline to Farmington is completed and oil is shipped by rail to Salt Lake City, Utah, for refining. However, discoveries in southeastern New Mexico will overshadow the San Juan Basin’s oil and natural gas possibilities. New Mexico has produced more than 5.5 billion barrels of oil since the Hogback No. 1 well.
September 26, 1933 – King Ranch Lease sets Record
Despite the reservations of W. S. Parrish, president of Humble Oil and Refining Company, geologist Wallace E. Pratt convinces the company to lease the million-acre King Ranch in Texas for $127,824 per year (plus a one-eighth royalty on any discovered oil).
At the time, this is the largest oil lease contract ever negotiated in the United States.
Subsequent leases from neighboring ranches will give Humble Oil & Refining Company nearly two million acres of mineral rights between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande River.
By 1947, Humble is operating 390 producing oil wells on the King Ranch lease. Today, ExxonMobil continues to extend the oil and natural gas lease agreement that has been in effect since 1933.
September 26, 1943 – Sunshine State Discovery
Humble Oil Company brings in Florida’s first commercially successful oil well – the Sunniland No. 1 – near a watering stop on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
Humble Oil spends about $1 million drilling to a depth of 11,626 feet to bring in the discovery well, located 12 miles south of Immokalee, near present day Big Cypress Preserve and the city of Naples.
Florida’s oil had eluded hundreds of wildcatters since 1901. By 1939, almost 80 dry holes had been drilled. About this time, Florida legislators – desperate for their state to become an oil producer and benefit from the tax revenue – offer a $50,000 bounty for the first discovery.
The Humble discovery of the Sunniland oilfield sparks a flurry of lease purchases and wildcat wells. By 1954, the field is producing 500,000 barrels per year from eleven wells at average depths of 11,575 feet. The Sunniland oilfield remains Florida’s top producer until 1964, when Sun Oil Company, after spending $10 million on 34 dry holes, discovers the Felda field in nearby Hendry County.
Texas-based Humble Oil accepts the $50,000 prize offered by the Sunshine State, adds $10,000 – and donates the $60,000 equally between the University of Florida and the Florida State College for Women. Humble will later become Exxon, now ExxonMobil.
Read more in “First Florida Oil Well.”
September 27, 1915 – Explosion in Ardmore, Oklahoma
Two years after Healdton oilfield’s discovery in Oklahoma, a railroad tank car of casing-head gasoline explodes at the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway depot in Ardmore – destroying most of downtown. Casing-head gasoline comes from the natural gas wells integral to Oklahoma’s early petroleum development.
According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, after the disaster the Natural Gasoline Manufacturers Association advocates new regulations governing casing-head gas transportation. The Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway is found responsible for the explosion and pays 1,700 claims totaling $1.25 million.
September 28, 1945 – Truman claims Outer Continental Shelf
President Harry Truman extends U.S. jurisdiction over the offshore resources of America’s outer continental shelf, placing them under the control of the Secretary of the Interior. The presidential proclamation notes that competing boundaries will be negotiated between the United States and other nations.
Truman’s edict is codified by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953, which affirms the nation’s exclusive jurisdiction over its continental shelf resources – and gives authority to the Department of the Interior “to encourage discovery and development of oil” through a leasing program.
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