This Week April 23 to April 29
April 24, 1911 – Magnolia Petroleum Company founded
The Magnolia Petroleum Company is founded as an unincorporated joint-stock association – a consolidation of several earlier companies, the first of which began by operating a small refinery in Corsicana, Texas, in 1898.
The Standard Oil Company of New York will begin acquiring Magnolia in 1925, notes the Texas State Historical Association. In 1931, when Standard Oil of New York and the Vacuum Oil Company merge to form Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, Magnolia becomes an affiliate of the new nationwide company.
Headquartered in its iconic Dallas skyscraper by the early 1930s, Magnolia operates in 20 states and employ 12,500 people. The company will adopt Socony-Vacuum Oil Company’s red Pegasus logo, which begins rotating atop the Magnolia Building in 1934. See “Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.”
April 25, 1865 – Civil War Veteran patents Explosive Technology
Civil War veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City receives the first of his many patents for an “Improvement in Exploding Torpedoes in Artesian Wells” – to fracture oil-bearing formations and increase oil production.
A year later, Roberts will receive a patent for what becomes known as the “Roberts Torpedo,” which uses nitroglycerin detonations as the “fracking” technology for increasing well production. Before the well torpedo’s invention, many early wells in Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia produce only small amounts of oil – and for a short time.
Torpedoes are filled with gunpowder, lowered into wells, and ignited by a weight dropped along a suspension wire to percussion caps. In later models, nitroglycerin replaces gunpowder.
The invention – patent no. 47,458 – is among the major technological achievements of the U.S. petroleum industry. This early oil patch fracking method also leads to coining of the term “moonlighter.”
With its exclusive patent licenses, the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company charges up to $200 per torpedo “shoot” and a one-fifteenth royalty of the increased flow of oil. Seeking to avoid the fee, some oilmen secretly hire unlicensed practitioners who operate at night with their own devices – and the term moonlighter enters the American lexicon.
For enhancing modern petroleum production, Halliburton and Stanolind companies will complete the first commercial hydraulic frack in March 1949 a few miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma. Oil and natural gas production today rely on the technology.
“Since that fateful day in 1949, hydraulic fracturing has done more to increase recoverable reserves than any other technique,” says a Halliburton service company spokesman.
Learn more about Col. Roberts – including leading a charge at the Battle of Fredericksburg – and production technologies in “Shooters – A ‘Fracking’ History.”
April 26, 1947 – Petroleum Industry begins Radio Campaign
For the first time since its establishment in 1919, the American Petroleum Institute launches a national advertising campaign.
“The theme of the drive is that the petroleum industry is a modern and progressive one, and is now turning out the best products in its history,” notes Billboard magazine. ”Radio this week struck real pay dirt as a ‘Gusher’ will come mainly from expansion of current air time on spot local or regional levels by the thousands of petroleum and related corporations.”
API, representing the largest U.S. petroleum companies, issues “recommended practices to promote the use of safe equipment and proven engineering.”
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