- This Week in Petroleum History, September 15 – September 21
September 15, 1886 – Indiana Natural Gas Boom brings Prosperity
The late 1880s discoveries of natural gas in Eaton and Portland ignited Indiana’s historic gas boom, which would dramatically change the state’s economy, It becomes known as the “Indiana Gas Boom.”
Drilling for the newly formed Eaton Mining & Gas Company in Indiana, Civil War veteran Almeron Crannel finds 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 giant 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.”
Read more in Indiana Natural Gas Boom.
September 18, 1948 – Oil discovered in Utah’s Uinta Basin
J.L. “Mike” Dougan, president of the small independent Equity Oil Company, completes the state’s first commercial well in the Uinta Basin.
Dougan beats out larger and better financed competitors, including Standard Oil of California, Pure Oil, Continental, and Union Oil.
Dougan’s discovery launches a deep-drilling boom in Utah.
Unlike the earlier attempts, Dougan has drilled beyond the typical depth of 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet. His Ashley Valley No. 1 well, ten miles southeast of Vernal, produces 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. Exploration companies begin drilling 5,000 feet to 8,000 feet and even deeper into the Uinta Basin.
Today, the Uinta Basin’s coalbed methane in Utah and Colorado is considered one of the major producing areas in the nation. The basin is estimated to have up to 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in a region covering about 15,000 square miles. Read more in Utah Uinta Basin Oil Discovery.
September 21, 1901 – First Commercial Oil Discovery in Louisiana
Just eight months after the giant discovery at Spindletop Hill, Texas, oil is discovered 90 miles to the east in Louisiana.
W. Scott Heywood – already successful thanks to making strikes at Spindletop – brings in a 7,000-barrel-a-day well.
Louisiana’s discovery well 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.
A retired professor challenged the date of Louisiana’s first commercial oil well during a 2011 presentation at Carnegie Library in Sulphur. Thomas Watson, PhD, “has uncovered evidence that the first producing oil well in Louisiana was at the Sulphur Mines in 1886,” notes an article in the Sulphur Daily News. “This information could alter the history of oil production in Louisiana.”
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